Stats and Graphs: What Should Candidates Wear?

Hey, a new survey!

Jill from Librarian Hire Fashion and I have put together a new survey seeking the opinions of hiring managers on what candidates should wear.

We started putting the word out on Tuesday, September 4th, and so many people have responded!  As of Sunday, September 9th, 154 people had taken the survey!  That’s more than the 146 responses I’ve gotten for the original survey, which has been up for about six months.  So far an overwhelming majority of them have been Academic, probably because the request for participation on the collib-l listserv went up on Tuesday, and the publib post didn’t go up until Friday.

So, if you know people who hire for archives, school libraries, special libraries, and public libraries, please invite them to take the survey!  (Please do share with people who hire Academic librarians too of course, we’re just more in need of those other groups.)

Thank you in advance for spreading the word, and thank you, thank you, thank you, to the people who have already responded.

First, a Word about the Survey

This survey is much heavier on the closed-ended questions.  Hopefully, this Stats and Graphs post will introduce you to the survey, and as I post individual responses later on the context of their answers will be clearer.  You can of course click in and look through this survey, or the original, without having to respond, at the links on the Participate page.

You may notice, as one respondent did, we’re big Ask a Manager fans.  One of the questions is inspired by The Great Pantyhose Debate of 2010 and caused one respondent to ask:

is this a serious question?

It is.  Deadly serious.

I hope that the answers will help as you stand in front of your closet trying to decide on the outfit you will wear to the occasion that may just TOTALLY CHANGE YOUR LIFE!  However, I’d like to reiterate that this project isn’t precisely scientific, and you should feel free to disregard any of the results you disagree with.  As one respondent pointed out:

You should have someone vet this survey. The response are poorly articulated and are biased by the overly casual and poor attempts at humor. Survey response should not be jokey. I feel like you were wearing flip flops when you wrote it.

Incidentally, we did actually have friends and library contacts vet the survey, but didn’t always take their advice.  My sister, who blogs about gender and workplace bias in her blog Bay Area Actor, pointed out that the questions are more focused on women, but this was not corrected.  Partly because there are more women librarians, and partly because the survey was pretty long already without adding in questions about neckties.

I’m sorry, manbrarians.  A lot of the survey is still relevant to you, just not all of it.


Anyway, enough rambling.  On to the stats and graphs!

Just to reiterate that the majority of respondents are academic librarians, who may or may not have more formal standards of dress, I’m going to share the demographics of respondents first.

Also to mention, I’m using Google forms, and the charts it generates cut off some of the answer choices.  However, it takes a while to do a post like this, and even longer to make it prettier in Excel, so I’ll ask you to please just excuse how sloppy it looks.  This is a labor of love, and I’m a busy lady.


What type of institution do you hire for?

Academic Library 105 68%
Public Library 42 27%
School Library 0 0%
Special Library 3 2%
Archives 0 0%
Other 4 3%

Where are you?

Northeastern US 41 27%
Midwestern US 35 23%
Southern US 42 27%
Western US 21 14%
Canada 5 3%
UK 5 3%
Australia/New Zealand 1 1%
Other 4 3%

Where are you?

Urban area 42 27%
Suburban area 38 25%
City/town 53 34%
Rural area 19 12%
Other 2 1%

How many staff members are at your library?

0-10 35 23%
10-50 80 52%
50-100 17 11%
100-200 11 7%
200+ 10 6%

Are you a librarian?

Yes 145 94%
No 4 3%
It’s complicated 5 3%

Are you now or have you ever been:

a hiring manager(hiring people that you will directly or indirectly supervise)  105 69%
a member of a hiring or search committee  131 86%
human resources  6 4%
Other  5 3%
(People may select more than one checkbox,
so percentages may add up to more than 100%.)

What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

Yes, absolutely! It shows respect and professionalism   23    15%
Probably, yes (but it’s ok if the candidate wears somethinga little less formal) 88    57%
Probably not (but it’s ok if the candidate does wear one) 23    15%
No way! It shows a lack of understanding about my libraryand/or the nature of librarianship 1    1%
I don’t care 8   5%
Other 11    7%

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

Counts as a suit 113 73%
Is totally different 16 10%
I do not know and/or care 19 12%
Other 6 4%

Bare arms are inappropriate in an interview, even in the summer.

True 58 38%
False 47 31%
I don’t care 27 18%
Other 22 14%

If a woman wears a skirt to an interview, should she also wear pantyhose?

Never, pantyhose is for my grandmother 7 5%
No, but it’s not a dealbreaker 55 36%
Either pantyhose or tights. Bare legs are inappropriate 30 19%
Yes, true professionals always wear pantyhose 5 3%
Other 57 37%

Women should wear make-up to an interview:

Always 7 5%
I don’t care, as long as it’s not over-the-top 63 41%
I don’t care what’s on the face, it’s what’sin the brain that counts 69 45%
Never 0 0%
Other 15 10%

Do you expect different levels of formality of dress, depending on the position you’re hiring for?

