Religious Signifiers are a Different Story, and Completely Acceptable

Business Woman by a Window by Flickr user Victor1558

Do you remember the interview from the original survey entitled “Customer Service Outside the Library World Can Make Your Resume Stand Out“? This anonymous interview is with that same librarian!  This librarian works at Public library with more than 200 staff members in an urban area of the Western US.  S/he 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 not (but it’s ok if the candidate does wear one)

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

√ Is totally different

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.

Political or religious tee-shirts would indicate a total misunderstanding of what’s OK in a public library (headcoverings, beards and/or other religious signifiers are a different story, and completely acceptable).

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

Clothes should show respect for the process/organization, and shouldn’t overshadow the candidate.
I’d recommend younger candidates skew more formal – probably not fair, but you’ll want to project confidence and maturity, even if we’re hiring you for your youthful energy and enthusiasm.
Similarly, I’d recommend more mature candidates consider a little more zing, again to counterbalance prejudices about what older librarians are “like”.
That said, anything that feels like a costume is going to hurt your performance more than an outfit that doesn’t exactly match interviewer expectations.

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
√ Earrings
√ Multiple Ear Piercings
√ Other: It depends. But I’d recommend you go very subtle if you’re not opting to remove non-ear piercings.

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

√ Other: Again, depends, but I’d go subtle (pink hair styled conservatively is better than natural hair in an extreme style).

The way a candidate dresses should:

√ Show personality

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?

I want to know that the candidate understands that this is a formal process, and dressing up is part of the game.
With a very few exceptions, clothes may color perceptions of the candidate, but won’t make or tank an interview.
An interesting accessory can be a nice touch, but you don’t want your outfit to be the most memorable thing about you!

What This Library Wears

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

Probably what would be called “business casual” – I work in a very casual part of the country, though.

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

√ Logos/band insignia/slogans
√ Other: Religious/political slogans

Librarians at your organization wear: Please check all that apply

√ Name tags
√ Badges

Do you have any other comments?

It really depends on the workplace – if you have time, check out the library and see what staff are wearing, and aim for a step or two above that level or formality. When in doubt, go more formal – you can always ditch the jacket/cardigan/ironic pearls once you’re there.

Don’t assume that because you’re interviewing for a children’s or a teen position you can throw formality out the window – yes, there is more latitude, but that’s not without limits.

Visible tattoos, facial piercings, etc., are not dealbreakers, but the interview is your chance to show folks (some of whom are going to be uncomfortable with such things) how “normal” you can present, and you should treat it as such.

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

Photo: Business Woman by a Window by Flickr user Victor1558


1 Comment

Filed under 200+ staff members, Public, Urban area, Western US, What Should Candidates Wear?

One response to “Religious Signifiers are a Different Story, and Completely Acceptable

  1. This is the second hiring librarian (one in “real” life) who has suggested to me that the style of hair affects perceptions of professionalism more than the color of hair. As further anecdotal proof of this way of thinking, I overheard one woman “of a certain age” criticizing another woman’s hair style, not because it was bleached blond, but because it was styled to look disheveled. To me, the style fit perfectly with the woman’s artistic profession, but maybe that’s a generational or personality difference.

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