Professional Practices

Posted: March 24, 2011 by LSO in Professional Practices

LIS Interviewing: Do clothes make the librarian?
By: Ann Clark

Job interviews are opportunities to present your best self to potential employers and colleagues. Understanding professional dress, personal style and organizational cultures can help with presentation of self and the oh-so-important first impression. Below are some tips and resources on appropriate interview appearance.

This month’s Information Outlook is dedicated to Librarians and Their Image. Olguin and Stankus’s Dressing Like We Mean It article in particular stresses understanding the importance of dress and appearance in a variety of professional settings, from interviews to conferences.

Consciously or subconsciously appearance affects perceptions of professionalism, intelligence and credibilityDressing for that First Professional Interview and Beyond presentation.

Plan how you will look as carefully as you plan what to say. – Deborah P. Bloch, Ph.D., author of How to Have a Winning Job Interview

How to plan a look
Suzanne Morem’s 4-point clothing selection process (great for interviews and every day):

  • Who do I expect to see and meet today?
  • What do I want to accomplish – what are my objectives?
  • What kind of impression do I need to make to accomplish my objectives?
  • How will I convey that impression?

  • Take a moment to think about all of your achievements and affiliations. For many SIRLS students this begins with the list of titles in your email signature. At an interview you represent not only yourself and your capabilities but also: your degree-granting institution(s); academic departments; scholar, fellowship, and certificate programs; student/professional organizations and more.

    Just because a garment is “in fashion” does not mean it is appropriate for an interview.
    –UA Career Services

    Common and sometimes conflicting levels of professional dress:

  • Business
  • Business Casual
  • Smart Casual
  • Casual

  • Explanations and Photos of Workplace Apparel:

    UA Career Services Podcast on appropriate professional interview attire:
    This podcast gives good tips on the basics of professional attire with an emphasis on business culture.

    What will be appropriate for:

  • The job I am applying for (entry-level, mid-level, director)
  • My comfort level in different types of clothing
  • Workplace culture
  • Even if you would or could wear jeans on the job, or the work environment is outdoors and very non-suit, wearing a suit to the interview shows you take the interview seriously as a professional meeting. Dressing well is a compliment to the person(s) with whom you meet. If you think the industry in which you’re interviewing would frown on a suit, or the interview will involve going to a work site where a suit would be inappropriate, look for advice through professional organizations, your professors who have been employed in that industry, and/or by asking the employer directly and politely. One alternative is to wear pressed pants (like khakis) and a dark jacket; less formal than a suit, but still business-appropriate for both men and women.

    Virginia Tech Career Services

    Comfort and confidence in your appearance can greatly impact interview performance.

    What about body piercings/tattoos/hairstyle?
    Ask three people about this topic and you will receive three very different answers. Researching an LIS setting’s workplace culture will help. Look at a company’s website, especially staff images. Does the institution have a written dress code?

    From the blogs: a library-world perspective on interviewing and attire:
    Mr. Library Dude
    basic overall advice

    Hack Library Schoolcheck out the comments section for real-world apparel tips

    ALA Joblist pagelots of good stuff here about all aspects of interviewing!

    Where will you be interviewing?

  • What type of library setting are you interested in?
  • Where in the state/country/world will you be interviewing?
  • Try to find an outfit that works in multiple locations and LIS settings.
  • Keep in mind the geographical area that you’re applying in (rural, urban, suburban, climate conditions, and what part of the country it’s in), and try to fit in with the surroundings. A heavy wool suit that knocks them out in Boston might get you some weird looks in Los Angeles or Miami, and a skirt that’s right at home in Cleveland might appear a bit drab in San Francisco or New York City.

    Free Job Hunting Tips

    Individually Scheduled Mock Interviews with Career Services can include outfit feedback:

    Finally, for fun and reference:

    Daily librarian wear from a variety of settings (Thanks to Sandy for sending!):

    A thought-provoking and at times hilarious video on female librarian clothing stereotypes (thanks to Charley for sending!):

    Ann Clark holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Clothing and Textile Design from Framingham State College (Framingham State University). She is an award-winning theatrical costume technician and designer (retired) and is currently a SIRLS Master’s candidate.

    1. Randy Pena says:

      A friend of mine just emailed me one of your articles from a while back. I read that one a few more. Really enjoy your blog. Thanks

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