is it still OK to wear a mask to a job interview?

A reader writes:

I am a new grad from an MLIS degree and I am also high-risk for Covid. I am now starting the job searching process, and I just got an email asking me to come for an interview. I am still masking everywhere in my life, which is non-negotiable for me, but I’m worried about the optics of wearing a mask at the interview when the vast majority of people where I live aren’t wearing masks anywhere now.

I’m hoping for some advice about how to address this or if I even should. Should I mention it via email that I’ll be masked, as a heads up, or should I just wear it without mention? I’m comfortable just saying I’m high-risk in the interview if it comes up, but is there a better way of handling that? I also don’t want them to worry about my high risk status re: my ability to work. I’m worried it may hurt my chances, but also I will be wearing it while working anyway so I know there’s an element of screening them out if they cause a fuss. I just don’t really know how to handle this professionally!

First, I’m glad you’re not asking if it’s okay to wear the mask — because I’m getting those letters too. It is okay to wear a mask to a job interview! We are in a pandemic. And while many people have decided to lower their personal risk assessments, many people have not. It is absolutely fine to wear a mask to a job interview — whether it’s because you’re high risk, or live with people who are high-risk, or want to protect other people around you, or simply don’t want to risk getting Covid or long Covid.

It’s not something you need to give an employer an advance heads-up about. You can just show up wearing a mask. If no one else is wearing one, then at the start of the interview, you could say, “I hope you don’t mind that I’m keeping my mask on — I’m higher risk and being careful.” (Or “I live with someone high-risk” or “my mom is high-risk” or “I’m still being cautious.”)

If you go with “I’m still being cautious,” there are some people who will judge that. They aren’t the majority and they aren’t reasonable but, as we all know, they’re out there. If an employer is going to judge you for not wanting to get a deadly disease during a public health emergency, I’d argue that you’re far better off finding that out now than after you’re working for them.

Because the thing is, this is very much a screening tool for you. First, you’re planning to wear a mask every day on the job, so it makes sense to find out now if that’s going to be an issue. Second, an employer who doesn’t hire you because you’re wearing a mask is an employer who you do not want to work for. Throughout 2020 and 2021, my inbox was full of panicked letters from people whose employers weren’t taking safety precautions seriously and who felt forced to risk possibly dying or killing their loved ones in order to pay their rent. The pandemic is in a different place now, but that kind of callous disregard from an employer carries over to all sorts of things that affect what it will be like to work there. So if the mask does screen out a small number of employers, that’s a good thing. Make it part of your own assessment of them.

{ 212 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymity*

    It’s too bad people question masks in the middle of a pandemic. I would not say you are high risk yourself. They may infer something about your health and it may affect your job prospects. Good luck!

    1. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

      Yep. I don’t think it’s an issue at all to wear a mask, but I’d refrain from saying you’re high risk yourself. Blame it on a roommate or an upcoming trip or something. Don’t make it easy for someone to discriminate against you for health-related reasons.

      1. Beth*

        Yeah, unfortunately this is probably what I’d do. It shouldn’t be a big deal to be worried about covid for your own sake, but people do make assumptions sometimes, and there’s no reason to open yourself up to that if you can just say you’re visiting your grandma next week and are being extra careful for her sake.

    2. CoffeeFail*

      Me either. I would say, someone in my life is high-risk. I don’t want assumptions about my health or ability to do the job from a time perspective.

      1. 1LFTW*

        I actually use this language.

        I teach a life drawing class. Class policy, explained up front, has always been that models may remain masked at their discretion, no questions asked. Of course, I started to get pushback when my city dropped the indoor mask mandate. “But what if everyone else in the room is wearing theirs? *Some* models don’t wear them! Can’t we *ask* the model if they’re comfortable taking it off? Besides, masks aren’t *required* anymore!”

        I was only able to shut the discussion down by explaining that “someone in their life might be at high risk” and we will not invade their privacy by asking for details. If the model arrives in a mask, we will assume that’s their preference.

        1. Lily*

           “someone in their life might be at high risk” and we will not invade their privacy by asking for details.

          Well done!

    3. Sloanicota*

      I have been asked multiple times if I have special needs and I just say, “no, I just prefer to be careful.” I still wear mine indoors, and I prefer outdoor activities anyway, and I have a big personal space bubble. I’m socializing almost every day but I have never had covid although all my friends have had it, including at parties I attended with them where they caught it. My favorite thing about wearing my mask is, when I get the inevitable text that the person I was just hanging out with is now positive, I know that I didn’t put any service people/members of the public at greater risk because I was always wearing my mask indoors. I accept that I will probably get covid eventually anyway – a certain percent of this is just luck – but I’ll know I tried to protect people.

    4. Anne Wentworth*

      Came here to say exactly this. DON’T tell them that you are high risk. They could jump to the conclusion that you will need more sick days and put a strain on their health insurance plan, all of which could negatively affect their decision about whether or not to hire you. And getting hired as a brand new librarian is already a hellish process because of the market, so you can’t risk any additional strikes against you.

      You could tell them you have people in your life who are high risk who you are trying to protect. And if they ask you who, then yeah that’s a red flag too because they shouldn’t be asking about marital status or if you have kids. And don’t worry about lying to them on this, because if you tell them the truth there’s a good chance they’ll discriminate against you for your health status.

    5. another Hero*

      I wouldn’t proactively offer a reason at all, personally. But Alison’s scripts work if OP is asked. In my library, OP, I was the only person wearing masks for a while, but some of my colleagues have been back to it recently even though very few patrons do, so it might not be that jarring.

      1. Youth Librarian*

        I agree on not offering a reason – but if you’re applying for a youth services position I would double-check if there will be issues around you wearing a mask during storytime. There SHOULDN’T be, but I have some friends that have gotten pushback on it.

      2. Erin*

        +1 on not offering a reason. I don’t regularly mask anymore, but I carry one with me in case I enter a business where it looks like most of the people are masking, or if the business has a sign on the door stating that everyone must be masked. A lot of people at my gym still mask, and everyone at my physical therapy office masks. I don’t ask why they are masking because there are just gazillions of reasons why people wear masks, and most of those reasons aren’t my business. I feel like just showing up in your mask and not saying anything is perfectly reasonable and normal after the past couple of years.

    6. Bessie*

      Yes, as someone who was discriminated against in job interview for being high risk, not wise to disclose your disability during hiring process.

    7. Fikly*

      Wear it, don’t say anything, and wait and see if they ask, because that’s basically asking if you have a disability in the middle of a job interview, which if this is in the US, is illegal.

      And while you can’t do anything about that, employers who are already breaking the law in an interview will be breaking the law toward their employees.

  2. ArchivistPony*

    Welcome new Librarian! Because of what a lot of librarians and archivists (especially public librarians) have gone through/going through with Covid, a lot of them won’t even bat an eye at you wearing a mask (in fact I would bet a lot of them would be super appreciative!)

    1. Bitsy*

      Yes, another librarian here! I think that in our field, showing up in a mask will be just fine. Places where it wouldn’t be should be outliers.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yup, another librarian here and the vast majority of people in my system are still wearing a mask every single day.

    3. Anne of Green Gables*

      I agree with this, in my library, probably about 25% mask all the time and 50% – 75% mask when staffing our service desks. I do think you should have an answer you are comfortable with when/if your interviewers are not wearing masks and offer to put them on when they see you wearing one. That happens a lot in my work place.

      1. HooDoll*

        Same here at my library. I also always mask for interviews! You don’t know us and we don’t know you, masks are such a good idea.

    4. Grace Poole*

      I work in an academic library, and we had some in-person interviews a few months ago. A lot of people (including the candidates) wore masks, but a lot of people didn’t. That week turned out to be somewhat of a super-spreader event, especially for the maskless. The pandemic is certainly not over.

    5. Charlotte Lucas*

      My local library is the one place I still see most people wearing masks! (Not required but encouraged – a lot of patrons are high risk.)

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I also see a lot of people wearing masks at my local Walgreens, which I appreciate because I assume a lot of people are there to use the pharmacy.

        A month ago, I tried to let an elderly woman there know that her mask had slipped so it wasn’t covering her nose, and she decided to pull the mask off to tell me–indignantly!–that she was only wearing the mask for fashion reasons, and implied that was the only reason anyone would wear one.

        1. MM*

          My goodness. I wonder if this is also the explanation for people I see wearing them around their necks? (This is in places where there’s no requirement, so it’s not a grudging half-compliance thing.)

