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27 August 2008

Job interview: What should I wear? I got a second interview (yay!) for a job that I'm overqualified for in terms of training (yay!) but underqualified for in terms of experience (boo!). [More:] The position would involve working with people who are formerly homeless and/or with mental health issues (borderline, schizophrenic, addictions) get along in transitional housing without too much conflict.

It's kind of Real World meets Celebrity Rehab.

The first interview went well, but I think I came across as perhaps not quite tough enough to deal with the client population; I am tough enough, I think, but it's more due to a quiet persistent stubbornness that may not translate well to a 30min. interview. (I nailed the empathetic and collaborative parts, though.) I'm trying to figure out how to present myself so that I don't come across as submissive or girly or whatever.

I wore black silk trousers, a tank top, and a black cardigan to the first interview. I have very little in the way of a dressy summer wardrobe, though, so I basically have variations on that outfit, skirts, and dresses. I don't want to look like I'm wearing the exact same thing as the first interview (it's with the same interviewer), but I have a gut feeling the dresses or skirts may not be the way to go.

The uniform for the position seems to be khakis and a company-issued (nice) polo shirt. I have no khakis that fit me at the moment.

I think a suit jacket is your best option. You don't necessarily have to wear it with the matching pants/skirt, but a jacket will convey power and authority in a way a cardigan never could.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 27 August | 14:46
Yeah, my first thought was the same as TPS, but it's hard to get the correct level of non-matchiness if all the business-wear is black (I have this problem with my black suit jacket and my dark-grey pants...)
posted by muddgirl 27 August | 14:49
Hmm... this is also a non-profit in small town California, and the interviewer made a big point of saying that they don't trust degrees, they trust people who "think outside the box" and get things done, come hell or high water -- there was a definite "roll up your sleeves" sort of vibe. I worry that a jacket will come across as too removed from the proletariat. Or something.

(I swear to god, I canNOT get the hang of California fashion codes. This kind of shit always leaves me confused. If I were in Boston I'd put on the suit and be done with it. Sigh.)
posted by occhiblu 27 August | 15:06
Was the interviewer male or female?
posted by dersins 27 August | 15:13
occhiblu, I can't help you, but I think TPS and muddgirl got you covered. I don't mean to hijack this thread, but I have been out of the US so long, that I had to see if there really was a show called Celebrity Rehab. Alas, there is and my reaction was to empty my wine glass in one gulp, take off my glasses and then proceed to rub my eyes and forehead. Carry on.

Good luck on your interview. Feel that tingle? That's me sending you mojo.
posted by chillmost 27 August | 15:15
One male interviewer (who I met last time) and one female (who I haven't met yet).
posted by occhiblu 27 August | 15:16
One male interviewer (who I met last time)

If your worry is that your (slight) variations will make it look like you're wearing the same outfit, then I wouldn't sweat it too much. Sounds like you were wearing something fairly generic (no offense intended-- you know what I mean) and most men (yes, I know there are exceptions. of course there are exceptions) I know would be unlikely to register the specifics of your outfit, and even less likely to recall them more than about 48 hours later.
posted by dersins 27 August | 15:25
My opinion? Go get khakis that do fit. Yes, yes, I know, but you need them anyway, right?

and remember my pants rant? I do realize how much you didn't just want to hear that. I don't care. Try the Royal Robbins line at REI - they're the only thing I've found that are nicely tailored and fit well without looking cheap.

Then wear the jacket anyhow. Screw the proletariat, anyhow. You're going for the natty-professorial look.

And be confident. They're asking YOU for a 2nd interview. That means they really do think you've got what it takes.
posted by lonefrontranger 27 August | 15:26
I worry that a jacket will come across as too removed from the proletariat. Or something.

I think it's easier to talk yourself down in a jacket than talk yourself up in a more casual outfit, if that makes any sense.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 27 August | 15:31
damn, while I wasn't looking it seems REI quit carrying the decent khakis I used to buy from them.

Ahem. This is what I was referring to.

Don't let the "low rise" thing fool you, they aren't all that low, just enough to not look like mom jeans.
posted by lonefrontranger 27 August | 15:31
Thanks, all!

