wearing school colors when interviewing at a university, recommending a fired employee, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Wearing school colors when interviewing at a university

When applying for a classified or administrative position at a university, whether or not you attended that particular university, is it inappropriate to wear a blouse or accessorize with one of the colors of that university? My feeling is that it could go either way, so I would love a professional opinion.

I don’t think it’s going to hurt you, but it feels gimmicky to me — and it’s pretty unlikely to help you unless you’re interviewing with someone who judges candidates on the wrong things. You’re better off focusing on showing why you’d excel at the work. (And that goes doubly if the school colors are creamsicle orange or another garish selection.)

2. Should I write a letter of recommendation for an employee I fired?

I manage a team of remote workers, and recently my boss and I decided to fire one of my employees. A few days after being fired, the employee contacted my boss asking for a letter of recommendation. My immediate reaction: WHAT?

My boss forwarded her email to me, and said he doesn’t want to write her one, but I can if I’d like. Is it common to provide letters of recommendation for fired employees? Is it acceptable and reasonable to tell her no? I don’t think I could possibly write a good letter considering she was fired for very serious performance issues, and only worked at our company for 2.5 months. I’m always more than happy to write letters, but not when the employee is fired.

No, it’s not not typical or expected to write recommendation letters (or give positive references) for employees who were fired for cause, not unless they were fired for A but you worked with them long enough and closely enough to honestly say that they’re great at B. It’s completely reasonable to respond to the former employee with something like, “I don’t think we’re in a position to be able to write you a helpful recommendation, especially since we worked with you for such a short period of time.”

Also, letters of recommendation aren’t generally that helpful at all for the reasons I explain here (outside of a few fields that still use them, like academia and some parts of law). Most reference checkers want to actually speak to references and don’t care that much about what a letter says.

3. How can we address confusion over our internal transfer process?

A concern that comes up consistently on our annual associate opinion surveys is that associates feel confused about the internal job application/transfer process, including lateral moves and promotions. Survey results say that eligibility criteria for job transfer don’t make sense, that they feel these decisions are made unfairly, and that they don’t understand the process all that well in general.

I only recently joined the HR team, but I now handle internal job transfers. I am still getting acquainted with the company, but I think these survey results may be something I can address – or at least begin to address. Although I imagine some of the people making these statements on the survey may be venting frustration at not being selected for job transfer, I am also concerned that this is hitting on a real issue. During recent exit interviews, at least two associates have said that dissatisfaction with at least part of the job transfer process has influenced their decision to leave the company.

What can we do differently? Each manager announces job transfers during departmental morning meetings, and refers associates to the job postings board in the break room for more details. (Most associates have limited computer access at work due to the nature of the work.) Interested associates can apply by seeing me, and I make sure to offer them a copy of our job transfer criteria at that time. I always ask if they have questions, although they rarely do. Any associates who are ineligible are notified by their current manager of the reason. Associates who interview for the position but are not selected are notified by the hiring manager. I am not sure where the breakdown in understanding and communication is happening.

It’s difficult to say from the outside what’s going wrong, but I bet the people who are telling you that there’s a problem could tell you! Or at least, they’ll be able to help you better understand how they’re perceiving things from their side.

So make your first step in tackling be seeking to better understand the problem. You can do that by soliciting more information from employees — either the ones who have complained about it (if the responses weren’t anonymous and if you can follow up with people without making them feel like they’re in the spotlight for complaining), or a selection of employees from various parts of the company. Ask them what they think of the process, where the problems are, and how they think it could be handled better, and I bet you’ll get the beginnings of a blueprint to address it.

4. Responding to a fundraising solicitation from a coworker running for office

My colleague (and former manager; we aren’t on the same team any more) is running for office. She recently reached out to me directly (in my personal email) and asked for a donation to her campaign. I was already planning to donate (both because I believe in her candidacy, and because I like to support my friends who are doing hard and admirable things), but her direct request still rubbed me the wrong way.

The situation is complicated by the fact that our employer is an advocacy organization with a (c)4 partner that supports candidates directly. The office she is running for is directly relevant to our mission and it is likely that the (c)4 is supporting her campaign (but I have no way of knowing that for sure; I don’t work with the (c)4). It all just feels a little murky to me, and I both wish that I wasn’t put a position where I may have had to say a direct, uncomfortable no to a colleague (had I not wanted to donate) and I worry that she’s crossing lines that could get her or our employer in trouble. What do you think? Should I do anything?

First, I don’t think you even really have to respond to these sorts of emails if you’d rather not. I tend to think that emails and letters soliciting donations or purchases should be treated as informational messages that don’t require a response — you should see them as “here’s information about an opportunity that you might appreciate knowing about,” but not as direct questions requiring direct answers (in most cases, regardless of the language of the email).

On the broader issue of whether you should say something about it being a bad idea to do this in general, depending on your relationship with her, you could say something like: “I think it’s awesome that you’re running and I was glad to be able to donate! I’m a little worried about whether fundraising with staff gets into a murky area with the (c)3 rules on electioneering — have you thought about how to navigate that?” And if you have an especially comfortable relationship with her, you could go further and say, “While I was already planning to donate to your campaign, I can imagine staff feeling awkward about getting fundraising solicitations from a colleague if they weren’t.”

5. My written offer is lower than the verbal offer

I was interviewed and hired on the spot. I was offered $12 working retail, but a few days later in orientation the written offer said $11. I didn’t say anything at the time because other people were around, but should I clarify what was verbally said and what was written?

Whoa, yes, absolutely. Treat it as a clerical error or a miscommunication that needs to be corrected, and do it immediately, because it will get far harder to fix it the longer you wait. Say something like, “We’d agreed to $12 an hour, but I noticed the paperwork says $11. How do I get this corrected?”

{ 152 comments… read them below }

    1. OP #4*

      Alison is right, but to clarify: The 501(c)4 establishes PACs to support candidates. And with that we have reached the end of my understanding of campaign finance; although it’s a big part of what my organization does, it is not at all a part of my work.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        (c)(4)’s don’t have to establish PACs to support candidates. They are limited, but they can directly support and oppose candidates.