          1. NotARacoonKeeper*

            THIS BAFFLES ME. I got it (lie, I didn’t get it then either) back during mandates when people “wore masks” around their chins as lip service to the rules. But why now? Why walk around a busy grocery store, not talking on the phone, with your mask around your chin? BAFFLING.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          What fashion is there where a thing tangled around your ears and over your mouth but with your nose jutting out is considered “Fashionable?” I mean, we’ve had some weird fashions, and some masks have themselves ended up looking fabulous, but “masks-badly-worn” seems like a strange fashion.

    6. Anon Librarian*

      Congrats from me too!
      I think masking depends on your area. I’m in Florida where the politicians never even thought there was a pandemic to begin with. In the first weeks of March 2020, we were told we were NOT allowed to wear masks due to worries over upsetting patrons. The city lawyers stepped in pretty quickly to say managers could not prevent us from wearing masks. We closed at the end of March and reopened to staff for curbside starting in May, then to patrons in September.

      I’ve worked in several libraries in the area and have friends in most of the systems here and I’d say most patrons and staff do not wear masks but it is perfectly acceptable to wear them (despite that rocky start). As Alison said, this is a good opportunity for you to find out what they are like and how they handled the pandemic. I interviewed recently and the hiring manager did a great job reviewing how they handled the pandemic before I had a chance to ask.

    7. AcadLibrarian*

      Yep just chiming in as another librarian – I bet you’ll see other librarians/staff wearing masks too. We’re mask optional on campus now, but a lot of employees are still wearing masks. (ok, I’m not right now but it’s summer and there is literally nobody in the library, when the students come back, I’ll go back to wearing a mask in the office).
      And good luck!

    8. never mind who I am*

      Welcome, colleague! Wear a mask. Librarians tend to be science/reality based, and we know there’s a pandemic on. If you’re interviewing as a medical librarian (I’m one), ABSOLUTELY wear a mask. :-)

      1. Distracted Librarian*

        Academic medical librarian, and I agree. I can’t imagine my colleagues–in the medical library or our affiliated general academic library–would judge anyone negatively for wearing a mask.

    9. Youth Librarian*

      My public library is in a very low-masking area and there are still staff wearing them, sometimes just when they’re near the public, sometimes all the time. We interviewed a few months ago and if the interviewee was masked, offered to wear ours as well if they felt more comfortable, since we were in an enclosed space.

  3. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    If they don’t ask, I wonder if it needs to be brought up at all. If you say something I wouldn’t even phrase it as “I hope you don’t mind I’m keeping my mask on.” I would just say “I’ll be keeping my mask on, thank you for understanding.” It’s a bit more brusque but makes it clear you wont’ be negotiating.

    I also totally agree with Alison that this is a good chance to screen employers and whether or not they care about your safety. Good luck!

    1. mlem*

      I like your language better — it still includes the “of course you’re going to be reasonable” approach without making something non-optional seem otherwise.

    2. Jora Malli*

      I agree. I wouldn’t say anything unless they ask. Simply act like wearing a mask is a perfectly normal thing for you to be doing, because it is. If they do ask, one of Alison’s scripts about being careful should cover it, and since you’re applying for librarian jobs you can add something like “in a job like this where I’m coming into contact with a lot of customers every day who may or may not be sick, it’s important to me to control my exposure level.”

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Yeah, I like this. Honestly, I would consider it to be somewhat of a flag if they bring it up or ask you about it… if you aren’t accustomed to some people wearing masks in your life, where have you been? Even if you personally choose not to, you surely know some people or see people in society who do.

    3. blink14*

      Love this language – it assumes understanding, instead of leaving the door open for potential questions or confrontation.

  4. A Poster Has No Name*

    One question I would be prepared to answer is if they ask you if you would like them to wear a mask. Or if they put on one when they see you coming (having a gracious thanks-for-your-consideration type response, though unnecessary, can help keep things smooth).

    1. Smithy*

      This is good thing to be mindful of. I travel for work to different offices of ours in different countries that have a lot of different mask considerations. As such, sometimes if I’m wearing one there will be a scramble to put them on or apologies or other awkwardness when overall I’m mindful that different offices/countries have different practices.

      I’ve found that saying “Oh, I’m traveling so much – I just want to be extra careful” has helped to smooth over the situations where overall there is goodwill, a general willingness to accommodate and no judgement – just different practices. Basically, a social lubricant for a situation where one person goes in for a handshake and another a fist bump and everyone feels strange. Just something to indicate that it’s fine and move on.

    2. Sedna*

      Yes, agreed with this – we are largely unmasked in my office at the moment, but when I talk to a coworker wearing a mask I always ask if they would prefer I put one on as well.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes, I’ve been in a lot of situations where it’s almost like this game of chicken where you don’t want to be the dork who still wears a mask OR the jerk who refuses, so everyone is sort of watching to see what everyone else does lol. So know what your preference would be and have a way to express it prepared just in case :)

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I’m always the “dork who still wears a mask.” I am somewhat high risk, my spouse is 70, and one of my roomies is very immune compromised. IDGAF who thinks it’s silly, stupid, or “living in fear”. I will do what I need to to protect my household, period. If an employer doesn’t like that, tough. I wouldn’t work for them if I wasn’t allowed to protect my family. No amount of money is worth their lives.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I’ve heard it in other contexts, including walking into a store. So, my experiences do not just include here.

            1. Smithy*

              I’m really sorry that masks are so contentious that so much of the rhetoric does still remain aggressive and unpleasant. And I do agree that any workplace that brings that energy isn’t worth working at.

              But I think that this specific niche of comments around what to say if someone asks if you’d like them to wear a mask is coming from a more middle ground/awkward place. Where the OP walks in wearing a mask and their interviewer appears flustered/asks if they’d like them to wear a mask. Being mentally prepared to either say something like “I would actually appreciate that, thank you so much for asking” or “I’m continuing to wear one but am comfortable if others choose not to, thank you so much for asking” helps in case the employer is coming from a place of goodwill around masks. And in a specific situation like a job interview, setting up a situation to give yourself and interviewers the best chance possible to be not awkward and themselves can only help.

              Recently my CEO went to fist bump me and I shook her fist. One of those moments where I wanted to die into the floor. Basically, just be prepared to gracious move past a moment like that. If the employer/interview is going to let a moment like that linger and be a jerk about it….there will still be that chance.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      In situations where an interviewee has come in wearing a mask I have always offered to wear one/give others a heads up to wear one. So far the response has been “oh actually is it okay if I take mine off?” but everyone seems to appreciate the general baseline consideration from all sides.

  5. Ana*

    Librarian here— we’re all masking and the city I’m in isn’t really! Working as a librarian I’ve been sicker more frequently than anywhere else I’ve ever worked so it’s widely accepted!

  6. Spearmint*

    FWIW, I work in an office where no one has worn masks since last summer, but we have zero judgment of people who still wear masks. I suspect this attitude is pretty common.

    1. Cranky lady*

      Unfortunately, there are people that judge. I was recently asked by a colleague why I was wearing a mask in the office. I rarely go into the office because of the lack of masking.

      1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        That sort of question would get the Lucille Bluth up-and-down from me. You know damn good and well why I’m wearing a mask, now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work.

          1. JustaTech*

            The only person at my work who ever comments on my mask is my director. I’ve explained the science to him (we’re in the life sciences), I’ve explained company policy to him (when mask wearing was required), I’ve said “because I want to” and at this point I just make a non-committal noise and move on.
            My direct boss, my peers, basically everyone else? No opinion at all.
            (And it’s likely saved me from COVID at least once, so no, I’m not giving it up just yet thanks.)

            1. The Rafters*

              Saved me too. I have a coworker who came in with “a cold.” Unmasked of course. I wore a mask and still do at all times indoors. I’m funded differently than my coworkers, so we have 2 HRs. Their HR didn’t notify mine. Due to hybrid schedules, vaca, etc, I wasn’t notified for at least 2 weeks; then I finally received a text directly from one of my coworkers. HR still hasn’t notified me!

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I’d be inclined to reply with something like “because I don’t know the health status, etc of those I might meet and wearing a mask is a pretty simple way of ensuring I don’t put anybody at risk.”

      3. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

        It’s libraries, though. Librarians are generally the type to not judge. Where the LW might get some judgment is from political appointees on the Library Board or from an elected municipal official, if they live in a conservative area. It’s highly unlikely that a political appointee would participate in an interview for an entry-level position.

      4. IQuitOverCOVID*

        Yeah it’s definitely not all that common for there to be zero judgment on masks, especially if you live in a place where the pandemic has been downplayed/ignored. At my last job (hence my username lol) I was asked during the height of 2020 why I was wearing a mask since they “don’t work” and “you breathe in your own germs/carbon dioxide/etc”, asked if I was a “germophobe”, and if I was “afraid” of people. A coworker joked that I probably wear a mask and gloves while I showered, which hit several different levels of horrible workplace behavior in one (I’m a young woman, the joker was an older man…). The company didn’t do anything to enforce masks when they did “require masks”, only feeding into the anti-mask wearing crowd.

