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What to bring/wear for Clinical PhD Interview? (Female)

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by mandak, Jan 26, 2016.

  1. mandak

    mandak 2+ Year Member

    Jun 22, 2014
    I am a female and I am only taking 2 backpacks to all of my interviews (don't want to check any luggage).

    I have a couple questions about what to bring for the interviews.
    Anything to take notes in? Hold CV copies? I feel like carrying around a backpack is not OK. Someone mentioned a padfolio but what size and what should I put in it? And do I just carry it around all day?

    I am also concerned about what to wear, if I should err on the side of slacks and a blouse with flats and maybe a blazer, or a skirt suit with tights and heels. (Weather is 40-65 degrees, I have no idea how far I will be walking on interview day). For the dinners, I was thinking jeans and flats and a nice blouse? What about for just hanging out the graduate student who is hosting me?

    Sorry for all the questions!
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  3. MamaPhD

    MamaPhD Psychologist, Academic Medical Center Psychologist 7+ Year Member

    Aug 2, 2010
    You don't need to bring special stuff to the interview unless you're specifically instructed to do so. I'd leave the copies of your CV, as you should have it memorized and should be able to hit all its high points in conversation alone. Likewise, a padfolio is overkill. These things are distractions.

    BUT, interviews are often long and can be a little unpredictable, so consider carrying a small handbag or crossbody-type bag that can hold a wallet, phone, a small pad and a couple of pens as well as anything else you like to have on hand to get you through your day (small bottle of water, mints, snack, touch-up makeup, tampons, ibuprofen/Tylenol). Though your schedule will give you some idea of what the day might look like, leave room to improvise during your "breaks." Do not make it necessary to go back to your hotel or host's home until you're ready to turn in for the night. You might be able to lock your bag in someone's office for part of the day so that you don't have to be burdened with your stuff but can still have access to it.

    Wearing slacks, a blouse, and a blazer sounds like a good idea if you'll be in chilly weather. For dinners and other events that will include faculty I'd go "business casual." If you'll be staying in someone else's home then jeans for hanging out is OK, but dress it up a notch when you're out.

    Good luck!! :)
    ka_shae1533 likes this.
  4. I always carry a planner with me during interviews. That way I can hold my documents, take notes if necessary, and put any papers they give me into it. From my own male perspective and what I have observed on interviews is that pants, flats, and blazer with generally conservative colors schemes would probably be best for women. In interviews I always aim to look professional and well-dressed but not so well-dressed that it draws attention to my appearance and I think that would apply to both genders. I personally would never wear a skirt to an interview.
    Maybe this would be okay after I got the job? :oops:
  5. 00851341032

    00851341032 2+ Year Member

    Feb 19, 2013
    Most people will be wearing a black suit. Skirts are not typical. Not that there would be something wrong with an appropriately professional one. But personally I feel like in an interview you don't want to stand out with your outfit choice.

    Interviews I have been on had a place for people to put their things during the day but this might depend on the school a lot.
  6. JB1108

    JB1108 2+ Year Member

    Apr 8, 2015
    Having gone through interviews one year ago, I do recommend a padfolio. I did not have one at my first interview and felt underprepared because all of the other applicants did. Also, my current mentor always asks for a copy of the applicant's CV and this is something they don't find out until the dinner the night before when us nice grad students give them a heads up. Something simple and light will do (FedEx has them for $10-$20, as do other office stores). That way you have somewhere to keep a copy of your CV, any handouts given to you (typically your schedule of interviews), and paper to take some notes if you feel the need (or want to have questions written down that you can refer to).

    Best of luck! :)
  7. bmedclinic

    bmedclinic Psychologist 7+ Year Member

    May 9, 2008
    Some notes:
    -For males, I'll never forget the guy that showed up in a sweater vest (for phd interview) and looked around and said "aww f^&*". I honestly think that his perspective of being underdressed, rather than anything else is what sunk his chances. Wear a suit, and focus on what you bring to the table.
    -As of three years ago, people in my program still talked about the girl who "interviewed in hooker boots". I think it was probably two years after I got it. Terrible idea, but she didnt necessarily look like a hooker. OTOH, it was unprofessional enough that it sank her chances.

