how to change clothes for an interview during the workday

A reader writes:

In all the articles I’ve read about job searching while employed, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone address where to change into or out of a suit if you don’t wear one normally, and now I’m wondering if I committed a faux pas today.

In the past if I’ve needed an outfit change before or after an interview (which has only been once before), I’ve ducked into a restaurant on the way. However, today I had an interview that was only a few minutes from my current work. Since I don’t wear a suit to work normally, I didn’t want to come in and then change in our bathroom. And since it was such a short distance (and I was on a time crunch, interviewing during work hours) I couldn’t go out of my way to find a public bathroom.

So, after the interview, and after the interviewer thanked me for coming and showed me to the elevator, I asked if there was a restroom I could use. There I changed into what I was wearing to work, which was still professional — knee-length blue and green sheath dress, appropriate neckline, cap sleeves. I expected the interviewer to be gone since we already said goodbyes, but when I came out he was still by the elevator and said goodbye again.

Is it a big deal that the interviewer saw me out of my suit? And in situations like this, where *is* the best place to change? For what it’s worth, the interview had gone well and he had already said he’d recommend I go on to the next stage.

It’s not a big deal, but it’s a little weird.

I’m trying to figure out why it’s weird at all, and I think it’s because (a) it sort of signals “I have to immediately change out of this costume that I put on in order to look professional” and (b) it feels a bit too casual to be taking off and putting on clothes in their bathroom.

But again, it’s not a big deal. Just a small oddity.

I do think it’s worth avoiding even small oddities during the hiring process, though, because employers have such little information about you at this stage that even small things take on more weight than they would normally.

I doubt that anyone would decide not to hire you based on it, but I still wouldn’t do it again.

If you’re in the same situation again in the future, I’d duck into a public bathroom on your way back. If you don’t even have a buffer of 5-10 minutes for that, you probably shouldn’t be interviewing in that time slot at all, because interviews frequently start late, run over the allotted time, etc.

Another option is to wear part of the suit to work that day and put the rest on when you leave for the interview (for instance, wearing the pants and the top and putting the jacket on when you’re on your way).

For that matter, I also once changed for an interview in a car, in broad daylight, which probably isn’t something to recommend.

In any case, I wouldn’t worry much about it, but in the future, keep your clothes on until you’re out of their office.

{ 124 comments… read them below }

  1. Another Jamie

    Or at least have a good story as to why you are dressed nice, if you aren’t going to be able to change in between. “I have to attend a funeral after work.” Or “I’m heading to a wedding reception.” Or my favorite, “It’s laundry day and these are my only clean clothes.”

    We had a co-worker who was obviously interviewing; he showed up dressed nice occasionally. We have a super casual dress code (t-shirt and jeans) so it really sticks out when you are in a full suit and tie. (Especially this guy who normally had no qualms about walking around the office with his shoes off.) Everyone teased him about how the interview went, and he just got really flustered and annoyed. Even when someone innocently asked, “Why are you so dressed up?” He’d snit back, “Why do you even care?” Needless to say, none of us were AT ALL upset that he was interviewing.

    1. Long Time Admin

      “I’m getting married after work.”

      The next day, “We were in love, for one night. Then it was over. Now I’m single again.”

      1. Shane

        Every so often I had to wear a suit for an interview, presentation, or personal event knowing I wouldn’t have time to go home to change. Last time someone asked me why I was all dressed up I said “Because every girl’s crazy for a sharp dressed man” smiled and walked away.

        1. Natalie

          I am sort of jealous that I can’t use this. Woman’s work formal and play formal are so different…

        2. Elizabeth West

          Ha ha!
          Slightly off-topic, but one time I was sitting at the ice rink putting on my figure skates before practice, and there was a kid’s hockey tournament, boys around twelve or so. One kid was wearing a suit, and another kid in a hockey jersey and jeans came up to him and asked, “Why do you get all dressed up like that?”

          Suit Kid answered, “This is what a REAL man wears.”

          I could NOT keep a straight face. He just looked at me and grinned real big. I gave him a thumbs up. :)

    2. Anonymous

      When I worked in a very casual place and was interviewing (and didn’t want people to know it), I started wearing interview-appropriate clothes occasionally on days I didn’t have an interview either; just often enough that it wasn’t weird for me to wear something nice to the office. And if anyone asked about it, I’d say, “Oh, I just got this! I never can wait to wear my new clothes!”

      And then when I gave my notice, everyone was shocked.

    3. Indie_Rachael

      We have a casual dress code as well, and I have been looking for work off and on for awhile now. Every time I have an interview coming up soon (and even on random occasions to avert suspicion), I gradually start dressing more and more formally. In the beginning, people would ask if I had an interview *every time* I would dress even a little bit better than a t-shirt and jeans. Now I’ve been doing this so long, I guess everyone thinks it’s just one of my (many) quirks to go through dress-up phases.

