Business Professional not Library Sloppy

Business Woman with Tablet



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 0-10 staff members in a rural area of the Southern US.

What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

√ Other: Suit or professional dress.

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

√ Counts as a suit

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

√ Other: What impression are you wanting to leave?

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, as long as it’s not over-the-top

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.

No, not necessarily. It is difficult to live down a first impression. One candidate took off their shoes and continued a portion of the interview in barefeet. Showing up in flannel, tastefully done, but not really appropriate for the position being interviewed. Shorts – not a good idea. Flip flops – not a good idea.

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

While it may not be written or identified in detail, in the working world, there is a range of uniforms from business casual to formal. Then there’s just sloppy. We interviewed somebody once who had the “insider’s” chance for the job. The person took the job interview seriously and dressed professionally, business professional not library sloppy. She respected the position and showed that even with all of the advantages she had for acquiring that position, she did not depend on those alone. It meant something to her to dress well for the interview. Best hire I ever made and one of the best colleagues I’ve ever worked with.

Do you expect different levels of formality of dress, depending on the position you’re hiring for?

√ No

Which jewelry may candidates wear: (Please select all that are acceptable)

√ Other: I really don’t care other than present a professional appearance.

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

√ All of them, even pink

The way a candidate dresses should:

√ Other: be professional.

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?

It may not in the hiring; it could play into the expectation for dress during the first 90 days and whether they continue employment.

What This Library Wears

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

shirt/tie with blazer or suit 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?

√ Business casual

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

√ Other: We’re casual to a degree. Frontline staff are encouraged not to wear blue jeans unless for special work projects.

Do you have any other comments?

It’s interesting that in a profession that is so concerned with it’s professional image, the library professional is known and recognized as sloppy. The membership often complains about not being taken as serious as other professions; but the “accept me as I am” attitude offers them what they’re requesting. While we should not judge a book by its cover, talk with any publisher, and you know that book covers can be the make or break of a book because, regardless of the adage, we still do.

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

Photo: Stockimages on



Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, Rural area, Southern US, What Should Candidates Wear?

3 responses to “Business Professional not Library Sloppy

  1. Aimee

    This is the first time I’ve heard of librarian professionals being known as sloppy.

  2. I agree with Aimee. I am curious to know what sources the interviewee is referring to.

  3. Ditto on Aimee’s comment. I am curious to see what source(s) the interviewee is referring to that consider this profession sloppy.

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