Graduate school (biology) interview overview series: part 3

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Finally, we’re at part 3 aka the fun part: What I (and others) wore

Previous posts in this series: part 1 (How I prepared) and part 2 (Most common questions I was asked)

I went to five separate interviews across the country during winter so I wore a different thing each time. See under the cut for pictures and I’ll also talk about what other people wore (in case you’re a dude or in case you want more ideas).

My interviews started about two weeks after the polar vortex… and holy shit I have never experienced such cold weather. I 😦 everytime I think about it.

Made little collages of what I wore at each interview. I pretty much wore variations of the same outfit. I tried to find the original photos but most of them aren’t online anymore so I’ve substituted with similar products. All/most schools mention we should dress “business casual” for interviews and casual wear (jeans) are fine the rest of the time. I pretty much interpret “business casual” as anything with a collar lol.

cold

outfits 4-5

Outfit #1: Illinois
Ann Taylor Outlet black 3/4 sleeve blazer (sold out, pictured sold out, similar, similar)
Halogen white button-up shirt (exact in petite, pictured, similar)
Gap gray cotton ankle length pants (sold out, pictured)
Bass leather/suede oxfords (sold out, similar, similar, similar)
steel gray scarf (gift from friend, similar)
Happy Socks x Madewell trouser socks (sold out, similar)

Outfit #2: Michigan
Madewell navy cablechain crewneck sweater (sold out, similar, similar)
Halogen white button-up shirt (exact in petite, pictured, similar)
Gap gray cotton ankle length pants (sold out, pictured)
Bass leather/suede oxfords (sold out, similar, similar, similar)
steel gray scarf (gift from friend, similar)
Happy Socks x Madewell trouser socks (sold out, similar)

Outfit #3: Connecticut
Banana Republic Outlet gray tweed blazer (sold out, pictured, similar)
Charter Club emerald cardigan (sold out, pictured sold out, similar, similar, similar)
Halogen white button-up shirt (exact in petite, pictured, similar)
Gap black straight leg pants (sold out, pictured, similar)
Softspots waterproof ankle boots (sold out, similar, similar)
steel gray scarf (gift from friend, similar)
Smartwool socks (pictured, similar)

Outfit #4: Washington
Ann Taylor Outlet black 3/4 sleeve blazer (sold out, pictured sold out, similar, similar)
Gap zip-pocket shift dress (sold out, similar, similar)
Halogen white button-up shirt (exact in petite, pictured, similar)
Uniqlo heattech black tights  (sold out, similar, similar)
Softspots waterproof ankle boots (sold out, similar, similar)

Outfit #5: New York
Tommy Hilfiger wool gray checked blazer (sold out, similar)
Charter Club emerald cardigan (sold out, pictured sold out, similar, similar, similar)
Halogen white button-up shirt (exact in petite, pictured, similar)
Gap black straight leg pants (sold out, pictured, similar)
Bass leather/suede oxfords (sold out, similar, similar, similar)
steel gray scarf (gift from friend, similar)
Happy Socks x Madewell trouser socks (sold out, similar)

What I wore
A few weeks before my first interview, I realized I didn’t have an appropriate button-up shirt and went shopping for some. I ended up with a white one from Nordstrom Rack (here, in petite sizes) and thrifted a navy J. Crew shirt from Crossroads Trading Co. (here, in white). In the end, I pretty much wore the white button-up at every single interview. It was a great, bright basic since everything else I wore was on the dark end of the spectrum. While I love the navy shirt, it was too cold, too dark and/or too awkward of a sleeve length to fit my interview clothing needs. It’d be great for warmer weather/spring. Or for future conferences (ha I can dream, can’t I?). The white shirt’s sleeves are a little too long for me, so I folded the sleeves up an inch. It really helped clean my outfits up since my shirt and pant hems lined up perfectly to my wrists and ankles.

For outerwear, I wore an army green parka + scarf + gloves or an olive green rain jacket + scarf + gloves, depending on the weather forecast over my interview outfits. Most/all places provided coat racks so it worked out well.

For shoes, I wore flat black suede/leather oxfords with a rubber sole or black waterproof ankle boots with a rubber sole. Comfortable and practical. My feet were never exposed to the elements, and I could walk on lightly snowy paths. My oxfords, especially, added a little bit of detail to my outfit.

