Their Appearance Will Reflect on Their Expertise and Our Reputation

This anonymous interview is with a Public librarian at a library with 100-200 staff members in a suburban area of the Midwestern United States. 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:

√ 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?

√ No, 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.

For a youth librarian position where they had to present a story as if presenting it to children, an applicant came dressed and fully made up as a clown. It was really hard to take her seriously.

I’ve realized that I notice things like: the dry cleaning tag on the cuff that didn’t get removed, a hole in someone’s socks, a stain on the front of a blouse.

I’m a pretty careful dresser myself, and while I don’t insist on suits or on pantyhose, I do want the applicant to look pulled together and professional. That usually means dressing a few steps above “normal.”

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
√ A few simple necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings
√ All of the simple necklaces, bracelets, and rings he or she can load on
√ Arty or more elaborate necklaces, bracelets, or rings
√ Nose Ring (nostril)
√ Eyebrow Ring, Monroe piercing, septum piercing, or other face piercing
√ Earrings
√ Multiple Ear Piercings

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

√ Other: Just clean and out of the eyes, please

The way a candidate dresses should:

√ I don’t really care how a candidate dresses

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?’

I dont’ really care what people wear, but I want people to meet a minimum standard of cleanliness and neatness–plenty of people can do this with multiple piercings. And tattoos–you didn’t ask about those.

While I don’t care, I DO appreciate an outfit that isn’t over the top but that does show personality. There are people who manage to convey something about themselves without demanding that all of the attention be on them.

What This Library Wears

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

Suit or fitted jacket

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?

√ Casual

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

√ Short skirts/shorts

Librarians at your organization wear: Please check all that apply

√ Name tags

Do you have any other comments?

I spend a lot of time out in the community representing the library. That’s also where we expect our librarians to be. And out there, people have their own ideas of appropriate work attire. Our library allows very casual clothing, and I”m disheartened when one of our people who will be out and about representing us seems not to understand how their appearance will reflect on their expertise and our reputation in the community.

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

Photo: Stockimages on

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Filed under 100-200 staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Suburban area, What Should Candidates Wear?

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