This anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This librarian works at a library with 50-100 staff members in a City/town in the Western US.
What Candidates Should Wear
Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?
√ Other: depends – management positions, yes. Librarian positions, maybe (depending on the organization’s formality). Paraprofessionals, probably not.
An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:
√ Is totally different
Bare arms are inappropriate in an interview, even in the summer.
√ Other: ABSOLUTELY
If a woman wears a skirt to an interview, should she also wear pantyhose?
√ Either pantyhose or tights. Bare legs are inappropriate
Women should wear make-up to an interview:
√ I don’t care, as long as it’s not over-the-top
Is there anything a candidate might wear that would cause them to be instantly out of the running? If you have any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits, we’d love to hear them.
I have interviewed people wearing extremely low-cut blouses, see-through blouses, jewelry that makes noise (and once, a blouse decorated with bells!), jeans and casual T-shirts, tights with Birkenstocks, very short skirts … all very distracting, and it tells me that the person either doesn’t know what “professional” attire is or doesn’t care. Even someone on a low budget can find clothes that are appropriate for interviews. Suits are probably overkill for most library positions, but get a pair of nice pants and a simple, modest blouse or shirt and tie. And never wear anything to an interview that you would wear to the beach (flip-flops, I’m looking at you!).
Can you share any stories about how a candidate nailed the proper interview outfit, especially if your organization does not expect suits?
I only remember the inappropriate outfits!
Do you expect different levels of formality of dress, depending on the position you’re hiring for?
√ Yes, the higher the position, the more formal I expect the candidate to dress
Which jewelry may candidates wear:
√ A few simple necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings
√ Arty or more elaborate necklaces, bracelets, or rings
Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:
√ Other: Depends on the position. I would be distracted by pink hair if I was interviewing a candidate for library director.
The way a candidate dresses should:
√ Be fairly neutral
How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?
I want to know that the person understands professionalism. That means dressing differently (yes, more formally) than you would dress to go to the movies, the grocery store or the gym. Don’t distract from your WORK qualifications by insisting on expressing your PERSONAL style. Wait until you’re hired, and even then, recognize that you are at WORK.
What This Library Wears
How do you dress when you are going to conduct an interview?
Pretty much the same as I dress on any other day … nice pants, blouse or dressy sweater. I don’t wear suits to work so I don’t wear them to conduct interviews, but if I were on the interview team for a new director (which may happen in the next few years) I would wear more formal attire. I don’t want the candidate to be distracted by MY clothing!
On a scale of one (too dressed up for my workplace) to five (too casual), khakis and a polo shirt are:
What’s the dress code at your library/organization?
√ Business casual
Are there any specific items of clothing, etc. that are forbidden by your dress code? (Please check all that apply)
√ Other: We don’t have a written dress code. Jeans are only allowed on weekends and must be worn with a library shirt. Shelvers and maintenance can wear jeans any time. I discourage flip-flops – too casual, too noisy, provide no protection for feet.
Librarians at your organization wear: (Please check all that apply)
√ Name tags
Do you have any other comments?
I am 41. In terms of style, I’m less formal than my director/asst director (who are 62 and 56) but I am more formal than my employees (ranging from 26-49) in the reference department. I adhere to the adages “dress one level higher than your public” and “dress for the job you want, not the one you have”.
This survey was co-authored by Jill of Librarian Hire Fashion – submit your interview outfit to her blog!
Photo: dress for success 2 by Flickr user pennstatenews