  2. Elizabeth

    I once changed out of my suit before leaving the interview site, but it was a bit of an odd situation: I was interviewing for a job across the country, but my interviewer was visiting family on my coast, so I met her at her father’s house. She was dressed extremely casually – even bare feet – while I was in a full suit! At the end of the interview she suggested a nearby beach I might like to visit before starting my hours-long drive back home, and offered me a bathroom where I could change into more casual clothes. The beach was great, and I got the job, too.

  3. Colette

    I tend to go the “wear most of the outfit to work, add jacket en route” path. Of course, I can do that without comment because, although I work in high tech and jeans are fine, I make a point of wearing dress pants and an appropriate top a few times a week. If I were someone who (like some of my former coworkers) always wore jeans or sweats (oh, high tech), I wouldn’t be able to do that.

    1. Anonymous

      Two jobs ago, I had to jump through a few hoops to get proper interview clothes on in time for an interview, so since then, I’ve made a habit of regularly dressing up now and then. My current job even the VP’s wear T-shirts & jeans, but I still dress up at least once a week so it won’t seem weird if I ever want to go on an interview!

      1. Anonymous

        +1

        This is what I do. Whether I am looking or not, I always try to wear nice clothes every few days. Even when working a job that included some time outside, I would bring clothes to change into and if asked I told them that I wanted to look professional.

        1. Piper

          Ditto to this. No one would ever have a clue that I have an interview solely based on my outfits.

          That said, I did change once on site after an interview. I had flown in from out of town and had to go immediately after the interview to catch my flight home. I didn’t want to be in a suit on the plane, so I asked the interviewer if I could change in a bathroom before I left. She was fine with it and totally understood.

          In all other circumstances, I practice what was mentioned by the above posters.

          1. Anonymous

            See, I still think that’s weird. Change in the airport bathroom if you must — I think you can usually find one before you check in — but again this signals to the interviewer that the suit is just a costume for you. If I sent you to meet a client out of town, would you wear jeans and change to professional clothes mid-trip? Most people don’t if the meeting is the same day, different story if you fly in at night and meet the next day. Most the people in sweats on the mid-weekday flights seem to be college students, not business people.

            1. Piper

              Well, I got the job, so I guess they didn’t thing it was all that weird. And honestly, most airport bathrooms are pretty gross, so I didn’t really want to be changing in there. All I did was swap out my pants and heels for a pair of jeans and flats; I didn’t completely change my outfit and I certainly wasn’t in sweats! I still had on a blazer and a nice top. I’m not one to fly in sweats, regardless of when I’m flying. I still like to be presentable and pulled together.

              I’m not sure why people are so concerned with the idea that a suit is a “costume.” Because, it IS a costume, especially if the office where you’re interviewing is fairly casual, as the one where I interviewed was.

              1. Piper

                I suppose I should also clarify that the interviewer I asked was actually a recruiter who had initially screened me, took me to lunch, and showed me around the hugely gigantic corporate campus, and dropped me off at interviews with the hiring manager and team members. She was not the hiring manager I had just interviewed with and she did mention that other people had done the exact same thing I did (they have out of towners come in for interviews a lot).

              2. Ask a Manager Post author

                I think Nev explained it well above — you wear a suit to an interview because you want to create a certain image of yourself. If you then remove that suit before you’re completely out of the environment, you underscore that it was just dress-up (even though of course it IS) and detract from the perceived authenticity of your image.

                1. Joe

                  This is why I don’t wear suits to interviews. I go with a button-down shirt and slacks, but I’m not the kind of person who would ever wear a suit to work, and I wouldn’t want to work somewhere that would require me to wear a suit to impress. Luckily, I’m a software developer, so I can get away with it.

                  I once had a recruiter yell at me when I told them that I wasn’t going to wear a suit to an interview they set up. 5 years later, I’m still working in the job I got on that interview…

    2. Janet

      Yep, my go-to interview suit is a black pantsuit and I put a nicer blouse underneath. So when I have to go back to work, I leave the suit jacket in a gym bag (or my car), pull on a cardigan if I have to, take the earrings off and change into more casual shoes. No one has ever said anything.

  4. Lore

    This only works if you’re in a biggish office (which mine is), but I’ve been known to use the restrooms on another floor: we have a level with all the big meeting/conference rooms and a cafeteria, but no one’s actual workspace. There’s still a risk of running into someone at the ATM machine on your way out, but it’s a lot smaller than using the regular office restroom.

  5. Anonymous

    Even though I often wear suits to work, sometimes I wear them just because they don’t need to be ironed. The same for some of my dresses. I’m usually a pants and blouse girl. I hate ironing with a passion and look for the easiest route to dress. It can also be a handy excuse for being “over-dressed” at work.

