I've been an on-again-off-again contributor to the "Further Questions" series on Hiring Librarians. The "off-again" part is because sometimes I don't have any experience from which to answer or I'm just too busy, so I'm glad I had a moment when the question that was published yesterday showed up in my email.
"Which outfit is most appropriate to wear to an interview with your organization? Please pick one for women and one for men, and feel free to provide commentary as to why you chose one over the others (or share how you might change an outfit). Bonus question: Can you share any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits?" (There are options from which respondents chose at that link.)My answer:
"Since gender isn't a binary, I say you wear whatever you feel is appropriate to the level for which you're applying. In general, dress just a little bit nicer than you think you would dress if you got the job. If you feel unsure, check with a friend/contact who already has a job in the kind of library where you are interviewing. Don't know anyone? Feel free to reach out to me and I'll get you in touch with someone who can help."I feel the need to expand upon what I wrote there, partially because I'm still angry at the assumption of gender as a binary and partially because of the great discussion that happened on Twitter and other places after that Hiring Librarians post was published.
Here are some things that I know are true:
- I've talked before about my privilege (or lack thereof), but it's important to note that since I'm caucasian and mostly cisgendered I can bend or even break some of the so called interview outfit fashion rules with relative impunity. YMMV.
- Performance of gender and performance of race factor into this in a big way.
- I already have a job in a library, so in some ways it's easy for me to talk.
- But I am also fat, and fat prejudice is a problem.
Having explained all that, I still stand by my answer. Wear what feels appropriate. Wear an outfit that makes you feel confident but that is also comfortable. I suggest you avoid high heels unless you are super used to walking around in them all day, because you will be walking much more than you expect to walk. I also suggest you dress appropriate for the weather, for the most part. If you don't think you can dress following my advice and still stand a chance at getting a job offer, please consider turning the interview down. Remember you're going to be at this library a lot, and if you won't feel comfortable dressing the way you normally dress while at work, you will not be happy there.
One last thing... If I'm ever lucky enough to interview you for employment at my library, please rest assured that "it don't matter what you wear, [we're] checking out your savoir faire" and - of course - your qualifications.
(I hope you'll forgive the light hearted videos that are bookending this post. I needed to find a way to laugh about this and thought you might need a laugh, too.)