    -On internship interview, there was a woman, who, ehem, accentuated her breasts, and I think that actually may have helped her, obviously for the wrong reasons. I'd most def not suggest being that girl. Looked like she was wearing a push up bra and showing quite a bit extra for what should be a professional interview. I dont know if she matched there, but she certainly got extra attention.

    This isnt clothes- but dont be sick. Take care of your personal health. I know it's a stressful time, but getting sick and having a cold killed my interview experience a few years ago.
    ka_shae1533 and CheetahGirl like this.
  8. bburr


    Dec 8, 2015
    I really do not see anything wrong with wearing a below-knee length skirt suit nor do I see it less professional than pants. On some people it might look way better like if you have shorter legs.
  9. ChiPhD99

    ChiPhD99 2+ Year Member

    Dec 13, 2013
    I personally prefer to wear a skirt suit because it is more comfortable for me. However, skirt suit+tight cleavage showing shirt+sky high heels=porno, not professional. If you have a sophisticated blouse or sweater and heels under 3 inches this can be very appropriate. I also like to wear hose with my outfit to make it more formal, but that is a personal preference.
    CheetahGirl likes this.
  10. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychologist Moderator Psychologist Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 7+ Year Member

    Jan 7, 2010
    Thinking back to female applicants at my program, I'd say it was a fairly even split between skirts and slacks.
  11. ayerhead


    Jan 19, 2016
    I'm planning on bringing a padfolio to take notes, etc, and tuck extra copies of my CV just in case they are requested. I figure it can't hurt to be prepared, even if I do have it memorized. In your case, with the weather, I would dress warmer, in the slacks and a suit coat or sweater.

    I'm over here questioning an upcoming interview's request we dress in business casual. A suit is just so much easier!
    ka_shae1533 likes this.
  12. mandak

    mandak 2+ Year Member

    Jun 22, 2014

    Thanks for the tips! What about if no faculty are present? In one email, they said there is "no-pressure" dinner and bar outing just for grad students and applicants. Are jeans okay for these?
  13. mandak

    mandak 2+ Year Member

    Jun 22, 2014
    Thanks everyone!

    One last question...

    Does it look unprofessional to take notes during the interview? What about referencing questions that I wrote down?
  14. MamaPhD

    MamaPhD Psychologist, Academic Medical Center Psychologist 7+ Year Member

    Aug 2, 2010
    I'm sure that opinions will differ on this, but in my experience a lot of note-taking/note referencing during an interview can hamper the flow of a conversation and make things a bit stilted. My advice is to really think through what you want to know in advance, generate some thoughtful questions that you can't otherwise find the answers to, and commit your questions/topics to memory so that you don't need to refer to your own notes. However, you know yourself best. If you will be more relaxed having notes as a backup, then jot down the key points you want to touch on and refer to it if needed. If you learn something unexpected or something you want to follow up on later, write it down at the end, or between interviews. Otherwise, really aim to be "present" for most of the interview and you may find that you have a more interesting conversation. If you can find someone to do a mock interview with you, you can practice asking questions in the flow of a conversation.

    Whichever way you go, for most of the interview your pen should be down and you should be making eye contact with the person interviewing you. I find it off-putting when someone constantly takes notes during an interview, as it suggests to me that they don't listen very well and/or are so anxious that they're fidgeting with their pen and paper rather than fully engaging.