  6. Carrie in Scotland

    OP, I have been much like you in my previous interviews. the last interview I attended was morning and I was commuting so I took all my normal workwear stuff and left at the train station ‘left luggage’. i had an appt after my interview but before work and I said that I would ‘need’ to change. & she asked why? why did I feel that need. & I said well cuz I don’t look like this at work, ever (its casual). So i went to work in my interview clothes (changed heels for flats though!) and y’know? nobody said a thing. & I only work in a 3 person team and one was my manager! have confidence! :)

  7. Malissa

    For my last interview I wore my interview clothes, with-out the jacket, to work the rest of the day. i normally wore jeans. they knew something was up. But then again I really wasn’t hiding anything anyway. It was fun doing my own employment check when my now boss called.

  8. -X-

    One other related thing – if you’re interviewing moderately often, it might be worth starting to dress a little more formally at work from time to time anyway. This will help people get used to your “dressing up” sometimes.

    If people ask why, just say you felt like it. Eventually they’ll be less likely to ask or notice.

  9. Phyr

    Changing for interviews is a pain. If you don’t want your current employer to know whats going on you have little to no options. It is not a good position to deal with or be in.

    If you get to ware dress slacks with a polo-type shirt then you could get away with stashing a matching suit jacket in your car.

    If you need to completely change? Try to find a friend that will loan you a key to their place. If you need to wear heels don’t change into them until you get to the interview and keep them in your car. Maybe you have a friend or family that can let you go to their office to change, but this would be last ditch.

  10. Nev

    In the past I used to explain me coming to work in business formal clothes (when the office etiquette was more of business casual) with attending a professional event after work. Most of the times this was the mere truth, but in a couple of occasions it helped me disguised job interview appointments.

    I don’t think the OP’s situation would impact her chances to get the job. However, her actions could be perceived not so well because during the interview the OP created a certain image of herself (business formal clothes being part of it), and a few minutes after that she contradicted this image by changing in a different attire. On a psychological level, it looks a bit like a dress-up, and it damages the authenticity of her initial image. Next time, if in similar situation, try to choose a combination of clothes that is more versatile, and could somehow fit both etiquettes. Changing clothes in the car (as long as OP didn’t park on the new company’s parking lot) could do as well depending on the circumstances.

    1. B

      I think it also just seems a little presumptuous, like you’re okay getting really comfortable right away and using all the facilities and making yourself at home in this office that you don’t even work in yet rather than presenting a more formal, professional image. But I sympathize with the OP. Interviewing is a hassle, and there are no easy solutions to some things you have to deal with.

  11. Anonymous

    Ah, I’ve been in that situation too and have changed in bathrooms and in my car. I usually go for the “wear part of the outfit” trick and change on the way, but that can have challenges too if you don’t commute by car and/or have nowhere to stash the rest of your outfit. These days I dress nicer for work, so I won’t look out of place in interview clothes next time I’m on a job hunt!

    Perhaps I am a jerk, but at past companies if I was sort of miserable and ready to leave anyway, I kind of liked getting the “Wow, why are you so dressed up? Job interview?” jokes, whether I actually had an interview or just felt like dressing up that day. Keep ’em guessing. ;)

    1. anon

      I know what you mean. There’s an “f you” vibe to showing you’re going to an interview and you’re ready to get the heck out and you don’t care if anyone knows it.

  12. Amy

    I recently changed out of my interview outfit in my car while driving back to my office. (Well, at stoplights.) By the time I pulled into our office’s parking lot I was back in the outfit I’d left in and the interview suit was stashed in a bag. But then, I have a severely low level of modesty. My bra/underwear didn’t come off so as far as I’m concerned it was no worse than sitting in my car in a bikini. If anyone noticed enough to care, at least I gave them a funny story to tell their friends later.

        1. MeganO

          I did that too; my (additional) excuse to myself was that the parking lot was empty (it was the middle of the day so it didn’t feel creepy) and I didn’t see anyone around, so I doubted anyone would be looking. But yeah, not really any worse that a swimsuit. @kac, I’m also glad to know I’m not the only one!

    1. Anonymous

      I changed standing between my car and the next car in a parking garage replete with security cameras once. I was wearing pants and not changing my top, so I just pulled my skirt over my head and then slithered my pants off under it. I already had on hose, so a change of shoes and donning my jacket was all that was left! Jumped in the car, drove to my interview, came back, did everything in reverse and went back into the building to work. Easy-peasy!

    2. Stells

      I’m always changing in my car! I work in a super casual environment where I’ll get flack for wearing a dress on occasion, but all I do is wear a cute blouse and jeans to work with flats, then wiggle into a black skirt and throw on heels and a jacket on the way there (or in a public parking lot along the way) and then switch back before getting back to work.

      Works like a charm.

  13. Charlotte

    I love that you include the part about your changing in a car, Allison. I’ve done it in a pinch. I’ve also brushed my hair out after arriving via my motorcycle.

  14. Emily

    Am I the only one who plans to change clothes for an interview less because I don’t usually look nice or because I don’t want anyone to know where I’m going, and more because I’m afraid I’ll wrinkle or stain my outfit before I get to the appointment?

