when a job candidate wears too much makeup

A reader writes:

I recently began interviewing candidates for a position at my company. I found a candidate I really liked, and introduced her to my higher-ups. I think she’ll get the position, but their complaints about her were that she wore too much makeup:

1- She was wearing fake eyelashes. The men asked me if they were real or not, they had no idea.
2- She had a lot of eye makeup on.

Maybe you could write a post about how to dress for interviews, and the workplace in general? You don’t want people to rule you out because you look Jersey Shore. My higher-ups both said they would have written her off immediately if she hadn’t had my endorsement!

I’m just going to quote a comment left on a post earlier today by commenter Tax Nerd:

“Dress appropriately. Err on the side of conservative until you figure out the dress code (written and not). For women in particular – short skirts, cleavage, hooker heels, spaghetti straps, and bare midriffs are probably not okay unless you’re interning at a fashion magazine. Scratch that, unless you’re modelling for a fashion magazine. Dress like the kind of professional who gets paid for their mind.”

That last sentence is exactly right: If you want to get paid for your mind, present yourself that way.

Rightly or wrongly, false eyelashes, heavy makeup, cleavage, fishnet stockings, showing your thighs, and anything you’d wear to a club are all off-limits. People aren’t going to take you seriously if you interview that way (or show up to your job that way), because you’ll be conveying that (a) you’re focused more on how you look than on what you can do professionally, and (b) you don’t know or don’t care about professional norms.

When in doubt, err on the conservative side. You’re not going to jeopardize anything by wearing less eye makeup.

Readers: Please now entertain us all with stories of inappropriate things you have seen worn in professional settings. Bonus points if you were the one wearing them.

{ 243 comments… read them below }

  1. Kris*

    Last time I sat in on an interveiw panel we had one applicant that came in a sweat suit. I felt bad for him a little because he actually interveiwed well but the whole panel was turned off by the first impression. Rember you can only make a first impression once.

    1. Shane*

      Hard to feel bad for the guy. How you present yourself is close to 100% of a successful interview (mannerisms, personality, style, preparedness, etc.) and he made a choice not to present himself in a professional manner. To me he is displaying a lack of interest in the position from the beginning.

      1. Flynn*

        Unless he actually didn’t have access to a presentable alternative; finding ‘interview clothes’ for people currently in some kind of difficult situation (from poverty to outright homelessness) is a function of a fair few organisations.

        1. Anon in the UK*

          A now defunct global accounting firm at which I once worked hosted a global conference in North America. One of the presenters opted to publicly blast a member of the UK firm for not wearing appropriate business dress. Two problems with this:

          i) his transatlantic flight had been cancelled and the one he was switched onto at the last minute was severely delayed. So he had arrived in the US without his luggage, and had literally had to dash from the airport to the conference centre with no time to do emergency shopping trips

          ii) he was very, very senior in the UK firm. Not someone to publicly scold.

          1. Anonymous*

            This is why my husband always wears a suit on the plane. He’s bumped into too many conference bigwigs in the airport. It sucks, but makes a good impression.

          2. Charles*

            I hope that presenter got fired – whether the “not wearing appropriate business dress” person was senior in the firm or not; a presenter should never publicly (or even privately) scold someone for how they are dressed.

        2. Blinx*

          I once interviewed at a large corporation wearing a nice dress and blazer that I got at the Salvation Army. I looked quite presentable, and nobody knew. I didn’t get that position, but another one a few months later.

    2. Vicki*

      Years ago, a friend of mine (the system admin for the company) interviewed someone who showed up in a bright yellow sweat suit. I had hoped that was a one-of-a-kind occurrence!

  2. Anon in the UK*

    We had an interviewee who apparently assumed that all the people interviewing her would be heterosexual men. My boss is. I’m female. Our HR guy is male and gay.

    She wore a shirt the likes of which I have never seen before. Collared, with an open neck and then buttons. Seemed to be the appropriate size, as the cuffs were at her wrists and when she took off her suit jacket, the seams where the sleeves join the shoulder were in the right place. Yet mysteriously there was a vast expanse of cleavage on view, and some bra.

    My poor boss interviewed her while gazing fixedly over her left shoulder. I briefly boggled, then decided I was in some kind of Candid Camera show and I needed to keep a straight face.

  3. Karyn*

    I think the worst thing I ever saw was the leopard print suit. I’m not kidding. A full. Leopard. Print. Suit.

    God help us all.

      1. Karyn*

        If it had been a man, I’d have taken a photo. It only could have been made worse if it had been crushed velvet.

  4. Julie*

    I actually have a question that’s the flip side of OP’s: I generally don’t wear makeup at all, because I hate the feel of it. I don’t own any and wouldn’t know the first thing about applying it. Consequently, I show up with a face “au naturel” to job interviews. Up until now, the companies I’ve worked for have had a pretty casual dress code and no one cares that I don’t wear makeup, but would this be a problem if I ever interviewed at a more formal company?

    (Full disclosure: I’m working now, quite happy where I am, and have no intention of job hunting in the near future. This is mostly a hypothetical question.)

    1. Pamela G*

      Agreed – I don’t wear makeup day-to-day when teaching, but I do put some on for special occasions, school events like concerts and job interviews.

      I think most of the comments on the article Alison linked cover everything, but I’d agree that a quick brush of powder to take away shine, a dab of concealer on any spots or dark rings under eyes, a touch of mascara and lip gloss/lipstick will do wonders. Gives you a much more professional look without actually needing to cake it on like some ladies do.

    2. Sophie*

      Great question, I don’t wear makeup day to day but I will wear it for weddings and job interviews. When I do wear it, it’s some tinted moisturizer and a little bit of eye makeup (no mascara – I’m allergic to it). When I started at my current job I wore a bit of the tinted moisturizer for the first week or so and then just stopped altogether. I also hate the feel of makeup and it makes my skin break out.

      1. Anonymous*

        I agree. I figure it’s about time I go to the beauty supply store and have the 17-year-old behind the counter teach me the ways of foundation. I’m absolutely clueless.

    3. Lori*

      I have HORRIBLE acne that I have been afflicted with since I was 14. Hence, I have been wearing foundation since I was 14. Any makeup lady like myself will tell you that the best makeup will look as if you aren’t wearing any at all. Even if you don’t have a pizza face like me, studies have shown that makeup will make a woman look more competent: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/fashion/makeup-makes-women-appear-more-competent-study.html. But notice how her eyeshadow and lip stains are still nude even in the supposedly “glamorous” picture. Of course, these are still photos of her with a professional facial expression. If your personality makes you look as unprofessional as your false eyelashes do, it doesn’t matter what your face looks like.

      1. Anonymous*

        Lori, I noticed your post probably because there have been a few post about appearance and makeup lately. This is one area I am very good in. I am no longer in my 20’s, I am a middle-age lady but do not look or dress that way. I have always taken very good care of my skin. I have since my 20’s known a lot about skin care. I have very good and clear and soft skin. That is the first thing someone needs to focus on when it comes to makeup. Underneath needs to be healthy and soft and clear. There are so many products out there and makeup that will not make you look unprofessional or like a clown. I wear soft makeup everyday. Many good dermatologist can help you with your acne. I love fashion and I am very good pulling things together. I suggest to anyone that wants to learn how to pull outfits together, apply makeup and maintain good skin care to read all the articles out there. I apply my makeup in no time and it looks natural and soft. The key is you want to look soft, not like you are wearing it heavy. I do not wear false eyelashes because to me that is phony. When I look for a job, I want the employer to know I am there for the job.

  5. Lee*

    I was spoken to last year about wearing flip flops to work. Oops.

    I never wore them ALL DAY at work, just to/from the office (I changed into heels/flats once I got there). The day I got in trouble I happened to arrive a few minutes late (thanks to public transportation) and forgot to change before running to the photocopy room for something. Less than 5 minutes in those stupid things and “Lee, can I speak with you privately, please?”

    Lesson learned!

    1. Karyn*

      Whatever, there are girls here who walk around BAREFOOT in the office. I don’t care if you take your shoes off in your office or around your desk – hell, I do it too when I’m wearing some ridiculous new pair of shoes – but for God’s sake, WEAR FOOTWEAR AROUND THE REST OF THE OFFICE. Just, ew.

      1. Emily*

        I’m chuckling because I’m guilty of this. I spend most of my time barefoot, so historically my work shoes have always been a dressy sandal so I can slip them off while at my desk and slip them back on when I needed to get up and go somewhere. Much harder to do this in the winter! I started a new job a few years ago and I think it was the second day when my boss came out of her office barefoot. A tiny fanfare played inside my head as I realized I had found my home. I’m now barefoot in the office just about every day. We are a small office, just me, my boss, and two others, and the other two don’t care in the slightest that we go barefoot. I dread the day I end up working somewhere that people think feet are gross again.

    2. Rachel - Former HR Blogger*

      I still wear flip flops around in the summer…

      My office is pretty casual and I am one of the most professionally dressed so I allow myself to chose footwear that is comfortable to me. I even have slippers in my office for when I’m sitting at my desk and want to take off my heels.

    3. Kelly O*

      Footwear is a particularly sore spot with me, no pun intended. I do not understand how people can walk around with shoes flopping and making noise all the time. It’s not even a subtle click of the heel, it’s this moist thwacking sound that does not at all feel office-appropriate.

      Unless the office is super-casual I cannot imagine how these are okay. (This also includes those sandals from the 90’s with the giant sole/heel and the one thick stretchy band across the foot. Which are almost worse, in a twisted sort of way.)

      1. fposte*

        The main reason I don’t wear slingbacks anymore is the horrible noise when I’m walking downstairs in the concrete stairwells at work.

  6. Liz*

    I really don’t like visible makeup – it is incredibly distracting when I’m trying to talk to someone. Having said that, I still feel bad for women who do like makeup and high heels and other girly things. It is kind of sad that a girly appearance just isn’t part of most professional office cultures.

    Also, I think if you grew up with non-professional parents, the messages you get about appropriate business appearance from television shows and women’s magazines would be very confusing. You really do have to know other professional women in order to know how negatively the heavy makeup look is perceived – the “wear it to work” looks featured in some of those magazines are really AWFUL – and that lack of direct contact would be a disadvantage for someone who is trying to move into the professional world after growing up in a different type of world.

    1. jmkenrick*

      Agreed. I think it helps to remember that when people do things like this there is a good chance it is a result of ignorance, rather than not-caring (or attention-seeking, as people occasionally assume about woman wearing more revealing clothing). Different cultural enclaves have different standards.

    2. Yup*

      Magazines and TV are rarely any help with putting together a polished professional look. They always seem to think that skyscraper heels and a lacy camisole peeking out of a low cut jacket are the norm. (Plus major makeup.) I’d get sent home if I showed up at my office like that.

    3. fposte*

      I may have misunderstood you, but heels and makeup have been fine everywhere I’ve worked and haven’t been construed as juvenile or “girly.” 5″ heels and the “smoky eye,” not so much, but I don’t think those are girly so much as “out clubbing or drinking.”

      So it’s not simply heels and makeup, it’s what kind of each.

      1. Kelly O*

        Totally agreed. I like makeup, jewelry, clothes, shoes, the whole nine yards and I wear them all every day. I don’t necessarily feel “girly” (particularly in my current environment, where feminine apparently equals tons of bling and bright patterns) but I keep things subdued at work. I have one thing – it might be a bigger necklace or a brighter shade of lipstick or a shirt in a bolder color or even just an awesome pair of shoes – but that’s the one thing that day. Never all at once.

        And I will say I think a lot of people who wear makeup don’t really understand how to wear it, or that you do need to change with seasons. Much like you wouldn’t wear a pair of tweed lined pants in the middle of summer, you wouldn’t want to wear thick foundation in (well, let’s face it) May in Houston. And so many of the “fashion” shows don’t really address that.

        And don’t get me started on half the fashion bloggers out there. The stuff they wear, even to work, would SO not fly in many of the places I’ve worked. (Nevermind I don’t understand how you don’t feel like a clown…. but that’s a whole other issue entirely.)

      2. K.*

        Exactly. I wear makeup, but the lesson my mother taught me long ago was “it’s supposed to enhance, not cover.” And also that there’s day makeup and night makeup looks. You can have fun with makeup and clothes and jewelry and still look professional – shift dresses, shirt dresses, not bustiers. I think people tend to go too far with “business CASUAL” (I’ve never worked somewhere where I had to wear a suit every day) and that gets them in trouble.

      3. Piper*

        Yeah, I’ve never worked anywhere that it wasn’t okay to wear heels, jewelry, and makeup and to just generally look feminine. I’ve never worked anywhere where women couldn’t look like women.

        But yes, choosing appropriate attire, makeup, and jewelry is key. I’m not going to wear sequins and shimmery eye shadow to work, but I might for a night out.