  1. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

    I just want to add on the letters of recommendation, that the ONLY time I have ever seen letters is when they are part of a separation agreement. That is, “We’re terminating you and as part of you signing this general release, we’ll write a carefully crafted letter that has been approved by our attorneys.” Someone that shows up at an interview with letters of recommendation just announced, “This person was fired! Attorneys were involved! This was not a normal layoff. He was FIRED.”

    So, yeah, no letters.

      1. Jen RO*

        And they’re definitely uncommon in parts of Europe too. A recommendation letter wouldn’t harm someone’s candidacy here, but we would definitely wonder what on earth s/he is thinking.

        1. The RO-Cat*

          This. The only time I’ve seen / used recommendation letters was when freelancing (former clients endorsing letters). Never seen in any of the hiring processes I’ve been part of.

          1. Cheesecake*

            Then welcome to Switzerland and (most probably) Germany. While in some European countries receiving 10 reference letters together with CV will raise eyebrows, here eyebrows will be raised if this “package” is NOT received. It is required by law to give reference letters no matter what, so if on the bottom it does not say “we regret to receive her resignation” – employee was fired.

            1. The RO-Cat*

              Yes, I’ve read about the reference letters of Germany and their coded language. Interesting to see people wiggle the way for truth around legalities!

              1. Cheesecake*

                Oh well, in CH they sort of dropped this coded language and some employers even put a not on the letter that it is “not coded”. But again, sort of. It is an entire universe of wiggling the truth that i doubt will go away easily. Currently the shift is to use the reference letters for more of a sense check: if a person states something on the CV – reference letter must be present, otherwise person might be lying….rather than really read if someone “executed job to fullest satisfaction” or merely “full” :D

        2. hamster*

          Actually i worked (briefly) for an american company in RO that required i bring 2 written letters of recommendation. When i went to my ex managers they looked on google for templates. So yeah , not helpful.

      1. Cheesecake*

        It definitely is not the one and only thing to make a decision to hire/reject someone, but I agree, it is not such a bad thing and can be used for red flag checking.

    1. Allison*

      When I was an unpaid intern looking for a paid position, my boss wrote me a letter of recommendation for a job I’d applied to and really wanted. I didn’t ask for it, but didn’t say “no” either. In hindsight, I wonder if that hurt my candidacy.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I’m not Allison, but I do think it may be different if the boss wrote the letter for a spcific job pointing spcifics about how you’d be great.

        However you always still have the issue of trustworthy-ness and the hiring company being able to know if your old boss wrote the reference or if you faked it.

        1. Allison*

          Possibly, but it’s still an application material that wasn’t asked for, to an employer that probably had its hands full since it was a very well-known website. As it was, I think they’d already asked for multiple writing samples, so they had a lot of stuff to read and I think letters of recommendation might’ve been more annoying than helpful. It probably would’ve been enough for them to be a reference should references be asked for.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think wondering if the person faked it is a common concern, but employers do generally assume that there could be tons of bad stuff about the person, despite the letter. Most people can find a few positive things to say about something to base a letter on, but it doesn’t mean that that’s anything approaching the whole story — and that’s usually the main concern.

        3. bridget*

          I’m in the legal field, so as Alison pointed out, letters of recommendation are more common. But, I’ve never seen one (at least for letters that really were glowing recommendations) that didn’t include a last line of “please feel free to call me to discuss further,” with contact information for the reference. In my experience, many people do take the letter writer up on that offer, and call to have a more specific conversation. So as long as the letter really looks like a jumping off point, where a further conversation is invited, I think it makes it 1) less likely it was faked, and 2) less likely to look like anybody is hiding something. Also, in legal fields it’s most common that the letter writer sends the letter directly to the hiring person so the applicant never sees it, which also cuts down on potential fakery.

    2. Amanda2*

      It depends on the field. I am in the education field, and letters of recommendation are standard with all applications. You are usually asked for at least 3 letters of recommendation when you submit your materials.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, academia is the big exception to this (and academia hiring in general doesn’t follow typical hiring conventions). Some parts of the legal field also like letters.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      I’d never heard that letters were of no value until I found this site, less than 2 years ago, and I have letters dating back 20+ years. This is the first I’ve heard that they can be detrimental.

      They were supplemental to the references I also supplied, and at least the more recent ones would still have valid contact information on them, if you wanted to contact the writers and ask for more details. Glowing references from many co-workers, customers, and managers, (with one joke letter that might be more accurately described as a flaming reference), all for naught.

      While I never considered them replacements for actual current references, and only offered them as supplemental information at an interview, I did think the one thing they provided was a picture over the years of what characteristics others found recommendable, and when that same characteristic was repeated, there could be some value there.

    4. YaH*

      Letters of recommendation are required for public school teaching positions in all of the counties I’ve researched, in several different states.

    5. Anne*

      One of my former employers refused to take/respond to reference requests and would only provide letters of reference immediately after departure, regardless of your reason for leaving. I’ve never figured out if it was something he thought was more ‘professional’, sour grapes at people daring to leave, or just a fondness for outdated conventions.

  2. Gina*

    “Survey results say that eligibility criteria for job transfer don’t make sense”

    If this is like a former job of mine I can offer a theory. I applied for a site transfer at a job years ago because I took care of my granddad and needed to be closer to his house. At the time I had a schedule restriction where I couldn’t work Tuesdays because I had two classes that were only offered on Tuesday and killed the middle of the day. The transfer was rejected because there was a rule you couldn’t have schedule restrictions if you wanted to transfer. This made no sense in general because it has nothing to do with the transfer, and also you could have them before you moved and after you moved, just not while you were applying to move. This applied to promotions also. So it was a rule just for the sake of having a rule. Also no one knew about it, so you couldn’t plan ahead and remove the restriction temporarily. I bet that’s what’s happening here, the “eligibility criteria’ is arbitrary and they don’t even know what it is until it’s too late. If that many people are upset over it there’s probably a reason.