        So glad I work somewhere else now…

    2. PDiddy*

      Same here. Outside of some really intense areas/companies no one will care or judge. My company no one masks anymore but no one would bat an eye at it

    3. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      This. Masking is so unremarkable now that I would side eye the absolute hell out of anyone who said a word to someone who was wearing one. It’s a non issue.

    4. Antilles*

      Same here – working in an office where nobody wears masks, in a suburb of a major city where I can go a week without seeing a mask, in an industry where the handshake is still the default greeting…and nobody cares if you wear a mask.
      There are likely some exceptions to this rule, but I’d guess that this is by-and-large where most places are at.

      1. Nameo*

        Seconding this exactly! I don’t think LW needs to say anything, even if she’s the only one wearing a mask at the interview.

    5. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, I like how my office is. Most people do not wear masks. A few wear masks every day (high risk, or living with high risk people, or more cautious). Some people wear masks intermittently and no one bats an eye.

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      That was the situation I faced last time I went into the office. My son’s not fully vaccinated yet (toddler, he has two shots down so far) so I am not taking many risks. I went in for a meeting a while back and was literally the only person in the room in a mask. No one said jack to me. Only one other person wanted to go with me to eat lunch outside, though, because it was so hot. No one tried to pressure me into staying in, however, which was a lot more important to me!

  7. Observer*

    OP, I don’t think you need to bring it up at all. You CERTAINLY don’t need to give anyone a heads up. In fact, I would say the reverse. The more you treat the choice as a perfectly normal, run of the mill type of action, the more others are likely to do that.

    1. Hanani*

      Agreed! I mask everywhere, and I can tell some people are uncomfortable with it because I’m one of the few/only masked people and therefore break their social script – they’re not sure if I shake hands, am I sick, how to react. For professional and/or social events I deal with that by being very cheerful, proactively saying hello/getting a conversation started, and not even mentioning the mask. They tend to relax once I’ve demonstrated that this is Completely Fine and Normal.

      I’m fortunate that I haven’t run into people who get upset about the fact that I mask, except the occasional random person in the grocery store or something.

      I do get thrown off when people ask if I want them to mask. The honest answer is yes, but 80% of the time they put on a cloth mask or a surgical mask below their nose, so…

      1. MM*

        This has largely been my experience, with one exception. In some lower-masking areas people seem to suddenly develop a hearing problem. My friend and I had a conversation in an echoey stairwell while both wearing masks the other day: perfectly fine. Me talking through my mask the same way in another city last month: multiple people insisting they couldn’t understand me. I’m sure some of it is habituation, but I do think there’s an element of not wanting to make any effort to understand because there’s an element of “why are you inconveniencing me by wearing that.” It’s like how some Americans will insist they can’t understand a perfectly intelligible ESL accent because they don’t want to try.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          Speaking only for myself, I have trouble hearing people who are masked (and I’m pro-masking and generally wear one in public). I never realized how much I rely on lip-reading till the pandemic hit, especially where there’s any kind of background noise. So yeah, maybe people are being jerks, or maybe they really do struggle to hear when they can’t see people’s mouths.

        2. JSPA*

          I recently successfully communicated with a deaf hardware store employee–and he with me–in a foreign country. We didn’t even get as far as a pad and pen, cell phone, attempt to sign, or drawing big letters in the air with a forefinger.

          I air-drew a tube, indicated a diameter and mimicked a “connecting by screwing” gesture, and was shown to the compression plumbing fittings on the other side of the store. That’s not going to work for, “do you have Tolstoy.”

          But, “let’s figure this out / sure no problem here goes / OK, got it, follow me, here you go / thanks so much” are all doable between deaf person and masked person.

          (In this case, cutting language out of the process was a boon, as I’d neglected to pre-translate “compression fitting.”)

  8. Zee*

    If no one else is wearing one, then at the start of the interview, you could say, “I hope you don’t mind that I’m keeping my mask on — I’m higher risk and being careful.” (Or “I live with someone high-risk” or “my mom is high-risk” or “I’m still being cautious.”)

    Hard disagree with Alison on this. You don’t need to say anything! I’ve gone on some recent interviews lately, and I just walk in and sit down wearing a mask. They don’t need to know the details of my personal medical or family situation. Unless someone says something like “you can take your mask off,” there’s no need to bring it up at all. And in that case, I still wouldn’t say “I hope you don’t mind” – say “Thanks, I prefer to keep it on.” If you say “I hope you don’t mind,” that implies that there is something wrong with wearing a mask and that they need to make an exception for you. There’s not, and they don’t!

    1. mlem*

      Yeah, I don’t love the “I hope you don’t mind” language, because sadly, plenty of interviewers will (which may or may not reflect on the organization as a whole) and it just opens an unnecessary door.

    2. Polecat*

      Yep, I agree with you. No one needs to explain or apologize for wearing a mask in any situation. And it’s all kinds of wrong. It’s asking for permission, and it’s also wrong in that it’s implying that only higher risk people need to be careful.

    3. JSPA*

      “Thanks, I’m comfortable.”
      “Oh, I’m good, thanks!”
      “Oh, that’s OK!”
      “This works for me!”
      “I’m fine with it on, but thanks!”
      “It’s second nature by now, thanks!”

      Basically, respond as if they’re telling you to make yourself comfortable, mask-wise (because any other intent would be weird).

  9. Petty Betty*

    I wouldn’t say *you* are high risk. That divulges too much and could get some bias in the hiring process. When I interviewed this year, I said I had high-risk family (which is very true, my son, my mother, my step-father, and ME, plus friends I consider family) and that being a public performer, I wanted to reduce chances of passing anything on to anyone else (cold, flu, whatever).

    It does help segue into some of my actual work and attention to detail with safety protocols and keeping up-to-date on policies and procedures, and implementing them.

    1. Annie Moose*

      Yes, unconscious (or conscious, but you’d hope not) bias is a reason I would avoid saying that I personally am high-risk–there’s all kinds of conclusions they could come to about your health status or whatever that it’d probably be best to leave out of interviews. Same kind of thing as I wouldn’t necessarily bring up ADA accommodations right away in an interview either (I mean, unless it’s something incredibly visibly obvious, like you are Deaf and have a sign language interpreter with you or are in a wheelchair!)

    2. Patty*

      “I live in a high-risk household” is a turn of phrase I’ve used (not in this situation exactly, more because I don’t want to engage with some anti-vax extended family! But I think it could work in this situation fine).

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        I was going to suggest this wording, too. “Someone in my household is high risk” is true but doesn’t reveal info about yourself

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        This is a good one.

        Everyone in my household is over 60, and one housemate is literally immune compromised due to the infusions she needs for her illness.

  10. Emily*

    I am a librarian. We all still mask. I do interviews and I am always sure to wear mine during them. I don’t think you will be odd at all. No one would think twice.

  11. limenotapple*

    I hire for academic library positions-in fact I have a few candidates coming to visit over the next couple weeks-and I would personally do anything to make a candidate feel comfortable while they are here. I can’t change the university policies and force my colleagues to mask, but I would absolutely follow the lead of a candidate who was wearing a mask and put one on for our close contact, or make changes to meal plans to bring food in if applicable, or whatever might help. It’s a great chance to see how the employer will function with that. And, I’m recently getting over covid for the first time and it totally sucked! I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and absolutely want candidates to work here.

  12. Falling Diphthong*

    Where I live most people are not wearing masks. Some are. And: no one cares! No one confronts anyone else about how the thing they are doing is a different thing than the speaker is doing. “Has personal or family health issues different from my own” is what people think, if they think about it at all.

    I won’t argue that’s universal, but I think the perpetual het-up-ness of online can give people a false idea of how eager random people are to engage them in hostile debate.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      Yes, this is likely true. I’ve been in a number of situations where I masked while about 95% were unmasked—I was prepared to be confronted but I never was.

    2. Prefer my pets*

      Man, I wish that was true where I live. I only go inside stores when absolutely necessary (otherwise I do curbside) but I’d say about 1/3 of the time some random person will make a hostile comment about my mask.