    4. Michael*

      We had a candidate interview for a position who was from one of our Latin American divisions. They interviewing team was a little taken aback at how “sexual” she had dressed, but I had to educate them, along with HR backing me up, that is not unusual business attire for latin america and that we needed to look past the appearance to the value she brings to the position.

    5. Nichole*

      Agreed-when I was growing up, my mom wore jeans and flip flops to work (3rd shift data entry), and I think I’ve seen her in makeup twice ever. My dad was in the medical field, so all of the females at his job wore scrubs. I like the girly stuff, but I’m still trying to figure out how to get out of my cardigans and black pants safe zone at work. Fashion magazines have been less than useful. Everything either costs a billion dollars and includes nothing I already own (and I have plenty of basics) or looks like the model works as, well, a model, and not at a real company. *sigh*

      1. Natalie*

        Definitely get out of the magazine world and look at blogs. Fashion magazines are very much beholden to their primary advertisers (magazines make the bulk of their income from ads) and have an NYC-skewed idea of what affordable is.

        Corporette isn’t a bad place to start – a lot of their suggested pieces are very expensive, but they have Frugal Friday with a more affordable work-appropriate piece. And you can jump into the comments for other blog suggestions.

        1. Catherine*

          I agree that blogs tend to be better than fashion magazine, but even those send misleading messages. I’ve seen bloggers that usually give good advice to young woman give abysmal advice for workplace wardrobe.

          I remember a skirt “perfect for work AND drinks after” recommended on one blog that would have been at least five inches above my knees–and I don’t even have long legs! Another time I saw three ROMPERS recommended because they “transitioned perfectly from the office to the night out.” I feel so bad for those woman fresh out of college who show up for their first job in a romper…

          1. Natalie*

            Bleh. IMO rompers are not acceptable wear for anyone past puberty in any circumstances.

            You’re absolutely right that some blogs are going to be just as bad. My typical technique is to ignore anything if my instinctive reaction is “ew, NO!” and check anything else I’m not 100% sure about on other blogs, preferably ones geared towards conservative industries.

        2. Kelly O*

          I also read Wardrobe Oxygen and Capitol Hill Style – both have things I don’t necessarily think work, but it gives me different perspectives on how to use more basic pieces in my closet.

          A quick rundown of my favorite fashion blogs, in no particular order (and I’d love to see what the rest of you read too.)
          Wardrobe Oxygen
          Capitol Hill Style
          Fab Finds Under $50

          I provide these caveats – I do not mix patterns. Ever. I would look like sad wanna-be twee clown if I did. I am also not a colorblocking fan. Again we veer too close to clown-land for my personal taste.

  7. A Bug!*

    Someone else: Fishnet stockings to court. She was either a junior lawyer or a lawyer’s assistant. Either way, she sure didn’t look like she was being paid for her mind.

    Me: When I was very young, my first job out of school was a carpenter’s assistant, but I wanted to work in an office. So I applied for entry-level jobs as they came up. I didn’t get a lot of calls but I definitely know why I didn’t get one in particular: I stopped in on my lunch break to drop off my resume, wearing junky old clothes and just caked with sawdust. I think I shook my hair out first?

  8. SisterTech*

    Worked for a smaller company and the owner/CEO was onsite interviewing a replacement for his admin assistant. He interviewed one woman, and as she left, he waved his hand back and forth in front of his face as she walked out the door (you know, like “FRAGRANT”). As she passed it became evident that she was wearing an enormous quantity of some kind of perfume. ENORMOUS.

    How can you focus on someone’s qualifications if their scent is so overpowering it makes you yearn for the moment they leave? Big no-no.

    1. KayDay*

      Yesterday, I was thinking that I needed to submit a public service announcement:

      If you have your own office (with a door) and someone else, with their own office and door, can still smell your perfume….it is way too strong.

  9. JoAnna*

    My husband was asked to interview with a large computer company with a rep for a very casual style (rhymes with Mapple :P). He thought about dressing casually for the interview, but decided to err on the side of caution and wore a 3-piece suit instead. The first thing the interviewer did was ask him to remove his suit coat because it was making HIM feel uncomfortable (said in a joking way). My husband did end up getting the job, though!

    1. Anonymous*

      There’s a huge gap between “casual” and “3-piece suit.” Glad to hear he got the job, though!

      1. Vicki*

        Absolutely! At the Fruit Company, interview attire is a polo or Oxford shirt and slacks. A suit says you’re a sales guy. A 3-piece suit? He’s lucky he got the job.

    2. Waldo*

      I almost always wear a charcoal suit (typically with tie) when interviewing. After being hired, one company told me that wearing it had stacked the odds against me initially.

      Fortunately I let my personality show through, and can be comfortable while looking professional.

  10. Victoria*

    It’s tough for young women to figure out how to dress for work, especially if their mothers (or other close family relatives or friends) didn’t work in a professional environment. If they’re working in a formal business or legal environment, ok, they should be wearing suits – but that’s still a bit fraught (how long of a skirt? are cropped pants ok? what should I wear under my jacket? can I take my jacket off?). In most nonprofits (and, I imagine, many corporate environments), junior staffers would look pretty out of place wearing a suit… so then what?

    It took me a long time to figure out that dressing for work isn’t the same as “dressing up.” I’m a plus-sized woman (which means that there aren’t a lot of “clubby” options out there) and rather conservative by nature, so I don’t think I ever dressed particularly inappropriately, just… awkwardly.

    As for makeup, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve gone back and forth on the question of whether I should be wearing makeup in order to look more professional at work. I’m lucky enough to have clear skin and I rarely wear any makeup at all (not even tinted moisturizer or lip gloss), but I do look more pulled together when I do.

    Anyway, I feel for this woman. When I interview interns (but not more senior positions), I’m pretty explicit with suggestions of how to dress. That usually works!

    1. Kelly O*

      See, I sometimes feel like with plus-sized clothing you have two options – Grandma Goes to Town or In Da Club. It’s either shlumpy t-shirts and shapeless bottoms or sleeveless short dresses that a size two might hesitate to wear.

      And seriously whoever decided that empire waists and flutter sleeves were “must-haves” for plus sizes needs his or her head examined. I look seriously pregnant in half that stuff.

      1. AshRad*

        +1! on the empire waists. I’m very tall for a woman (5’10) and used to be rail thin (about 135 lbs) a few years ago, but have since gained a lot of weight. Im having a ton of trouble switching between being the perfect size for everything to plus sized, especially in professional clothing. And since my frame is still really thin, I put on an empire waisted-shirt and BAM – Im pregnant.

        PSA – if you THINK a woman is pregnant, do not ask her when she is due. Even if she IS pregnant, its none of your business.

        1. Sandrine*

          I am shaped bizarrely so I have to admit I LOVE the “pregnant” look XD … at least, it’s a nice shape XD .

          Besides, despite being very large, my boobies still tend to distract from my huge tummy, so while I try to cover said boobs as often as possible, I do not hesitate to put the emphasis on them every so often (not too much though, because there’s a fine line between decency and OMG LOOK AT THOSE BOOBS) .

          I don’t get makeup though. I’ve tried the “cheapo” makeup. I’ve tried some Sephora makeup. I’ve looked up tutorials online. And I still don’t get it, my hands are too shaky for eyeliner and it’s huge huge mess. Now I have my eyes on MAC makeup but I wonder if it’s worth it… GAAAAAAAH XD !

          1. CJ*

            Off-topic, but have you tried a fat eyeshadow pencil like Nars? I love them; two swipes over each eyelid, some mascara, and you’re done. They’re much easier to use than teeny eyeliner pencils.

          2. Kelly O*

            The MAC counter is good at helping you learn to put their stuff on, but they can be… *ahem* heavy-handed sometimes.

            The Clinique counter can be a good place, because they do quite a bit of helping girls with their first makeup and skin care, and the hand is a bit lighter, I’ve found. I’m biased toward Lancome but I worked that counter in college. If you go to Sephora (or even Ulta) and explain you just need help learning how to do something they are pretty good about helping you. Just explain you want a lighter look (read: no Kardashian Eyes.)

            (Helpful hint with the liner – make yourself into a tripod. Prop one arm on the counter, use your other hand for balance, and take your time. I did that until I got better with liner and now I can, pardon the pun, do it with my eyes closed.)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Also, very lightly tugging your eyelid toward the side of your face will help you magically make a straighter line. I just figured this out a few weeks ago.

              1. jmkenrick*

                Ha. I just pictured you putting on eyeliner in front of a mirror, having this Eureka! moment.

              2. Kelly O*

                A bit of useless trivia here – I’ve heard other people at cosmetic counters tell you not to do this, because it “can cause wrinkles” and I’ve heard it said at optometrists’ offices because it’s “not good for your eye” – if you can show me a better way to get a straight line with eyeliner and not wind up looking like a three year old on a trampoline applied it, I would LOVE to hear it.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Damn, I figured that might be the case! But I spend so much time tugging at my eyes to get contacts in and out that I’m probably already destined for tons of wrinkles.

            2. Lesa*

              And another helpful eyeliner hint, follow Allison’s tip on holding the outside edge of your eyelid and tugging a bit, then only line from outside corner to halfway in, then stop the liner and start again at that same halfway point and line the rest of the lid from center to the inner corner. That way you are not tugging all the way across your eye with one swipe. Also, this works best with a soft pencil, although it also works with liquid or gel.

            3. Ellie H.*

              This is just a personal aesthetic preference, but I don’t like eyeliner that goes all the way across. I think you should only line the outer (furthest from your nose) corners on top and bottom. This makes your eyes look bigger, and I feel like it often doesn’t even “read” as your wearing eyeliner like this. I think doing it all the way across makes your eyes look smaller. I actually stopped doing eyeliner at all because I feel like if you only do mascara, it looks much more like you’re not even wearing makeup.

          3. A Bug!*

            I’ve started using powder eyeliner and an eyeliner brush. With it, you’re able to just kind of dab the eyeliner between the lashes from the underside. It ends up making your lashes look a great deal fuller without looking obviously made-up, and since it’s a dab-dab-dab motion it doesn’t rely on a consistently-steady hand.

            Kelly O’s advice re: making a tripod is also sound advice, regardless of what liner you’re using; I’m basically incompetent freehand.

          4. Cassie*

            Some cosmetic companies make cake eyeliner, or you can use black or dark brown eyeshadow, to line your eyes. Well, swipe your eyelid really close to your eyelashes.

          5. K.*

            Get yourself an eyeliner brush (ask at any dept. store makeup counter if you don’t know what one looks like; it’s a teeny paintbrush-looking thing with slanted bristles) and use the gel eyeliner that comes in little pots. I suck at using pencil, so this pot/brush thing was a revelation – one stroke and I have a perfect line. Plus it stays put better than pencil liner. In my opinion, makeup tools are just as important as the makeup itself.

        2. Kimberlee*

          THIS. I have been asked if I was pregnant, or referred to as pregnant, a few times in my life. Don’t do it! It’s awkward for me, and the times I corrected the person saying it (like when they ask for a due date, I’m not gonna make one up), it’s SUPER awkward for them too. Figure out better small talk!

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I’ve been asked if I’m pregnant, and whenever it happens I correct the offender and revel in the fact that they are uncomfortable. I completely relish it. Shame on them for making the assumption.

      2. Lisa M*

        You might like the blog ‘FatChic’ — useful, realistic, and NOT crawling with advertisements.

    2. Nikki*

      +1 for dressing awkwardly. But since I started this job a few years ago, I feel less out of place as some dress a bit nicer and others are very business casual, my awkwardness is less noticeable.

      +1 on the makeup too! I just gave up. This is my face, it’s a nice face with nice skin. If I attempt any improvement, I will look (and feel) kinda off.

  11. Amber*

    One of our VP’s, a few months back, needed to hire some part time student (or just-barely-out-of-college) workers, to make and schedule sales calls for him, and help him with following up on leads and other sales assistant tasks. He went to a local college’s job fair, and got some resumes and scheduled a couple of interviews. Two people came in for those interviews; one male, one female. The male wore slacks, appropriate shoes, and a button down shirt. The female wore a spaghetti strap tank top, a sequined mini skirt, and Toms (those earthy crunchy hippy canvas shoes, for anyone not familiar with them) Both of them were offered, and accepted, jobs. But only one of them still works here.

    Sequin girl quit only a month in. Shallow as it seems, I think no one ever really got over the first impression of her. The majority of the office saw her interview outfit, since the conference rooms are glass walled/doored, and there was just this level of discomfort and “why did she get hired?” questioning because it was just so blatantly weird and inappropriate, what she had worn. Our office is pretty casual about dress (t-shirts, jeans, and even flip flops are common around here, and lots of us have visible tattoos), but I guess it was always kind of held against her that she didn’t even try, for her interview, to step it up a notch.