    1. Taz*

      If it’s like a place I used to work, the complaint is most likely related to the fact that even though the employer can have outstanding employees, somehow virtually no one internally is ever good enough to qualify for a transfer (and, if they do, it takes an ungodly amount of time for it to go through). People were better off quitting, relocating, and then reapplying.

    2. Meg Murry*

      The thing about surveys is that generally everyone who hasn’t had a 100% positive outcome from a process is going to rate it negatively in a survey.
      Regarding eligibility criteria, is there a reason it can’t be on the job bulletin board as well? Or a quick summary at the bottom of each position, such as “to be eligible for a transfer you must have been in current role for a least X time, have no write ups in the past Y months, etc… see full transfer requirements for more details”
      And if th reason is that the tranfer eligibility rules are more than 1 or 2 pages – that is something to look into, as the system may be overly complex or have too many nit-picky rules.
      Also, is the manager announcement plus break room bulletin board really your best way to communicate these openings? Do most of your employees use the break room, or would a board by the time clocks or elsewhere get more visibility? Even if your associates don’t have access to a computer for most of the day, if you provide company email there is no reason why you couldn’t also send you an email with the job postings.
      Last, although you say the current managers let people know of their ineligibilty and hiring managers contact those that don’t get the position – is that how it really, always works, or just the policy of how it is supposed to work? You might want to have a look at how that is actually happening, and make sure it is going smoothly.

    3. Judy*

      Depending on your influence, could you try to do a focus group and get information from the employees about the process? I’ve several times in my career been asked to join a focus group for HR for a new procedure. The outcomes of the focus group (in terms of clarity, not necessarily company intent, although at least once the intent was changed) were clearly evident in the published procedure.

      1. KD - submitted #3*

        I love the idea of focus groups. This would be an ideal way to figure out what’s really going on here, in my opinion. I am not sure if I have enough influence for that… but it couldn’t hurt to mention it to my supervisor!

        1. plain jane*

          If you decide to go with focus groups, please be careful about who is watching from the HR/management side, and who knows who is participating. Otherwise you may end up with fears (or actual) backlash because of the negative comments. And make sure the participants know not to talk about the discussion afterwards as well (at least not in specifics/naming co-workers).

    4. AVP*

      I would also think that if OP is not getting any questions in one-on-one meetings about eligibility criteria, it’s not because the candidate understands everything 100% but because they’re on the spot and haven’t had a chance to digest it yet and formulate questions.

      It’s kind of uncomfortable to be sitting in a meeting with someone watching you while you try to read something and figure out how it does/doesn’t apply to you, and then come up with something intelligent to say about it. So maybe that would be helped by posting the requirements in advance (either on the bulletin board, or handed out directly to interested parties), and then scheduling a meeting to apply?

      1. KD - submitted #3*

        AVP, They aren’t formal one-on-one meetings so much as associates stopping by my work space whenever they have time. It’s a pretty informal work environment, luckily, but I still think that your point about associates maybe feeling pressure and/or having difficulty digesting such a wordy document on the spot applies here. I would like to post the eligibility criteria with the job postings – you’re the second person to make that great recommendation. However, we track who takes out an application, so I don’t think I’d get the OK to leave blank applications by the job postings, too.

        I am not sure whether scheduling a meeting to apply would work well with the logistics of this work environment… but I do think it would give associates a better opportunity to come prepared with questions if they have them. I’ll see if that’s an option. Thanks!

        1. Meg Murry*

          Why do you need to track who takes an application? That seems like part of an overly bureaucratic process right there that could go away easily enough.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yeah, really, are managers being informed that people want to transfer and retaliating? I worked in two places like that. And that retaliation stuff is not easy to uncover.

            1. KD - submitted #3*

              Hm, thinking about it, I am not sure why applications are being tracked. Like I said, I am still fairly new to the company. I know that only HR, the hiring manager, and 2 people in upper management have access to the list of people who have taken out applications. Often, the hiring manager will check on how many applications have been taken out and received while the job is posted. I think they do this to gauge interest, and see whether they’ll be able to fill the position internally. I’ll have to see if there are additional reasons that we do this.

    5. KD - submitted #3*

      Gina, that rule does sound frustratingly arbitrary. I hope that you were able to transfer into a new position (or get a job elsewhere) that worked better with your schedule at the time!

      Most of our eligibility criteria are pretty standard (e.g., if you have had recent disciplinary action, you are prohibited from transferring for a certain amount of time; you have to be with the company for a certain amount of time before you are eligible, etc.). I think some of the confusion might stem from the HR jargon in the criteria, which I plan on asking my supervisor about. Perhaps it would be possible to use more common language. Additionally, I encourage all associates to check out our eligibility criteria on the front end (to save them disappointment and time in case they’re not eligible). However, not all of them take me up on the offer, which is just providing them with a copy of the criteria at this point.

      1. KD - submitted #3*

        Taz, we use a staffing agency for 95% of our new hires. Pretty much only highly specialized positions (e.g., IT, maintenance tech, etc.) are hired directly from outside the company. This means that most job transfers are temporary workers who have recently been made permanent employees, or long-time permanent employees who are looking to learn a new skill set or increase their base pay. If there weren’t any internal candidates – which I hear happens very rarely – then we would recruit outside the company.

        Meg Murry – You make a great point about survey takers in general! So many of the Likert scale responses were 1’s or 5’s (1 strongly disagree – 5 strongly agree), and the same strong opinions were obvious in the written comments for associates who added them. What is it about the people with the strongest opinions (not necessarily the most representative opinions) that compels them to respond to surveys? Just kidding, I get it. I just always found that aspect of self-report measures fascinating. I really like your suggestion about including the eligibility criteria next to all job postings. This would eliminate the need to come see me for associates who might just be entertaining the idea of job transfer. As far as the suggestion to place job transfer bulletin boards by time clocks as well, I think this could really help visibility. Not all associates use the break room during their lunches… but every associate clocks in and out. Unfortunately, some associates aren’t assigned company email at all, so that wouldn’t be a uniform way of notifying everyone. Lastly, managers who announce the posting provide me with confirmation that it’s been announced. Now, if I can’t take these managers at their words… that might be another issue entirely. We’ve toyed around with having them make announcements for each day of the posting (1 week), to ensure that associates who missed the meeting where it was initially announced (i.e., due to a tardy or absence that day) still hear it.

