You Don’t Want to Smell in the Interview

Anne BarnhartThis interview is with Anne Barnhart, a librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee. She is the Head of Instructional Services at the Ingram Library at the University of West Georgia (UWG), an academic library with 10-50 staff members. Librarians at UWG are faculty members and Instructional Services librarians teach a credit-bearing course as well as requested one-shots and workshops.

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:

Other: is a good safe combination for most interviews

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

I don’t care

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.

Candidates should be careful about neck lines. I don’t want to see someone’s cleavage or chest hair. Really, I don’t. Candidates should wear fabrics that will not intensify body odor. Being nervous in an interview is natural and some fabrics retain odor more than others. You don’t want to smell in the interview.

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

I don’t have a specific story — candidates should look professional (suit is okay but not necessary) and comfortable. If someone never wears a suit but does at an interview and looks (and feels) uncomfortable, that is going to affect their interview performance.

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:

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 [a colleague of mine disagrees with this and says only eyebrow or nostril piercings are okay on the face]
Multiple Ear Piercings

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

All of them, even pink

The way a candidate dresses should:

Other: be natural for that person while being professional

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?

I want to see that the candidate is taking the interview seriously and dressing professionally demonstrates that. I think the only personal appearance elements that would probably affect my hiring decision would be body odor (including too much perfume) or gaudy long fingernails. I also really dislike the smell of cigarettes so a candidate that smelled like an ashtray would probably not rank as highly on my list.

What This Library Wears

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

spring/summer: skirt and top; open-toe sandals
fall/winter: pants (not jeans) and top; blazer optional; boots

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?


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

N/A: We wear what we want!

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

Other: Name tags, we wear name tags at events but not on a daily basis.

Do you have any other comments?

maybe a question about why certain things matter more than others.
maybe a question about how we feel about religious symbols on clothing or as jewelry.

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


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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Southern US, What Should Candidates Wear?

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