        1. Diane

          This is why I dread interview lunches. I’m chronically incapable of keeping food off my blouse.

        2. Emily

          Me, too! On important days, I might as well get dressed and apply lipstick, pen ink, coffee, salad dressing, or printer toner directly to my clothing.

      1. Jamie

        I have a navy cardigan in my office at all times for such moments.

        Tide to Go is such a lifesaver – it’s helped me keep the secret of being a closet spiller.

    1. AMG

      I do this, too. I have even taken the day off to interview. I absolutely can’t stand business clothes and I wear jeans every day. I would rather change anywhere than have to wear interview clothes all day.

      1. Indie_Rachael

        My last interview was scheduled to last over two hours, so I burned half a vacation day. I slept in a little later, so I was more refreshed and still had time to remind myself to relax while I was getting ready. I wasn’t frazzled from rushing too much, and I wasn’t worried about getting back to work before my lunch break was over. It was great!

    2. Laura

      Someone once mentioned you should always take an extra dress/outfit to any special occasion (weddings, graduations, fancy parties) if you’re traveling, because you never know what will happen and probably won’t have time to shop once you’re there. So smart.

  15. anon

    OP seems like a drama queen. A blue/green sheath dress is business casual. So is a suit skirt and a nice shell or suit appropriate top. All she would have needed to do is take off a suit jacket to be back in business casual. If I were an interviewer, it would raise a huge red flag about her common sense level.

    1. Another Emily

      I don’t think this is drama queen behaviour at all, but the OP did potentially make things more difficult than it needed to be (adding the suit jacket to a blouse and suit skirt would have been easier).

      But some people do want to dress up beyond what they wear to work every day to get their interview mojo on. It makes sense to me to want to change clothes to mentally distance yourself from the job you have now and put you in the mindframe of getting the job you want.

      I agree with AAM that this is just slightly odd. It wouldn’t raise a huge red flag with me.

    2. Another Ellie

      I was thinking along those lines too, that she should just wear the dress and put a nice suit jacket over it. I don’t think the interviewer would necessarily jump to “you lack common sense,” though.

    3. AMG

      I don’t think it’s drama. Just a person trying to make a good impression. I’m sure the interviewer understood what she was doing. She had to interview for a job at least once herself.

      1. Jamie

        I don’t either – as said in other comments it’s just over thinking, and let’s face it – job interviews are prime situations for over thinking.

        If I were the OP I would be nervous too, but if I were the interviewer I wouldn’t give it a second thought. As seen in these comments – most of us have been there.

        This is one of the 900 reasons I couldn’t interview in the middle of the work day, though. I would assume that would be the interview that went 1+ hours over and I would add stress of being late getting back to my office to the normal interview stress…that could be how cases of spontaneous human combustion occur.

        I prepare for worst case scenario in everything. It may make me less cheery than your average person, but I’ve yet to actually burst into flames.

    4. Kelly O

      Just have to chime in that I don’t think the OP is being a drama queen at all in this.

      And, just as an aside, the blue and green sheath might not be as “business” depending on the material and cut. It might not have worked well with a jacket, or a pair of dressy shoes, or whatever. I am a little anal-retentive about what “works” together for me anyway and even more so on interviews.

      Like others have said, the person who interviewed her probably understood a lot more than the OP thinks; we’ve all been on interviews and had to handle potentially delicate situations about things as seemingly mundane as clothes.

      As a general rule, I wear the pants and blouse and put on the jacket when I get there, or I do the “park as far away as you can and change in the car” thing. (Good to know I’m not the only one who’s done that by the way!)

      I changed at my daughter’s daycare once. Any port in a storm.

      1. Jamie

        All of this talk of changing on the fly is taking on a whole superhero feel. People across the nation, mild mannered and employed Mr./Ms. Kents, transforming themselves into “Super Inverviewee.” Able to give a firm handshake and answer “tell me about your weaknesses” in a single bound.

        Maybe we should bring back phone booths!

        1. Kelly O

          I’m actually gunning for blue police boxes; they’re bigger on the inside.. But I’m admittedly sort of geeky about that.

  16. AD

    It’s been my experience that, if your workplace is business casual, and you are interviewing somewhere that is also business casual, you can ask the interviewer if that is okay. We all know that putting on a suit for an interview at a place you’d never wear a suit to work is silly, so if there’s a good reason to set that convention aside, suggest it.

    (Note: I’m in tech. Clothing is less important. I could be way off for other industries.)

    1. Anon

      Yeah, you’d never, ever do this if you were interviewing at a law firm, for instance, even though many law firms are business casual these days.

