If we are truly going to encourage a diverse, non-discriminatory workplace, then we have to make allowances for personal expression with dress

Job interview by Flickr user ShaolinWorldwideThis anonymous interview is with someone who, when asked “are you a librarian?” chose the “It’s complicated” response.  This person has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This person works at a semi-private museum library and archives with 0-10 staff members in a Suburban area in the mid-Atlantic.

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:

√ I do not know and/or care

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?

√ Other: It shouldn’t matter

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.

Clothing that poses a physical hazard to the work performed, torn or dirty clothing, clothing that is highly sexual, too tight or too revealing, or clothing that is advertising a brand or a political position.

Do you expect different levels of formality of dress, depending on the position you’re hiring for?

√ I don’t care

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?

Interviewees should dress for the position they are seeking. If that job involves dirty, back-breaking labor, then I wouldn’t expect female candidates to show up in dresses any more than I would male candidates to show up in 3-piece suits.
Personally, I judge candidates based on their knowledge, skills, experiences, and their passion for the work, not on their personal appearance. Some individuals dress according to their religion, some might dress to reflect an artistic personality, while others will dress according to their income. If we are truly going to encourage a diverse, non-discriminatory workplace, then we have to make allowances for personal expression with dress, including for hairstyles, make-up, accessories or garb that may be out of the norm, especially if the dress code is listed as “casual”.

What This Library Wears

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

Neutral colors, usually all black, dress shirt and slacks, with a nice shoe. I have a nose ring, an eyebrow ring, gauged ears and tattoos in visible places, which I do not hide during the interview. I’ve learned the hard way that if someone is going to judge me based on my appearance, rather than on my work experience, talents, passions, and performance, then I’d rather not work for those kinds of people/ organizations anyway.

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)

√ Other: Whatever they want & a key card

Do you have any other comments?

The questions seem more geared toward what women and alternative-type people would wear.
Is there the same concern over someone showing up to an interview wearing the traditional garb of a hasidic jew, the headdress of a hindi sikh, the muslim woman’s hijab, a male’s sarong, dhoti, chola, caftan, kanga or lungi skirt, the traditional facial piercings still found in India, Persia and Thailand, the traditional ritual facial scarification patterns or tooth modifications of sub-Saharan African cultures, or the traditional tribal face tattoos of Polynesian islanders, as there is towards westerners with tattoos, body piercings, unusual hair styles or dress? If not, our attitudes about dress and appearance are very likely discriminatory.

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

Photo: Job interview by Flickr user ShaolinWorldwide


Filed under 0-10 staff members, Archives, Special, Suburban area, What Should Candidates Wear?

3 responses to “If we are truly going to encourage a diverse, non-discriminatory workplace, then we have to make allowances for personal expression with dress

  1. This is the singe greatest response I’ve seen to this questionnaire. Please hire me at your library.

  2. Stacey

    I agree. I am so disappointed in the majority of these responses. Why are people so closed-minded?! I’ve sat on many search committees at an academic library and I am always so happy to see a candidate show up wearing something that indicates that they have some sort of a personality. Not all of us are comfortable wearing suits. I purposefully chose this field because I didn’t want to go into the corporate world. To see so many librarians be so narrow-minded in approaching these questions is rather unsettling. Is this really how you think you should be judging people?

  3. Tayler K

    Your comment was so refreshing! Not only for the world in general, but especially after reading many of these survey responses. As a 20-something entering the job market for the first time, I am appalled at the number of responses requiring/encouraging pantyhose and would have never even considered whether bare arms are appropriate for a summer interview. Regard for income and background is important in these considerations as well.

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