    Re: jeans at a casual student-only social, sure, but remember that you are still being interviewed. And keep your drinking on the light side.
    ka_shae1533 likes this.
  15. I would never take notes during an interview. It would probably be fine to reference your questions at the end of the interview when they ask if you have any more questions. I wouldn't go down the list though because much of the time when they ask that question, they expect one or two key questions at most. I had an interviewee go down a list of questions once and it annoyed me. Can't remember if I gave them the job or not though and it wouldn't have been a deal-breaker by any means.
  16. PsyZei


    Dec 4, 2017
    I was wondering about this for this year, bumping in case anyone has any new input.
  17. erg923

    erg923 Regional Clinical Officer, Cenpatico National 10+ Year Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    Louisville, KY
    Fashion over function? ;)

    Back in the mid-90s I used to skate in baggy pants that were positioned way below my pelvis. This has since changed, so I guess its possible trends change. I never did land a Switch Heelflip.
    PsyZei likes this.
  18. Justanothergrad

    Justanothergrad Counseling Psychologist Psychologist Faculty 2+ Year Member

    Mar 2, 2013
    I hear the gauge of the chain on the wallet helps with first impressions.
  19. erg923

    erg923 Regional Clinical Officer, Cenpatico National 10+ Year Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    Louisville, KY
    Did that for about 6 months when I was an 8th grade (Catholic school) punk!
  20. _Sunny


    Dec 28, 2016
    Wear whatever you're comfortable in as long as it is business attire. Suits that have pants or a skirt are both fine, as long as you feel your best and the outfit is more on the conservative side. I would advise wearing comfortable shoes. If you can comfortably walk around in heels for a long time, that's great, but opt for flats if heels aren't your thing or you aren't sure if you can handle them for long periods of time. Some schools do more extensive tours than others, so make sure your outfit does not prevent you from walking up and down some stairs, as well as from building to building.

    As for having a bag, I would strongly encourage carrying a large purse. I had interviews where I was asked for my CV on the spot, and I received a folder with information about the program at most interviews. You don't want to have to hold it in your hands all day! Plus, you want to make sure that you have all your personal items on you at all times.

    By the way, I think taking a notebook with you is crucial. Although I personally did not use it while getting interviewed, I made sure that I wrote down all my questions and specific information about the program in case I forgot something during interview day (eg, I interviewed for PsyD programs, which usually meant interviewing with 2-3 faculty who have similar clinical and research interests as me. I was usually not told who I would interview with until the day of, but I would write down some key info about some faculty who I would likely end up interviewing with), and wrote down some notes between and after interviewing. Especially if you're going on several interviews, information about programs can get jumbled after a while. It made a huge difference for me to refer to notes later to refresh my memory and inform further interview experiences.

    In terms of hanging out/going out with just graduate students, I would personally opt for black jeans, a blouse, a cardigan, and flats or boots/booties. I think a nice but casual dress would work too, if that's more your thing.

    Hope this helps!
    PreDrANB, ka_shae1533 and PsyZei like this.
  21. PsyZei


    Dec 4, 2017
    This is all great advice, thanks for sharing it! You think like a Vera Bradley signature tote size bag work best, you think?
  22. _Sunny


    Dec 28, 2016
    Just had to Google what those are, haha! I think something a little more sleek, one or two muted/neutral colors like black or brown, and just tall enough to fit a folder/wide enough to fit some personal items is perfect. I guess besides the mostly floral Vera Bradley patterns, the company also makes plain leather purses. Those look good for an interview to me.
    ka_shae1533 and PsyZei like this.
  23. PsyZei


    Dec 4, 2017
    Awesome, thanks so much for the specific advice, that is really helpful!
  24. Meteora

    Meteora 2+ Year Member

    Dec 14, 2015
    Don't wear something weird or too standing-out-ish. You don't want to be remembered for what you wore.
  25. mypointlesspov


    Dec 5, 2017
    For the dinner the night before, I think I wore a dress and tights? I also wore boots because it was February and there was a metric ton of snow.

    On interview day, I wore a peach dress with a cream colored blazer and matching low-heeled pumps and I definitely stood out among the sea of neutrals, blacks, and navy blues. I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing though (especially since I got in with perks), but YMMV. My program had an area where interviewees could keep coats and bags (at their own risk). I brought a medium sized tote bag for any materials that were passed out (and my portfolio) and a wristlet for personal items.
  26. _Sunny


    Dec 28, 2016
    No problem! By the way, if you're wondering about the other replies about standing out/not standing out based on your outfit and aren't sure which side you're personally on, I will say this: Wear something that you feel very comfortable and very professional in. If you're wearing a black pants suit but it's ill fitting and you're tugging at it all day, you will likely not feel great about yourself and it may show through. On the other hand, if wearing something a little more unconventional but still in the realm of "business" is 100% who you are, you don't necessarily have to ditch it for the suit. Just make sure that you are still dressed like you are taking the interview seriously.