  17. Another Alison

    To the anon at 7:39. . .
    I have an interview tomorrow afternoon & work in a biz casual office. Sometimes I wear a nice skirt or dressy slacks with heels, but I am still planning to change offsite tomorrow before the interview and will not wear any part of the suit to work. Even though I split my nice skirt/slacks days about 50/50 with my khakis & flats days, people still comment when I’m dressed up. Just yesterday I wore the new plain black pumps I bought for the interview with regular pants & a sweater and someone said, “You sure are professional today.” I hate to have someone put two and two together that I’m leaving at 2 pm AND I’m dressed up. Probably overly cautious, but I also want to finish getting ready somewhere else so I can freshen up my makeup and hair and make sure I’m tucked in nice & neatly. (I also stick out more in the summer when the interns are there in their flip flops & and stretchy pants.)

    Also, I think it IS weird to change in the interviewing company’s bathroom and I would never do it. It’s like when you go to a redneck wedding and everyone is in cutoffs or gym shorts at the reception.

    1. Another Ellie

      I don’t really understand people who don’t take that approach. I always remember a story from a journalist about the concept of “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” At the beginning of his career, at a small town newspaper, he and a photographer were assigned to go cover something pretty low-key, a high school sports tournament or something. Of course both young men were wearing jeans and t-shirts, as they’d discovered they could get away with that working the types of assignments they got. But, that day, at the last minute, they get a call from their editor saying that the reporter assigned to cover an important political event in the town had gotten ill. They had to jet over to the political event pronto, and were basically standing there dressed for a sporting event with the mayor, city council, important business leaders, etc. all dressed appropriately for the occasion in full suits and ties. The journalists were both horribly embarrassed, and they made their paper look bad in front of most of the important people in the town. Lesson learned, they both started wearing collared shirts and ties to work again.

  18. Daisy

    I wear most of the outfit (everything but the suit jacket) and then really dress it down with a colorful cardigan during the workday so as not to arouse any suspicions. I usually leave the cardigan at my desk at work (hidden away if I’ll be gone for the rest of the day) and just throw on the jacket once I’m outside the building for the new job.

    The slight problem with this is that some suit jackets don’t take especially well to being kept in a bag all day, but I’ve gotten around this with carefully folding/rolling the jacket (often along with a layer of tissue paper) so that it doesn’t come out looking wrinkled right as I’m about to throw it on and head in for my interview!

    1. Daisy

      BTW, this is in NYC/no car. This would be even easier with a car where you wouldn’t be forced to hide the jacket away in a bag all day! :)

    2. Nikki

      Now that I think of it, I actually did this once. I wore a cardigan over my blouse, but I don’t recall where I kept the jacket.
      I was interviewing across campus and I just left the cardigan on my chair and put on the jacket at some point.

      I do remember tearing the jacket off on the sidewalk behind the building so I wouldn’t still have it on. Never occurred to me that I might be seen doing that, oh well, I got the job.

  19. Miss Displaced

    This made me laugh because I’ve also had to play sneakarooni a few times myself. I typically wear pant suits, so wearing just the bottom half in grey or black with a T-shirt works pretty well. I keep the jacket and heels in the car for a quick change.

    I also almost always try to schedule interviews first thing in the morning as well, which helps.

  20. Jubilance

    I agree with the suggestion to wear part of the suit to work, like the pants & top & then put your jacket on for the interview. I’ve successfully done that for some lunchtime interviews with no issues.

  21. Tax Nerd

    In the past, I’ve worn the suit pants and top, and thrown a casual cardigan over it for my regular job, and then had a suit jacket in the car, hanging on the drycleaner hook on the driver’s side back seat door. I also had dressier shoes in the car, and when I got there, I took off the cardigan and put on the suit jacket and changed shoes. (But not while driving.)

    If I felt my interview blouse was too dressy compared to what I normally wore to work, I’d find a tank or camisole that could go under it, as well as under a less interview-y shirt for the rest of the day, and I changed into that when I got to my car as well. (I did most of the changing in my office’s giant parking garage, where I couldn’t be seen by either current coworkers or potential new bosses.)

    The one time I didn’t have a car to change into, it was winter in the midwest, so I wore a sweater twinset to work under a blazer, which was under my long coat. I took off the blazer with my coat, as if they were one piece. When I went to “lunch”, I slipped the cardigan off and slipped on the blazer/coat combo before heading out. (I occasionally carried a tote to work, so no one noticed I was carrying that with my interview pad instead of my regular purse.)