      But I live in a super crappy county.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Yeah, I think the number of people who are deeply offended at the idea of somebody caring for their own and others’ health are a (loud) minority. I have a couple of students who fall into that category but I don’t think I’ve met any adults in real space who did or if they do, they have enough sense to keep quiet about it in public. I see plenty of people online who seem deeply offended at the idea of others wearing masks and I’ve a couple of students who either have anti-masker family members and are reciting lines out of context where they don’t even make sense or who are doing the teen boy bravado thing of “I’m not SCARED of getting sick, are you?” But…they are teenagers and I think taking risks feels cool for some teens.

      Most of the adults I know however…well, it’s a minority that are wearing masks now, but it is usually more a “I probably SHOULD, but they are so uncomfortable and after all, I AM double-vaxxed, so…” kind of thing than “I am offended at the mere idea of somebody wearing a mask.”

      On the internet, on the other hand, it seems like everybody is either scrupulously masking or adamantly opposed to the mere idea, because the people who don’t care either way probably don’t comment on the issue.

    4. SereneScientist*

      This is very unrelated to your comment, but I love your user name! The half-baked amateur linguist in me is chuffed.

    5. J*

      That is not true where I live. My husband has gotten so many questions on his in-office days once a week where he always masks. People the next day will Zoom him to ask why he was wearing one the day before. They’ll comment on it in the halls. Some people comment in the guilty “oh my wife wishes I wore a mask still to the office” sort of way which doesn’t really help at all and just makes my husband more self-conscious. Of course, only 5 of those have happened since May 1 because of so many covid outbreaks caused by the employees gathering again. He was on a call where he joined via phone before others joined so they didn’t realize he was on and people were talking about how maybe he has the right idea not to travel since the last 4 trips have caused more than 50% of travelers to be taken out by Covid. Which is nice, except it’s clear they’re still talking about him and his masking pretty regularly.

      He’s especially nervous to talk to people about his reasons – he could cite me since I’m high risk but the reality is that his brother was anti-Covid precautions and died last year. Any discussion of his reasons for masking makes him very stressed because he’s still grieving that loss and how preventable it was. His boss changed since the death and he doesn’t feel like making it everyone’s business. Every week like clockwork I know his anxiety will spike ahead of his in office day – who will he hear is sick this week and wonder if they’ll die, he’ll wonder who will make it more stressful when he goes in, he has to wonder if are they even allowed in or are too many sick, etc. Thankfully when he’s supposed to present they’ve finally just allowed him to present from home so he’ll be maskless. This is the reality he faces every week because it turns out people care very much. My own last employer “didn’t care” so much that I changed jobs because of it. This is a city that required masks into this year even and we still face this.

      1. Jora Malli*

        Your poor husband! That’s such a hard position to be in. Do you think he’d be willing to go to his supervisor about it? He wouldn’t have to give his actual reason, but saying something like “I hear people talking about me and my masking choices on a regular basis and it’s making me very uncomfortable. I have personal reasons for wearing the mask and I’d like to stop being the topic of office gossip over it,” might get the boss on his side to start shutting down the gossip when they hear it.

        1. J*

          I wish he would. He’s so avoidant of conflict in general and this got too sensitive a topic for him (and some of that was caused by his family rejecting masking at the funeral, he kind of lost his trust in everyone then). Deep down I know he probably needs to get into therapy sooner than later, but not to fix his stance on masking, rather to feel comfortable asserting boundaries.

          I think his boss would listen, she didn’t seem super pro mask at first but she’s also voiced concerns about not wanting her kids to get sick and closed the office down once or twice. She’s recently relocated so I think she wanted to have more encounters when she moved and now she’s realizing how global her team is and how it’s not entirely necessary. Husband did share my disability with her so that’s been a start. Hopefully he’ll keep finding her to be trustworthy and open up more about his concerns.

      2. JSPA*

        I find that some people assume I’m masking because I’m positive or recently exposed, but symptomless (as masking is the suggested protocol for that, where I am).

        Unmasked elderly customers, in particular, tend to look startled and give me a wide berth.

        If I mention that I’m not sick, just higher risk, counter people are quick to say that “everyone can do as makes them comfortable” and “its fine however you wish”– but they also stop standing like penguins on the edge of an ice floe with a leopard seal underneath, deciding who will take my order.

        I have no idea if they’re aware that their body language gives the lie to their stated philosophy?

    6. Anonosaurus*

      I think this is an important thing to remember. I live somewhere masks are. I longer mandated and hardly anyone wears one, but I’ve never had anyone even comment on the fact I am sporting my N95.

      1. Magc*

        With BA.5, I switched to my fancy elastomer N95 half-face respirator; none of the disposable N95 respirators ever fit closely enough around my nose to keep glasses from fogging and I wanted a better fit. My husband got a different P100 half-face respirator (because the model I got doesn’t fit his face).

        If I have to be in a crowded store or indoors in close proximity, like for a medical appointment, I will include safety glasses. While it seems that most people have only mild symptoms with BA.5, that doesn’t preclude long covid, or the increased risk for cardiac or stroke or other medical events that covid infection leads to even if one gets lucky enough to miss out on long covid.

        The memory care facility my MIL moved to managed to avoid resident infections for the most part — until BA.5. They’ve been in lock-down (no group activities, including meals) for over a month now because they can’t make it ten days without another resident (or 2 or 3) testing positive. Every time I see people wearing surgical masks or cloth masks, it’s hard not to tell them they really need to up their game and buy something better — and then take the time to make sure the nose piece is snug to their face.

        Most of all, I’m exceedingly frustrated about having to take more and more precautions because of people who won’t take any.

        1. honoria*

          It is exhausting not only having to protect myself from people not taking sensible precautions in the middle of a deadly pandemic but also to have to be polite in the face of their ignorance and how it endangers me, them, and everyone else.

          I am considering moving up to the kind of respirator you use, and maybe adding safety goggles, too. May I ask what brand(s) you are using?

  13. voyager1*

    Since you are talking about libraries, what I would do is visit the library the day before and see if employees are wearing them. That will probably give you an idea do the masking support you can expect from your manager. I think wearing a mask once working would be fine. But that is why visiting the location is good, you will have some “ground truth” of the work atmosphere on this.

    But generally for just about any in person job, I would not wear one to an in person interview. For me I need to connect with folks, and that is harder with a mask on. YMMV.

    1. So, So Tired*

      No, it isn’t. Can’t believe this discussion is taking place two and a half years into the pandemic, with new resistant variants regularly developing and cases spiking yet again. The problem is that anti-maskers don’t worry about being nice. Anyone asking why I am covering my own face is truly overstepping and being rude, my body my choice. My answer? “Because of people like you.”

      I wear my mask everywhere and don’t worry about it.

      1. Polecat*

        People like that are why we are still seeing such high levels of infection. 2 1/2 years in. It’s so depressing.

    2. Courageous cat*

      What’s the point of this? It honestly doesn’t matter whether they’re all wearing masks, coming from someone who generally doesn’t anymore. No one is going to think it’s odd if you do.

    3. Eyes Kiwami*

      In areas where mask-wearing was common before the pandemic, it was the common advice to not wear a mask in hospitality/formal scenarios, like welcoming guests to a hotel, job interviews, speaking at podiums, etc. However this has taken a backseat to the clear medical benefits of masking. Instead of “I am afraid you might be sick”, the message is now “I care about you not getting sick”. I would hope that nowadays anyone interviewing people would understand that health and safety is more important than the slight impediment of a mask, and is even a kind statement of caring about others.

    4. Critical Rolls*

      The second half of this is terrible advice. I’m in the industry and no one I know in it would give a second thought to a candidate interviewing in a mask. There is zero need for the LW to take risks they’re uncomfortable with on the off chance an interviewer has a person quirk about it. No no no no no.

  14. Spicy Tuna*

    Wear it proudly! I wear one when I am out in public. Interestingly, at least half of the other patrons at the grocery store are wearing masks. When I am doing real estate showings or meeting with vendors (I am a property manager), I am super surprised that nearly no one wears a mask. If my masking makes a potential tenant feel uncomfortable, then that’s a good way for us to screen each other. And just to be clear, the fact that a potential tenant is not masking would not exclude them from consideration!

  15. Falling Diphthong*

    Just caught the library detail, and my local libraries were among the last non-medical spaces to require masks, then strongly request masks.

  16. Metadata Janktress*

    Fellow GLAM professional here! (I’m an archivist at an academic library.) I’m still masking with a KF-94 when not alone in my office despite not working face-to-face with the public most of the time. While it’s not common to do so at my library anymore, no one has made comments to me about it and no one has asked why. I’d personally err on the side of not even mentioning it–acting as if it’s just part of your outfit will likely set the tone that there’s nothing particularly interesting about it and is just how you choose to do things. I agree with Alison that if they do raise an eyebrow at it, it’s a good filter for whether they’ll be a decent employer.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Seconding this. Wear it with no commentary.

