This anonymous interview is with an Academic Librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This person works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a city/town in the Southern US. This person may or may not like pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie was not a survey topic.
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: Only okay under a jacket
If a woman wears a skirt to an interview, should she also wear pantyhose?
√ Other: Yes, but it’s not a dealbreaker
Women should wear make-up to an interview:
√ I don’t care what’s on the face, it’s what’s in the brain that counts
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.
Wear shoes you can walk in, you will be traipsing all over campus. Certainly your smarts and talent are the most important thing, but this is your chance to make a good first impression and dazzle us with your professionalism. Especially for people new to the profession, don’t distract old-timers on the committee wth your fashion-forward style at the interview, you want to be taken seriously as a professional colleague. Totally okay to ask at the interview what people wear on normal days (one would hope that committee members are also more professionally dressed during your interview than usual). Better to be over-dressed for an interview than under. When in doubt, wear a suit. If it pains your personality to be in a suit, jazz it up with funky tie or handbag, but suit up for the interview. It’s the professional and respectful thing to do and demonstrates that you can (and will) represent the organization well and appropriately.
Horror stories? CHECK FOR TAGS on new clothes. Make sure the pleats on your jacket or skirt are cut open (many are lightly stitched shut for display and sale). Button up – nobody wants to see your decolletage or manfur. Wear the outfit at least once before the interview – you want to make sure you can move. It’s horrible when a woman wears shoes she cannot walk in, slowing down the pace of the day considerably and causing everyone to worry for her safety as we stumble over cobblestone walks.
One exception: If you fear that they might think you are overqualified for the gig (too many degrees, etc), or if the institution pays poorly and is struggling, do not show up in an $800 suit!
Can you share any stories about how a candidate nailed the proper interview outfit, especially if your organization does not expect suits?
I always appreciate when the candidate is well-put-together and can still actually move. I recommend a simple suit that you are comfortable moving in, and shoes that allow you to keep pace with the person charged with getting you from a late-running meeting at point A to point B (about 5 miles across campus) so you’re not late meeting the boss.
Choose a shirt, tie or bag that you really like, that reflects a bit more of your personality, your love of color, or (within reason) your sense of whimsy. Unless you’re interviewing for a director gig, it is unlikely that they will expect you to wear a suit every day, so show them that you can still be you and wear a suit when the occasion calls for it.
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
√ Arty or more elaborate necklaces, bracelets, or rings
Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:
√ Natural colors (black, brown, red, blonde, gray)
The way a candidate dresses should:
√ Be fairly neutral
How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?
I’m not going to hire an idiot because they are well-dressed, but a smart person who cannot muster the energy to dress appropriately for an interview could red flag as a potential problem. I don’t want to hire drones or clones, but if your first impression sends the message that you don’t think the rules apply to you, that could definitely work against your candidacy.
Poor wardrobe choices will work against you. The right wardrobe choice should not be an issue at all – it should blend into the whole package of your professionalism, competence and ability.
And remember that hiring is often a committee decision – so dress for the most conservative, most persnickety, least fashionable member of the committee. Make your wardrobe a non-issue so they can focus on how you can contribute to their library.
What This Library Wears
How do you dress when you are going to conduct an interview?
Usually a suit – to put the candidate at ease and reflect my role.
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: nothing formal, but informal pressure to the formal end of business casual
Librarians at your organization wear: Please check all that apply
√ Other: nametags when on desk or we have a lot of visitors for a special event
Do you have any other comments?
Please, for the love of God, encourage candidates to work on their cover letters! That is the single most important part of their application package, and I’ve seen so many horible ones.
Get the name of the library/institution right. Write a cover letter unique to each job ad (it doesn’t need to be totally re-done each time, but some tailoring, please). Verify that you meet our minimum qualifications. Follow the directions about how to apply. And use the cover letter to tell me more than I can learn from your resume.
This survey was co-authored by Jill of Librarian Hire Fashion – submit your interview outfit to her blog!