Short Sleeves on Women are Ok, Sleeveless is a No

Business Woman by D. Clow



This anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee.  This librarian works in an urban area in the Midwestern US, at a library with 50-100 staff members.

What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

√ Probably not (but it’s ok if the candidate does wear one)

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

√ Other: is ok

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

√ Other: Short sleeves on women are ok, sleeveless is a no

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

√ Never, pantyhose is for my grandmother

Women should wear make-up to an interview:

√ I don’t care, as long as it’s not over-the-top

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
√ 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:

√ All of them, even pink

The way a candidate dresses should:

√ Be fairly neutral

What This Library Wears

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

Regular work outfit – skirt, nice top, nice shoes. Nothing fancy

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?

√ Other: Biz casual to casual, w/ strange exceptions due to past “issues”

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

√ Flip flops
√ Tank tops
√ Logos/band insignia/slogans
√ Other: jeans & sneakers only under certain circumstances – work duties or United Way jeans Fridays

Librarians at your organization wear: Please check all that apply

√ Badges

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

Photo: Business Woman by D. Clow



Filed under 50-100 staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Urban area, What Should Candidates Wear?

3 responses to “Short Sleeves on Women are Ok, Sleeveless is a No

  1. Some of these preferences are definitely generational. I can’t fathom why pantyhose is a no-no, but multiple piercings or pink hair are fine. I’m in my mid-forties and wear pantyhose to work when I wear skirts. Honestly, my feet sweat a lot in hot weather and the pantyhose seem to help with that. And the comment about pantyhose being for grandmothers . . . you may be hiring someone who is a grandmother at some point!

    • I agree that a lot of these have generational components, especially the pantyhose question, which many people find controversial or even offensive. I think the generational aspect was to some extent what we were trying to get at with the “pantyhose are for my grandmother.” My grandmother always wore pantyhose, even when she was wearing slacks. If I was going to be interviewed by my grandma, I would certainly wear pantyhose. On the other hand, my mom usually wears pantyhose, but not always. And I almost never do.
      It’s a changing norm for professional appearance, and that’s why we ask. While you wouldn’t have gone without it maybe ten years ago, now it’s not unthinkable to consider.
      One respondent suggested we should have asked for the respondent’s age. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Ultimately I think it’s irrelevant, because it’s not likely to be something a candidate would know in advance. Can you imagine calling a potential workplace and asking “And what is the average age of the interview panel?”

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