  12. Blinx*

    Only interview faux pas I’ve observed was a woman who wore a nice skirt with a tank top. It just looked like too much skin. If she had thrown a jacket on, she would have been perfect. Nowadays, it seems like bare arms are standard for summer months in the office, but it just seemed too casual for the interview.

    The only time people at my old job would throw caution to the wind for daily attire was if one of the major sports teams was in a championship series. All of a sudden, people would show up in jerseys, sweatshirts, etc. Still looked sloppy.

    The thing I don’t like about flip flops is the sound that they make in the office. It doesn’t matter if they are cheap ones from the dollar store or expensive leather flip flops, they still sound like you’re at the beach!

    1. Emily*

      When I worked at a grocery store I used to explain our dress code as “Toes and armpits must always be covered.” It’s particularly important in grocery because those are two body parts which you don’t want associated with your food, but I think it’s a pretty good rule in dressing for work of any kind.

      1. Blinx*

        Ha ha! I’ve heard the “no open toe shoes” rule before, but the armpit one really gets the point home! Thanks.

  13. Lizzie B*


    I was hoping the OP would ask you if there’s anything she can/should say to this new employee on her first day, to help her out with figuring out good office attire/makeup.
    Could you address this?
    I agree with a lot of the commenters here that a lot of people just don’t KNOW what’s appropriate for the office. As a manager, talking to people critically about their appearance can be so uncomfortable (even moreso for a male manager and female staff). On the other hand, in the long run, this woman might really appreciate getting some pointers in the right direction, rather than gradually figuring it out, and making bad impressions along the way.

    1. Amber*

      For the OP- if/when you do speak to the employee about her dress, please do it at the end of the day! (And, goes without saying, of course, but not in front of anyone else either!)

      When I was much younger, and working for a bank, I had a manager once complain to me about an outfit she felt was inappropriate, by saying loudly “what’s wrong with you, why don’t you understand the difference between club clothes and work clothes?” I had never before had any complaints or comments made about what I wore to work, but she chose to address it publicly, and in the middle of the work day when she knew I lived too far away to go home and change on my lunch break. It was one of the most nerve wracking, self conscious days of my life, because for the entire rest of the day, I felt like everyone was staring at me and judging me and there was nothing I could do to fix it but work through my shift and duck out with my tail between my legs at the end of the day.

  14. Naama*

    One time I had to hold a slit in my skirt together with alligator clips. It was an adventure.

  15. Anonymous*

    I have a few lace blouses that sare kind of see-through, but I wear a tank underneath. I sometimes feel it is inappropriate to wear around a casual work environment being that it is semi-see through; however, the lace blouse isn’t slutty or ripped-up in any way. It’s actually a pretty lace flowerly blouse. Would lace blouses be inappropriate?

    1. Long Time Admin*

      It would totally be appropriate with a tank top or camisole underneath, and a jacket. However, if only the sleeves are see-through, you could skip the jacket.

  16. g*

    I’m kind of surprised nobody’s said anything yet about how it’s ridiculous that a woman would be discounted as a candidate just because she’s wearing lots of eye makeup.

    Can the OP tell us what industry this is in? This seems just as sexist as workplaces where women are required to wear makeup and pantyhose, honestly.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t see any sexism here. It’s about how you choose to present yourself. It’s no more sexist than not hiring someone because they’re wearing sweatpants or have an unkempt appearance.

      1. kbeers0su*

        I would agree with AAM (also as a woman). I do think it’s about representing your best self, but it’s also about being conscious of the fact that you represent your employer and/or your industry. There are certainly standards for men in some industries, as well- think about facial hair, visible piercings (even earrings), hair styles, etc.

      2. Anon*

        I don’t know that I necessarily find it sexist, but I do find it uncomfortable because it can be so subjective. I have cousins whose parent’s religous beliefs exclude makeup and to them, just about any level of eye makeup is “too much”. Falsies seems to be going a bit far, but maybe this woman has a medical condition that caused her eyelashes to fall out and this is how she makes up for it?

        What I do find sexist is simply the whole question of whether a woman should wear makeup to appear professional. I have internalized this expectation because if I am dressing up and wearing jewelry, then I feel unfinished if I don’t also wear makeup. Luckily, I work at a place with a VERY casual dress code. I don’t have great skin (ugh), but I rarely wear makeup. I know if I wore it more I would notice it less, but the feel is very uncomfortable to me. Plus, I tend to be very warm-blooded so in the summer, I can literally sweat the makeup right off. Super disgusting. But, I know there are people out there who are judging me for not wearing it, who think I don’t care about my appearance because I don’t wear makeup. I just want to slap them in the face (metaphorically) and try to wake them to the fact that we don’t all have to be the same and “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
        than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

        The makeup thing, in particular, bothers me. Also, lately, there has been a lot of fashion talk around my office. Making fun of people for ill-fitting clothes or personal style choices. It irks me. It doesn’t affect our business and productivity, but because one person made an effort this year to dress better for personal improvement now we all get the benefit of their opinion.

      3. moe*

        I think there’s certainly a much higher standard, and a lot more pitfalls, for how women present themselves. I wouldn’t call it sexism per se, but definitely a reflection of a sexist culture which has a very narrowly defined scope of acceptable appearance, sexual behavior and signals that women are “allowed” to use.

        You don’t see nearly the same amount of angst over middle-aged men with poorly fitted shirts that show off their bellies, or bad toupees, or nose hair. And IME at least, you see a lot more variations in what is “allowed” in various workplace cultures for women. Men can, for the most part, just toss on a shirt and slacks and be done with it. (The only real question of import is, tie or no?) In one setting, a woman might be considered mannish for not wearing enough makeup, skirts or heels; in another, it would be considered too forward/sexy to do this.

        It is definitely different and harder for women, IMO.

        1. Ellie H.*

          I agree. It seems much harder for women to not be “distracting” than men, and there is much more room for speculation and judgment about the propriety of what women wear to work (although the examples of inappropriate male dress elsewhere in these comments are definitely legitimate). It does seem unfair to me.

          1. fposte*

            Mind you, some of that comes from people who know it allows them to sell things to women. Where there’s a market…

    2. Ellie H.*

      This was sort of my first reaction. I think that there are people who wear a lot of makeup who don’t necessarily look like hookers, even if you or I find it unaesthetic. Yes, it is a problem when the level of makeup (or any detail of appearance) is distracting. But, I guess I feel like it would be unfortunate if she was the best candidate in all other ways but they decided not to hire her because of this. You can always try and get the makeup off the employee but it would be harder to shove better performance into a worse candidate. I really wouldn’t call it sexist, because there are plenty of women who don’t wear makeup. But it seems a little petty to me to be hung up on this.

    3. SA*

      I also had this reaction. I know that appearance is extremely important, and it’s naive to think that it wouldn’t affect someone’s impression of you, especially in a job interview. But there’s a big difference between wearing an inappropriately short skirt and showing a lot of cleavage or showing your midriff in an interview and just “wearing too much eye makeup,” which is much more subjective. There is evidence that wearing makeup at work is good for women’s careers (see NY Times link below). It could be easy to go a little overboard, and something about a couple of men complaining about a woman wearing too much eye makeup (and how that affects their professional opinion of her) that rubs me the wrong way. I’m assuming the higher ups were men, because she said “the men asked if her eyelashes were false”, which I really can’t believe they asked anyway!

      Anyway, here’s the NY Times link about the study that says makeup makes women appear more competent at work: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/fashion/makeup-makes-women-appear-more-competent-study.html

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m going to take the OP’s word for it that the makeup was over-the-top, particularly since men asked about it. In my experience, men tend not to notice or remark on makeup unless it’s pretty unusual….

      2. I wish I could say . . .*

        Where I work there is a woman who is very high up in the organization; she wears no make-up and does nothing to style her hair. (Don’t even get me started w/her wardrobe . . . stocking-toe hose w/granny sandals and outdated pastel pant suits – need I say more?) I find it very hard to take her seriously. She looks like she just hopped out of the shower and made her way to work. (Yes, she has meetings with wet hair!) I really wish that someone would take her aside (as she is likely to soon be promoted yet again . . .) and coach her on how to appear more professional. It’s embarrassing to me that she represents our employer.

    4. Anonymous*

      The UK is really heavily into fake lashes at the moment. And tans…
      I’ve noticed a real thing for young women (late teens / early twenties) to accessorise these with extra mascara (nice and clumpy) and liquid eye liner that looks like it’s the 3rd reaplication in a row without washing it off. And I think it looks worse than it sounds. However, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t great at what they do, just that they didn’t serve an apprenticeship as a Goth to learn to get that eyeliner on right….

      1. Anon in the UK*

        Much of the UK is mysteriously into fake tan. I had an appointment today with a recruiter who was orange. Orange!

  17. Frances*

    We had an intern who wore baggy, torn-up hippie clothes to a business casual office. There were a lot of “creatives” working there in styley, fun outfits, so maybe he thought it was anything goes. It wasn’t.

    But we never had the chance to tell him to clean it up because he was fired for offering the CFO a pot truffle in the bathroom one day.

    I am not making this up.

    1. Amber*

      That has got to be one of the funnier stories I’ve read on here. Some people just know how to win at life, huh?

  18. Anonymous*

    Funnily enough today I went back to the place I used to work at (to pick up a few cheques). I arrived to the office when they were doing interviews and there were two women waiting to be interviewed. One of them was wearing a mini-skirt and black tights, the other was wearing khaki capris… When I interviewed for the same position I wore a pantsuit. *sigh*

  19. Meaghan*

    What about all the men wearing hideous baggy suits that look like they borrowed them from their dads? They look like sweatsuits made of (usually) cheap wool.

    1. Anonymous*

      When you’re broke and it’s your first job, you pretty much muster what you can get.

      1. LSG*


        There’s a huge difference between “wearing something completely inappropriate because you just don’t care” and “wearing something made of a (GASP) cheap fabric.” Let’s have some compassion.

    2. Sophie*

      …..you wear wool to interviews? As a Texas resident I would never do such a thing! :)

      Which brings up the question, how do you dress for summer interviews? When it’s 110 degrees outside and no amount of AC in your car will prevent you from arriving with sweat stains and a red face?

      1. K.*

        Women have it easier in this regard – I always feel sorry for men who have to wear suits in the summer. (I hate summer.)

        I have a couple of dresses that work with jackets over them, and sleeveless shells and skirts with jackets work too – like someone upthread said, she saw someone in a skirt and tank top that would have been fine had she just worn a jacket. You can leave the jacket off until the last minute to stay cool. You can also make a point to arrive a few minutes early, use the restroom, and put yourself together. I think when it’s 100+ degrees, people sort of get that things might be a little … rumpled.

  20. SCW*

    We had an internal candidate wear a ratty slouchy hat to an interview when the very particular dress code where we work specifically forbids hats. Everyone has to sign the dress code, so she knew hats were a no-no to wear to work, so why did she think they would be ok in an interview?!

  21. Prague*

    On a recruiting trip at a college, my coworker and I gave a spiel on our company the night before doing interviews. We didn’t expect people to wear suits, just avoid being sloppy. What stood out, though was the guy in the front row who sat there the ENTIRE 40 minutes scratching his crotch through his sweatpants. Yeah, we definitely remembered him the next day, and declined to shake hands. I wish I was kidding.

    Lots of excellent stories from that trip – the girl who obviously thought she’d signed up to interview with my male coworker had a shirt so tight I thought she was going to send buttons flying in my direction. Another wore just a fancy t-shirt without a jacket (I’m an alum, so I know they send out a “this is what to wear/avoid” guide, and I know a jacket’s on the list). One guy apparently worked nights at a pizza delivery place and showed up in his uniform, covered in stains.

    As for me, I once trekked through two feet of snow to an interview, wearing a skirt suit and Doc Marten knee high boots, carrying pumps in my hand. I made sure I was half an hour early so I’d have time to change shoes. Turned out, the interviewer’s previous two candidates hadn’t shown. Oops. I got an offer, though.

    1. KayDay*

      I think if I were your interviewer, I would be MORE worried if you had trekked through the snow in your pumps than if you wore boots and carried your pumps….

    2. Anonymous*

      Everyone in my office teases me because I always wear knee-high wellies and change into work shoes at work when it’s raining. (When you take public transit, looking cool is a lot less important then being warm and dry)

      As a sidenote on this: I like to wear flats at work (I have problems with my feet, so heels are special occassion only) and I find flats last wayyyyy longer if they’re only worn in the office and not outside.

      I’m sure many women can sympathize with paying $50-$100 for a nice pair of flats just to have the back rip and wear down in a couple weeks.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I do the same thing. Actually, I keep my work shoes at work, hidden from others of course. I wear my sneakers to and from work. I have big feet so I have to pay a lot for nice shoes. I don’t want them ruined within a few months. They last much longer this way.