    I also saw someone wearing a gray tweed dress and black blazer on interview day, and it looked amazing. So there are definitely ways to make the interview outfit more your style but still in the realm of professionalism.
  27. WisNeuro

    WisNeuro Board Certified Neuropsychologist Psychologist 7+ Year Member

    Feb 15, 2009
    I always advise dressing on the conservative side. You don't want to be remembered for what you wear. Anecdotally, in my different settings over the years, this has generally only a problem with female staff who are interviewing/ranking applicants. I've heard some pretty catty things in a ranking meeting, including multiple discussions about footwear. I, personally could care less about what you wear, as long as it's within the realm of professionalism. But, you ladies can be a bit harsh on each other.
    ka_shae1533 likes this.
  28. Meregold


    Oct 30, 2017
    Yeah! I feel like as long as men don't wear, like, a bright orange suit you're probably fine. Women (can be) judged a little more skeptically. I remember being at an interview weekend once, and another applicant introduced herself to a male professor and one of his students, and when she left he turned to his student and was like "oh my god did you see her nails?" and the student had no idea what he was talking about. He added, "the nailpolish was all chipped! So unprofessional". I don't paint my nails often, and I probably never would have noticed if I had and the color chipped, but it was like a big deal to him! So I guess in addition to neutral colors, conservative shoes, etc, pay attention to the small "self-care" things as well so you don't look sloppy to someone more observant than me.
    ka_shae1533 likes this.
  29. MCParent

    MCParent Faculty Bronze Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

    Jan 10, 2012
    If you check the bag that has your interview outfit in it, make sure you have a backup outfit in your carry on. I swear that every year one of the twenty-ish interviewees has a delayed bag. The checked bag outfit wouldn’t need to be as nice as a suit; I’d think everyone would understand something simpler if your checked bag was mishandled. But you don’t want to be stuck in the same clothes you spent hours on a plane in.
  30. PsychPhDStudent

    PsychPhDStudent 7+ Year Member

    Sep 5, 2009
    I matched to internship at the site where I wore my day-old backup outfit! Business casual FTW.
  31. ctpsy11


    Dec 3, 2017
    I'd definitely not recommend checking your interview bag. Mine got lost and caused some serious mess ups in my interview schedule. Never again! Never flying Delta again :)
  32. himala


    Nov 20, 2017
    SUIT! (it can get cold in some states during interview season so suit was safe bet).
    If an airlines MAKES you check in a bag, grab your interview attire and just hold onto it on the flight. I’ve seen someone show up to an interview in regular clothes because she lost her checked-in bag and seemed like it had an effect on her level of confidence.
    Also, I walked into interviews WITH MY LUGGAGES because I had to check out of the hotel and didn't rent a car (took BUSES to interviews). Didn't have an effect on my interview...I got an APA accredited internship!

