She Wore (gasp) Drawstring Pants to the Interview!

my first suit by Flickr user craigemorselsThis anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in Suburban area in the Northeastern US

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:

Counts as a suit

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

Other: Depends on the person!

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.

We once had a VP nix a potential library director because she wore (gasp) drawstring pants to the interview!
I personally feel that breasts should remain covered–that means no cleavage!

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
Multiple Ear Piercings

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

Natural colors (black, brown, red, blonde, gray)

The way a candidate dresses should:

Be fairly neutral

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?

I work in a community college. I strive to model for students how a “professional” dresses. I expect my librarians to do the same. So–dressing professionally for an interview is something I look for.

What This Library Wears

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

I wear my best–a cut above my everyday work dress

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

Librarians at your organization wear: (Please check all that apply)

Name tags

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

Photo: my first suit by Flickr user craigemorsels



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

6 responses to “She Wore (gasp) Drawstring Pants to the Interview!

  1. Nancy Bolt

    I find this discussion very interesting and as someone who has hired many, my definitive answer is: it depends on the job. If I’m hiring someone who needs to work closely with trustees, city officials, or funding agencies, I want to see them in a suit. If they are going to work with kids, I would like to see a more informal approach and tattoos, piercings, etc. are fine. I want the presentation of themselves in dress, attitude, etc to match the job they are applying for. I’ve hired to PR people to work with me who who were informally dressed but made me laugh with stories of their experiences working with media. I guess I want someone with the judgement to know how to dress in relation to the audience they will be serving.


    • “I want someone with the judgement to know how to dress in relation to the audience they will be serving”

      I think many job seekers want to dress appropriately in relation to the audience. Figuring out what is appropriate for people you’ve never even seen is from where much of the stress comes. The knowledge to make accurate judgements takes time and experience to gain. Even in the same general location, libraries that serve similar demographics will have different dress codes. If you can’t see the people before your interview, how will you know what you are dealing with?

      Part of what I find helpful from these survey responses is seeing how many interpretations of good judgement there are. Seeing the variety of responses and picking out the common elements helps me to form an opinion on what is universally expected (something I can accommodate) compared to what is a matter of personal opinion (something I can’t know ahead of time).


  2. Nancy Bolt

    You make a good point and I wonder how difficult it is to figure that out in advance. I realize that my judgment is probably impacted by my age. I’ve been around a long time. You indicated something universally expected rather than personal opinion. I’m not sure that’s possible. Someone wearing cowboy boots might not be universally expected in New York City or LA but would probably be appropriate in Texas. If you are applying for a top job in the Midwest, I’m guessing they would like to see you in a suit. Maybe not in other parts of the country. Women in the south tend to wear nylons still; women in other parts of the country do not. Maybe clean and combed might be the only real standard anymore but I still say you should think about the job you are doing. And you can always call around and ask.


    • Who would you call? In my imagination, the question would go: “Hi, name of place I’m interviewing, what do people normally wear to work there?”

      I think that would get the applicant quickly placed on the weirdo list.

      Maybe you could call the state employment commission? In my experience, they have no clue what’s currently considered professional, despite their job being to help people get jobs.

      When I say “universally expected,” what I’ve gathered from the survey responses here and from comments on Librarian Hire Fashion, is that as long as you are neat, clean, and look like you tried to dress professionally, many people are willing to overlook a misstep.


  3. Nancy Bolt

    It seems to be you and me communicating. OK, in the acceptable list that was published I saw nose rings. If I were a board of trustees hiring someone to be a library director and the person showed up neat and clean and with a nose ring, I would not hire them and if they didn’t have it when they interviewed and did when they showed for work, I don’t think they would last very long. On the other hand, I know several libraries that have hired young people with multiple tattoos very visible, rings in many parts of the body, and colored spiked hair. Usually, they have worked in IT or children’s services. Teens love it, instant connection.
    I still say it depends on the position you are applying for, how dressed up you get. As to how to find out, I think there are several avenues. If it’s a young professional, I’d try the new members group at the library association. I’d ask around and see if any people in my own library association knew people in the library association in the state I wanted to work. If the candidate doesn’t belong to their state association, I wouldn’t hire them anyway.
    Maybe I’m old fashioned but I’ve done a lot of hiring. It’s a competitive world and any edge helps. I say if you are going for an upper level job, get a nice suit.


  4. Anonymous

    I would agree, Nancy. The higher up the ladder you go, the more that is expected. With business people on the board and the Endowment, they are looking for a good fit with their image of what the library projects to the community. While we don’t involve them for most hires, except the director, we do want to present an overall image that is welcoming and certainly not uptight.


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