Emphasis on Physique is Always Inappropriate

Job interview by Flickr user mhartfordThis anonymous interview is with a Public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This librarian works at a library with 200+ staff members in a city/town in the Midwestern 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.


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.

Emphasis on physique is always inappropriate, whether muscle shirts for men or cleavage for women. This is true not only for interviewees, but also for staff interviewers who are accustomed to less formal attire. The focus must be on content; personality is important, too, but mustn’t be dependent on provocative appearance.

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

It feels wrong to say that a candidate “nailed” the proper interview outfit; it’s either appropriate or inappropriate. If an outfit is that important to either the interviewee or the interviewer, there is implicit imbalance in the interview encounter.

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)

Other: A candidate must articulate themselves, whatever that entails.

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

All of them, even pink

The way a candidate dresses should:

Other: Show personality AND be fairly neutral

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?

It can certainly reinforce a decision; I’ve never interviewed a candidate whose attire categorically ruled out hiring, but an interviewee’s bad choices have often affirmed a negative impression on other counts.

What This Library Wears

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

Suit or matched separates. I never wear a tie, but prefer banded collars.

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?

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

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: Job interview by Flickr user mhartford

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Filed under 200+ staff members, Midwestern US, Public, What Should Candidates Wear?

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