Tips for Modeling the “Proficient Professional” Look
“Make no mistake — you are being judged as soon as you walk into the room and the interviewer has made an initial impression of you in the first few seconds they see you based on how you look. That may not be fair but it is reality in many cases. An interviewer is expecting you to dress appropriately for the interview. If not, you are showing the interviewer that you don’t understand the basics of what it takes to be successful in the workplace. If this is the case, you already have one strike against you.” — Andy Teach, author of From Graduation to Corporation, http://www.amazon.com/From-Graduation-Corporation-Practical-Corporate/dp/1438930631
Trolling online for a consensus on what to wear to school employment screenings, I found repetitions of the words “professional,” “appropriate,” and “comfortable,” but no single standard of dress. Most agree that you must exhibit an image of confidence, competence, and responsibility, and should probably error on the side of more formal attire rather than day-to-day casual.
Dressing appropriately for your teacher interview makes your critical first impression on the interview committee. Betsy Weigle from Classroom Connection explains in a YouTube video how to avoid common mistakes plus tells you what to bring along for success at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1FvnI7Bivg.
- Dress comfortably but dressier than what you would wear teaching in a classroom.
- Your appearance should be professional and appropriate, and show that you really want to be considered for the job.
- The focus should be on you, not what you are wearing.
- Ladies should wear a skirt or slacks, blouse and a little sweater. A dress would be fine, too (but don’t be too dressy).
- Shoes and jewelry should be comfortable AND yet not be noisy or distracting.
- No perfume or cologne: Your presence should not enter the room before you do.
- For men, a collared shirt is recommended. Dress-up a little bit.
- Jeans are never appropriate for a job interview.
- For both men and women, adding a little color is a great choice.
- Do not wear a mini-skirt, t-shirt, shorts, or sport shoes.
Hannah Hudson shares six hints in “Real Teachers Spill: What to Wear to a Teacher Interview” from We Are Teachers. She provides good photographic examples of her thoughts maintaining style and comfort while exhibiting professionalism, so be sure to read the entire article at https://www.weareteachers.com/best-of-teacher-helpline-what-to-wear-to-a-teacher-interview/.
- Suits are always a good choice.
- If a suit isn’t an option, try a pair of dress pants or skirt with coordinating top and blazer or cardigan.
- Women, consider a black sheath dress.
- For men who don’t want to go the suit route, we advise a button-down shirt and pants.
- Don’t forget the footwear!
- Choose a fun accessory.
In a blog entitled “Teacher Interview Style” posted on Classy in the Classroom at http://classyinaclassroom.blogspot.com/2014/07/teacher-interview-style.html, a very upbeat Amy Disbrow personally models her professional attire with remarks on selecting specific styles and colors.
Pictures are also provided in “How to Dress for an Interview” by Alison Doyle from the balance. Start reading the entire blog-post at https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-dress-for-an-interview-2061163. Sample interview outfits and advice for men are posted at https://www.thebalance.com/interview-outfits-for-men-2061090 and for women at https://www.thebalance.com/interview-outfits-for-women-2061091.
Michigan State University’s Career Services Network “Dressing for Interviews” offers additional recommendations (some hopefully under the category of “common sense”) at http://careernetwork.msu.edu/jobs-internships/appearance-and-attire/dressing-for-interviews.html:
- It is rarely appropriate to “dress down” for an interview, regardless of company [or school district] dress code policy. When in doubt, go conservative.
- Avoid loud colors and flashy ties.
- Clothing should be neat, clean, and pressed. If you don’t have an iron, either buy one or be prepared to visit the dry-cleaner’s often.
- Shower or bathe the morning of the interview. Wear deodorant. Don’t wear cologne or aftershave. You don’t want to smell overpowering or worse, cause an allergic reaction.
- Make sure you have fresh breath. Brush your teeth before you leave for the interview, and don’t eat before the interview. Don’t smoke right before an interview.
Finally, it is probably worth reading excerpts regarding school institutional dress codes. Good examples include the following:
- From Education World at http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin422_a.shtml: “The staff policy prohibits jeans, see-through clothing, torn clothing, short or very tight-fitting clothing, sweat suits, shorts, hats, with exception of religious head-wear, thongs (flip flops), and sneakers or athletic shoes, although gym teachers are permitted to wear athletic shoes.”
- From the Association for American Educators at https://www.aaeteachers.org/index.php/blog/802-teacher-dress-codes: “Litchfield Elementary School District in Arizona piloted a policy designed to prohibit rubber-sole flip-flops, visible undergarments, any visible cleavage, bare midriffs, clothes that are deemed too tight, too loose or transparent, bare shoulders, short skirts and exercise pants. Administrators in the district also suggested guidelines for natural hair color, limiting piercings, and covering tattoos — all of which can come across as unprofessional.”
- From Teaching Community “What Teachers Should Never (Ever) Wear” at http://teaching.monster.com/careers/articles/8431-what-teachers-should-never-ever-wear: “How you choose to dress each morning reflects how you feel about your job — that you take your position seriously, that you are ready to work and that you pay attention to detail and know what you expect to encounter that day. You wouldn’t go to a construction site in your favorite four-inch stilettos, right? Of course not, you’d go in a hard hat, because it’s appropriate for the situation. Appearances matter!”
- From Edutopia “How Should Teachers Dress” by Kevin Jarrett at https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/how-should-teachers-dress: “There is a LOT to consider between formal district dress code policies, personal taste and preference, teaching assignment, community norms, individual income levels, and even climate concerns. As a new teacher, you obviously are going to get your cues from the existing teaching staff, and will probably aim a tad higher, at least initially, while you get established. For most men, this will mean a long-sleeve dress shirt and tie, maybe even a sport coat too. A suit is not out of the question.”
Over the span of my 35+ years in education, I, too, have noticed a significant “slip” or shift to more casual and informal clothing. Some change was expected. After all, in the Rules for Teaching 1915 (see http://www.openculture.com/2013/09/rules-for-teachers-in-1872-1915-no-drinking-smoking-or-trips-to-barber-shops-and-ice-cream-parlors.html), these guidelines were strictly enforced (mostly for woman teachers):
- You may not smoke cigarettes.
- You may not dress in bright colors.
- You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
- You must wear at least two petticoats.
- Your dresses may not be any shorter than two inches above the ankles.
My view? Teaching is still among the most conservative of occupations. That is how it is viewed by the general public, parents of school-aged children, School Boards, administrators, and interview panels. You can certainly exercise your right to wear whatever you want and show-off numerous body piercings or tattoos… but, like it or not, the school districts are within their rights to choose someone else.
In dealing with our most “treasured blessings” – the students and future hopes of mankind – educators’ ethics and code of professional practices should continue to reach for the highest standards of conduct and appearances. Why? Our kids deserve it!
Hope these online sources help to give you a balanced perspective! Check out the rest of my articles on “Becoming a Music Educator” (click here). PKF
© 2017 Paul K. Fox
Photo credits (in order) from FreeImages.com: Rita Mezzela, Michael Roach, Keith Syvinski, Heriberto Herrera, and Martin Boulanger