      2. Judy*

        If the eligibility criteria are standard, could you review as they get the application?

        “Jane, I see that you don’t have any disciplinary action in the last 6 months, and you’ve been with the company for much longer than 12 months, so it looks like you are eligible to apply for this position.”

        Or maybe a checklist you fill out with them before you hand them the application.

        1. KD - submitted #3*

          Judy, I like the idea of going over a quick checklist with them as they come to get an application. Many associates come to see us during break time (although they could arrange to stop by during non-break time if they mentioned it to their manager), so I wouldn’t want to take up too much of that time. But this could be an easy way to provide more info about the process and how each associate fits into it.

    6. doreen*

      “At the time I had a schedule restriction where I couldn’t work Tuesdays because I had two classes that were only offered on Tuesday and killed the middle of the day. The transfer was rejected because there was a rule you couldn’t have schedule restrictions if you wanted to transfer.” They absolutely should have explained the rule , but I’ve had a couple of jobs where transferring with that sort of restriction would be a problem. Not that you couldn’t transfer, but that you might lose the schedule if you did. For example in my office, all of the professional staff work from 10.5 hours on Thursdays, and work 4.5 hours on some other day. Many people have second jobs or take afternoon classes on that short day. But if you took Tuesday as your short day and had some commitment in the afternoon, you couldn’t transfer to an office which was scheduled for a 10.5 hour day on Tuesday without dropping that commitment.

  3. Kelly O*

    I’d think whether you wear the university’s colors or not depends a LOT on the colors themselves. Example: if you were at the University of Alabama (colors: crimson, black, white) it would be fairly simple and possibly even a bit common to see people wearing those colors all over the university. But at LSU (colors: purple and gold) it might come off a bit “Monday Mardi Gras” – although not having spent much time in Baton Rouge, I could not tell you for certain.

    But it does seem as though it would depend very much on the colors, and the general campus atmosphere. I worked at a university (University of Alabama at Birmingham, Go Blazers) and while our colors were green, gold, and white, I can’t recall ever seeing anyone wearing that specific color combination in the office except for Fridays, when we’d usually wear our t-shirts or polo shirts with jeans.

    1. PEBCAK*

      Exactly. And if your outfit happens to have one of the colors in it, I wouldn’t specifically avoid it. In your example, if you typically wear a black suit with a purple blouse underneath, that is totally fine, and entirely different from showing up in a purple suit with a gold blouse. Which is to say, I guess, that you should choose your outfit without being gimmicky, and if it happens to include a school color, well, whatever.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yes, this. Some colors are really normal to see in business wear anyway, and I wouldn’t specifically avoid them, but they probably also won’t register as the “school colors” except maybe subconsciously. If the school colors are black and red, nobody’s going to think “rah rah!” every time they see that combo IMO, because it’s just so common anyway. But you don’t need to go out and find a bright orange suit or anything. :)

    2. BKW*

      The one thing about school colors you might want to pay attention to is to avoid wearing the colors of the school’s biggest rival. For example, applying for a job at the University of Michigan while wearing scarlet and grey is probably a bad idea…

      1. OhNo*

        Can you explain why that would be bad? I would assume that the hiring manager/committee would just ignore the color of your clothes, rather than thinking “They wore a common color combination, they must be secretly spies for X University, come to take us down from the inside!”

        Seriously, though, unless you’re applying for a job in an office that deals heavily with school spirit related things (like alumni relations, or the sports coordinators, or something like that), I can’t imagine that wearing (or not wearing) school colors would be anything but ignored.

        1. KAZ2Y5*

          Well, considering that at my son’s freshman orientation they served “faux red” juice instead of orange juice (their in-state rivals have orange/black as their colors and their out-of-state rivals have burnt orange as their colors), there is no way I would wear any kind of orange to an interview there. Some colors are just more noticeable than others and at the very least shows a lack of awareness of the culture.

          1. EB*

            You would do stunts like dying orange juice for freshman orientation to build a sense of camaraderie and identification with the school. There are also other games and events that are one-offs to help freshman feel connected. You would have to check to see if the OJ in the cafeteria is dyed red 4 weeks later to figure out how much it really matters.

            1. KAZ2Y5*

              Oh, the orange juice was still orange, they just renamed it ;-) They also told us about the lights that would show up at night on some building (I can’t remember which one). They had every color except orange….
              I don’t really think it would matter if you (general you) wore the school colors to an interview, but I still really think you would get a few stares to wear the colors of an obvious rival (and I realize that some schools don’t have big rivalries so people applying there wouldn’t have to worry about it).

          2. AnonAlum*

            How ’bout them Sooners?

            Actually, I have heard a rumor that an administrator at OU was once fired for wearing orange on a Friday (when employees are encouraged to dress in a school-spirited fashion). Please note that this is only a rumor. :-)

        2. Elsajeni*

          As with wearing the school’s colors, I think this depends a lot on what the colors are, how normal or common they are in businesswear, and how noticeable they are in your outfit, plus how big a part of the school’s culture the rivalry is. (If I were interviewing at Texas A&M, I wouldn’t want to show up wearing even a tiny burnt-orange accessory if I could help it. The school I currently work at, on the other hand, doesn’t really have a notable rivalry; I’d be comfortable wearing any colors.)

          1. Kelly O*

            Absolutely agreed with this.

            I mean, on a personal level I do not own a single hounds-tooth item of clothing. I’m an Auburn fan, and it’s just something I guess I avoid on principle. I certainly wouldn’t show up to an interview at Auburn in a black and white hounds-tooth skirt and red jacket, if you know what I mean. By the same token, I wouldn’t go to an interview in Tuscaloosa in a navy suit with an orange shirt or orange necklace.