      I found it funny that my boss, who doesn’t wear a mask, was saying in the Zoom meeting this morning that people should. Then again, guess whose family just all came down with it.

    2. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

      I would make lots of jokes about protecting myself from preserved spores and other weird supposedly dead illnesses you could get from books. :D

      1. Irish Teacher*

        One of my students got asked why he was still wearing a mask, by one of his classmates and he responded that his sister had been hogging the bathroom that morning and he hadn’t had a chance to brush his teeth so the mask prevented people from seeing them!

        1. JSPA*

          Similarly, “allergies” or “flu season” or “dry air” or “pollution”–a lot of people have realized that there are additional benefits.

      2. Metadata Janktress*

        When working with collections with very brittle paper, I did mask while working because yeah, inhaling tiny paper shreds is gross.

  17. CoveredinBees*

    Our town’s library (and other public-facing offices) have required masks long after requirements elsewhere and I am so grateful. I have two kids who just became eligible for vaccination, one with a heart condition. I knew the library was always a place I could take them without having to navigate around people not even covering their mouths when sneezing (which has always been gross!). It also meant I felt comfortable hanging out in the library on my own.

    So, thank you librarians, for being so awesome!

  18. Bitsy*

    Yes, another librarian here! I think that in our field, showing up in a mask will be just fine. Places where it wouldn’t be should be outliers.

  19. Hankshaw*

    For what it’s worth, I’ve also continued to mask everywhere, including in professional environments. Generally, people will say “Oh, we’re vaccinated, it’s OK to take it off!” or something along those lines to let me know it’s not mandatory, but I’ve never received any pushback when I say “That’s OK, I just personally prefer to wear one.”

    Sometimes people will even ask me if I want them to mask, and I always say it’s not necessary, just that I’m more comfortable wearing one.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      Yes. The only time I’ve asked others to mask were when I couldn’t keep mine on—eg a haircut where I had to take it off for portions. Otherwise, I trust my N95 to do its job while other make their own choices.

    2. H.Regalis*

      YMMV, but as a former library worker, I would say the vast majority of librarians are not going to give you shit about it.

      People are a lot braver online than they are in person, so while I think your risk of having someone flip out at you is pretty low, it still exists. I’ve certainly seen plenty of wild stuff happen at libraries over the the years. I hope it doesn’t happen to you, and I hope you can find a library job where you can do what you need to do for your health without fear of people being jerks about it.

    3. So, So Tired*

      I always say, “if you don’t mind” because yes, I prefer that everyone indoors with me wear one.

  20. to varying degrees*

    Until recently I worked for local government in a very red area. Just in general not that many people are wearing masks. I was helping do interviews across the different departments (including our library) until the last week I left and I can say that even in our non-mask wearing area, if a candidate was wearing one it wasn’t an issue. Nothing was said either to them or in any of the debriefings I took part in after the interviews. I would say if you want to wear it, wear it.

  21. T.*

    Just make sure you annunciate clearly. As an interviewer I’ll only judge mask wearers who I can’t hear. It’s your prerogative and nobody else’s if you keep yours on but if the interviewer can’t hear you clearly, you might not go far. I don’t have very clear speech sometimes so I tend to take mine off when I need to be heard well.

    1. JSPA*

      If you were a surgeon, would you also take your mask off during surgery? Communication IS important– but that’s why it’s worth having decent strategies (physical, conversational, props) rather than assuming, “what I’m saying justifies additional, sudden, unexpected risk for others.”

      People arrange themselves around each other based on their acceptance of risk…given the behaviors currently on display. “Sudden unmasking” is no more welcome to me than “sudden intense coughing fit”–and (being voluntary) it lands as far ruder than a coughing fit.

      I’d reason,

      1. This person does not plan adequately.

      2. This person isn’t comfortable with momentary imperfection, and additionally assumes everyone else thinks the same way.

      3. This person acts without thinking and without considering the needs of others.

      4. This person miscategorizes their desires as needs, and/or prioritizes their desire to be heard over other people’s need to remain alive and keep others alive.

      As unhirable as you’d potentially find me, I’d find you.

  22. MR*

    Interviewing is a 2-way street.

    If you wearing a mask to an interview is an issue, than what about when you are working for them? That will give you valuable information should it come to that point. Good luck!

  23. Oxford Comma*

    Another librarian chiming in, you should be fine. I would be surprised if anyone said anything or gave you side eye.

  24. Not A Real Manager*

    Some candidates at my company have asked to wear one at their interviews and I told them it’s totally fine, and it is! Much of my company has stopped masking, but a number of people still are. And more people have begun masking when they feel a bit ill even if it’s not COVID, which I think is a great thing.

  25. Bibrarian*

    Another librarian voice weighing in here to agree: it’s very unlikely anyone will bat an eye at you wearing a mask for an interview at a library. This could vary based on your community and might just be my experience, but I find libraries to be much more pro-mask than other organizations and businesses! Librarians tend to be very evidence-driven, and evidence points to masks offering good protection.

    Also, as others have said, it is a good way to screen out those libraries that ARE hostile to masks!

  26. Fleur-de-Lis*

    Yet another librarian in the chorus – wear the mask! My particular institution still has a mask requirement in place on campus in all buildings/settings except when someone is alone in a private office, so if we were to have a face-to-face interview for an opening, we’d all be in masks. (We’re sticking to Zoom for all interviews, committee/council meetings, etc.)
    I think it’s also okay for you to request that the panel wear masks too, to protect you in a small room setting, or to move outside if the weather permits. I certainly wouldn’t bat an eye at that kind of request, because we are still in a pandemic!

  27. NorthBayTeky*

    I work for a library. They are all still wearing masks in the public area. Some people (not me) also continue to wear them in the staff only areas. I have way fewer co-workers and we still distance in the office, which is easy for us. It’s not as easy in other staff workrooms.

  28. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

    I don’t wear a mask all the time anymore, only in situations that I consider to be extra risky. A job interview – sitting in a small conference room with the same people for maybe an hour – is definitely extra risky! But in the actual job, there may not be such intensive contact all the time. So wearing a mask in the interview doesn’t necessarily mean you would wear one at work. If you plan to do so, maybe mention it, but it’s not exactly necessary as very few jobs would ban masks. The only places I’ve heard about that don’t allow masks are some contact centres that worry about how you sound on the phone with a mask. If you want to bring this up, one good way is to ask if the company offers masks for employees who prefer to wear them (if this is a thing where you live). But I don’t say anything about this before the interview. I just show up with a mask and usually nobody comments.

  29. Paris Geller*

    Another librarian here to say I don’t think you have anything to worry about most likely. Masks are not required in my area any more and plenty of staff aren’t masking, but plenty still are either all or some of the time.

  30. Just wondering*

    My employer asks people to take off masks during remote interviews. If the applicants is in an area where they cannot take off the mask (or prefer not to take off the mask), they can explain and it’s been fine.
    Again, this is for interviews over Zoom or Teams where the applicant is typically in his/her home.

    And my public library has signs asking people to wear masks (and most patrons do).

    I hope your interviews go well.

      1. louvella*

        You might have a mask on if you’re doing a video interview in a place outside of your home (definitely a thing that happens), if a person you are living with has covid or has been exposed to covid, if there is someone doing some kind of maintenance in your home, etc…

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          Yeah, that’s a lot harder. On one hand, were I an interviewer, I wouldn’t want to ask people to put themselves into an unsafe situation. That’s not a reasonable thing to ask. On the other hand, add a mask on top of a video interview and you will become almost 100% unintelligible, and that would almost certainly bias my judgement. Hearing things right on video calls is already challenging enough.

  31. All Hail Queen Sally*

    Masking is still so important! Lately I had been been bragging about how I haven’t even had a cold these past three years due to distancing and mask use. Well, a couple of weeks ago I woke up sick (sore throat, cough, fever) one morning and within hours my temp was over 101.4. Sure enough, I had Covid. It was like having bronchitis and the flu at the same time. I am now on the mend, but the side effects of the Padlocks were about as bad as Covid itself. You cannot be too careful!

  32. OP*

    OP here, thanks Alison and for all the comments. You’ve all said what I think I knew in my heart, to chill the heck out about it (basically – haha), but I started overthinking it. I feel really anxious about this whole process since I have been super poor for the last couple of years because of my health concerns, and I am really keen to make a good impression and have some sort of financial stability. If I get this job, it will be my first job in over two years and I have so many fears about it and my ability to succeed. I appreciate the reassurance, especially from the fellow GLAM folks! It’s a good reminder about the kind of people who work at libraries who I am likely to be interviewed by, even living in a very conservative place. I’m just going to not mention it and then if it gets brought up, be super casual about it. Sigh! Wish me luck, the interview is on Thursday, I’m nervous!