      2. Yuu*

        Really? Wellies are really trendy right now where I am. Maybe they need to get with the program.

  22. Ellie H.*

    For the interview for my first real job, which wasn’t really an interview so much as a “Hi, nice to meet you, here is when you should come in for training” I wore pink fishnet stockings, a knee-length denim skirt and a nice blouse (I think it was floral or something). I was about to turn 17. I am totally embarrassed that I wore these stockings, but my mom thought it was probably OK and I was definitely dressed in line with how employees dressed (at an independent bookstore). It was a more casual time of hiring/management there though so I would never do that today at the same workplace.

    I did get asked to dress less casually at a performance review, when I was almost 19. I used to wear shorts and t-shirts to work sometimes (like my Senior Women HS t-shirt with nickname on it, drawstring shorts, etc.) in the summer and clearly this was not acceptable, though wearing jeans and t-shirts is still considered OK. I am still totally embarrassed about this and I always worry about what I wear to work now!

    1. ells*

      Way back in the first semester of my college internship at a large engineering firm, I one day wore horizontally-striped red and black tights, a black miniskirt, tight red t-shirt, and red-lensed sunglasses. Indoors. I literally hang my head in shame at the memory.

      But nobody said anything about it to my face! My beyond-clueless 18-year-old self would have seriously benefited from a tactful lesson in professionalism. Please: think of the children.

      1. Liz*

        I once wore argyle tights under corduroy shorts to my college internship in a development office. Argyle. Tights.

        The shame still burns.

        1. Kelly O*

          I may have had some argyle tights too. I may have worn them with a corduroy skirt.

          I may still have issues with being magnetically drawn to argyle patterns. My husband says I was a Scottish lord in a past life or something, as that is the only excuse for my argyle/plaid issues.

          1. MeganO*

            +1. I also will admit to having an argyle and plaid issue…I kind of want argyle tights now. Apparently I cannot be trained :)

  23. fposte*

    And now I am reminded of Kerry’s excessively revealing interviewee:

    For those who haven’t read the entire hilarious series of her misadventures in hiring, it’s here:

      1. Anon.*

        omg – coffee all over my keyboard! you’d think i’d have learned to protect it by now when you suggest a link on a topic like this!

        awesome response by kerry!

  24. Anonymous*

    I actually had a candidate come into an interview for a maintenance position wearing ripped jeans and a dirty shirt. He started out the interview by explaining that his daughter had just taken an interview prep seminar where they were told that wearing dressy clothes to an interview is no longer needed and jeans are totally appropriate for an interview, especially for a maintenance position.

    For other reasons he wasn’t offered the job, but the hiring manager and myself both wanted to find out what seminar his daughter went to so we could go straighten out the teacher that no matter the position, at least put on a nice pair of pants and a clean shirt.

  25. Charles (the REAL Jersey Shore)*

    . . . because you look Jersey Shore.”

    Crap, some folks give ALL of us from Jersey a bad name – The rest of us normal Jersey folks just can’t win!

    psst, for what it’s worth – Snooki and “The Situation” are both from New York.

  26. mbm*

    I once saw a candidate give a one hour interview seminar wearing a blazer over a sequined cocktail dress.

  27. Seal*

    One woman our company interviewed came in wearing an otherwise appropriate skirt and top with open-toed Birkenstock sandals, no socks. It was December and the temperature was in the mid-teens; fortunately for her there was no snow. All I could think to ask her was “aren’t your toes cold?”. Obviously I didn’t actually ask her that, but I really wanted to!

    I certainly understand not wanting or being able to wear heels, particularly for a day-long interview that involves a lot of walking. But surely this woman could have worn ballet flats or even loafers rather than casual sandals, particularly in the dead of winter.

    Needless to say, she didn’t get the job.

    Another woman we interviewed for a middle-management position came in wearing camouflage cargo pants with a studded belt, a huge amount of tacky/unusual jewelry and black nail polish. Our industry is fairly conservative, dress-wise, particularly as you move up the ladder; business suits for men and women are the norm for interviews. Her resume and references were particularly impressive, so no one could figure out what was going on with her. Needless to say, she didn’t get the job either.

    1. Seal*

      Yet another clothes-related horror story. In graduate school one of the requirements for our capstone project presentation was to wear “business attire”. Despite the fact that our faculty adviser told us explicitly that meant everyone – men and women – were expected to wear business suits, one woman in our group showed up in a flowered A-line skirt and matching sweater set with open-toed pumps. She looked ridiculously out of place and I believe got marked down for not following instructions.

      1. Victoria*

        This is a totally perfect example of the problem of people not knowing the difference between dressing for work and dressing up. She obviously stepped up her dress for this occasion… just not in the right direction.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      As the receptionist at Exjob, I was sometimes asked my impression of candidates who filled out applications. The ones that were polite and wore crisp, neat outfits (even if it wasn’t a suit) always got a little sticky note: “Very nice, nicely dressed,” etc. Others showed up in shorts, flip flops, or other raggedy attire.

      I understand if they were stopping by from another job to fill out an app, but I try to dress as though I expect to be interviewed at THAT MOMENT. It has happened. Not a big deal for a shop position, but an office position? Hmm.

  28. Kimberlee*

    There is one thing I’m wondering about here, so to play devil’s advocate…. there were a couple times in these comments that people are baffled because the subjects of their stories actually got hired. I want to talk about that… the girl who wore fishnets to court, for instance. Yeah, I understand how conservative law is, so maybe it was a bad call, but since she was a junior lawyer or even an assistant, I find it interesting that nobody made her change. I mean, it’s telling that she wore them IN COURT, that her superiors didn’t tell her to take them off in the bathroom… takes like 15 seconds. Same with the girl in the miniskirt that got hired. She made an awful first impression and still totally got the job. Perhaps there is truly a point where merit becomes the deciding factor in how people treat you?

    I have the priviledge to work at a fairly laid-back place (clothing-wise, that is), but I know I get away with wearing things that others wouldn’t try. False eyelashes are a bit far, but I love bold makeup and, frankly, consider it a significant benefit to my place of employment that I’m allowed to dress how I would like, and wear what makeup I like. If I were to interview for another job, hells yes, I would wear makeup and clothes representative of how I dress every day, because I want to be honest about who I am in an interview.

    I understand that not everyone will go for that, and that if I weren’t so favourably employed I wouldn’t necessarily have the same attitude. But I’ve gotten offers, or been praised as an exceptional candidate whose info they’ll be passing on to other branches, wearing open-toe 5 inch wedges and bright purple shimmer eyeshadow. You CAN work at places that will let you be yourself, but you have to earn it that much more.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I work at a place where I don’t think anybody’d ever say anything to me no matter how I dress, and I like that, even though I rarely dress really casually. However, I’m going to resist the “being yourself” phrase a little because of bad associations; I think a practice we’re familiar with and comfortable with isn’t the same thing as a true self, and that some people use that phrase as a way to say “I don’t change and I don’t try.” (The people doing the stuff that makes people complain about them to AAM are generally the first to say that they’re just being themselves and that it’s up to other people to deal with that.)

      So not really about you, and nothing that I know of you suggests that you’re this kind of person, but it’s a phrase that hit a nerve.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Agreed. “Being yourself” doesn’t always have a place at the office — obviously, to a certain extent it does, but having a job usually means conforming in some way to norms on dress, presentation, behaviors, etc.

    2. Amber*

      Same Amber from the sequin miniskirt post.

      Honestly, in my story, it wasn’t that she owned or wore that outfit in general- it was that she chose that to wear *to the interview*. And being as how the VP she was hired by was young and male, and she was attractive and inappropriately dressed and got hired, the impression just stuck that he had only hired her because she was attractive and that’s what he was looking for. Is it fair? Absolutely not, and I can admit that maybe as a whole, we were all guilty of being jerks and maybe making assumptions that later influenced how she felt about being here, and made her feel like this wasn’t the place for her.

      My office actually isn’t conservative at all, about dress, or personal decorations for your space, or any of that. It’s a regular fashion show around here- on any given day, you can see bright makeup, sequined shirts, high heels, visible tattoos and piercings, tastefully ripped designer jeans, flip flops, slouchy hats, and short skirts. Both men and women dress with some personal flair. If she’d worn something relatively conservative for the interview and first couple of days, and then maybe showed up in that same exact outfit on her first Friday here- I don’t think anyone would have batted an eye.

      Myself, I’m the person whose idea of decoration is Hello Kitty all over my cube, and I’m a fan of sky high wedge heel shoes, shimmery purple eyeshadow, and leopard print everything. However- when I interviewed for this job, I left the majority of that at home (I am pretty sure I wore shimmery purple eyeshadow because that’s kind of my go-to makeup color and I don’t leave the house without makeup, but that’s another story.) I wore a conservative outfit, slacks and a sweater set, and mid-heel closed-toe pumps, because the temp agency had said that this was a casual environment (and we’re in California) but I still wanted to make sure I looked like I was trying. And again, that’s the point of my post- there are hoops you jump through when you are trying to get a job, and dressing appropriately and well for your interview is just one of them. All of us who wear fun and interesting clothes and makeup and have tattoos and piercings, didn’t come in on day one with all of that just out there for the world to see. We jumped through the hoop of conservative dressing for the interview and first week or two, figuring out our place in the office and the culture, and then started to let the freak flag fly.

      1. ms*

        Very well put. People in my office dress all over the map to an extreme degree — from the engineer types wearing polar fleece and those Vibram toe shoe things, to my boss who has pink hair, tattoos and sequined leggings. Because my boss dresses kind of crazy I have totally felt comfortable pushing the envelope on my own office wardrobe (I am in trouble if/when I move companies), but you can bet I wore a suit when I interviewed and didn’t show up on day one wearing lace tights and my booties with the four inch wedges!

        1. Andrea*

          I admit I have worn my Vibrams with a suit. Got a few questions from the Engineers in my office, but no issues. The Engineer who wore flip-flops, on the other hand, was talked to and asked to not wear them again.

  29. Antony*

    As an HR Advisor in Australia, I’m increasingly having to sit with management telling young female staff ‘Tops up, Skirts down…NOT the other way around.

  30. EngineerGirl*

    I had one well endowed woman that worked for me show up with a spaghetti strap cami with a sports bra OVER it. No jacket. We sent her home (we’re a conservative engineering company). A few weeks later she showed up in a sari, complete with little tinkling bells. She is Vietnamese, not Indian. She also used to line up several pairs of shoes against the cubicle wall – a Dilbert-esque Imelda Marcos. I kind of liked the jeweled harem slippers.

  31. Cube NInja*

    My most recent favorite is the new hire who wore perfectly acceptable business casual for her first couple weeks in the office except for the Crocs.

    2nd hand interview story, though – a good friend of mine had someone show up to an interview looking otherwise professional. After receiving confirmation that the company is fairly laid back about piercings, this fine gentleman pulled his jewelry out of a pocket and replaced it (nose ring included) in front of his two interviewers.

  32. KK*

    These stories all make me feel better – I once went to an interview at 4pm Oct 31 wearing black nail polish (it was part of my costume) and I fretted about that!

  33. littlemoose*

    I’m very fortunate to work in an office with a casual dress code. But one Friday, I saw a coworker wearing white sweatpants, a yellow shirt, and a yellow hat. I mean, it all matched, but seriously, sweatpants? Nothing about sweatpants say “I’m here to work.”

  34. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

    Daisy Duke shorts of course. (Not on me. Heavens no, even my swimming suit has a skirt on it.) It was for a warehouse position, but the manager and I were so shocked the interview was much shorter than normal.

    1. Elizabeth West*


      Okay, that is not a good interview look. Although I’ve had people show up in shorts to fill out apps (for manufacturing work). They at least wore something decent to the interview!

  35. Another Brit*

    A guy in his twenties turned up with huge unkempt dreads… to a financial brokerage.

    1. Marie*

      Interestingly, in my country (in Africa) it is perfectly acceptable for a candidate to have dreadlocks, as long as they are neat. In practice, black candidates know how to keep them neat and white candidates look totally unprofessional with dreadlocks.

      In my law firm, all the men wear black suits, but a few of the women do wear heavy makeup and hooker heels. It seems unusual, but not a career-killer (though I err on the side of caution and stick to grey pants, white shirt, low heel in neutral colour for all my professional engagements. I’m the first lawyer in a family full of art teachers, and since I don’t really know where the “line” is, I’d rather keep well clear of it).

      I did once come in to work over the weekend and find one of the younger partners dressed like a rapper: oversize everything, complete with sideways gold cap!

      1. LSG*

        Yeah, I think dreads are a perfectly reasonable, professional hair style if they are neat. I don’t know the circumstances of Another Brit’s story, but dreads being considered unprofessional (and often “dirty”, without evidence) is often tinged with racism, where everyone is expected to have straight/wavy/”white” hair.

