If she cared about how she presented herself to the public, she would have at least worn some makeup.

Interview outfit by Flickr user everyplaceThis anonymous interview is with a Public librarian who has been a hiring manager. This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in an Urban area in the Southern US

What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

Yes, absolutely! It shows respect and professionalism

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?

Never, pantyhose is for my grandmother

Women should wear make-up to an interview:


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.

Don’t show lots of 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
Arty or more elaborate necklaces, bracelets, or rings

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

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

The way a candidate dresses should:

Show personality

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?

The only time I think I was really affected by a candidate’s appearance was when a female candidate had severe acne problems and was wearing absolutely no makeup. I thought if she cared about how she presented herself to the public, she would have at least worn some makeup.

What This Library Wears

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


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?

Flip flops
Tank tops
Logos/band insignia/slogans

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

Photo: Interview outfit by Flickr user everyplace


Filed under 10-50 staff members, Public, Southern US, Urban area, What Should Candidates Wear?

15 responses to “If she cared about how she presented herself to the public, she would have at least worn some makeup.

  1. LabLib

    Would you expect a male candidate with acne to cover it up with makeup in order to demonstrate care for appearance and perception?


  2. kitten

    “The only time I think I was really affected by a candidate’s appearance was when a female candidate had severe acne problems and was wearing absolutely no makeup. I thought if she cared about how she presented herself to the public, she would have at least worn some makeup.”

    we’ve come a long way, baby


  3. I have to comment on this. First, let me channel all the rage and pain of my younger self and tell the hiring librarian to take a flying leap out of any position that involves hiring and stop being a thoughtless jerk.

    Now, let me explain something to this hiring librarian–adult acne is awful. I’m finally doing better with mine, but I’m a few months shy of 29 and it’s still something I’m fighting with. I have scars from over a decade and a half of this battle. I’ve consulted doctors and dermatologists. Let me tell you something all of them say: AVOID MAKEUP AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. I’ve barely worn makeup since I was 17. I try to wear it to interviews, but there are periods in my life where I wouldn’t have considered the next-day damage, and adult acne problems can take a month or more to resolve once they flare up, worth the risk.

    When I wear makeup, it’s non-comedogenic, sensitive-skin friendly, hypo-allergenic, etc. and I still can’t be sure it won’t trigger an outbreak.

    1) If you wouldn’t expect a male applicant to wear makeup over his acne, how dare you ask a female applicant to do the same. Get over your sexism.

    2) Please try to think a little bit outside your narrow mind as to why someone with serious acne might not be able to wear makeup.

    3) just…augh. I’m much better now, but I rage on behalf of teenage Ruth, who used to get pulled aside by adults and told about remedies even though she was seeing a dermatologist who was much better informed. I rage on behalf of young adult Ruth who worked circulation or ride metro and used to get handed notes about Proactiv —yes, we know what it is, no it doesn’t work for certain types of acne. And on behalf of this woman who was trying to present herself as a candidate, as a person, without doing her skin any additional damage.


    • I had cystic acne well into my early 20s, that didn’t disappear until I took some pretty icky meds. I always went for clean skin, rather than made-up skin. I still would.


      • Emily, yeah there was some consideration of Accutane but by the time we got there, my dermatologists warned me of lawsuits alleging it’d cause various intestinal issues and I decided that my intestines were more valuable than my face. But I had friends do it successfully and find it successful but rough on their bodies.


    • Thanks, Ruth. You said everything I was going to say but better.

      Let me also add another tick in the ‘what the hell’ column, though, just because the more voices on this the better. Natural hair colors? Makeup if you care how you present yourself? A suit? Oh, but we can wear arty earrings if we want.


      Thanks so much.

      I’ll just be running right out to get the purple stripe out of my hair and buy a long-sleeved suit to cover up my (work-appropriate) ink.


  4. Georgina

    Urgh. The makeup comment really bothers me. You can care about how you present yourself to the world and still not wear makeup regardless of skin type. Besides, makeup can really exacerbate acne and why should women be expected to doll themselves up and possibly put their health at risk to be taken seriously by the “public”?

    Not sure if the makeup comment would apply if the candidate didn’t have acne but generally speaking, if your skin is clean and your hair is tidy, do you really need any more than that to come across as professional and indicating that you take care of yourself, therefore you can take care of your work in a similar manner? I wear minimal to no makeup at work and if my (theoretical) boss told me to wear more because of how I could be perceived by the public, I be within my rights to make an HR complaint.