For makeup, I did basic foundation + brown eyeliner and tinted lip balm. So like… the no-makeup look, I guess. I pulled my hair back into a middle-height bun.

For accessories, I did bring my Longchamp that day to carry my folder and water bottle, but it was kind of big so I switched it out for my smaller leather bag in later interviews. Almost every school provided bottles of water at breakfast that you could carry throughout the day so I stopped bringing mine. I happened not to wear any jewelry except earrings but as long as you’re not covered in large gemstones or rings on every finger, I doubt people will really care or notice. I do have one cartilage (ear) piercing that was exposed when my hair was up but I doubt anyone cared. However, as much as I think it’s a double standard, taking out facial piercings might be a good idea since they’re front and center on your face and could distract.

To deal with colder weather, I’d definitely recommend at least a fluffy scarf and gloves. The scarf was useful for covering my ears and my nose/mouth when winds were high. Gloves are just nice since your extremities are the first places where you begin to get numb (blood flow is diverted towards your central body instead). I’d also recommend earmuffs/beanies on days where you don’t have to look as formal.

What Others Wore
I noticed others took a different route. In Illinois, most of the girls wore nice coats in place of a blazer/jacket. The was a red flared coat, a green peacoat, black coats, etc. The coat wearers wore a shirt or blouse underneath + a skirt with tights or dress pants OR a dress with tights. It was generally too cold to go without tights, but even if it was warm enough, tights are probably a good idea. Most of the skirts/dresses ended at or slightly above the knee. I’d also recommend certain dress shapes over others. Like a sheath or straight cut or slight a-line dress will look a little more formal than one that cinches in at the waist and then balloons out with pleats (see: Betty Draper circa 1960).

For shoes, some wore nice tall boots or ankle boots, generally in black/brown. One girl did actually wear flats and ended up with wet, cold feet due to snow. She also wore 3-4″ heels the next day which looked kind of painful… I ran into her at another interview a few weeks later, and she only brought flat boots or flat shoes that weekend. As for makeup, I saw a range from none to a full face. Whatever’s more comfortable for you. As for bags, most girls did bring one… maybe avoid a too colorful (like a ladybug print with polka dots) bag but I guess, in the end it doesn’t really matter. I saw from small to tote bags in solids and simple prints. These are the same things I tended to see at all interviews.

Girls might want to avoid: 3+” heels (especially in snow/rain), cleavage (or swaths of bare skin), skirts/dresses that go above your fingertips (my personal opinion but to be on the safe side of things)

For guys, most of them wore nice pants like black dress pants or even khakis with a button-up shirt. Some wore nice plain sweaters over their shirt with or without a tie, plus a nice coat. Others pretty much wore suits. They all had nice shoes though. Like leather oxfords or loafers. I was super jealous of their fancy (albeit probably expensive) shoes. One dude did wear dark jeans and it looked okay, but he was definitely the only one. No guys carried a bag I think, but most had one of those sturdy leather portfolio folder things to hold papers (like their interview schedules, maps, etc.)

Guys might want to avoid: t-shirts, jeans? (my personal opinion), sneakers

Basically, dress comfortably. You’ll be walking and talking for like 12 hours the day of your interview and generally moving about for hours on end. If you’re getting new shoes, break them in before hand. Just do it. You’ll thank me later. I personally, would recommend not wearing anything too flashy or focus pulling especially from the waist up since most of these interviews are conducted with the interviewer sitting behind a desk. Stick to your normal style, but clean it up a bit. Again, on the more causal days, go wear that black t-shirt and dark blue jeans you’ve been dying to put back on. It felt so good to get out of interview clothes.

These are all my personal opinions, so in the end, do whatever feels right for you.

The last part, Part 4 (what questions you might want to ask and other miscellaneous things/tips) is coming next.

-amy

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2 thoughts on “Graduate school (biology) interview overview series: part 3

  1. INTERESTING. I didn’t know boots were acceptable, but I guess they should be with the cold weather and snow. Then again, I think graduate school/professional school interviews are a little different than business interviews in terms of how casual you can be with your outerwear. XD For my assurance interviews, I wore a full Tahari suit (jacket + skirt) with a Calvin Klein sleeveless top + black pantyhose + Anne Klein heels (only 2 inches!). Definitely business formal all the way haha.

    • yeah. i think weather is definitely a factor since we walk from interview to interview and they can be located in different places

      jeeeeez that sucks.

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