            Not that I think a decent employer would judge – please don’t get me wrong. It’s just understanding the culture of where you are, and using a little common sense. Some schools don’t have the intense rivalries, so you don’t even have to consider it. It’s just situational awareness.

            1. Elsajeni*

              Yes, exactly. It’s not that I think the Aggies would throw me out as a suspected enemy sympathizer if I showed up on campus in a burnt-orange blouse — but I’d worry that it might have a similar effect to showing up under- or over-dressed for an interview, making me look as if I hadn’t done my research or giving the interviewers a vague sense that there was something off about me.

        3. NK*

          I think this falls into the “why risk it?” category. As a UM grad as well, I think if I worked at the school I would take notice of someone who wore scarlet and gray to an interview (either color on their own, no, but the colors together, yes). I wouldn’t really hold it against them (depending on the role, of course – hiring a hospital worker is different than alumni relations), but it would strike me as a little out of touch.

        4. LAI*

          I’ve spent my career working at universities with well-known rivals and I think it’s unlikely that most staff members would notice or care what color outfit you wear, assuming that it’s not an unusual color combination. I don’t think anyone would hold it against you if you wore a rival’s colors, but it might indicate that you are not already a part of the school culture (I didn’t realize until 3 years after college that I didn’t own any red clothing – I just subconsciously never bought it). Also, many universities employ alumni from that college and many of them do hold on to some of their undergraduate school spirit. If you have a personal connection to the college (because you went there as a undergrad, because you’re from the area and grew up rooting for their teams, etc.) and are the kind of person who shows lots of school spirit, then I think that could work in your favor and you shouldn’t go out of your way to hide that during the interview. But you can also signal that in other ways besides your choice of clothing.

      2. Brett*

        It’s the obliviousness of it that would be a small mark against at some places (BKW providing one of the better examples). And it would completely depend on the school. I was an athlete at the Univ of Chicago and still had no clue what schools could truly be considered our rival schools (we might have hated Northwestern, but that didn’t make them rivals) and I doubt anyone hiring staff or faculty cared about rival colors. On the other hand, everyone had a strong devotion to the Maroon and Gray, and I think taking the effort to show some small connection to campus by wearing those gray with some maroon would be noticed in a positive way.

        1. fposte*

          Heh. And I was at UofC, and I didn’t know anybody who’d have noticed maroon, let alone grey; the closest thing I knew approaching devotion was vague awareness.

          1. Brett*

            Well, my awareness of it might have been being an undergrad athlete in the Hanna Gray era. So maybe I tended to connect with faculty and staff who had that kind of devotion and awareness too.

            The big ten alumni were still alive in significant numbers and the undergrad college was a lot smaller with a more distinct identity (e.g. “Where fun goes to die” and “The Beginning of the End of the World” started then). When Hugo Sonnenschein took over, things noticeable changed with the expansion of the undergrad college that pissed off a lot of the big ten alumni. Since that time, especially after Jay Berwanger died, it seems like the “school spirit” alumni have faded.

            1. fposte*

              Wow, we probably overlapped–I was Hanna Gray too. But I was grad, which of course is very different. (Though even when I worked at the alumni association school spirit was nothing like it is at my current university, where colors are Serious Business.)

      3. Fabulously Anonymous*

        Eh – I graduated from UM and if I saw a job candidate wearing a grey skirt with a red scarf, or grey pants and a red handbag, I wouldn’t think anything of it.

      4. Minette*

        A few years ago I worked at a school with a nationally know sports program. A vendor came in for a pitch meeting wearing our chief rival’s color and received several “joking” comments about it over the course of the afternoon. It’s that anyone thought he was a spy for the other school, but it was clearly perceived as a lack of awareness from someone looking for a major investment from our university. He did not get the contract.

        Wearing school colors probably won’t count in your favor, but wearing rival school colors may very well count against you.

      5. Dana*

        I’ve just got to add that I used to work for a custom textbook publishing company and it was not uncommon for the design instructions from the professor to be “designers can choose color scheme but avoid Color X and Color Y — rival school colors”.

    3. ZSD*

      I think it might depend on which department at the university you’re applying to. I wouldn’t wear the school colors to an interview in most university offices, but I could imagine that if you’re applying with the athletic department or maybe alumni relations, it could be a tiny positive.
      (But not as big a positive as interviewing well!)

    4. Elsajeni*

      Yeah, this is very true. I work at another red-and-white school — I am accidentally wearing my school’s colors about 60% of the time, because I own a lot of black-and-white tops and my Office Cardigan is red, and it’s completely unnoticeable. I’d notice if a candidate came in wearing school-logo merchandise, but that’s about it. If our colors were a less-common-in-normal-clothes combination like LSU’s, I’m sure it would stick out more.

    5. brightstar*

      I’ve spent plenty of time in Baton Rouge as I live there :) The purple and gold combination is seen fairly frequently, though fortunately I haven’t seen it too often in a business setting except for spirit day where people will wear LSU or Saints shirts.

      I do recall seeing a woman in a purple suit with a gold top, though. Too bad I can’t remember exactly where I saw her.

    6. Student*

      A lot of this depends on your role and who you will be interviewing with. Large universities sometimes have a very devoted school spirit culture.

      If you are going to one of academia’s infamous all-day interviews with ~30 people, then dress in something that will not detract or distract from you. Do not wear the school’s rival’s colors. You do not need to go out of your way to wear school colors, but it could very well be beneficial to wear something with school colors. Even if it’s subtle, people will notice. Don’t wear something emblazoned with the school mascot or the university’s name unless you are a genuine fan or alumni; even if you are, that’s probably not appropriate attire for a job interview.

      If you are interviewing for a more normal job, and will be meeting with 1-4 people, then all you really need to do is avoid the school’s rival’s colors.

    7. Miz Swizz*

      Another office that would definitely notice you wearing a rival’s colors would be Admissions. I used to work in an Admissions office and you would get comments if you wore a rival’s colors, even when it was abundantly clear that a purple sheath dress is not the same as a LSU sweatshirt. To be safe, I’d look up the school’s rivals and steer clear of any non-neutral color there (gold, purple, green, etc). As others have stated, there isn’t any harm to wearing the color for the university at which you’re applying but if you tried to wear head-to-toe school colors, it’ll come off as trying too hard.