    1. Jora Malli*


      You sound like you’re going to make an amazing librarian, so walk into that interview and be the awesome person that you are.

    2. J*

      OP, I’m so glad you asked it here. It’s such a hard time with those of us at risk having to face these extra pressures and worries. I’ve changed jobs more than once in this pandemic and it’s such an added stress on top of the usual process. I’ve actually partnered more with libraries because of their safety precautions in the pandemic so I really hope you find your industry is supportive. Best of luck to you!

    3. RJ*

      Good luck, OP! And for the record, this non-librarian has been masking up for in person interviews as well as indoor shopping. I do get angry looks and comments, but I ignore them all. I had a really bad bout of COVID at the beginning of July and I do not want to go through that or spread it to anyone else.

      1. So, So Tired*

        I just don’t get why anybody cares what’s on somebody else’s face. Aren’t we free?

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this is perplexing. Granted, I’m not masking anymore, except for medical appointments, but I don’t care what other people do. My sister’s still masking up everywhere indoors, and we respect each other’s choices.

          I’m not masking because I haven’t been able to find an FFP2 mask that doesn’t fog my glasses, and being without them for a long time will give me a headache, and I can’t see my computer screen without them. I also don’t get anything out of in person meetings if I have to wear a mask, so I’d rather just WFH if masks are necessary/mandatory.

          That said, I’ll probably start to mask up again on public transport in the fall and winter, I’ve loved not having any sniffles for two years…

          1. JSPA*

            Very gentle tape in the glasses zone can help… as can asking someone with a similar face shape and unfogged glasses, what brand they use.

        2. Anon for this one*

          You are not free to put my life in danger. I’m undergoing chemotherapy; even double -boosted I’m at high risk, and getting COVID would mean pausing my treatment for three weeks. That’s three weeks the cancer wins because someone thinks their masking choice only affects them, and that I shouldn’t care what’s on their face.

          1. Anon for this one*

            And to be clear, I hardly ever leave the house, other than medical appointments! But not everyone in my situation is fortunate enough to be able to do that.

    4. Anne Wentworth*

      Good luck OP!
      Yay for chilling out; going in with my body relaxed and my mind focused on evaluating whether it’s a good fit always helps me. Hope you get the job!

    5. librarylando*

      Best of luck with your interview! You got this! Even in a conservative area, the vast majority of library folks are thoughtful, reasonable people, and they’ll respect your choices even if they personally make different ones!

      And like Alison says, if this library has a problem with masks, better for you to find that out in the interview than after you start the job! /Most/ libraries will be fine with it–most of my coworkers still wear their masks on the public desks–but the outliers are probably dysfunctional for other reasons, and “oh…you’re wearing a mask..?” is an important red flag.

      It could also be helpful for you to ask them outright how they handled the pandemic and what steps they took to keep their employees safe. Their answer (or lack of one) will speak volumes. And allowing or requiring masks isn’t necessarily enough. Did they limit people’s time on the computers? Limit the number of patrons in the library? Cancel programs? Close the library or switch to curbside, and for how long? The pandemic might be “over,” but your coworkers will remember everything the administration did or didn’t do while it was at its peak, and that will affect how they approach their jobs.

    6. COHikerGirl*

      Good luck!!!

      Chiming in, another person who wears a mask everywhere. I’m not high risk but have long COVID and do not want a relapse of those symptoms (I am still very much having issues but they’re not incredibly disabling now, just minorly disabling). I’ve definitely gotten looks and a handful of comments but my health is way more important.

  33. blink14*

    I mask in public, both small and large settings, as much as possible. My mindset is that the mask is not only for me, it’s for those around me as well. There’s unspoken camaraderie amongst those of who still wear masks, and it sends a signal of caution but also community respect.

  34. Lily Potter*

    This comes down to “know your audience”.

    As seemingly dozens of people have chimed in, people working in libraries often wear masks while on the clock. Shouldn’t be an issue to wear one while interviewing.

    It’s harder when you’re interviewing somewhere and you don’t know your “audience”. At that point, you have to ask yourself how much of a deal breaker masking is. Is the job a “take it or leave it” thing, where you’d happily walk away from the opportunity if the company’s mask policies/attitudes don’t align with yours? In that case, wear your mask to the interview proudly. If you really, really want or need a certain job, you might forego the mask for an hour during your interview. Ask about the company’s formal policies on masking and how they play out in terms of individual choices. Your interviewers will be more forthcoming about informal employee attitudes about masking if you aren’t wearing yourself. I’m sure I’ll get slammed for saying this, but I also feel that masks hinder the “human connection” factor to a certain degree. You’re trying to connect with people on a non-verbal level and that’s hard to go with half of a face covered.

    TLDR: mask up if it’s an absolute deal breaker for you personally and you’re willing to not get an offer because of it. Go without otherwise.

    1. J*

      “If you really, really want or need a certain job, you might forego the mask for an hour during your interview.”

      That’s just such awful advice for someone who is high risk. I’d challenge you to think about this from an accessibility standpoint and wonder if you’d ask someone to leave a wheelchair outside.

      1. Lily Potter*

        Oh please. Let’s not react with exaggerations. My response is grounded in reality, not fantasyland. If a person is going after a dream job in an anti-mask culture, I’m suggesting that they think about whether they’re willing to lose it over being unmasked in a room for an hour. For some, the mask is an absolute dealbreaker and they’re willing to wear one regardless. For others, it’s a risk worth consideration to not wear one. Everyone’s audience, and personal situation, is different. For some jobs, you might only go into the home office a handful of times a year. Going mask-less for an hour to get that kind of a job will be worth it to some people.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          That assumes that the anti-mask culture that would reject a candidate for wearing a mask would somehow be fine with them wearing a mask if hired. It’s not just that one in-person interview, it’s how their boss and coworkers would feel about the OP masking at work every day. It’s how they would respond to a patron complaining about the OP being masked at work.

        2. So, So Tired*

          No, no, no. Interviews are the perfect conditions for covid/respiratory infection transmissions. Lots of expiration due to talking and prolonged close exposure make an hour plenty of time for the virus to take hold if it is present, especially in unknown ventilation environments. Any employer who would reject someone for wearing a mask is truly shitty and likely a shitty place to work.

          I’ve had NO problems relating to other masked people. It’s a copout to say it inhibits communication.

          Imma step away.

        3. allathian*

          Your response is irrelevant to the LW.

          That said, I sort of agree with you, in the sense that I, personally, don’t get anything out of a personal meeting when people are masked, and would far rather do a video meeting on Teams, etc. instead. The mask just gets in the way of everything that makes seeing people in person worth the effort. Again this is just for me personally, YMMV.

        4. JSPA*

          This is super offensive. People have died and continue to die. That’s not some dark fantasy.

          1. J*

            Thank you for chiming in. I, like millions of others, lost someone in this pandemic. To see someone call it fantasyland is just really cruel. I appreciate you calling it out. It was deeply upsetting to see someone pretending I’m not grounded in reality when I’m also disabled and face this kind of attitude every day. At least OP got to see the kinds of people that may react to their masking.

      2. Blue Collar Blackground*

        This is a good point. Not unlike, if you really, really want or need to get a job in machining or manufacturing in a company/area where loose clothing, hair, jewelry isn’t prohibited around the machinery, and the guard plates/rails have been taken off the machines, and the emergency power off switches are inaccessible; or really really want or need to get a job in construction where nobody wears hard hats or solid-toe shoes, or really really want or need to get a job working with hazardous materials where people leave off the hazmat suits …

        If you’re desperate enough, you might consider making a lot of compromises to your health and safety.

        1. IQuitOverCOVID*

          Coming from a manufacturing engineering background, I love this perspective (assuming you’re being sarcastic of course…)

          This is the exact reasoning I gave to my last company when they refused to enforce their mask policy. I framed it as a safety issue, and asked them what they would do if someone knowingly removed a safety guard from a machine because this was equivalent. Which honestly, people did do this all the time in our machine development environment and never got in trouble so I was kind of also calling them out for not following ANY safety rules. I’m so glad I quit!

    2. louvella*

      It is also a very real possibility that not wearing a mask could be held against someone interviewing for a position…though I realize this could definitely depend on region. But you don’t know who is interviewing you, I would not assume that not wearing a mask would give you some kind of advantage and that wearing one would give you a disadvantage.

      1. blink14*

        Completely agree. If this is higher ed, there may be more of a precedent to still mask as well.