  5. I second, third and 1000 the comments about the acne and “if she cared, she’d wear makeup”. This is sexist and ignorant nonsense. If she cared about her skin health, she wouldn’t. And to be judged for a job on that as if that was a reflection of how much this person cares about her presentation by someone who clearly doesn’t know how aggravated and breaking out skin responds (BADLY) to makeup is appalling.

    Aside from that, there are skin conditions that present similarly to acne but are not; for those conditions and allergies in the cases that I know of, wearing makeup makes it exponentially worse.

    Frankly, how you present yourself as a professional during an interview is only 10% your physical appearance, if that much. One should be neat, tidy, and hygienic. To place much more importance on what someone wears, how they color their hair, etc is both rank amateurism and foolish. And yes, I’ve been a hiring manager for years, so I know of what I speak.


  6. Jen

    I am also shocked that somone in this day an age would be foolish enough to express such obvious sexism in a hiring context. I knew as soon as I read it that this remark would spur some strong comments. As others have already stated, dermatologists strongly recommend not wearing make-up if you have acne. Acne is a medical condition the person has little control over and to hold it against a candidate for not trying to cover it up is ridiculous, and sexist if you would not also expect a male to wear make-up. What if it wasn’t acne? What if they were scarred from an accident, would you also insist they wear make-up to cover it up?


  7. Amy McLay Paterson

    I hope this anonymous librarian reads these comments and reconsiders his or her awful sexism. Unless you’re expecting men to always wear makeup, you shouldn’t be expecting it from women. These comments wouldn’t change my interview habits, because no job is good enough that I’d deign to work for this person.
    I know sexism is still prevalent, obviously, but I guess I’m naive enough to expect better from librarians.


  8. Nik

    There is so much wrong with this persons attitude so please, excuse my language in the following comment but I’m pissed off.

    “Women should wear make-up to an interview:

    √ Always”

    Dude… I have never ever in my whole life worn make up what the fuck makes you think that you can tell me that I don’t look professional b/c I don’t wear any? What the fuck makes you think that wearing make-up is a mandatory thing?
    Ah yes, right b/c we wouldn’t want people to see our blemishes or heavens forbid acne, librarians don’t get acne, if you get acne you better hide it b/c you can’t be a librarian with acne! Like wtf? That person did never ever choose to have acne. If the person was a guy would you still want him to wear make up? I’ve met people with severe acne that can’t wear makeup b/c it actually hurts their skin and makes it worse.

    “If a woman wears a skirt to an interview, should she also wear pantyhose?

    √ Never, pantyhose is for my grandmother”

    … Does this really need a comment? I mean really?

    Whoever you are I hope you are not in any position anymore where to make decisions on hiring people. I hope you are in a position where people can tell you what a douchebag you are.


  9. I don’t need to add anything on the make-up front because previous comments handled that. They want a candidate to dress in a suit, with natural hair colors only – but to show personality. You know how I read that – “Dudes can wear an interesting tie” . Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.


  10. I’m sure pantyhose is for your grandmother until you have KP or pale skin that reacts to /everything/. Then it’s “not caring about your appearance.”

    What a useless performance art interviews are.


    • pmh470

      Angela, I was thinking the same thing…also, I wear pantyhose often because I get cold easily in drafty places and it at least helps me feel less of the draft. I never thought pantyhose could be such a divisive topic, but people sure have a strong opinion about it. I can’t say that I would care one way or the other. What a strange thing to get judgey about.

      Your last comment is spot on.


  11. I often have problems with the answers for this survey. But I read them to know what types of expectations folks have on those interviewing for library work. The sexism, class discrimination, ageism, the conservative attitudes, the nebulous, na-na-na-boo-boo “professionalism,” but to discriminate against someone for not wearing makeup because she has acne… seriously? Did you consider that makeup would agitate her sensitive skin? Or that she wanted to present herself as-is instead of being shamed into covering up? I mean, really. These interview standards make my blood boil on the regular. Interviews and the petty appearance politics of the interviewers/respondents make the whole process laughable. Utter foolishness. Ugh. I stand with you, Ruth, and so many others.


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