    INTERNSHIP: Traveling
  33. Feelings Doctor

    Feelings Doctor

    Dec 1, 2016
    • Clothing (for everyone): Wear whatever you feel comfortable, confident, and professional in. For "fun we're just hanging out no big deal" social events, I'd still do "dressy happy hour," whatever that means to you, as in casual long-sleeve button-up with khaki/slacks (for masculine folks). As a feminine person, for these social events, I still dressed business casual-ish as in, stretchy dress pants and blouse that could also work for happy hour. Like others said, you are dressing to present your best self, whatever that means to you, and you want to be remembered for who YOU are, not what clothes you were wearing.
    • Clothing (for feminine-presenting people): I was raised (by PhD parents) to believe that conservative-colored (black, navy, charcoal) skirt suits are MOST conservative, and there is SOME research that indicates that people make more favorable snap judgments about women in skirt suits vs. pant suits, because sexism. I opted for nice small wedge heels or flats - even if tours are just in the building, the last thing you want added to your racing thoughts is "am I going to fall down the stairs right now" or "I can't keep up with the herd!" Note regional differences - some areas are prone to more casual than others (re: CA vs. east coast).
    • Accessories: Wear a watch - it looks "more professional" than checking your phone for the time in a hurry. Bring whatever makes you feel confident, secure, and setup. Almost everyone had a padfolio at both PhD and APPIC interviews. +1 to bringing something to occupy you during downtime when you are left to your own devices (pun intended). If there are people around you during breaks, ask them questions or talk to them so you don't seem antisocial, but there WILL be times you are literally alone for maybe an hour, so have something to keep you grounded. +1 to neutral professional large purses (or professional business bags for masculine folks) to carry your life in. I'd rather have my back and shoulder blow out than be left stranded somewhere unfamiliar holding a bunch of random things and/or with none of my essentials, but that's just me.
    • Interview Day-of Packing List: Think of day-long interviews like a hiking excursion in which you need to remain pristine somehow. Hydrate, keep blood sugar up. Pack in, pack out.
      • YOUR OWN CLIP-ON NAME TAG HOLDER (this came in SUPER handy because regular sticky name badges get stuck in long hair, fall off, etc.)
      • Padfolio and/or plain-looking notebook to takes notes on
      • 2 copies of CV (just do it)
      • Pens
      • Water (don't be at a site's mercy for when you hydrate)
      • Snacks (seriously, keep your blood sugar up!)
      • Devices (phone, tablet, charger)
      • Deodorant (if you are a sweaty one!)
      • Touch-up makeup
      • Breath mints
      • Pocket kleenex
      • Backup flats (if you have the room and are wearing heels/taking a chance ;) )
    • Note-taking: I didn't take notes when answering questions, but took notes furiously whenever I asked questions or was given information. These notes were pure GOLD when I was later trying to sort through all the sites and nonsense for details to help me persuade my gut one way or another. I actually developed a list of questions to ask each site for APPIC... I'll see if I can find it.
    • Travel tips: Carry your suit and interview accessories onto the plane. DO NOT CHECK YOUR INTERVIEW DAY LUGGAGE. Wear your suit onto the plane if you have to go right to the interview - I did once and I passed through security because they thought I was a flight attendant! :p
    • Remember, you are ALWAYS on, even if you're just at a "social event." Be your normal self without going wild with drinking or complaining about anything to current students, interns, and/or staff.
    PreDrANB and Neuronfire like this.
  34. Feelings Doctor

    Feelings Doctor

    Dec 1, 2016
    I forgot to add, for APPIC interviews, some places will ask you to bring a de-identified report sample with you to the interview - I just had one in my padfolio at all times. :)
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
  35. artsyann


    Dec 21, 2017
    I’m on the east coast and have an interview out here next week. As a female, there is no way I am wearing a skirt suit. It’s too cold and if the program looks down on me for wearing pants, I really can’t imagine being happy there.
  36. fritolay


    May 24, 2016
    Black suit (pantsuits are more popular, skirtsuits are still appropriate) and formal shoes should be your go-to look. I would advise against wearing heels unless you are comfortable with walking around in them all day. You can look just as polished with flat shoes!

    I brought a bag and a padfolio with me, but looking back, the padfolio seemed unnecessary. I think it's good to keep a bag (to hold all the papers, folders, etc. that they give you, plus snacks and water) and something to write on so you can take notes (to look back on when making a decision).

    Good luck!
  37. singasongofjoy

    singasongofjoy Psychologist 2+ Year Member

    Dec 4, 2014
    Idk, some of us folks are pretty ghostly-looking this time of year. When I was suit-shopping I tried on black suits and my husband told me I looked critically ill, lol. I think navy and gray are perceived as just as formal.
  38. PBCocce

    PBCocce 2+ Year Member

    Aug 20, 2015
    Bring a Tide laundry to go pen.
    This can save a dress!
    Neuronfire likes this.

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