        1. Marie*

          I hate hate hate it when my black friends straighten their hair or get a weave. Aside from the cancer risks of frequent straightening, it just makes me think of the awful fiance in “Coming to America” :p

          1. Nichole*

            I’m biracial and have naturally curly black hair (think Rae Dawn Chong). While everyone thinks it’s very pretty when I wear it in curls rather than straightening, it requires a ton of work. My hair gets dry and brittle if I wash it daily, but if I don’t wet it in the morning or load up with tons of product, my curls look messy and frizzy. With straightened hair I don’t have to wash daily and it requires less prep time and damaging styling products (though it does require more heat). I only chemically straighten about once a year, so I’m no more worried about cancer than someone who occassionally gets a sunburn should be. Some black women take it to extremes, but in general, black hair is hard to care for in ways that people who don’t have it don’t think of, and it’s kind of frustrating to watch arguments and discussions all over the internet about how straightened hair=not loving your sistahood and how cute natural hair is. *You* deal with it, then. Plus, I like my hair straight. I also like nail polish, schwarama, and the color pink. It’s a preference. Nothing personal, Marie, but please cut your friends a break.

            1. Josh S*

              [goes to the local Palestinian restaurant for lunch]
              [spends $10 eating out that he probably shouldn’t]
              [doesn’t care]

        2. Another Brit*

          Yes, and if they’d been neat – no matter what the race – no problem. However these weren’t and really looked like he’d walked through a hedge backwards several times. It wasn’t windy outside or anything like that.

  36. Charlie*

    I used to work at a high end retail store, where I wore a suit. One time, I got out of my car in the morning and ripped open the slit of my skirt halfway up my butt… I had to run to the stock room and staple it back together and hope that it would hold for the day! Also, we had a candidate show up wearing a singlet top, 3/4 leggings and leopard print platform shoes. She also bought a latte and a muffin in to the interview with her and ate her breakfast whilst interviewing!

    1. Karen*

      What’s a “singlet”? I’ve heard that term before in a book set in Australia, but don’t actually know what it is. Is that an Australian term?

      1. Ellie H.*

        I think it’s like a leotard. I mostly see the word used to describe the uniform worn by wrestlers.

      2. Suz*

        We have them in the US too. It’s a tank top with the bra built in so you don’t have to worry about bra straps showing.

      3. just another hiring manager...*

        Just got back from vacation in Australia, where I discovered a singlet is like a camisole or tank top!

  37. Kelly O*

    Y’all should seriously be Fly on the Wall at my present employer. We are a specialty retailer (small-ish and growing) but the array of clothes you’ll see on a daily basis is astounding. Everything from men in starched shirts and jeans (with blinged belts and stingray boots) to the co-worker who wears t-shirts with matching knit capri pants and black orthopedic shoes with white socks year-round. I thought our new receptionist had on shorts one day – turns out it was just knit capri pants that rode up when she sat down.

    I don’t dress in our particular style, so I stick with businessy-casual. And I know I’m not a fashion plate or model, but seriously I want to explain how sizes work sometimes. It feels like we go from the people who really need to go up one (no one is going to know what’s on the inside but you, seriously) and the people who need to come down one (hiding behind miles of fabric is not giving the impression I think you think it does.)

    Sometimes I wish I could leave a copy of Tim Gunn’s book on random desks with a “read me” note and not hurt feelings.

    1. fposte*

      Your receptionist reminds me that I once had a long fitted knit jacket over a fitted silk skirt that originally fell just above the knees–and the knit eventually bunched the silk up so much it disappeared entirely under the jacket. And the jacket wasn’t *that* long. (I actually went home and changed in that case.)

  38. Scott Woode*

    I had to jump in here and just say that the one piece of advice I received about this topic was “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” It has been invaluable advice for me since coming back into the professional world from waiting tables. It applies to everything from the day-to-day, interviewing, etc. The only thing I would mention in addition to this gem is that one should look at the culture and what other people are wearing at work and use that as your barometer. Obviously, you don’t want to overdress and overstep, but taking it up a notch never really hurts anyone.

  39. Danielle*

    I have a friend who wears a lot of make-up (expertly applied!) because she’s extremely self-conscious about her appearance. She grew up very poor and was homeless at times, so she was the “dirty kid” and sometimes went days without washing. Once she was adopted in her teens, she started dressing like a Barbie on steroids because she never wanted to be known as a “dirty kid” again (in her mind). I knew her for over a year before I saw her bare-faced.

    You never know what type of insecurities a person has to make them dress a certain way. I’m not saying it excuses unprofessionalism or an inappropriate appearance, but I’m just saying…

    1. Kelly O*

      I will say that I know there are times I overcompensate because I don’t want to be ‘that fat, ugly (insert job title here.)’ I’m really self-conscious because I know I have more dental work to do, but it’s not getting done until I get better insurance or hit the lottery.

      And my brain understands that the way I look has no affect on the work I do, but I still tend to over think every look that lingers a bit, every side-eye, every comment that might have to do with appearance.

      I think if we’re being honest, there are a lot of women who have feelings of inadequacy in regard to the way they look. It’s not the intelligent woman’s perspective at all, but it’s the insecure teenager that resides in a lot of us, even if we’re faking her timely demise.

      1. Anonymous*

        Really agree. It can come from lots of things – I’m one of the very fair gingers, and after getting over being fat started focusing back on how I look. I look like I have no eyebrows or eyelashes – from a distance I just look like a boggle-eyed monster! So I fake them – reasonably understated, but still needs a bit of liner etc to even it out. I’d feel unprofessional and under-dressed at interview without it. I really steer away from make-up counter level foundation though!

    2. Liz*

      Yeah. I don’t like the smug tone some people take when they see someone who’s “doing it wrong,” even though I am still sometimes guilty of that same instinctive recoil when someone’s outfit or manner seems off. Thanks for the reminder to keep an open mind.

    3. Anonymouse*

      I could not agree with this more. If she was wearing false lashes, she was probably doing it because she was excited about the job and wanted to impress. False lashes are difficult to apply, uncomfortable, and run the risk of falling off.

      It’s sad that judgment about a person’s appearance (though I understand it’s the real world) would possibly scuttle her chances.

  40. Anonymous*

    I have a funny story from the opposite angle. I worked in a *very* casual art studio which was part of a large, fairly casual corporation. We’re talking everyone in jeans and t-shirts, posters up on the wall that were somewhat risque (but were modified by the artists to be jokes about some of our better known projects)–in short as far from “corporate” as you could imagine, even though we were technically still corporate.

    One day we had an intern show up for his first day in a suit and a tie. Everyone knew that he was just trying to make a good impression, so it wasn’t a big deal to any of us, but as luck would have it, that day we were hosting some major big-wigs from senior management. The president of our division was a tough-as-nails woman, and as the group strolled around our office, she approached the poor intern.

    “Hi, what’s your name?” she asked him.
    “Todd…” he said nervously.
    “Hi Todd. So, you’re wearing a tie?”
    “Yes…um…it’s my first day.”
    “And are you going to wear a tie again tomorrow?” (You could definitely tell she was laughing that he’d bother wearing a tie, bc even the senior managers were walking around tie-free)

  41. Long Time Admin*

    I’ve never had a problem with appropriate dress at work. When I started working (LONG ago), all offices were quite formal. I wear slacks all the time now, and I like the more relaxed dress codes.

    I once went to an interview wearing a skirt and blouse, hose, and dress shoes. I would have worn the suit jacket and carried my purse and portfolio, but I accidentally locked all that stuff in my car when I got out. (Totally humilating. I didn’t get the job, but after interviewing and checking the place out, I didn’t want the job.)

    The strangest dress code that I had to follow included steel toe shoes, safety glasses, long sleeves, and ear plugs, for every one every single time they walked out of the office. It was in the middle of the factory, and I had to walk past the re-melt furnace (the company made steel castings, so the metal had to be melted and poured into molds). Actually, the shoes were comfortable, but not office-ish or girlie at all.

    1. Anonymous*

      At my last job I had to balance my “office” clothes with being dressed appropriately for being out on a factory floor. (I never knew when I was going to get called out to check on our projects) I would be in meetings with all these women dressed with really cute sandals and I’d have to sit there with clunky safety shoes, lol!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Grr, I had to wear office clothes, but I handled messy dirty wood samples and often got really dusty. All my clothes are washable. (They’re starting to get old, too, but since I got laid off I can’t replace them yet.) It really bugged me that I had to wear nicer things, but ended up getting so dirty every day.

  42. Adam*

    Coming out of college, I owned grubbies and super-nice dress shirts and ties. My first day on the job at a company that was business casual (think “PGA tour”, with jeans only on Fridays), my boss’s boss’s boss said “Got to get rid of that tie.” Just a few days later, I was again wearing the tie, and he put me in a headlock and removed the tie. I didn’t feel assaulted, but it was extremely awkward!

    Eventually I stopped wearing ties and figured out how to fit in with the culture while still dressing sharply.

  43. Corey Feldman*

    For makeup and eyelashes I think that is a harder call then the other stuff. Maybe she has an acne problem and is embarrassed by it, personally I think most women wear too much makeup. But I could care less in an interview. How you dress, sure, makeup, I would be way more lax on.

  44. The recruiter.*

    I once had a teenage girl show up for an interview with a gold lame backless halter top. This was a position that worked with the public.

    Her shirt. Had no back. And was made. Of gold chains.

    Upon rejecting her, her father showed up at my office, screaming that he was going to sue me for discrimination. Our receptionist was horrified (this guy was literally losing his $h!t). I came out and asked him to calm down and that I’d be more than happy to chat with him but that was if and only if he lowered his voice. Once he was calm, he asked why she wasn’t hired, swearing it was because of her ethnicity. I asked him if he saw what she wore to the interview. He said her school uniform. I chuckled and let him know that she showed up in a low cut shirt that had no back. He didn’t believe me until our receptionist chimed in, “oh! I remember her!” I don’t even want to know what happened when he got home.

    1. JT*

      Teenagers often don’t know much. You could tell her what’s appropriate and it’s quite possible she’d change.

      That situation is very different than an older person who has had experience in the working world and remains clueless or doesn’t care about norms.

  45. shawn*

    I did a lot of interviewing in my last job for both professional and entry level positions. The candidates for the entry level positions frequently dressed pretty casually, which was fine because it’s a casual industry. These candidates were normally recent or soon to be college grads.

    The worst dressed girl I interviewed was showing crazy cleavage and had a HUGE tattoo across it. I’m talking about covering half of one boob, down into the cleav, and back up on to the other boob. She interviewed well and had the right background but was not selected solely for her appearance. The way she was dressed was clearly inappropriate for the industry I was in, for reasons that aren’t obvious from this post. If she didn’t have the judgment to realize that then she wasn’t a fit.

    The worst guy was absolutely hilarious. I thought I was being punked. Let me paint a picture: short red workout/running shorts, ratty white polo shirt with every button undone to expose massive chest hair, flip flops, and a black top hat with a purple feather in it. Yes, a top hat with a feather. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

  46. Heather*

    Others: At a conservative job, I had a coworker wear a hoodie and gloves “because she was cold”
    While substitute teaching, I had a fellow sub show up in a t-shirt that said “I don’t get headaches, I give them” on family day

    Self? I wore a tank (wide strap) with nice pants and Birks to my internship in college. Once-was told not to, and bam! Never did again.

  47. Christina*

    I guess I have a direct opposite reaction than most of the people here. I know friends who wear false eyelashes every day – it is a part of their makeup routine, and doesn’t look over the top. For some women in particular, doing a mild smoky eye and wearing falsies is routine. I’m not saying that there’s no difference between a smoky eye and club-appropriate makeup, I’m just saying that maybe wearing falsies and heavier (ish) eye makeup shouldn’t be an issue. I personally tone it down for interviews, but I also have friends that would feel horribly self-conscious without their falsies, mild smoky eye, and full face on (and it looks good on them!).

    For reference, I have almond eyes, which essentially means a smoky eye looks less intense on me than it would on someone with a bigger crease.

    1. fposte*

      I only notice the smoky eyes when they’re magazine-cover raccoony, so I’m sure I’m not including people who are doing it subtly.

      But again, I’m wary of that “they’d feel horribly self-conscious” thing–that’s not really that meaningful a statement, because most of us feel self-conscious when we’re doing something different with our appearance. It’s not a reason that a job should accept a presentation that isn’t appropriate for it, and somebody’s being used to their own makeup doesn’t mean that a job can’t consider it too heavy for its purpose. It’s not the job’s business to accommodate the preference of the applicant.