I'm going for slightly downgraded suit -- nice pants (and yes, the same ones I wore last time, thanks, dersins!) and a short-sleeved button-down shirt that cute enough to look interesting but not enough to look uber-girly. Flats, minimal make-up, minimal jewelery, big but stylish purse -- and if I don't get the job then I will blame it entirely on my not following y'all's advice. :-)

(But seriously. It's flip-flops and cut-offs at even the nice restaurants around here. And I'm interviewing with social workers. There's only so dressy I can do before I start looking like I don't fit in with colleagues or clients.)

And yeah, I need khakis, but I also need to figure out where my body is going to decide to stop gaining/losing weight after I've got a handle on my anxiety-produced huge weight gain of the winter, so.... yeah.

On preview: I think it's easier to talk yourself down in a jacket than talk yourself up in a more casual outfit, if that makes any sense.

I totally agree, but I think that was basically the first interview. I felt like I was coming across as too theoretical, not down-to-earth enough. Which is what I'm trying to correct this time.

OK. I'm off! Wish me luck!
posted by occhiblu 27 August | 15:34
Good Luck!
posted by Ardiril 27 August | 15:45
Good luck, occhiblu. I was going to suggest a crisp 3/4 sleeve or long sleeved button up with the sleeves rolled up. The place sounds casual. The dress code sounds like what I wear at my place of work. I'm not a therapist with a graduate degree, but I do live in a very casual warm climate. I was hired in a cardigan. I think your outfit sounds great. Break a leg!
posted by LoriFLA 27 August | 15:51
Knock 'em dead, occhiblu!
posted by lonefrontranger 27 August | 16:13
You're in there getting interviewed as I type. . .good luck.

(Unleash your wonderful laugh once or twice and you'll have them.)
posted by danf 27 August | 16:15
Thanks! I think it went well.

The dude interviewing me was wearing jeans, a polo shirt, and a baseball cap; the woman (his boss) was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, some sort of shapeless black pants, and tevas. I think "sounds casual" may have been an understatement. :-)

I did laugh, I believe. Like the first interview, the questions were written down ahead of time and they just went through the list. It's a bit hard to know with that sort of format, because there's so little follow-up to one's answers. Ah well.

Though the woman was like, "Why are you requesting the highest range for pay for this job?" (I had to list "desired salary" on the application.) And I'm thinking, "Because your ad said you wanted a BA and six months of experience, and I have an MA and a year of experience?" She said they don't normally start people at the high end of the salary range, which I get, but then why put it on the job listing? Sigh.
posted by occhiblu 27 August | 17:04
Oh, also, for chillmost: Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew

"Celebrity" is used a bit loosely.
posted by occhiblu 27 August | 17:06
I'm glad it went well.

I swear to god, I canNOT get the hang of California fashion codes

Ha. I remember having to convince my dad that he didn't have to change, it was REALLY JUST FINE to wear a polo shirt and good jeans to lunch at a Turkish place in Mountain View.

That questions-from-a-list format is so very weird though. Seems funny that they'd do that for a position that's all about human skills -- it allows for no conversational dynamics to speak of, and it biases the process against the candidate by hijacking the agenda and marginalizing the candidate's questions.

Crossed fingers, etc..
posted by tangerine 27 August | 22:05
Crossed fingers, etc..


it biases the process against the candidate by hijacking the agenda and marginalizing the candidate's questions

They did give me time at the end for questions, and seemed genuinely open to answering them, but... yeah. And most of the questions were vignettes, and it's kind of hard to answer "What would I do?" when I'm slightly fuzzy on the job description. It's like, "I'd go up on the hierarchy? Oh! I'm empowered. Then, never mind, I'd deal with it myself. But I'd tell y'all how I was dealing with it so that you were in the loop! Unless you're not supposed to be dealing with day-to-day details?"

But it definitely made it hard to explicitly name the strengths I'd bring to the job, or how my background prepared me for the client population, or any sort of background info, because it was all focused on "How would you handle X?" Which I guess could be useful from a hiring point of view, but also makes me wonder how much (if any) training they provide.
posted by occhiblu 28 August | 00:10
No words of wisdom, but fingers crossed, occiblu!
posted by Claudia_SF 28 August | 03:11
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