This week we will finally address the question that plagues interviewees everywhere, “should I wear a suit?” I really know very little about clothes, so I asked Jill from Librarian Hire Fashion to collaborate with me on this one. Jill found six great example outfits (I’ve linked the photos to Jill’s sources. Please be sure to click through and check them out):
Then we asked people who hire librarians:
Which outfit is most appropriate to wear to an interview with your organization? Why or why not? Please pick one for women and one for men. Bonus question: Can you share any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits?
I would say that it is better to dress over-smart than risk being under dressed, so I would advise candidates to go for A (for women) and E (for men). Even if the normal daywear for an organisation is ‘smart casual’ or ‘hip’ it will probably be expected for interviewees to make an effort for an interview.
While working as a recruitment consultant over a 20 year period, I’ve had people turn up for registration interviews in all sorts of outfits – including keeping their coat on (on one occasion with the hood up) throughout the meeting, wearing torn jeans and trainers, and wearing flip flops and BIG jewellery/make-up. I’ve also had some rather out-there hair styles and some funny smells during that time, ranging from BO to cigarette smoke to strong alcohol breath!
I always give interviewees with an outlandish dress sense or poor personal hygiene some gentle advice on improving their appearance for a ‘real’ job interview – and how they take this has an impact on whether I feel confident to put them forward to my clients in future.
- Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
This decision for me is more a matter of my taste than appropriateness. All 6 pictures worked as attire for interviewing at our library. Here’s my take on all of them…Picture A for ladies is the least successful interview attire for our library system. We’re a public library system with a slightly casual dress code and outfit A is a little too “business” and comes off as least approachable. It IS entirely appropriate for an interview, though, and I would never note it as inappropriate in a real interview situation. If I were interviewing each of the 3 female candidates, I would not be off-put by any of the outfits — all 3 look pulled together. Outfit B is an age-appropriate look. She looks like she’d be great in Reference or Teen Services. Outfit C has the suit idea going but is stylish too — this person looks capable and approachable. It’s also my personal favorite, but I’m about that age…Outfit D works the least well for me in the men’s choices. What’s with the “scarf as necktie” concept? Not inappropriate so much as dorky (again, that’s just my taste speaking). Maybe if he was interviewing for a Teen Services spot… The problem is that I noticed the scarf, not the overall look, and the vision is not going away. The other two guys are fine — real neckties are always a safe choice for men — and I’m glad that the guy without the jacket had on long sleeves (again, that is about my taste rather than “appropriateness”).Advice? If possible, visit the library beforehand to see what the staff is wearing. If everyone is in suits, make sure to wear one in the interview (outfits A or E). If they are in uniforms (i.e., branded golf shirts and khakis) or business casual, you can probably wear outfits B,C,D,F and be OK. Remember it is always better to err on the side of caution in an interview situation. When in doubt, suit up!- Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library
Face to face interviews are rare for us, but in a university setting outfits A and E would indicate that the person takes the interview seriously. The worst I have experienced is a prospect showing up with a bunch of political buttons, even though I agreed with the positions taken.- J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
I think all of those outfits are appropriate for our Assistant Librarian positions. I would lean more towards A for women and D for men Librarian positions. It never hurts to be the most professionally dressed and I, myself have been dinged for not looking professional enough, when I once forwent the suit jacket. I will not do that again in the future.Here are some outfits I’ve actually seen in professional level interviews and found wildly inappropriate:
- 6 inch heels with a skin tight leopard dress, with a keyhole at the cleavage
- cargo shorts and flip-flops (on a man)
- jeans with holes in them
- jeans with a halter top and belly button showing
- paint splattered pants and a torn shirt
- an undershirt only – with sweat stains
- old, dirty Birkenstocks (both men and women)
- clouds and clouds of cologne or perfume (YES, this really IS offensive! skip it!)
- a cell phone buzzing in the pants or purse the whole time
- mountains of jewelry. one woman had 2-3 rings on every finger and at least 15 bracelets per wrist as well as 15-20 necklaces and 5 earrings in each ear. The clacking was very distracting. Also, all the bright shiny things are so easy to focus on and lose your train of thought….what was she talking about?I get it if you have foot issues or you have limited funds for a wardrobe, lots of us do. However, be creative and work your way around your issues. Hit up a thrift store for a nice blazer, wear long-ish pants to hide ugly shoes, ask your friends what they think and what you can borrow. And never, ever, ever wear flip-flops to an interview. If I think you don’t even take the interview seriously enough to dress nicely, why would I think you are going to take the job seriously?- Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library
For men: E
I once interviewed a man who came in in a thick anorak [note: in America, we might be more likely to call an anorak a windbreaker], wouldn’t take it off, smelled, faced the wall and not me, and wouldn’t let go of a tatty plastic bag full of papers he was carrying.
- Sue Hill, Managing Director, Sue Hill Recruitment
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight. If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.
A great big thank you to the people who took the photos we used, especially the bloggers: Susan at Une femme d’une certain âge, Sally McGraw at already pretty, and Peter and his pants at Male Pattern Boldness.
Thank you from me to Jill at Librarian Hire Fashion for being a great partner in this post!
This long list of thanks would not be complete without we say: Thank YOU for reading! Give us your snaps or snipes, by using the comment feature below.