      1. Anon*

        No, but it also isn’t the job’s business to be an arbiter of fashion in ways that do not affect the job. A business can define their dress code any way they like and if the amount of makeup someone wears is important to them, then they should mention it there. Frankly, they should also give pictorial examples since “amount” of makeup is completely subjective. But there’s also a lot of jobs out there that don’t interact with the public or clients in any way, where people thump others for things that come down to personal style choices. Subjective things, not cases where a boob is literally falling out of a top or a hairy belly is exposed out the bottom of a shirt.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t know, I think I still don’t entirely agree with this, especially since we’re talking a job *applicant*. Negotiating the non-quantifiable challenges of culture is a key life skill, whether we’re talking about writing or dress or behavior, and people just being whoever they are will always affect the job, because that’s how human society works. An employer could put a picture and articulate an eyeshadow luminosity limit, or they could just hire people who operate the way they like from the get-go.

          1. Anon*

            “Negotiating the non-quantifiable challenges of culture is a key life skill..”

            But first you have to know what they are, and that is not always clear. For instance, the different cultural cues you find in the South (US) versus the North. If you’re not from that area, then you can very innocently make a misstep. Or like how one of my former coworkers took a lot of flak for heavily penciling her eyebrows (even though it doesn’t affect our job AT ALL). But her family is from Puerto Rico and she explained that penciling the eyebrows like that is not unusual in Puerto Rico.

            People like to act as if these things are universal and they are not. From the comments here and elsewhere it is not as common sense as you would think and not necessarily a lack of skill – perhaps companies need to post their dresscode/personal grooming expectations alongside their job openings.

            1. fposte*

              Virtually no job skills are common sense, though, and we judge people based on whether they’ve learned the ones we find desirable.

              Honestly, I do get what you’re saying, and I work mostly with young people, who really are just developing these skills. But a key lesson is to investigate the standards relevant to where you’re trying to succeed rather than assuming you already know them.

      2. Christina*

        Hmmm, maybe let me rephrase that to – they do it everyday, and after a while, your own face looks mighty strange without makeup on. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t just tough it out for an interview, but I think it’s more of an it wouldn’t really occur to them that it may be inappropriate. Personally, I think tasteful falsies are just fine. My lashes are sparse, and no matter where I go and/or am doing, my mascara is 3 coats. Doing simple falsies and a light coat would give me the same effect, so it’s probably just a judgment call on how much is “too much.”

  48. MaryTerry*

    I worked at an office which had business casual dress, except on Fridays, when everyone wore jeans & polo shirts. One day a guy came in with a loud-print shirt with a torn neck line. When someone made a comment, he was bewildered because it was “casual Friday”.

    Then there was a former coworker, who always wore a shirt and tie to work, no matter what. He took alot of flack for it, but didn’t feel properly dressed without the tie.

  49. Anonymous*

    I interviewed very last minute for my first summer job in University. I had been working for the department part-time and my supervisor from that position had recommended me for the full-time summer position.

    I was still living in residence and didn’t have time to treck to my parents house to get any of my nice clothes. I ended up having to buy pants that were about 3 inches too long (with heels) with no time to get them hemmed. After consulting with random floormates, a friend ended up stapling the hems while making a nice design with the staples.

    The two women interviewing me thought my pants were amazing and complimented them several times – they thought the design was fancy stitching. I got the job and worked for them for 3 years…I didn’t tell them until my last term with them that my interview pants had been held up by staples.

  50. Student*

    While entertaining stories of inappropriate interview outfits are fun, I have to second the OP. I’m a young woman applying for my first “real” job out of grad school. I’m frankly desperate for actual advice on how to dress for an interview. I already understand the “don’t dress like a tramp” concept. I want more in-depth advice on how to “dress appropriately.” Pictures of appropriate outfits and makeup would be deeply appreciated.

    I have no local role models to ask. There are very few women here, and the standard of dress at my current job is very casual. It is considered normal to wear clothes with holes, unbuttoned shirts, no shirts, nightclub outfits, outfits one would paint a house in, and outfits one would attend a rock concert in.

    I bought a suit jacket, some dress pants, and two full pants suits – one with a bright blue jacket, one in gray pinstripes. Is it horrible and unprofessional of me to avoid wearing a skirt? Is the bright blue jacket too flamboyant for any job interview, or could I use it for west coast jobs? Do I need to take the things to a tailor, or will people overlook it if they don’t fit perfectly? Am I supposed to wear cufflinks? What makeup IS appropriate at a job interview, since I hear the same bad things about no-makeup as I do about too-much-makeup? (Help! I don’t know anything about makeup at all!) And shoes! Is it okay to wear some lightly scuffed boy-like dress shoes, or do I have to wear something girly? What girly shoes are appropriate? I’d dearly love to not wear heels, but I haven’t got any idea of what a professional, no-heel girly shoe looks like. And what on earth am I supposed to do with my hair? Is a ponytail unprofessional, and if so, what IS professional?

    *deep breath* As you can see, I’d really love some more serious clothing guidance so I don’t make a fool of myself. Back to submitting job applications!

    1. Karen*

      I don’t work in HR, but I do work in a business casual environment at a media company on the East Coast and I just finished interviewing some candidates in our dept.

      I don’t think it’s unprofessional to avoid wearing a skirt, and I do think that dress pants and a jacket or dress pants and a nice sweater are probably fine for media-type companies with biz casual dress codes. For anything to do with money, though (finance, hedge fund, etc) I’d go full on suit.

      You don’t have to wear heels, but you do need professional shoes. Nice black leather flats would probably do just fine. Or shoes with a very small heel will work as well.

      Make up: someone in the comments suggested powder, lip gloss, and mascara and I second that. Hit Sephora, ask for some daytime powder/foundation, and go from there. Keep it simple if you aren’t familiar with the fancy stuff.

      Hair: clean, tidy. A ponytail is fine, IMO, so long as it’s neat looking.

    2. AnonMouse*

      YOU ARE ME. *squish* I want to hug you, and I kinda want to know the answers too.

      I hate feeling like I look unprofessional because I’m wearing my hair in a ponytail… but I just can’t stand hair in my face or distracting me! My stupid compromise probably looks childish, but… I pull the top part back in a tiny ponytail, and let the bottom half down free, then attack it with a clip (like this http://www.flexi8.com/ — you just bend it and stab it together, and it’s one piece and never falls apart!).

      I’m not the best person to ask, but as for shoes — I love love love Naturalizer. They always make super low key but good-enough looking flat/heels. They’re COMFY and not super expensive and don’t need any breaking in. I bought the Nayana style in black and brown (actually two pairs of each, lol, I hate buying new things… they stress me out — http://www.famousfootwear.com/shopping/productdetails.aspx?pg=1018281). Do some shopping around — they used to be $35-$50 at Famous Footwear, then I found them online + 20% off with ShoeStation.com. I also like Clarks, they’re a little more stylish sometimes, and also comfy. Børn, too, though they’re a little more expensive. Darn comfy.

      As for clothes — I guess it kinda depends on the industry, but I feel like a pair of dress pants (they don’t have to be super fancy or tailored necessarily) in black or grey with a button-up shirt has never let me down. I’m from California, and I’ve found my most reliable (and non-annoying, and washable) pants from Macy’s (about $40) and also in Arizona (from Dillard’s, same price). New York and Company has a little bit trendier stuff, but requires more washing and ironing… (Meh.)

      I’m rambling. If you’d like any other thoughts, let me know?

      1. Tax Nerd*


        Lots of good advice above. My dad died when I was young, and my mother ran a hospital lab. Her personal dress code was “hospital white and blood stains will wash out”. Not the most helpful role model for me to pursue a career in a traditional office environment, so I’ve had to pay a lot of attention to what others around me are wearing.

        When I started my career, most accountants were expected to wear suits, but it’s mostly loosened up to “business casual, but be ready to impress clients”, but with a lot of bumps along the way. (Once upon a time, The Gap wanted to make leather pants the new khakis – an office wardrobe staple. Imagine the horror of the fashion forward person who wore them to work one Friday at a large accouting firm. She ended up leaving work before lunch and not coming back the rest of the day, and the leather pants were never seen again.)

        If you’re in a conservative industry (finance, law, accounting), check out some of the archived discussions on Corporette.com. They have some great tips on what to wear under suit jackets (I learned that for women to skip button up shirts and substitute a shell or lightweight knit sweater was okay.)

        Let me try to answer some of your questions/echo some answers:

        – Pantsuit is probably fine. Any place that mandates women in skirts is probably best avoided unless you’re very comfortable with that, and it sounds like you might not be.
        – You need a tailor only if something very obviously doesn’t fit. If your pants or sleeve cuffs would be better if they were a 1/4″ shorter, I probably wouldn’t stress about it too much. If they need to be 4″ shorter, that’s something else. Something a notch too big is probably better than something a notch too small.
        – Skip cufflinks. I rarely see women wearing them (okay, never), and only men who are high up in organizations bother. Not that women shouldn’t, just that this is in the advanced class of fashion.
        – If you’re a makeup newbie, I’d try lipgloss (nothing with glitter), maybe some translucent powder on your nose, and mascara. If you can work an eyelash curler, great – they open up your eyes. Experiment with more stuff beforehand, if you want, but I think that’d be a professional enough minimum, and not require lots of application skills.
        – I’d avoid scuffed boy shoes (or anything scuffed), but closed-toe flats or very small heels are probably fine.
        – Ponytails are hard to rule on. It depends on the shape of your face, the length and condition of your hair, and how young it makes you look (and whether that’d be a problem or not). If you have neat long hair, a low ponytail might be okay, though I’d suggest using an elastic that matches your hair color, or something decorative. If your hair is too short to put up in a ponytail without six clips – don’t do it. Honestly, though, I think a lot of women look just fine with their hair down and neatly combed/brushed, as long as you don’t play with it out of nervousness. I usually use a barette of clip to hold the sides of my hair together at the back of my head, and let the back hang down.

        I also second the suggestions of Macy’s and New York and Company for work clothes on a small-ish budget. If you get low rise pants, make sure no skin is peeking out in the back when you’re sitting down and leaning forward (for example, when you’re handing over your resume). Ideally a suit jacket would be long enough to cover this up, but if you get a “cropped” suit jacket, maybe not.

        Good luck!

    3. Marie*

      My go-to look until I figured out what was and wasn’t appropriate, was grey pants something like these: http://www.zestypink.com/shop/womens-work-wear/womens-dress-pants/donna-karan-stretch-wool-wrapped-jacket-and-side-zip-trousers.html with a crisp white shirt, and understated jewellery (either a necklace or earrings, not both, in gold, silver or pearls). Oh yes, and shoes something like these: http://i2.squidoocdn.com/resize/squidoo_images/590/draft_lens2164243module127152911photo_1301081469womens-nine-west-shoes.jp

      For a smart-casual job, I would replace the shoes with flats (single colour pumps or moccasins) and be good to go. Sure, it was not an outstanding outfit. But that’s the point: the outfit should not stand out. If you’ve dressed right, your interviewers will have a hard time remembering what you were wearing at all, and their entire impression of you should have to do with your capability to do the job, plus a little of your personality.

      1. Kelly O*


        Your outfit should ONLY stand out for being pressed and well-fitting. The only thing I ever want my clothes to say about me in an interview (or heck, at work for that matter) is “this is someone who wants to present her best possible self to the world.”

        A plain black or grey suit with a simple blouse or shell, some plain shoes (flats, wedges, or heels) and simple jewelry is all you need. A ponytail is fine, just stick with a low ponytail.

        One thing that can make a huge difference is if you can have your suit tailored to fit you. Most of the time when we buy things off the rack, they don’t fit exactly right – the waist needs a bit of nipping, the sleeves or pants legs should be hemmed, even something as simple as taking up a bit in the back of your suit pants can make a huge difference in the way even an inexpensive suit fits.

        It’s also something you can spread out – maybe this time you get the sleeves adjusted. Next time you get the pants leg hemmed. Next time you get the waist of your jacket taken in a bit (or let out, as the case may be.) Spread it out if you need to, but seriously try to find a tailor who can help you make your clothes look better.

    4. fposte*

      It’s also worth looking through images of the people who are successful in your industry in your area. If there’s one thing these conversations demonstrate, it’s that standards vary. See how the people you’re aiming to be present themselves.

      On tailoring, it’s more likely to be worth the investment at your stage if you’re a size outlier (I am short and short-waisted, so that’s me); a lot of people are fit perfectly fine off the rack. And really we’re talking jackets, since if you’re just wearing pants on the bottom you know if they’re dragging on the ground or not. What you might consider doing, if you feel that your jackets really aren’t fitting well, is taking one of your jackets to a place that does alterations and asking them what they’d do and how much it would cost.

    5. Natalie*

      I feel you, Student. I didn’t start to learn to dress more adult or professional until my mid-twenties, and I am still learning.

      Is it horrible and unprofessional of me to avoid wearing a skirt?
      There are only a few industries (banking and law, primarily) where a skirt-suit is better. You are fine in pants.