    8. AnonyMouse*

      Yep, my school’s colour was light blue. Lots of professional clothes could be light blue (a blouse, a tie, etc) and I’m sure no one would think it was strange if you showed up wearing something that colour. But I really doubt it would count as a plus for you, either.

  4. jag*

    To OP#4, is there something she said specific to you that is making you uncomfortable, or just the fact that she wrote to you? If it’s the latter – ignore/get over it. Park of running for office is asking people for money. And there is zero need to even respond if the solicitation was clearly a mass mailing, although AAM’s reponses are good too. If it was specific to you and you were planning on giving anyway, then just give and tell her so. Or not – just say “I’ll consider it.”

    If she pushes you specifically or repeatedly, that is wrong.

    But just asking is just asking. It’s not a big deal.

    1. fposte*

      Eh. It’s not a great plan to do it at work, same as any other solicitation. I can ignore spam, too, but if my co-worker signs me up for the spam, it’s going to be a mark against her.

      1. BethRA*

        The candidate did reach out via her non-work email, though, which to me at least is a very different animal than asking “at work” or even directly (in-person).

        I know people get buggy about solicitation in general, and I agree that there should be clear boundaries around if and how to solicit a work colleague, but the challenge with not asking at all is it leads to not getting.

        1. fposte*

          But the not getting at all isn’t my problem, and if you’re sending it to me because I’m a work colleague, sending it to my non-work address is only going to annoy me more.

          It’s fine if you’re sending it to people with identified interest, and if it’s based on an outside-of-work friendship, it’s okay if it’s okay within your friend group. But in general, a candidate’s fear of not getting funds is overridden by a co-worker’s prerogative not to be dunned by co-workers on any email at all.

          1. Anonsie*

            I wonder about their relationship, though, since apparently they no longer work together but the letter writer said they had planned to donate to this former colleague’s campaign. She was also contacted by a personal email– to me, at least, that would indicate that they are friends outside of work on some level.

            I mean, if you were fundraising, and you knew someone you thought was probably going to donate, and you mentioned it to them anyway… Wouldn’t that seem perfectly reasonable to you? I would be surprised if someone was totally supportive until I asked them to be supportive, then suddenly they were uncomfortable.

            1. fposte*

              It does sound to me like in this situation it was a reasonable approach (and the OP says she was planning to donate)–I just felt we’d moved into being asked generally, and I felt the grumpy needed to represent.

              1. jag*

                I couldn’t function if small things like this bothered me or I kept “marks” against people for things they did once.

                If someone little annoying things repeatedly (or big annoying things fewer times) I get annoyed. Once or on rarely: ignore.

            2. OP #4*

              Just to clarify: The candidate used to be my manager. We both still work for the same organization – we’re just on different teams now and our work only occasionally intersects.

              I’ve only ever hung out with her on work trips, but we get along really well and if circumstances were different (more time, no kids, less work travel, etc.) I can imagine that we could become good friends. I’ve known about her political ambitions for as long as I’ve known her (because we work for an advocacy organization, it’s not at all unusual for staff to talk about our own political and public service goals), and I support her candidacy without hesitation. But we’re not at a stage of friendship – I think – where you could assume that I’d give. We’re colleagues, not besties.

              1. jag*

                I haven’t see the text of her request to you, but politicians asking for money are hoping you will give, not assuming. If the text made an assumption, that’s bad. But if it was just asking, that’s all it was, asking.

                1. OP #4*

                  The text was actually a little weird, but I’m not going to share it here. It didn’t make any assumptions, though – I was responding to Anonsie’s comment about knowing that someone was “probably going to donate.”

          2. BethRA*

            Anonsie pretty much summed up what I was going to say, generally :)

            And no, of course, the candidate (or charity) not getting funding is of course not your problem, I guess I just don’t see receiving an email I can easily ignore as that much of an imposition. YMMV.

        2. Bea W*

          But if she sent it to people at their work email, it’s still soliciting at work. Some companies have explicit policies about soliciting donations and non-work related fundraisers.

    2. Brigitte*

      I don’t agree. I actually had a boss fired over this once. It was against company policy to ask employees for political donations (although we could volunteer them).

      1. jag*

        If it’s against company policy, then so be it. But in this case, we’re pretty sure it’s not. So I don’t see the problem.

        I’ll add that a manager writing to her direct reports is different in that it has an inherent sense of pressure. This person is no longer the OP’s manager, so I don’t see the problem.

  5. Bea W*

    #4 is giving me flashbacks about a horrible volunteer I worked with.

    I feel like soliciting campaign donations from co-workers is no different than soliciting other donations or promoting fundraisers*, but with an added ick factor because of politics.

    *Except for Girl Scout CrackCookies

    1. Allison*

      Agreed with your comment on Girl Scout cookies, I can’t speak for everyone but I will never be annoyed with someone selling those at work, and I know I’m not alone there.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I get pissed off when they don’t sell them at work.

        “Hello! You have Girl Scout connections? Where are my cookies??!!”

        “Well, I didn’t know if I could……”

        “Cookies, woman! Think! And I don’t want some crappy order form, I want stacks of cookie boxes that can be bought on demand. Take all the work time you like.”


        /satirical version of conversation, had in real life as a normal conversation, albiet still with heavy emphasis on *cookies*

        1. Judy*

          Friendly reminder that there’s an iphone and android cookie finder app, that will lead you to the nearest cookie booth during sales. (We enter our cookie booths into the local system, and the national org does the rest.) There’s also a link to the online cookie booth finder on the girlscouts dot org website. (Program / cookies / then enter zip code in “Find Cookies” box.) It even tells you when cookie sales start for your area.

