I Think the Biggest Issue is Whether You’re Going to Fiddle with It

Going to an Interview {Outfit Post}



This anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian who has been a member of a hiring or search committee. This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a Urban area of the Midwestern US .

What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

√ I don’t care

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

√ Counts as a suit

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?

√ Other: don’t care

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’ve never seen anyone come to an interview in anything that I even particularly noticed. Most either wore professional dress (suits or coordinated blazer/slacks/skirts sets) or dress in what I affectionately call “hipster librarian.” I have always worn a slacks style suit to my interviews and do usually get the job.

RE the bare arms comment: I did have a shell under my suit and did take my jacket off for the teaching presentation. It hadn’t occurred to me that bare arms could be an issue. I’m at an academic (community college) library.

RE hose: I personally am more comfortable in tights, and I had a career center person say you should always wear hose, but I don’t think I ever even noticed whether candidates were wearing hose or not.

RE: jewelry – I think the biggest issue is whether you’re going to fiddle with it. If I wear jewelry, I will play with it, so I wear none when I interview. I have taken my facial piercings out for interviews and I’ve never seen anyone interview with them in, but I’d probably think it was cool since I have them. If you stretch your ears you’ll look better wearing plugs than taking them out and having weird looking holes.

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

Again, I’ve never seen anyone dress to such an extreme that it made a conscious impression on me one way or the other. Presumably I have subconscious biases, but attitudes have always stuck out for me much more than attire.

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
√ Large gauge ear jewelry (stretched ears)

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

√ All of them, even pink

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 think the biggest thing is that the candidate appear confident and comfortable. If dressing completely against character will affect performance, don’t do it. But do dress your personal best and your personal best attempt at professional. Also remember that you are interviewing them. If it is a deal breaker that you be valued for your funkiness it might be worth the risk of not getting some jobs to find a place that values that. If it’s not a deal breaker, it’s probably better to play it safe. I interviewed with brown hair and no facial piercings but now have blue hair and lip rings and no one cares. But looking more normal probably did help me get the job. But I’ve never seen anyone interview with wild hair colors or very noticeable piercings. (I find nose rings practically unnoticeable, so I think I may have seen those in interviews.)

What This Library Wears

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

I wear the nicest end of the spectrum of my typical work clothes. This generally falls into the same “hipster librarian” style I mentioned above. Cute skirts with stylish blouses. Though lately I’ve been doing more slacks and very tailored dress shirts.

RE: the khaki question below – it’s not too dressy or undressy, just kind of boring.

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)

√ 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?

Just because I don’t feel strongly doesn’t mean that your safest bet isn’t to dress as professional as you think the job requires.

Also, I’ve heard stories of people saying things like, “don’t wear a suit, it shows you don’t know our library.” I think there are probably different standards for different types of libraries, but we have definitely hired people who wore suits to the interview, then had them show up in suits and ties to work and suggest they dress down in the future. It seems odd to me that a hiring committee member would think that wearing a suit to an interview is somehow inappropriate just because you wouldn’t wear one day to day.

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

Photo: Going to an Interview {Outfit Post} by Flickr user ellevalentine, under creative commons license

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

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