  22. OP

    OP here. Thanks for posting and thanks to everyone who’s commented! To answer a few things:

    a) I did have a 15 minute buffer, and of course the interview started right around 15 minutes late! (When I’m told the interview will be one hour or less, I don’t usually plan for more than that 15 minutes because otherwise I’d have to take a half day off work, which, besides starting to get suspicious, would really eat up my allowed time off.)

    b) Last month when I had an interview during work hours, I did wear just the skirt minus the jacket to work. However, this week I have two separate interviews and only one suit, so I feel like I have to completely change once. (My suit is an appropriate suit, but there are some details on it that I think would make people notice if I wore it twice in a row; I know I should probably have more than one suit, and that’s something I plan on when I can afford it.)

    c) Actually, I wish I DID have a car to change in! But I take public transportation to work, so stashing anything in a car, changing there, etc is unfortunately not an option.

    d) The suggestion to use a different floor’s bathroom in my work building is probably the best option. I did consider this, but the only public restroom in our building I know of that’s not on our floor is in the lobby, and I work with attorneys who often come in late due to court appearances, etc, and didn’t want to risk someone seeing me because some of them are very friendly with the office manager/HR person. But I think I was being a little too paranoid, because the chances they would come at the exact same time I’m booking it to the restroom is pretty low!

    I definitely won’t do this again. I didn’t feel like there was any perfect option, but the others are still way better than the weirdness I experienced today.

    1. anon

      Again, you are being overly dramatic.

      Day 1: skirt/pants with colorful cardigan and bright necklace

      Day 2: skirt/pants with neutral tones, black cardigan and no jewelry. If you are really concerned, wear your hair differently.

      NO ONE WILL NOTICE

      1. Another Emily

        I still think she’s overthinking this, rather than being overly dramatic. Being overly dramatic would involve going back to work saying, “I had to take the BUS to the interview, then change my clothes in a BATHROOM, and then when I walked out the interviewer SAW ME.” The OP is just overthinking it; as an overthinker mysef I sympathize.

        Unless you’re a lawyer OP (or in some other very suit-y industry) I don’t think you need more than one suit. I do agree with anon’s plan of how to wear your suit to work, it really wouldn’t be a big deal.

          1. Kelly O

            That’s why I love it. I am vaguely justified in over-thinking things, or I remember “dude, you are over-thinking this again” – either way I feel better about myself.

        1. OP

          It’s reassuring to know I’m just overthinking it! This is the first time I’ve had to actively job search/interview while employed full time, so thanks all for talking some sense into me. :)

          1. Anonymous

            OP, if this is the issue you are overthinking, I think you are in good shape. You have a job! You are actually getting interviews! This is a nice conundrum to have!
            :)

      2. AMG

        Don’t worry. You are not dramatic. You are just putting thought into making a good impression and looking nice. :)

  23. Anonymous

    At one place where I ended up having a great boss and a great boss’ boss, I had asked for a later time slot in the day so I could stop and change. I had been working in a place where jeans were the norm, and the new place was business casual. My soon-to-be-boss said not to worry. He instructed me to wear jeans, and he’d explain it to his boss, who I was to meet for the first time.

    I’ve interviewed several people at a few different companies myself, and never once have I made a decision based on clothing.

  24. Just Me

    At work we are as biz casual attire as one can be. Shorts are fine. Jeans are fine. T-shirts. I couldn’t at all wear something more dressy without standing out. Capris I can do but even that wouldn’t be my idea of interview attire.
    For me, I save enough PTO and as needed work more hours during the week and pad that into any interviewing time I need. I work 1/2 hrs from where my target interviewing area is ( home town) and I have to factor in travel time to get back into town.
    Worse case scenario, I change a the local drug store down from where I work if Ineed to get somewhere in a smaller time frame.

    I know not everyone has enough PTO to do this. Just by past exp I have always mentally “banked” some time to be used only if I need to interview. Gives me time to get home, change and get there.

  25. FromMichigan

    Yup, I’ve also changed in the car. It’s amazing what we’ll do to get our dream job!

  26. Laurie

    This is what the nice restrooms in Starbucks are for (sorry Starbucks, though I usually get a latte too while I’m there). Changing at the future or current employers’ is awkward, definitely.

  27. chica

    does anyone else think it’s weird the interviewer was still outside by the elevator? I’m picturing a big office building where the elevator is at the front lobby. Perhaps I just change slower than others, but I would definitely be surprised to change as the OP described, and find the interviewer still outside. Doesn’t mean anything, and of course not unexpected, since its their building after all, but unlucky.

    1. Andrew

      If it’s an older building this wouldn’t be at all unusual. My dentist in NYC was on the 14th floor of a pre-World War I building that had just one extremely slow elevator; waits of 10 minutes or more were common.

    2. AMG

      Our office is crowded, and while we work on getting more space, it’s not unusual to see 2-3 people meeting in the lobby. Or chatting when they run into someone. We also have 2 reastaurants adjacent to the lobby, and 2 more within walking distance from the lobby doors. It wouldn’t be strange here at all.

  28. Chocolate Teapot

    I started turning up to my previous job dressed more smartly, but what I tended to do was wear the suit, but swop the top for something a bit smarter for when I had an appointment. This avoided the looking crumpled or trying to hide spills, plus I often find that if you change clothes, you can behave slightly differently, which can help when in “interview” mode.

  29. rdb

    I once changed for an interview in the lobby bathroom of a hotel near the prospective job. (Didn’t get the job, but at least I looked nice.)