    2. the gold digger*

      If it’s any consolation, asking people for money for a campaign is about the most horrible part of campaigning that I can imagine. My husband was absolutely tortured by it when he ran a few years ago, which is why we ended up paying for most of it ourselves. (And which is why it is mostly rich people or people with generous rich friends who end up running for office in this country. Fundraising is exhausting and really difficult and no matter what you do as a middle-class person, there is no way you can catch up to someone rich.)

      1. Elizabeth*

        Ditto on this. I was the treasurer for a state house campaign a couple years ago for a friend. Fundraising is torturous for everyone involved.

        1. Bea W*

          I hate fundraising. I’m happy to do anything else. I will gladly account for money or lug stuff around, but I hate and suck at fundraising. I kind of mildly admire people who can do it. Three things I suck at – marketing, sales, fundraising.

          (Written while carrying home donations for a big fundraiser.)

  6. Allison*

    #1) It sort of depends on the school, the department, and the outfit, but I really don’t think wearing the school colors would give anyone a huge boost. They may want employees to be engaged with the school, but again, the degree depends on the department. Athletics, sure, “school spirit” is important there, so it may not be a bad idea. Support staff? Advisors? Professors and instructors? They’d look silly if they constantly showed up to work wearing the school colors, so it’s probably not the best idea to wear them in the interview. There are other, more professional, ways to convey that you’re serious about working there.

    1. Spartan*

      I knew lots of staff at my university who did regularly wear school-related clothing. My husband still wears his Spartans baseball cap everywhere, all the time. Sweaters, jackets, ID holders/cords, carabiners, coffee mugs (especially coffee mugs – they were free handouts). Not every staff member did so, but it was not unusual. Go Green!

      I’m glaring suspiciously at all the Wolverines that chimed in earlier in the thread.

  7. Cheesecake*

    Ehmmmmm….maybe a scarf or something that you can just take off? So if someone sees you putting scarf away, notices the colors and asks – you can talk about your experience at uni and this will be a good ice-breaker….and if they don’t notice – whatever. Better than sitting in the eye-watering purple and gold outfit for an hour. But anyway i think just showing up looking neat and being prepared is better than any outfit-modification-struggle.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      This is a reasonable compromise. I’ve got to say that I think it would be really odd to wear school colors if you aren’t an alum or don’t have some other strong connection (like your kid is a student). It’s really likely they would ask about when you graduated, etc., and it would be very awkward to try to answer that question if you had no real connection.

      I think a useful rule here might be that in a professional environment you should always avoid wearing clothes that might be construed (even by a long-shot) as any sort of costume. As Fabulously Anonymous says below, interviewers aren’t looking for a lot of information in your attire – beyond it being professional and normal.

      1. Cheesecake*

        Oops, i’ve missed “whether OR NOR you’ve attended this university”…then definitely i agree: do NOT wear anything related to uni if you’ve never attended. I think even if a relative has attended it can be mentioned but never “shown”.

      2. Miss Chanandler Bong*

        I would add though, that some schools–SEC, Big 10/12, etc–have enough presence that fans haven’t always attended the school. I still wouldn’t do it unless you’re actually a fan and can talk knowledgeably about whatever sports program they’re big in.

    2. AnonyMouse*

      This is a good suggestion. But I do think that if I interviewed for a job at the university I attended, I’d probably mention it in a different way than wearing the colours and hoping they noticed. For one thing, my degree is on my CV, and I might mention it tactfully in my cover letter, too. After that, I’d probably assume they knew I was an alum, and if they wanted to talk about it in the interview, they’d mention it themselves. Maybe I’d bring it up again if it was relevant to a question they asked (like if they said “why do you want to work here,” and one of the reasons was that I genuinely loved the institution after my time there, etc), but otherwise, I’d assume they had the information they needed about my having gone there.

  8. Fabulously Anonymous*

    I used to work in development at a university and served on a few hiring committees. I don’t recall any candidates wearing school colors or any committee member ever commenting on what a candidate did or did not wear. We did note if a candidate had experience with the school somehow, but we learned that from the candidate’s resume, not the candidate’s attire.

  9. Katie the Fed*

    #3 – the biggest issues I’ve seen with internal transfers here was a lack of consistent process and a lack of transparency. It started to look a lot like the Old Boys Club with the best opportunities going to men with little or no transparent process, so people cried foul.

    1. C Average*

      Yep. I’ve seen that at past workplaces. There was A Process, but certain people seemed to get shepherded frictionlessly through the process, with leadership proactively clarifying and expediting some of the bureaucratic parts of the process, while other people sort of had to decipher the rules for themselves.

      Looking back, I realize that the people in the first group were the more desirable candidates–people with a lot of seniority and a proven track record, people the organization would’ve very much wanted in those roles. And the people in the second group were the clueless rookies–less proven, less experienced. (I was one of the clueless rookies and, though I never sought a transfer, such things were much discussed by my peers.)

      The fact that the clueless rookies clearly wanted and needed help understanding the process and didn’t get it made it seem like the system was setting them up to fail–which it sort of was. Part of getting a job is proving you’re smart enough to navigate the application process, and that you don’t need hand-holding.

      1. KD - submitted #3*

        Katie and C Average, You both have made really interesting points here. One the one hand, as Katie pointed out, it can be demoralizing to feel like you don’t have an opportunity to grow with a company… without even being sure exactly why. Without a formalized, transparent process, workers are left to muddle through on their own. I’ve worked places like that, and it’s always left me feeling overlooked and disengaged. If this is a dead-end job, then perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere, right?

        On the other hand, C Average’s point about basic familiarity with the application process rings true, as well. C Average, I don’t think our process is A Process as at your past workplaces… quite. But as you mentioned, typically, the people who are better at navigating the application process are the ones who get their job transfer or promotion. Many of our workers have high school diplomas or GED’s at most and are very young (read: somewhat new to the workplace), to boot. Many of them ARE unfamiliar with a more formal application process, and I’d love to – well, not hold their hands – but make the process more accessible for them.

        1. Hillary*

          My workplace is a lot like C Average’s company, and I’m sort of in both groups. I’ve been in the middle of the pack for a couple transfers, but I’m also in the running for two where the hiring manager reached out to me. But I’m also in a midcareer professional role where positions may not exist until a good candidate is identified.

