Wearing a Cheap Suit is a Major Red Flag

all suited up by Flickr user graymalkn

This anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian from a suburban area of the Northeastern US.  This person works at a library with 10-50 staff members and has been 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:

√ Is totally different

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

√ False

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.

I’m always turned off by candidates who wear formal attire that is in poor taste or horribly out of date. I’d rather a candidate dress informally, but in a very stylish and contemporary way. Wearing a cheap suit is a major red flag.

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
√ Large gauge ear jewelry (stretched ears)

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

√ All of them, even pink

The way a candidate dresses should:

√ Show personality

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?

If a candidate is wearing cheap clothing, it shows that s/he doesn’t care about their appearance.

What This Library Wears

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

Jeans, dress shirt, sport coat. But it really depends on the person being interviews (i.e., high-level or lower-level job).

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

√ N/A: We wear what we want!

Librarians at your organization wear: Please check all that apply

√ Name tags

Do you have any other comments?

“Business casual” means different things to different people.

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

Photo: all suited up by Flickr user graymalkn

*edited 8:40 PST 11/19/2012 to remove unanswered question



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

3 responses to “Wearing a Cheap Suit is a Major Red Flag

  1. Cheap according to whom?

  2. rday@vbgov.com

    I would say wearing a cheap suit is more likely a sign that the person needs a job and hasn’t got enough money for an expensive one. Jeez. As long as a candidate’s suit fits appropriately and is clean and pressed, I could care less whether it cost $1,000 or $50.

  3. How do people tell from looking if an item of clothing is cheap or expensive? I mean, unless there is pilling or loose threads or the observer’s profession is clothing evaluation, how does one know just by looking how much another’s clothing cost?

    Fit, now, that’s a different matter. Fit makes the difference between sloppy, average, and wow.

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