  30. Anonymous

    My new favorite AAM quote: “in the future, keep your clothes on until you’re out of their office”

  31. Sophie

    I don’t see how the green sheath dress wasn’t nice enough for the interview, but that’s me. I have worn nice sheath dresses for interviews before, usually during the summer when a suit is too hot. Of course, some places require a suit during interviews no matter what.

    For the OP, next time I would go with wearing a skirt suit partially to work and leave the jacket in the car, as many have suggested. I did that one day when I had a interview across town and only a half hour to get there. I work flats at work and then switched to the heels and added my jacket when I got out of the car.

    What I find more annoying – arriving breathless and sweaty and not having enough time to clean up. I always try to get there 15 minutes early so I can hit the bathroom, but sometimes that’s not possible. When I went to an interview one time where I had to walk all the way around the block in my super heels and I was gasping like a fish when I arrived, thankfully the interview understood that close parking was not always an option (the office was right in the middle of a large downtown area) and asked if I needed to take a moment before we started.

    1. Andrew

      Of course, if the OP is a man, the green sheath dress would have definitely raised eyebrows!

  32. Dorothy

    I once changed for an interview in the restroom of a (very nice) gas station down the street from my then-current job. This was on jeans-Friday at a very small firm, so it would have looked really strange for me to be wearing dress pants or skirt. I kept my suit in my trunk so no one would see it through my window in the parking lot. Worked out well, until I realized I had locked my keys in my trunk… in 0-degree temps in January. Waited for AAA to come unlock my car, and ended up being about 15 minutes late to the interview (though I called and explained that I was waiting for AAA). I briefly explained the situation to my interviewer, who seemed to think it was hilarious — I ended with “Great first impression of my intelligence, huh?” and then got into the interview, which went very well.

  33. Anonymous

    As an overthinker myself, i definitely userstand your concern. Since I take public transportation, changing/leaving Clothes wasn’t an option for me. I would try to schedule morning interviews so my button down would not get wrinkled and would roll up a tote and a more casual shirt into my bag. I would then change in a cafe bathroom and carry the tote to work.

    I have a question regarding the interview timing while working full time. How do you work around your normal 9-5 or 6? When you go on interviews, do you ask for an earlier/later time that is outside of business hours? I am not in a place where I can fit in an interview during my lunch break.

    1. OP

      I have never asked for one outside of normal work hours myself – I try to schedule either first thing in the day (i.e. 8:00 or 9:00, when I start at 9:00) or last hour of the day (4:00/4:30). That said, I’ve seen people here mention that interviews outside normal hours are possible, and I had an interviewer once offer me a 7:30am slot. I’m not sure the best way to ask for that, but I know I’ve seen that mentioned on AAM before.

    2. Natalie

      I always get the first or last slot and tell my boss I have an appointment and will be coming in a little late or leaving a little early. I have PTO available but I could also shift my schedule a bit to make up the hours, so it hasn’t been an issue thus far.

    3. A Nony Cat

      Enough people have flexible work hours that I think it’s reasonable to ask for an interview slot just before or after business hours (e.g. 7:30am or 5:00pm). My organization once had an interview for a senior level position that began at 6pm. Of course, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to do it, but I don’t think it would be strange to ask.

      If you can’t do really early or really late, I would do 8am or 4pm (as mentioned) and then tell your current job that you might be a bit late/leave early due to “personal reasons” and “appointment” or “errands that can only be done during business hours” (all of which are sort of true).

  34. Long Time Admin

    I used to change at the nearest McDonald’s.

    It’s a good idea to dress up for work occasionally, just so people don’t notice when you wear a suit and jokingly ask “do you have a job interview?”

    1. Jamie

      This. I know I’ve gotten more casual at work when the occasional heels and dressier than normal attire makes people nervous.

      I try to make it a point to dress like a grown up at least a couple of times a month just to avoid that particular weirdness.

      It’s funny – I almost never pay attention to how people are dressed. Sure, if you showed up in a leotard or a flight suit I’d probably notice… but anything in the realm of normal and it wouldn’t ping my radar at all. So it always makes me slightly uncomfortable when other people comment on my clothes or hair, just because it’s a reminder that other people are far more observant than I – at least sartorially.

  35. Anonymous

    I am so happy to read these suggestions. When I interviewed for my current job, my interview was re-schedule from business-casual Thursday to jeans-day Friday. I had originally planned to wear my suit pants and blouse, and just bring the jacket, but I had (stupidly) said a few times how much I loved the jeans-allowed policy on Fridays. So I went to my interview and changed at a sandwich shop down the block. (I think the sandwich shop is a much better option than the company’s restroom!)

    In hindsight, I probably could have still gotten away with just wearing the suit pants to work, even though it was Friday. But at the time, I was super-paranoid about people finding out and I was convinced that they would know I was wearing nice pants because of an interview.

