One Candidate … Had Such a Great Personality That We Looked Past Her Not Wearing a Suit

Reflections of myself - 022_365 by Flickr user Adam Jarmon Brown


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 Rural area in the Northeastern US.

What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

√ Other: YES – but a suit or a dress for a professional position.

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

√ Counts as a suit

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.

Unironed clothing. A candidate came to my library to interview not only not wearing a suit, but her clothes were wrinkled.

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

Honestly, one candidate we interviewed had such a great personality that we looked past her not wearing a suit – but we did have to offer the job to someone with more experience. She wore a crisp white shirt, nice pants, and tasteful accessories.

Otherwise, we’re faculty, and if you’re interviewing to be a faculty member, you should wear a suit.

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
√ Earrings
√ Other: multiple ear piercings are ok if they’re small.

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

√ All of them, even pink

The way a candidate dresses should:

√ Other: It should be neutral, but a splash of appropriate personality is fine – a cool pin, a distinctive scarf, a fun tie

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?

If someone knocked our socks off and was wearing business-appropriate attire but not a suit, we would probably be OK with it. If s/he showed up in an untucked shirt and wrinkled clothes, we probably wouldn’t. We have to hire folks who show the potential to work closely with University administration and other faculty. Dress to the occasion.

One last comment: Find out if it’s a faculty position. If it’s a faculty position, show up in a suit. (Alternately, if you have to do a presentation, wear a suit.)

What This Library Wears

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

I wear my usual work clothes.

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)

√ Jeans
√ Flip flops
√ Visible Tattoos
√ Short skirts/shorts
√ Tank tops
√ Logos/band insignia/slogans

Do you have any other comments?

The phrasing of the answers to the pantyhose question seems off – you might want to recheck that.

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

Photo: Reflections of myself – 022_365 by Flickr user Adam Jarmon Brown via Creative Commons License

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

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