      Is the bright blue jacket too flamboyant for any job interview, or could I use it for west coast jobs?
      The pinstripe is a safer bet.

      Do I need to take the things to a tailor, or will people overlook it if they don’t fit perfectly?
      Since you’re young, people are going to be forgiving of something off-the-rack, as long as the bad fit isn’t extreme (pants 3 inches above your feet, jacket arms that go past your fingers). But if you can afford a little tailoring, go for it. At a minimum, get the pants and jacket hemmed, which is a very cheap tailoring job.

      And shoes! Is it okay to wear some lightly scuffed boy-like dress shoes, or do I have to wear something girly?
      More male-styled dress shoes are fine, but I would get the scuffs taken care of. Make sure the pant length is appropriate for the shoes.

      What girly shoes are appropriate?
      Closed toes, heel less than 3 inches.

    6. KayDay*

      My answers, with apologies for the CAPS, it was the easiest way to write this:

      Is it horrible and unprofessional of me to avoid wearing a skirt? PANTS ARE FINE
      Is the bright blue jacket too flamboyant for any job interview, or could I use it for west coast jobs? FOR AN INTERVIEW, I WOULD CHOOSE NAVY, BLACK, GRAY, TAN, OR BROWN
      Do I need to take the things to a tailor, or will people overlook it if they don’t fit perfectly? OFF THE RACK IS OKAY IF THE FIT IS OKAY
      Am I supposed to wear cufflinks? NO
      What makeup IS appropriate at a job interview, since I hear the same bad things about no-makeup as I do about too-much-makeup? FOUNDATION/POWDER, MASCARA, LIP BALM OR NATURAL LIPSTICK
      And shoes! Is it okay to wear some lightly scuffed boy-like dress shoes, or do I have to wear something girly? GET THEM POLISHED.
      What girly shoes are appropriate? PUMPS, MARY-JANES, OR BALLET FLATS.
      I’d dearly love to not wear heels, but I haven’t got any idea of what a professional, no-heel girly shoe looks like. HELPS TO HAVE A MODERATELY POINT TOE, “TAILORED” BALLET FLATS
      And what on earth am I supposed to do with my hair? (1) SIDE PART, LOW PONY TAIL, TAME FLY-AWAYS (2) SLIM NEUTRAL COLORED HEADBAND AND DOWN (3) PIN/CLIP THE SIDES/FRINGE/FACE-FRAMING-LAYERS BACK (THINK 1/4 UP AND 3/4 DOWN). –honestly, I actually think a pony is a lot more professional than having hair in your face.

      oh, and focus on smelling clean and like soap; don’t wear perfume.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’d totally wear a blue jacket, especially if it’s turquoise because I look awesome in it, but I’d pair it with black pants, black shoes and a neutral blouse. And VERY conservative jewelry. But only if it’s not a bank or law office.

      2. P*

        I generally agree with your advice, but have to nitpick:

        – Don’t wear brown for interviews. It doesn’t look confident/strong. Personally, I would always stay away from brown, but as a 5’2″ woman in a male-dominated industry, I have a lot of confidence/strength to make up for with my appearance.

        – The acceptability of low ponytails really vary by office. I don’t find them to be terribly professional, but that’s because I’m conservative.

    7. Lesa*

      It sounds like you are on the right path to creating a good interview wardrobe with multiple options for work once you land that first job. I think all the commenters have given great advice. To add to their suggestions:
      Your clothing options sound fine. Just have a clean, good quality “t” or blouse to wear under the jackets. Don’t do cufflinks. It’s unnecessary unless you have a shirt that requires them and are also interviewing at a very formal and conservative organization. Cufflinks are not something most women need to be professional in any environment.
      As for the ponytail, I agree it’s okay as long as it’s not worn too high. Don’t do the ponytail on the top of your head; you don’t want to look like an aerobics instructor from the 80’s. Wear the pony tail below the middle of the back of your head.
      Again, depending upon how conservative the place, for shoes, you don’ t need to wear heels. Your shoes should most likely be closed at toe and heel for the interview, unless, as has been suggested, you are interviewing in a fashion-forward environment. Ballet-style flats in a conservative color are okay. Make sure your pants are hemmed appropriately for the shoes, hems not dragging the ground and not around your ankles.
      Not sure about the men’s style shoes you mention, it depends…loafers? lace-ups? ankle boots? Probably okay, but get them polished, no scuffs. And don’t do Converse or Doc Martens.
      For makeup, the idea behind using powder is to control shine. If that isn’t a concern, you might consider a tinted sunscreen/ moisturizer instead of powder or any kind of heavier foundation. Sephora, Ulta, CVS, Target, will all have multiple options, but you’ll get more help at Sephora or Ulta or even a department store make-up counter. You could top that off with just a single coat of mascara and a clear or lightly tinted lip balm (such as Burt’s Bees). That could be all you’d need.
      It’s great that you are aware and making plans to be interview-appropriate. That goes a long with with interviewers!

      1. Natalie*

        “Just have a clean, good quality “t” or blouse to wear under the jackets.”

        I’m sure this is what you mean, but I find extreme clarity helps when talking about clothes: a t shirt in this context does not mean the standard cotton t shirt with the ribbed collar (think Fruit of the Loom). You want something “fancy looking”, with a hemmed but very understated collar.

    8. Liz*

      Fwiw, maybe just go to the New York Times wedding announcements and look at the makeup and hairstyles of women in the pictures – in my head I think of it as “polished bareface” and it’s what is most acceptable in the professions I know. It features good skin, groomed eyebrows, and either no makeup or VERY subtle makeup (subtle = you won’t see a noticeable change in lip color or visible eyeshadow because the palatte is neutral colors only).

      For suits or heels, I don’t know. It depends on the office. I wouldn’t wear scuffed shoes though.

      Good luck!

      1. Liz*

        PS – I mean the pictures with the engagement announcements, not the actual wedding pictures! I think that wasn’t clear in the first post…

    9. BlueGal*

      Some tips I used when I was fresh from college and interviewing about 3-4 years ago: I always went with pants suits. Usually a dark color with a light colored blouse. I was always afraid of the pantyhose vs no pantyhose dilemma so i stuck to pant suits. I hate to wear heels so I always wore a shoe with a small managable heel. At that time I wasnt a big makeup wearer, so i went with my normal routine, mascara and a nice lip color. I adore shiny lip gloss, but toned it down for interviews, I didnt want to look overly ‘sultry’. I work in a casual environment and wear a ponytail almost everyday (my hair is in one right now). I wouldnt wear one for interviewing, again, that reads very casual to me. 

      One of my problems with interview attire was trying to tame my inner fashionista, I’m into all the lastest trends. Depending on what kind of industry you’re looking for work in I’d say leave fashionista at home, play it safe. 

    10. Suz*

      One note about tailoring: If you only need to hem the pants or jacket sleeves, an good alternative is fusible hem tape. You can get it any place that sells sewing supplies.

      You just fold the pants leg to the desired length and iron on the tape. The best thing is you can remove the tape by ironing it again. This is great when you need to adjust the length to go with different shoes.

    11. HB*


      I totally feel your pain! I had the exact same worries when I was interviewing for my first professional jobs. My parents bought me a nice suit (grey with pinstripes, pale pink oxford shirt underneath) as a graduation present. I thought I was set, and wore my suit to all of my “first” interviews, without knowing/thinking there might be second and third round interviews. When I had to go to a second interview, I panicked, because I had already worn my only suit!! I ended up wearing dressy black pants, a black sleeveless knit top, and a black and white abstract print cardigan. I try to stick to neutrals – black, white, grey, pale pink, etc. If you’re going to wear a pop of color, limit it to one item – a funky necklace, a red belt over black/white cardigan, a loud print on your jacket, etc.

      Clothing: I get most of my professional clothing at Ann Taylor sale rack (or Ann Taylor outlet if you have one), LOFT, Banana Republic sales rack and Kohl’s for basics (like slacks and plain tops). I also have a few pair of dress pants that I bought at Old Navy. If you are on a very tight budget, thrift stores, yard sales and Goodwill/Salvation Army can be incredibly helpful. If you’re willing to take your time and hunt through all the racks, you can sometimes find great pieces. I actually bought a great navy pinstripe blazer from a Goodwill for $5 that I wear to work all the time.

      I would wear this cardigan (without the fabric belt) to an interview with a nice black skirt or black pants: http://www.christopherandbanks.com/product/index.jsp?productId=12353928&cp=2958669.2958718&parentPage=family

      I would wear this jacket w/ black pants and a black shell for a more casual suited look: http://www.loft.com/loft/product/LOFT-Apparel/LOFT-Jackets/Embellished-Ikat-Print-Blazer/280802?colorExplode=false&skuId=11180364&catid=catl000018&productPageType=fullPriceProducts&defaultColor=4886
      Depending on the industry, that type of bold print might be too “wild” but I would wear it.

      I have worked in non-profits and now work for a University, so I tend to dress more casual than someone who works in finance or law (as others have mentioned). Ask your friends in the same field what they wear to work on their dressiest days or in interviews.

      Makeup: What everyone else has said. In an interview, I wear foundation/concealer (to cover up circles under the eye, make skin look more smooth/even), mascara (top and bottom lashes – I have blonde eye lashes and look really bug-eyed when I don’t wear mascara or eye liner), and a neutral lip color (not like beige, but something that closely matches your natural lip color and just enhances it – no hot pinks or bright reds).

      Here is a picture of what I think looks like appropriate, natural-looking makeup for an interview:

      Shoes: I do not like heels and do not ever wear them. I only own one pair that I wear to weddings. I have always worn black flats to interviews and it has been fine. Once I wore black leather Danskos to an interview with the black pants/sweater getup (borderline too casual but it worked in a non-profit setting) http://dansko.com/Womens/Footwear/Collections/Stapled%20Clog/Professional/Black%20Box/ Those shoes are not the most stylish, but they were recommended to me by my foot doctor for a job where I would be on my feet all day.

      I have worn these shoes to an interview: http://www.toryburch.com/reva-ballet-flat/50008606,default,pd.html?dwvar_50008606_color=051&start=15&cgid=shoes-reva-ballerina-flats (Snagged a pair off ebay for cheap)

      I have a pair of shoes similar to this that I wear on “dressy” work days and I think they’d be fine in an interview:

      Don’t laugh, but I also have a few pairs of work shoes from Crocs – they have some upscale lines (like Crocs Workplace, YOU) that have good support, are comfortable and affordable, and look nice.

      Hair: I usually wear my hair like this in an interview (low pony with hair wrapped around the hair tie): http://blog.al.com/frugalmom/2008/07/post_12.html

      or like this (hair down with top part pinned back): http://www.gallery.becomegorgeous.com/holly_montag_hairstyles/holly_montag_pinned_back_bang_hairstyle-1201.html

      I know that was a lot of text but I hope the pictures help! In addition to learning “how to be at work,” it’s also tough learning “how to look at work.” During your first few weeks, err on the side of more conservative/dressy and take clues from your co-workers. You’ll quickly figure out if it’s a shirt-buttoned-up kind of place or a flip-flops-on-Friday place.

    12. Kelly*

      Might I suggest Pinterest?
      Browse for “office fashion” and you will find tons of looks that might work for you, or at least show you examples of appropriate and even fashionable office clothes.

      Additionally, choose a basic store (the Gap, Banana Republic, even Old Navy for starters) and browse their “wear to work” sections of their websites.

      You can’t go wrong with basics, and you can find basics for good prices.

  51. KayDay*

    My freshman year in college, I started a part-time job, working with children. Normally, I wore a “working-with-children” appropriate version of business-casual (e.g. khaki pants, a casual but “sturdy” shirt with comfortable flats, hair in a ponytail). When I left for the summer, I expected to go back in the fall. However, my boss was replaced over the summer, and the new boss did not think my schedule would fit. The new boss then changed her mind and asked me to come in to “see how things go.” I took this as “come in to work, and we can discuss the schedule while you were here” so I showed up in my “working with children” appropriate clothes/hair. It turns out she meant “come in for a brief interview in an office with no chance of being ” and I was horribly under-dressed. (…but at least my clothes were appropriate for a normal day in that environment)

  52. AnonMouse*

    Thanks so much for the makeup tips and links! I don’t feel the absolute -need- to wear makeup at work, but I think it’s helpful in the long run, I think I’d like to know what I’m doing the next time I interview… my mom never learned as a kid, I never asked. I’m slowly learning. It’s hard!

    As for clothes — uggghhh the bane of my existence. =\ I work in a library at a religious but modern college, where overall the style ranges from matching knit stretchy pants and tops to fancy shmancy Anthropologie-esque expensive outfits. I have a hard time because I’m tall, I hate dressing up, I can’t stand spending a fortune on clothes when I don’t like wearing fancy clothes, and it’s FREEZING in here!