      2. Lily Potter*

        I’ve got to disagree here. There ARE people out there that will see a mask as a sign of someone who’s perpetually sick or as someone who takes time off of work to care for someone who’s always sick. It’s a bias, and not a fair one. But in a competitive job market where people obsess over the font size of their post-interview thank you e-mail, it’s a detail to at least consider. If nothing else, go maskless during the interview and wear it faithfully if you get the job.

        Now, if you’re in the library or health care industry, a mask may be a non-factor. If you have five firms courting your services, by all means, mask up and tell the interviewer to stuff it if he doesn’t like your mask. With my blessing!

        1. louvella*

          I’m not saying no one would judge someone for wearing a mask. I’m saying that plenty of people would also judge someone for not wearing one. So I don’t know why not wearing one would be an advantage. You can’t really predict. (And if you show up to a health care facility without a mask for an interview, I bet in many cases you will be judged for it.)

        2. louvella*

          For the record, when I was a hiring manager at my last job (I worked at a truck stop), someone showing up to interview and not wearing a mask would have been a difficult thing for me to get past. It would have made me feel like the person didn’t respect me or value my health and safety. Not the best impression.

          1. IQuitOverCOVID*

            On the flip side of this, as a candidate I wore a mask in an interview and all of my interviewers had masks on as well. However at the end of my interview I was alone with the HR manager and he decided to take his mask off as we sat down “because we’re now 6ft apart” even though we were still in a small enclosed space. I decided in that moment that if the HR manager thinks this is okay to do then I don’t want to work there (among some other red flags anyway). I was coming from an environment where my health and safety didn’t matter to my company, so there was no way I was going to accept another environment like that.

        3. blink14*

          Completely disagree with this interpretation of wearing a mask – prior to Covid, in the US? I can understand that line of thinking.

          But we’re into a third year of a pandemic, where wearing a mask has been and should continue to be the norm in public settings. The way you’ve presented wearing a mask is exactly what politicizing mask wearing has accomplished – assuming that there is something wrong with the person wearing it, whether that’s their health or their supposed political ideologies. It is meant for the wearer to be safer, but it is also meant for community safety.

          You acknowledge that it’s not a fair bias – but we must go against that bias. To perpetuate this thought process, in any form, is really damaging.

        4. JSPA*

          Equally, there are people who will see it as a sign that you’re more careful, and thus less likely to be sick. (And…they’d be right.) Plus, FWIW, they’d be allowed to hire on that basis, without it being discriminatory.

          Look, masking just isn’t a situation where only one set of assumptions can be in play. People who are moderate or high risk for covid–or have family who are–are not intrinsically less healthy overall.

          Even from a morally neutral, legally-neutral, purely utilitarian standpoint…why on earth should a candidate default to the particular set of assumptions that puts them at risk?

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Honestly, I’d say there’d be a higher chance of NOT wearing a mask reducing your chance of getting a job than of wearing a mask doing so. It would be completely irrational to refuse to employ somebody because they took steps to protect their health and the interviewers. On the other hand, if an interviewer were high risk or had family members who were, they might well think less of a person who fails to wear a mask and puts them and their family at risk. In that case, going without could well put a person at risk of not getting an offer as well as putting their life at risk.

      We have absolutely no reason to believe this library has an “anti-mask” culture. I would say it is at least equally likely that it has a pro-mask culture and most likely, it wouldn’t care either way. I would be far more concerned that not wearing a mask would make me look reckless and willing to put my interviewers’ health at risk than that wearing a mask would make me look…cautious? Or that my interviewer would be somebody who’d put “hindering the human connection” over human life.

  35. houston*

    I am a hiring manager in a public library system in a southern state. I always give people the option to wear a mask. I state this on the phone and in the follow up email.

  36. Peachy keen*

    Seconding all the librarians here! I work in a large library, and I’m the only one in my department who masks every day, although a few coworkers do sometimes/during service desk shifts. No one’s made a big deal of it except one coworker, and she stopped when she didn’t get a reaction and I kept wearing my mask. If I were you, I’d roll up with my mask on without comment, but have an answer ready in case they ask if you’d like them to mask up.

    Everyone at work does know I’m high risk (it’s pretty hard to miss that I have lung problems after this long), but I wouldn’t bring that up in an interview for all the reasons folks have brought up earlier. Plus, it’s not their business!

  37. FellowLibrarian*

    Fellow librarian here! About half of my coworkers (myself included) still wear masks, and no one thinks anything of it (and I live in quite a conservative state). I’ve found that even in Conservative places, the types of people attracted to library work are often pretty open-minded and risk-averse, so you’ll likely be in good company! We still have the majority of our meetings via zoom (even those of us in the same building) out of an abundance of caution.

  38. Short’n’stout*

    I’m amused by the contradiction between the headline and the first sentence of the answer. And OP, absolutely mask if you’re more comfortable that way – we need to look after ourselves and each other more than ever these days.

  39. Worked in IT forever*

    Just say you’re wearing a mask because you’re still being cautious. End of explanation. There are all sorts of reasons for being cautious. You don’t need to tell them that the reason is that you’re high risk.

  40. IQuitOverCOVID*

    Alison hit the nail on the head with this one (as usual)! I was definitely one of the panicked letter-writers in 2020/2021 worrying about my last employer not taking COVID seriously (I quit and got a new job thankfully!).

    OP, it is entirely okay to wear a mask in your interview and on the job, and like Alison said it is definitely a screen for you. My last employer let it be known in many ways that my safety did not matter to them and I saw through the thin veil of “we’re doing the best we can” to the real truth. You deserve to work somewhere that you are respected and where your safety is their number one concern! Good luck out there :)

  41. autumnal*

    Another vote for wearing a mask. Not sure what sort of library you’re applying to but I provide programing at several local public libraries and almost all of the staff continue to wear masks. I do too as I’m high-risk and live with someone high-risk so it only makes sense to take what is the simplest of precautions to ensure your own well-being. It’s not mandated but public libraries are hubs of community activity where some people spend hours for each visit. Only makes sense, especially with the growing number of cases. And their response to your mask wearing could be a helpful indicator of how they are handling the pandemic. Good luck with your interviews!

  42. Anne Wentworth*

    I’m heartened to see all the librarians in the comments talking about continuing masking at their libraries. <3

  43. Just Me*

    Nothing wrong with masking for an interview. Plus, assuming you’re interviewing at a library, it makes sense that you’d wear a mask as some of the staff are probably regularly interacting with the public. I work in higher ed and we all wear masks in my office because we see students and one of our staff members is high-risk. We’re one of the few hold-out offices on campus but, honestly, it just makes so much more sense. I feel that many in the library will probably feel the same.

  44. My$.02*

    Academic librarian here. I’m still masking as are many (though not all) of my colleagues. We’re doing interviews through Zoom to accommodate a rise in work from home and the lack of enough private space meeting rooms for search committee members to use. That said, I would not bat an eye at anyone wearing a mask. University students, though I love them, are disgusting vectors of disease and most are learning to care for themselves for the first time. I used to get laryngitis, strep throat, and bronchitis at least 1-2 times annually working in library public services until we all started masking for Covid. Plus, and libraries and librarians should support this – allowing and encouraging masking aligns with our collective diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. I would and have said in a library interview that I wear a mask as part of my personal commitment to equity and inclusion as it protects high risk individuals and allows for greater service to vulnerable patrons.

    1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      “I would and have said in a library interview that I wear a mask as part of my personal commitment to equity and inclusion as it protects high risk individuals and allows for greater service to vulnerable patrons.”

      Yes, this.
      I know why a lot of people and places have dropped masking, and so limited their accessibility and inclusivity. Some of them are straightforward about that being completely okay with them –they’re not interested in equity anyway.

      But for those that claim a commitment to equity, inclusion or accessibility, if this isn’t enough reason to at absolute minimum make it completely clear that anyone is welcome to mask and hassling mask-wearers will not be tolerated (and better, to suggest/encourage if they can’t require employees to mask in public/shared spaces where people’s health status isn’t known) … then their alleged inclusion/accessibility is BS.

      1. Alice*

        +100. It grinds my gears when colleagues who don’t mask in our shared office start blathering on about how committed they are to DEI.

    2. OP*

      I looooooove that last point about EDI! This interview is at a small, one-branch, municipal library, so I don’t know that they will care as much as an academic library would about EDI, but my goal is actually academic librarianship anyways, so that is a very useful tip for when I have other interviews. Thank you!

