How to Dress for an Interview: Don Draper vs. Magnum PI
By FlyGirl on July 20th, 2012
How do you dress for an interview without looking too overdressed or underdressed?
My answer is based on the following assumption- you pursued the scientific academic career because it mattered. Your curiosity, the pursuit of truth and the chance at bettering mankind mattered. So, too, does every one of your interviews. Treat every interview like a step in an experiment. If you overlook it, the experiment fails and you have to start over.
Whether it is for a post-doc position, in academia or in industry, dressing “fancier” than what you do on a daily basis is a MUST. That is not to suggest that you sport a ball gown or a tux. But a suit or a great black dress and a blazer will show the company/institution that you invest in and respect yourself. The message, therefore, is that they should invest in you. Despite being able to get away with often overly casual attire in the lab, you are not Magnum PI. In fact, not to sound harsh, but by virtue of this question, you are not a PI…not yet anyway. So avoid the mistake of thinking you can act like Magnum PI.
Instead, think of it like this. You are ultimately your own advertising campaign where you are the product and the company/institution is the client. You are there to sell yourself. Therefore you must ask yourself:
Now is the time to find your perfect little black dress. I claim this not because your potential boss or PI is Don Draper (preferring a plunging neckline and short cut frock). I tell you this because this item will be one of the smartest investments in your future. (As we all know, the women in Don Draper’s world are leagues smarter than the man himself!) A black dress can go from day to night, casual to formal, or lab to meeting. It will act as a stable base on which you can express your personal style through accessories.
I love the following basic but elegant dress from J.Crew because it is stylishly serious. Or perhaps it is seriously stylish, you be the judge. The built in sleeves eliminate the need for a blazer or a cardigan (sleeveless on an interview is too casual) and the gathered waist flatters every shape. An heirloom locket at your neck or a diamond stud earrings will showcase your style without distracting from the true highlight of the show- your research. Nails should be manicured and hair well groomed. Be trendy in your work, not your fashion.
For shoes, keep it simple with a low, closed-toe heel or flat.
You are not Mark Zuckerberg, nor Magnum PI. Thus, ditch the hoodie and Hawaiian shirt (which, frankly, are questionable even for them) and drape yourself in a blazer, pants and a shirt. Dressing up shows respect for yourself and respect for the place of employment. Make the combination a tad more casual by pairing a plaid shirt with a colored tie (left image). Or a pinstripe suit with a polka dot tie demonstrates risk-taking abilities coupled with a sense of style (right image). Both of these looks from Banana Republic are stately and sensible, two elements that when combined are the catalyst for a successful scientist. Mix in a fresh haircut and shave for a truly genius combination.
Make them talk about your swagger and smile, NOT your slacker style!
Whether painting faces backstage at Victoria’s Secret, traveling the globe for her international clients or writing for magazines and style guides, our FlyGirl lends her hands to enhance beauty both inside and out. She thinks creatively and approaches practically to create unique yet easy styles. Send your questions to FlyGirl@benchfly.com and learn how to become your own artist!
[Disclaimer: FlyGirl nor BenchFly makes any money off of the products recommended in this column.]
Need some help from FlyGirl? Send questions to FlyGirl@benchfly.com and don’t miss her recent articles:
- MSG: An Ionic Dream
- Jean Expression
- Hairy Query
- Looking for a Bright Idea? Go Bold with Color This Season
- A Quick Makeover: From ‘Lab Drab’ to ‘Ab Fab’ in 10 Minutes
- Put an End to Lab-Induced Crocodile Hands with Style
- Bringing Style to Science, Literally. Introducing: FlyGirl