    I also work with dirty old papers and historical stuff, and have to climb ladders to get 40 pound boxes off shelves. It seems useless to me to wear a nice top and fancy jacket/sweater if I have to wear a parka over it… and I don’t want to ruin things by sweating in them or getting rat poop or dirt on them! I usually end up wearing khakis or dress pants with a fitted v-neck knit shirt and a thick sweater. It looks shlumpy, but it’s 66 degrees in here.

    Bleh. I love my job, but I miss being able to wear jeans. For me, I shouldn’t have to feel like I’m spending more work-mental-brain-time worrying about my clothes — I want to work!

  53. ThatHRGirl*

    I live in a Midwest city with a large concentration of fashion retailer HQ’s. One in particular is famous for its casual “Americana” style, and infamous for its scandalous catalogs and numerous PR debacles…

    It is widely known in our industry (locally, especially) that if one goes to an interview at this company, one MUST dress in their brand of clothing (Oh, they don’t make your size? Too bad) and must wear flip-flops/converse shoes, “natural” hair and makeup (like you’ve been hanging out at the beach all day).

    Most of their HR reps are nice enough to tell candidates this over the phone, but there are inevitably those who (following their better judgement!) still show up in a business suit and polished look, and basically get laughed out the door.

    It’s really quite sad that this is what the company chooses to focus on, but I guess it’s their prerogative and their culture they’re trying to build. It’s no wonder their results are dismal as ever though…

    1. JT*

      They’re missing out on talent for their organization, unless careful detective work for idiosyncratic clients is part of the jobs they’re trying fill – in which case those requirements are a useful screen.

      1. ThatHRGirl*

        Yeah it’s a ridiculous practice. I can see why a company might want Marketing or Design staff that “fit” in with the lifestyle or image that the brand is trying to promote, but seriously, IT guys and Accountants need to dress in your clothes and “embody” the brand image? That’s taking it a little far. Luckily for them the market in this area is saturated with talent that has experience in retail, but they’re definitely still missing out on some awesome people.
        Like I said… it’s reflected in their balance sheets at the end of the day :)

  54. Catherine*

    I used to teach at a high school and some of the other female teachers were absolutely clueless about what was appropriate. A handful wore leggings to work on a daily basis. In the winter, one regularly paired the leggings with fur-lined boots and one of those puffy jackets with a fur-lined hood. She was teeny and was presumed to be a student multiple times. You’d think that she’d realize that was a big red flag, but no, she just thought it was hilarious.

    In those women’s defense though, the administration did nothing to clear up their confusion. The dress code was very specific for men (dress pants and a tie were required unless they wore a polo shirt in a school color), but vague for woman (“attire should be comparable”). Plus, they never spoke directly to the people who dressed inappropriately; they just sent out non-specific, staff-wide emails reminding us all that we had a dress code…

  55. Anonymous*

    My office is pretty casual – you’ll see people in everything from suits and ties to jeans, t-shirts and flip flops. Some people even get away with wearing shorts (most departments won’t allow that, but the guys in programming seem to be able to get away with it. They are always neat and clean so I don’t care one way or another).

    But with such a relaxed dress code, you always have people who abuse it. I see women in shirts that would be much more appropriate for going out to a club, or in tank tops (not nice, dressy tanks either). But the absolutely best (or worst) was the woman who wore skin tight cheetah print leggings with these weird brown suede patches on the front with a short t-shirt that didn’t really match at all (and also didn’t cover enough). It was ugly AND inappropriate for the office.

  56. Anonymous*

    Just last week we had a senior executive admin assistant wear what could be described as nothing more than a negligee to the office. We’ve been having warmer than normal weather here in the midwest, but give me a break, it wasn’t that warm last week. Whatever it was, was made of silk with spaghetti straps and came to mid-thigh on her. The six inch electric blue pumps and black full length leather treanch coat (some call them dusters) really rounded out the effect. She was like a traffic accident, everyone had to walk past her cube just to see it.

    1. MaryTerry*

      Maybe she didn’t have time to change before going to her second job that evening!

  57. Gene*

    My dress doesn’t matter here, I wear uniform pants and a supplied shirt (T or long-sleeve denim depending on temp.)

    One thing to keep in mind for makeup is what the local norm is. What is normal in DC or NY would be WAY over the top in Omaha. And the South! I have family in the South and those women won’t go the end of the driveway to get the newspaper in the morning until the hair and war paint are perfect; They’ll be wearing a shabby housecoat and scuffs, but the hair and makeup are spot on.

  58. Anonymou5*

    My favorite office fashion faux pas were not committed by people on an interview, but by long time employees.

    Outfit #1 – Neon pink short-shorts, with an open neon pink wind jacket, no shirt, and matching neon pink baseball cap. Worn by a guy in his 60s who likes to go jogging at lunch, but continues to wear his “exercise ensemble” in the afternoon at work. I have always wondered where he managed to find a baseball cap in such an alarming color.

    Outfit #2 – Purple Hawaiian shirt with the top couple buttons undone to show a decent bit of chest hair. Tan shorts of normal length, with socks and sandals, and a fanny pack to round it out. Sunglasses optional. Worn by a long-time employee who looks like he just arrived from the 70s. I’ve always wondered what he keeps in the fanny pack – I secretly hope it’s the key to his time machine.

    Outfit #3 – Green T-shirt and plain brown shorts. The T-shirt had a particularly memorable graphic of a wolverine in an X-rated position, along with a slogan that implied that the University’s main rival sports team members (the Wolverines) were gay with a particularly vivid slang phrase that involved a type of candy. It was incredibly offensive on multiple points, but no one sent the guy home. This will forever be the standard by which I judge all work-clothing-related disasters.

  59. Anonymous*

    A former co-worker of mine uses a headshot of herself on LinkedIn that was taken in what I presume/hope to God was a tube top but is cropped just at the shoulders, giving the appearance that she is naked. Combined with the heavy make-up and farrah fawcett hair she has, she looks very much like Roller Girl from Boogie Nights.

    Again, this is the photo she uses on her PUBLIC LinkedIn profile.

    1. mbm*

      There is a headshot of me attached to an article I wrote which was awkwardly cropped to make it look like I am wearing a blazer with nothing underneath. (I had on a scoop neck shell.)

      I will never submit to a journal requiring author photos ever again.

  60. Anonymous*

    My former company had a really liberal dress code. Seriously, the only real rules were don’t show up naked (i.e., all relevant bits covered) and don’t wear anything with obscene language on it.

    One would think that those rules would be easy enough to follow, but sure enough, one day a freelancer came in wearing a T-shirt with the F-word on it….

  61. Erica*

    I know someone who, after decades of wearing fake eyelashes when they were de rigeur now can not *not* wear them. Her real eyelashes are ruined beyond repair and she feels freakish if she walks out of the house without them.

    The fact that she’d look better without them is not really the issue, and in fact, that particular OCD is one of many. Despite that, she’s a good worker. So, if false eyelashes are the deal killer, frankly, it can’t be that great a deal. Unless you’re hiring her as spokesperson, her eyelashes are really much of a problem.

  62. Cassie*

    I work at a university and our dept is not strict on clothes (one lady would wear a muumuu, another wore t-shirts over leggings). Some professors even wear shorts, though they are in the minority. I draw the line at wearing flip-flops, though – I’ve seen a couple of my coworkers wear them occasionally.

    The “worst” thing I’ve seen a coworker wear is when this girl in her late 20s wore a white ribbed tank top (aka “wife-beater”) and had her bra straps (which I think were red?) showing. It was appalling. Never mind that a tank top like that isn’t appropriate for the workplace, but she didn’t even try to hide the straps!

    As for make-up, most of the women in my office don’t even wear makeup. There is one lady who has eyebrows and eyeliner tattoo’d on but she is the exception.

    Back in my ballet days, there were a few young teenage girls who would come into class with a ton of makeup caked on. Eyeliner on both top and bottom, blush, mascara and powder. It was pretty silly because if you’re working hard in class, it’s all going to sweat off anyway! Some of the teachers did tell those girls that they didn’t need to wear so much makeup. One girl toned it down – the others didn’t.

  63. Kathryn T.*

    I had an applicant show up for an interview wearing a Budweiser Bikini Team T-shirt. I asked him all the questions I was planning on asking, and then said “One last thing. Did it ever occur to you that you might be interviewing with a woman today?”

    He looked confused, looked down, and blushed absolutely crimson. Then he said “Uh.” And just sat there.

    Fortunately, it turned out he had no experience in one of the important competencies of the job, and I didn’t have to write an email that said “He showed up to the interview wearing a shirt with pictures of topless women on it.”

  64. James Munro*

    For the men reading this blog, some tips:
    – Have you belt colour match your shoes
    – Your tie to be tied in a full windsor knot
    – The tip of your tie should just barely touch the top of your belt buckle
    – Get a tie clip (it says class)

    If you already have a job, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” (within reason).

  65. Kimberlee*

    OK, I gotta ask Alison and anyone else out there on the hiring side of it: Sure, there are basic standards, and there’s an expectation that candidates will do a basic level of “playing the game,” if you will, to demonstrate good judgment and not offend. But I’m imagining these outfits people are describing, and I can’t help but feel so *bored.* Like, I think a candidate who manages to look good, and well put together, while still showing some personality is better than a candidate that has a black suit, boring hair, neutral makeup and neutral low heels. I mean, I would feel put off by a candidate who answered questions as neutrally and inoffensively and “correctly” as they could (think “My biggest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist”), wouldn’t I? (yes.)

    I want candidates to dress… well, as they would dress for a job interview! Which, to me, is like if you looked at all the outfits you would wear to work, and picked the one you liked best (that’s how I do it). If they are wearing a miniskirt and spaghetti straps to an interview, at least I know that that is the way they expect to dress on the job, and I can know that going in (ie, if they’re the candidate I want, I know I’ll have to have an awkward conversation).

    To me, I can easily set a dress code in the office and fire people who choose not to follow it (and make the standards clear at the offer stage). Good candidates make themselves stand out. I obviously won’t take sequins over qualifications, but I can’t imagine, say, a sequined cocktail dress with a blazer over it (as mentioned above) being a dealbreaker, or even necessarily a negative, in an otherwise awesome candidate!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think that’s a very defensible take on it … but I also think it’s very different from how the vast majority of employers feel.

  66. Anonymous*

    While I was out of college for awhile, I tried getting a job at a local factory. I found that there is such a thing as dressing too professionally. Don’t wear a blazer to a factory interview. I was the only one there not in boots, jeans, and a baseball cap. I did not get the job. I looked and felt pretty foolish. I was more dressed-up than the interviewer. I ended up getting a job at a convenience store, for which I dressed casually, but still appropriately.

  67. Anonymous*

    Teal blue leather jacket, embroidered with flowers, white tights, and cowboy boots with fringe. Oh, and a spiky punk hairdo. And by the way, the woman was over 40!

  68. Kobie*

    YAY for wonderfully interesting and entertaining reading! Both the post and the comments have just made my day!

  69. Novenberrose*

    I recently went in for a interview with Macy’s, I have 14 years experience in the beauty industry, with a cosmotology liscense, so I applied for a beauty consultant. I came very professional looking, with a little makeup around my eyes, I think I answered the interview question well, but I recieved a email stating they did not accept my application. While I was there I observed the workers, some looked like street walkers others had tattoos, and big holes in their ears, also on my interview I heard one of the applicants say she had no expeience, and when I passed the interview room she was in , I heard them hiring her, she was very shy, looked like she just came out of high school. I’m just wondering what is wrong here, I was told to dress professsional, I have experience, I’m a very friendly and caring person, with excellent customer service experience, the only thing I can think of is they were discriminating against my age, which I’am a older women, I followed everything I was suppose to do. This experience has lost my respect for Macy’s. Please if anyone has any advice for me to help me see what is wrong here, I would appreciate it.

    1. Rose*

      Honestly, you could have had too much experience. That is a problem right now. First, if you have more experience they might have to pay you more because you are worth more. Second, they might want someone more malleable. Perhaps they want to shape the employee; you might be bendable but some things become concrete with time. Thirdly, there is more to cost than salary. My mother told me that while handling insurance costs for her employer, she discovered something. If she and I had the exact same credentials, I would get the job. Health insurance costs more the older you get; I think it factors into their insurance, too. Lastly, it could be a ratio thing. Maybe they are trying to seem non-discriminating by hiring the young and somewhat unprofessional. There could be a plethora of reasons. They probably will never make sense. Just remember, rejection from a job isn’t about you. It’s about them. I know that’s annoying, but it’s true.

  70. Rose*

    I continuously get told the same thing during and after interviews. I’m told that I “interview well,” it was getting to talk with me, and (my favorite) they “really want to hire me, but they don’t have the perfect position for me yet.” Any advice? It’s really getting old. A girl can only take so much rejection.

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