A Woman Can Get Away with a Nice Dress if it’s Work Appropriate

suit by flickr user pretendtious

suit! by flickr user pretendtious

 This anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian who works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a rural 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?

√ Yes, absolutely! It shows respect and professionalism

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

√ Counts as a suit

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

√ True

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

√ Other: yes, unless it’s very hot – and the skirt isn’t very short!

Women should wear make-up to an interview:

√ Other: unless you’re very young and very attractive, you’re going to look ungroomed without it!

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.

women: very short skirts, revealing tops, sneakers (unless they’ve got serious foot problems)
men: frazzled shirt/pants, no tie, polo shirt

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

a woman can get away with a nice dress if it’s work appropriate – but it’s hard to pull off.

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)

√ A few simple necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings
√ Earrings
√ Multiple Ear Piercings
√ Other: I’d tend to avoid bracelets – they get in the way and can make noise

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

√ Natural colors (black, brown, red, blonde, gray)

The way a candidate dresses should:

√ Show personality

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?

The candidate has to look well put together, as though they’ve given some thought to the occasion. Better to be overdressed than underdressed. Same with hair. If someone looks sloppy in their appearance, it signals to me they’ll be sloppy about their work – or that they just don’t care if they get the job.

What This Library Wears

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

usually a suit, or nice skirt/sweater or dress

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: business casual except for Fridays

Librarians at your organization wear: Please check all that apply

√ Name tags

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



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

2 responses to “A Woman Can Get Away with a Nice Dress if it’s Work Appropriate

  1. I know the person is just sharing their honest opinion, but the makeup thing kind of bothers me. I know plenty of women who don’t wear makeup who don’t look ungroomed…I almost never wear it, and if I do I only wear mascara. It’s important to make a good first impression, so I think looking neat, tidy and well dressed (and not tired) at an interview is really important, but hopefully interviewers can leave the makeup or no makeup thing out of their judgement of a candidate.


  2. When I was in college in the southeast, we were told to always wear a skirt suit when interviewing. This was in the early 2000s. I asked why not pants and was basically told, “No, skirts are best.” I couldn’t ever pin down a specific reason and I don’t remember the pantyhose question coming up, but maybe I blocked it out because I had no intention of wearing anything other than trousers.


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