    1. Ivy

      Ya and even if someone did notice and ask you why you wore dress pants, I’m sure a sad look and a “I forgot it was Friday :(” would do the trick! :P

  36. Student

    I would’ve changed at McDonald’s or possibly Starbucks. They don’t care if you wander in just to use the bathroom, generally. Grab a cup of coffee at either place if you need a universally acceptable excuse to be running 15 minutes late. “Oh hi Boss, sorry I’m a few minutes late getting back from my lunch break. I went to get coffee at X and they were running slow!” It’s an American tradition to not question coffee acquisition.

    1. Anonymous

      But sometimes waiting for the Starbucks bathroom takes a rather long time. I’ve waited as long as 15 minutes. When you’re already pressed for time it’s a pain in the butt to wait.

      1. OP

        I agree. Especially in the area I live/work in, it seems like it’s very hard to find a public restroom you can just dash in and out of. Many places require a key you have to ask a cashier for, some places require a passcode you can only get if you make a purchase (= time waiting in purchase line), sometimes the line to the bathroom itself is long, and some places around here are also tiny lunch places and I don’t know if they even HAVE a bathroom!

        Granted, it’s probably a good idea to look public restaurants you CAN use if you know you’ll need to make a total change. But it’s not always as easy as just going into the first Starbucks you pass.

  37. Samantha

    I don’t think it’s that weird. Not every office is more formal in their dress code. Our office is very casual -people wears jeans, shorts (in the summer obviously) etc. I’m wearing a skirt, no hose, sandals and a sleeveless top. I would never go to a job interview like this and it’s too warm to ‘dress up’. I would change first. I’ve changed in the bathroom at the interview before but in that case it was a tower so I just used a bathroom on a different floor.

  38. Vicki

    ONce again, I am sooooo glad I work in an industry where my normal “nice’ work clothes are identical to my interview clothes. Suit? Yerch.

  39. Anonymous

    I used to work in a smart casual office (in the UK) and needed to change for an interview. I went to the local department store with my suit in a bag, explained my predicament and asked if I could use their changing room. They could not have been nicer, asked me if I needed anything and wished me luck.

  40. Elizabeth West

    I don’t even have a suit right now. But then, I’m not working, so no worries. I just wear a very nice blouse and pants, and nice shoes. I have no choice at the moment.

    If I did this, I’d probably just have a jacket in the car, as others have pointed out, or wear something a bit dressier that day. I do that occasionally anyway, so it wouldn’t be that noticeable. I liked the one about saying you’re going somewhere after work. Most people wouldn’t think “interview” if it were after hours. If they said “Ooh, you got a date?” you could just smile enigmatically. :D

  41. Ali_R

    Am I the only one that got a visual of a Lois Lane type switching in and out of a Superman type costume in the janitor’s closet?

  42. Holly

    I’ve been the hiring manager who ran into a differently dressed interviewee leaving the building. She (interviewee) wore a suit to the interview and blouse and capris on the way out (bathroom changer). Did it bug me or seem weird? No. I’ve been there.

    What I didn’t notice, actually, was that her post interview outfit matched the culture and formality of the rest of the staff in my office. Her interview went well and it reinforced my opinion that she’d be a great fit. Also, she handled the elevator ride with humour and yes, I hired her and she fit right in with the rest of the team.

  43. Alyson

    Am I the only one that thought it was odd for the interviewer to be waiting for her to finish in the restroom? When I’ve had candidates ask me the same question as I walk them out, I just give the directions, say my goodbyes and go back to my desk.

    1. Julie

      It might have been the sort of place where guests need to be escorted. I once worked for a company that dealt with pre-release movies and DVDs, and all guests needed to be escorted by an employee at all times while on company premises, for security reasons. (Because movie studios are paranoid.)

  44. Anonymous

    I once had coworkers who made comments about the interviewee not wearing a real suit. One that was just black pants and a top but not bought together and that if it came down to it they would chose the other candidates. Really we dint even wear suits to work and Fl is a pretty causal stste.

  45. some1

    I did this twice, once was on Casual Friday and I had decided to tell anyone who asked why I was wearing a suit that I had to go to a wake right after work. But none of my coworkers even asked, and I got the job!

  46. sami

    I am going for an engineering position. I am wondering if it is fine to wear stretch black jeans and jacket? the jacket is not jean. When I wear formal pants they look loose on me. I think these two goes very well. my shoes, bag, jean, and jacket are all black and I will wear a light color top. Thanks a lot for your help

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      No, you definitely can’t wear jeans to an interview, even stretch ones. Try dress pants with some stretch in them to keep them from being so loose, or see if a tailor can help!

  47. Nick

    HELP!!! I have an interview next week for a promotion in my current department. This interciew will take place on the job but at a different location. Work attire is khaki pants and a logoed button down shirt. If I change he will know for a fact Im only changing for the interview. I believe he would expect me to arrive in uniform. Is it risky to change into a suit?!

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