  45. umami*

    We’ve been doing quite a bit of hiring lately, and I have had several interviewees show up to in-person interviews with masks. We do keep everyone socially distanced for the interviews, and I have had some committee members also wear masks. We don’t expect the candidate to address it at all, and we don’t comment on it either. So I hope OP doesn’t feel uncomfortable about it! It will definitely give you some insight into how the company operates if they choose to bring it up.

  46. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’ve had exactly one person give me grief for wearing a mask to work and one for an interview. Both times it’s been a case of ‘you know those don’t do anything’ and ‘come on, this is all over’ to which I’ve given a one shoulder shrug and an answer of ‘regardless, I’m wearing one’.

    I’m not telling them my medical history or that I’m high risk because I don’t want to give them an opening to a ‘debate’. Basically I wear it and just end it with the above statement.

    (The person at work avoids me, fine. The interview didn’t go well and I left before the end anyway)

  47. Kate*

    I had been working in an office where no one but me masked. We sat in close quarters, in office every day, no remote. All of my co-workers had had Covid at least twice. During my interview for this job, I had worn a mask, as did the interviewers and I didn’t think to ask Covid specific questions. I was stunned when I started work. I almost immediately starting looking for another job, and when asked why I was looking for a new job in interviews, was honest and said that the office took no Covid precautions and I was uncomfortable working in that environment. I didnt get any negative feedback and am now happily working for an organization that takes Covid seriously.

  48. Nancy*

    You don’t need to say anything. Most people do not care and rather not have a big deal made out of it. I don’t assume high risk, or view the person as ‘taking covid seriously’, or anything other than personal preference. People do al sorts of things for personal and/or health reasons.

  49. Bookworm*

    Thanks for asking, OP! I hope no one judges you for masking and wish you the best of luck in your search!

  50. Lenora Rose*

    I’m one of the most fervent maskers at work (and I still take it off at my desk in an open plan office.)

    Turns out this probably just helped prevent me from getting Covid, as I sat for an hour and a bit with a coworker doing training in close quarters (and not the first such session but the longest that week) the day before she tested positive.

    I also mask anywhere else I go in public that isn’t outdoors, and some outdoor places. (Park with my kids and not many others? Probably not. Commercial district/downtown? Probably. Theatre festival? Definitely.)

    Nobody has said a word about me masking anywhere. It’s a bit like nursing the baby was, back in Those Days – I always worried about it, and caught the odd side-eye, but more people react positively or don’t notice me at all.

    I recognize I’m lucky in where I live.

  51. LaFramboise*

    OP, many library workers (degreed and otherwise) are still masking. A good library will understand and support you.

  52. Flare*

    In case this is helpful to you, OP, my library, which is an academic library in a part of the US that has been fairly mask-positive relative to some other areas, has people in and out of mask status constantly (because if someone learns they have been a potential contact, we’re required to mask for X days, and there are rules still about isolation and whatnot). I don’t currently mask unless required, but that’s because of my own constellation of needs and my own risk assessment and other people get to make choices about their risks and values. You’d be totally fine interviewing with my organization, and based on various email list traffic, probably at a lot of libraries.

    I haven’t read everyone’s responses, but if you traveled to get to the interview another way you could go if anyone has a question is, “since I traveled to get here and air travel is a long time in shared air, I am choosing to make sure I minimize the risk for all of us,” and leave it at that.

  53. PurpleStar*

    I am an Employment Coordinator – so I recruit, hire, and onboard. We are now a mask optional company. Wearing a mask to an interview or orientation with us is a personal choice and in no way influences our opinions on a candidate or a new hire. If I have a large group to onboard I will mask until I get a feel for the group. We have several staff who mask daily. We have some who never mask.

    At this point in the never pandemic, societal norms seem to be changing and masking is becoming more mainstream – or at least less odd.

    And don’t feel you need to provide an explanation for why you are wearing a mask – again pandemic – this should be obvious to them. If they express discomfort, displeasure, or are in any way negative then it may not be the company for you and you will learn that before you expend a lot of time on them.

    Good luck on the job hunting, stay safe and don’t compromise on something important and necessary to you.

  54. Good luck*

    Plan ahead what to say if they ask if they should put a mask on. Once, with familiar colleagues, I accidentally told them “oh, I’ll keep my mask on, but I don’t care about you!” We laughed over it, but it might not make a good first impression!

  55. T*

    I’ve been one of the few people to continue to wear a mask 100% of the time at my new-ish job. No one really says anything, which is good. But I just have to own it and do what I think is right for myself.

  56. LibraryGirl*

    I am a hiring manager at a library and I don’t even think twice about interviewees that show up masked or unmasked. I begin my interviews by letting them know they can move their chair if they are uncomfortable being so close or if the distance is ok. I feel as though that opens up the conversation.

  57. Canadian Librarian #72*

    Never disclose anything about your own health unless absolutely necessary. (To be clear, it isn’t absolutely necessary here.)

    Wear the mask; don’t ask permission to do so. Anyone who is affronted by someone else choosing to wear a mask probably isn’t someone you want to work with or for.

    The library where I work has made all covid protections 100% optional and the personal responsibility of individuals (in other words, there is no longer any institutional support), but I and several others continue to wear masks to work because, well, the pandemic isn’t actually over, and personally, I’d prefer not to get covid a second time. But no one at work has given me a hard time about it.

  58. Not Putting Myself on Blast*

    I am in complete agreement with masking being a screening tool for job seekers! I was turned down for an office position early in the pandemic for a roofing company because I wore a mask to the interview. Nobody else wore one, and they even made a point of saying that they were “considered essential workers” since everyone needs a literal roof over their heads! The email said they were going with someone more suited to their needs, but I know the real reasoning.

    And that’s perfectly fine because (1) I would have never been comfortable there while actively being judged by my coworkers and (2) I was hired shortly after that for a job in psychiatric health that did the interview virtually and then into my current job in medical education where I interviewed over Zoom. Hell, we’re still doing our monthly staff meetings over Zoom and masking around the office because we’re setting an example for our students.

  59. Elizabeth West*

    Because the thing is, this is very much a screening tool for you.


    I still ask the question for two reasons. 1) to assess their attitudes about safety protocols. If they’re not careful about COVID, they likely won’t be about anything else. And 2) it gives me a chance to ask about hybrid work options, if they’re new to remote work due to the pandemic, and how they handle it.

    That said, nobody wore masks at TempJob 2022—they were all required to be vaccinated, had WFH options, and had a cabinet full of KN95s and tests. Mom and I both are vaxxed, and she was out of town the entire time I worked there so I didn’t have to worry about her.

    In fact, I’m seeing more and more job ads saying the company requires vaccination. I’d rather work for a company that does show concern about it, since climate change is probably going to contribute to more pandemics. Also, public health response still sucks donkey balls.

    1. c buggy*

      I personally wouldn’t use the wording “I’m still being cautious” in this situation. That language implies the interviewers are being reckless, or at least not cautious, because they aren’t wearing masks. And maybe that’s true (which is a whole separate conversation) – but in a job search context, you may not want to risk making your interviewer feel defensive. (Note that the hypothetical interviewer here is kind of the reverse of the possibility Allison mentions – they wouldn’t be judging you for your choice to wear a mask, but would think that you’re judging them for not wearing one.)

      I think even a slight tweak to the language, like “I’m still being *extra* cautious” should avoid this risk with any reasonable person.

  60. Also Masking*

    Thanks for this letter! I went to a job interview in June and was the only person I saw on-site wearing a mask, and it wasn’t THE dealbreaker for me, but it was definitely something that confirmed my decision to not move forward when there were other issues.

  61. LittleMarshmallow*

    By my workplace I would think nothing of someone wearing a mask to an interview. Everyone has different reasons for wanting or needing to do so. Usually if someone does wear one we will ask if they’d prefer if we also wear one (again since we don’t know the reason). My workplace has been maskless for a while now, and we are all pretty comfortable without them but no one judges (not openly anyway) about someone wearing one for any reason. So all that to say… I wouldn’t worry about it. Wear it if you need or want to!

  62. Youth Librarian in NH*

    It’s absolutely fine to wear one and not give a heads up!
    I live in New Hampshire (aka the Live Free or Die state) and while hardly anyone is wearing a mask, all employees wear one at work (I know some don’t outside of work) and we don’t have a policy mandating that. So, you may be pleasantly surprised and see more masks than you expected. I’ve also found in general that my colleagues at other libraries (where masks are less common among staff) are still very understanding of library workers wearing masks; we see goodness knows how many people a day and are exposed to goodness knows what. I would say pushback is usually from patrons for us.
    I even wear my mask during storytime, which does make things harder, but not impossible. I have occasionally asked attendees if it’s ok for me to briefly remove my mask so the kids can see my whole face as my facial expression gives context to the story.

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