Yes, the higher the position, the moreformal I expect the candidate to dress   118 77%
No   24 16%
I don’t care   7 5%
Other   5 3%

Which jewelry may candidates wear:

Single, simple necklace, bracelet, and/or ring   113 74%
A few simple necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings   118 78%
All of the simple necklaces, bracelets, and rings heor she can load on   27 18%
Arty or more elaborate necklaces, bracelets, or rings   88 58%
Nose Ring (nostril)   55 36%
Eyebrow Ring, Monroe piercing, septum piercing,or other face piercing   42 28%
Earrings   119 78%
Multiple Ear Piercings   90 59%
Large gauge ear jewelry (stretched ears)   34 22%
Other   51 34%
(People may select more than one checkbox,
so percentages may add up to more than 100%.)

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

All of them, even pink 87 56%
Natural colors (black, brown, red, blonde, gray) 48 31%
Other 19 12%

The way a candidate dresses should:

Show personality 32 21%
Be fairly neutral 63 41%
I don’t really care how a candidate dresses 18 12%
Other 41 27%

What the Library Wears

On a scale of  1 to 5, where one is too dressed up for your workplace, khakis and a polo shirt are:

1 –
Too dressed up for my workplace
1 1%
2 2 1%
3 116 75%
4 20 13%
5 –
Too casual for my workplace
8 5%

What’s the dress code at your library/organization?

Business formal 4 3%
Business casual 88 57%
Casual 31 20%
I don’t even know what any of that means 2 1%
Other 29 19%

Are there any specific items of clothing, etc. that are forbidden by your dress code?

Jeans 38 27%
Flip flops 58 41%
Visible Tattoos 16 11%
Short skirts/shorts 52 37%
Tank tops 53 37%
Logos/band insignia/slogans 46 32%
Sneakers/trainers 21 15%
N/A: We wear what we want! 38 27%
Other 87 61%
(People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.)

Librarians at your organization wear:

Name tags 66 64%
Badges 22 21%
Uniforms 1 1%
Shirt, waistcoat/vest, or other single pieceof clothing issued by the library 3 3%
Other 40 39%
(People may select more than one checkbox,
so percentages may add up to more than 100%.)

When I start posting individual responses, you’ll see how the respondent answered each of these questions, as well as the following open-ended questions:

  • 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.
  • Can you share any stories about how a candidate nailed the proper interview outfit, especially if your organization does not expect suits?
  • How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?
  • How do you dress when you are going to conduct an interview?
  • Do you have any comments, or are there any other questions you think we should add to this survey?

If you have questions, comments or concerns, we’d love to hear them. You can either comment below, or email hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thank you again, to all the respondents, and thank YOU for reading!


Filed under Academic, Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Midwestern US, News and Administration, Northeastern US, Public, Rural area, Southern US, Special, Stats and Graphs, Suburban area, UK, Urban area, Western US, What Should Candidates Wear?

6 responses to “Stats and Graphs: What Should Candidates Wear?

  1. ksol

    Glad makeup isn’t a dealbreaker. My feeling is that an interview is about finding out if you’re a right fit. I am interviewing them as much as they are interviewing me. Knowing that I will never where makeup to work after hiring (just not my style and makes my face itch), I’m disinclined to wear it to the interview.

    Unless, of course, I am desperate for any job and willing to put on any persona to land one.


  2. I wonder if the people reading this survey could post questions they have about interview clothing and maybe get input from other readers? I bet we even have a hiring manager or two reading that might offer advice.

    I agree that we need to hear from more men, but you know, men need to speak up when they have questions, too. I try to find information and pictures for men to post on my blog, but it’s hard to find.

    Maybe men have the answers to these questions, but what I wonder if they wonder is:

    How does a man decide between wearing khakis and button-up vs. a suit, especially in the humid summer?
    How does a man decide whether or not to wear a tie?
    Is a suit without a tie more appropriate than slacks, button-up, and tie, but no blazer? Are there stigmas attached to each look?
    Do men have to debate whether to wear slip-ons or lace-ups? What about shoes vs. boots?

    Any male readers have ideas?


  3. Anonymous

    Would be interesting to see what people think about wearing perfume.


    • I know so many people who get sneezing fits when around perfume and most of the perfume I smell on others stinks to me, that I rarely wear scents.

      When I do wear perfume, I keep in mind what I once read. That is, only those who are privileged enough to come into my close personal space should be rewarded with a gentle scent; if the person talking to me in normal interactions can smell my perfume, then it is too strong and never should one be able to smell it as I walk by.

      That’s how I handle things, but I’m sure there are less conservative, but still socially acceptable, options.


  4. Do not wear perfume: Some people are quite allergic to perfume smells. My partner (not a librarian, but an engineer-manager) was in a meeting with someone from outside his firm. She wore perfume.

    Such people get fast reactions: headache, affected sinuses. They cannot walnunter or to be in such a dept. Some employers have a no-perfume policy because of the open office work areas. I did work for such an employer.

    Do I wear perfume: I’m clean. Yes, I loved scented lotions but have to wear it when he’s not around/ or at beginning of day when I go …outdoors. 🙂


  5. Pingback: Stats and Graphs: 160 Responses to the Original Survey | Hiring Librarians

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