The Individual Should Be Self Aware Enough to Know What Looks Best

Photo by Flickr user Parker Michael Knight

Photo by Flickr user Parker Michael Knight



This anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian from an institution with 10-50 staff members in an urban area of the Southern US. This librarian has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee.


What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

√ Probably, yes (but it’s ok if the candidate wears something a little less formal)

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

√ I do not know and/or care

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

√ Other: there’s a lot of variation in outfits. I would hesitate to give a blanket yes or no.

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

√ No, but it’s not a dealbreaker

Women should wear make-up to an interview:

√ Other: a candidate should look NICE. not everyone needs makeup. the individual should be self aware enough to know what looks best.

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.

No, no horrifying stories but I do pay attention to how the candidate dresses and absorb that as part of the whole package. I have had informally dressed candidates who presented themselves extremely well and were effective strong candidates with non-typical interview dress. But I have also had exactly the opposite. Someone who clearly isn’t engaged with the process and paid no attention to their manner of dress and that was exactly the message I got, loud and clear. I think self awareness is the key. KNOW how you look and come across. You want a strong showing. This IS an interview after all…

Can you share any stories about how a candidate nailed the proper interview outfit, especially if your organization does not expect suits?

I think a nicely done outfit with a touch of the individual goes a long way. One candidate interviewed in a vintage tweed jacket, plaid shirt and unusual colored tie and it WORKED because it had flair and each piece was unique and clearly a favorite of his. That could be dangerous but this was just enough of a personal touch to give me a real sense of who he is. He turned out to be a fantastic hire.

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: (Please select all that are acceptable)

√ Single, simple necklace, bracelet, and/or ring
√ Earrings
√ Multiple Ear Piercings

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

√ Other: I don’t mind a bit of unusual color but whole head shocking pink is a bit much.

The way a candidate dresses should:

√ Show personality

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?

I just want to see that they are self aware, they have chosen their clothes with some care to reflect well on themselves and that they are neat and clean. No ill fitting pants or shirts or too much skin exposed. I’m fine with some unusual clothing but it does need to fit and look nice.

What This Library Wears

How do you dress when you are going to conduct an interview?

I wear a jacket and pants.

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

Do you have any other comments?

I think this is going to be hard to write about on a large scale because so much of this varies across regions and institutions. I have worked in several libraries over quite a few years and the “acceptable rules” are very different in different places.

This survey was co-authored by Jill of Librarian Hire Fashion – submit your interview outfit to her blog!

1 Comment

Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Southern US, Urban area, What Should Candidates Wear?

One response to “The Individual Should Be Self Aware Enough to Know What Looks Best

  1. I would love to see a photo/Polyvore of that tweed, plaid, and “unusual” tie outfit! Based on the description, the person sounds like someone I would want to get to know.

    Off topic, but the description reminds me of someone with the personality of Hodgins from Bones.


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