          Guidance for people on the floor is a big part of the supervisors’ roles, especially if they want to move into the office.

    2. Kat*

      I agree! I think you need to explore this a bit more. It could be unwarranted frustrations and anger, but you could also have a promotion and transfer processes that isn’t inclusive of all employees. We recently started looking specifically at increasing our diversity along with inclusion of diverse employees and found through a survey that there really was a feeling like promotions and professional development opportunities weren’t fair. Even if it turns out after further investigation that our practices are fair, simply taking the comments seriously and being transparent about what we are doing will go far in changing these attitudes. Keep in mind that all employees won’t feel comfortable telling their bosses and supervisors that they felt a decision for promotion or transfer was unfair for fear of coming off as entitled or risking their current job. Instead it will just manifest in dissatisfaction. Additionally, I personally believe transparency and honesty are the best tools for retaining good employees. If you aren’t transparent about the process and honest about why employees are being overlooked and aren’t considered for promotions and moves, your employees with options will go elsewhere.

    3. OfficePrincess*

      It stuck out to me that the current managers are telling the applicants if they’re not eligible. Since different people would be conveying the message at times, that could also play into how far it is. There’s a huge difference between “Stan, you’re not eligible to transfer so you won’t be getting an interview” and “Julie, in order to transfer positions, you must have X because Y. In order to be in a better position to transfer down the road, why don’t we focus on X.” Julie leaves disappointed, but understands what the issue was, Stan just sees some unfair or arbitrary process that “they” put in place.

      1. Jenny Next*

        There’s also the possibility that managers are doing their best to discourage transfers by employees whose work they like. It’s common enough for managers to block transfers and promotions because they don’t want to go through the hassle of replacing and training people, only to see them move on.

        1. KD - submitted #3*

          Jenny Next, I hope that this isn’t happening, but I suppose it’s possible. Theoretically, an associate could come see me on their time to request an application and to submit an application without their current manager knowing. At that point, the hiring manager and current manager have to work out a time for the candidate to interview, so the current manager would be aware of the application. I haven’t seen anyone who applied and was eligible not be interviewed, though. However, now I am wondering what the potential dialogue between current managers and candidates might be like when the manager learns of the application for transfer.

      2. KD - submitted #3*

        OfficePrincess, This is a great point. I have learned from my interactions with the managers that, naturally, they have varied communication styles. I haven’t sat in on any of the meetings where applicants learn they’re not eligible, but it is easy to imagine your scenario taking place. At this point it becomes… how do we ensure that managers are communicating sufficient information so the applicant understands why they’re not eligible, while still allowing that communication to occur naturally. I’ll check with my supervisor to get her thoughts… I’ve only been here a few months, and some managers have been here 5+ years.

  10. fposte*

    We’re a big school colors university, and I don’t think wearing them to an interview would even be helpful here. If you had them on because you were going to a game or you were working for another university unit on a spirit-type day, I don’t think it would be held against you, but they would already know that you work here so it wouldn’t help either.

  11. Joey*

    #1. Id think it was gimmicky. And possibly a reminder of a job you didn’t get. Whatever you do though, don’t wear the arch rivals colors?

    1. Ms Enthusiasm*

      LOL I was coming here to say the same thing. I’m in central Ohio which is Buckeye country. Everything is scarlet and gray. I’m sure no one would mind if someone wore a scarlet and gray tie to an interview at Ohio State. I don’t work there so I can only assume but if someone wore a maize and blue tie ( Michigan colors) I bet it would be really noticeable!

      1. Oryx*

        Oh, it’s not just central Ohio. Northeast Ohio is Buckeye country, too, even from those who didn’t attend.

  12. Hlyssande*


    I’d say wearing the school colors couldn’t hurt if you do it with subtlety. Normal interview outfit with colored accessories that coordinate? Sure! I suppose it would really depend on the school colors, but you could pick one of them and go with a tie or jewelry that works.

    I do agree that you’d be better safe than sorry to not wear any rival school’s colors, though. Just in case.

    1. Kate*

      Subtlety is what I’m thinking too. For example, my alma mater’s colors are green and white. (OU Oh yeah!) If someone came in wearing a regular black suit with a professional, neutral green blouse, I think that would be fine. It might even subconsciously make the candidate look like they belonged there in the interviewer’s eyes.

      1. Hlyssande*

        Those were my thoughts exactly.

        Snappy suit with shirt/blouse/tie/jewelry in the school color? Sure! Tie/jewelry with school logo when the candidate isn’t an alumnus? Gimmicky.

  13. DEJ*

    A couple of people have mentioned athletics – I work in college sports, and showing up to your interview looking like a rabid fan can actually hurt you depending on what the job is. Sometimes if we just get the impression that you just desperately want to work in our athletic department because you’re a huge fan, and assume that there are a lot of perks that come along with working in an athletic department, that can really work against you. Especially if it’s for something like administrative assistant or accountant.

    As others have said, if it’s a normal interview outfit that happens to be our school color – go for it. Also, we are at a school that has a big, passionate rivalry, so it’s better to avoid that color.

    1. Allison*

      When you mention someone showing up “looking like a rabid fan” I picture someone showing up in a jersey, face paint, and a foam finger. I’m sure you’re not talking about people like that, but I have to wonder if showing up with the school’s color as an accent – like black pants and a black blazer with a colored shirt – makes someone look like a rabid fan looking to score special perks. And if they come across as a non-rabid fan who truly admires the athletic program, would that be a turnoff?

      1. DEJ*

        Usually logo’d professional-looking gear is something that gives us pause, especially since some of that stuff is expensive. Logo’d tie or jewelry are probably the biggest culprits. They also sell logo’d business casual gear in our bookstore, like a sweater. Usually talking to them gives us a better idea of what their intentions are though.

        School color as an accent? Sure, go for it, because as I mentioned, that’s a ‘normal interview outlet that happens to be our school color.’

  14. Vee*

    #1 I work for a high school, and I always like it when a candidate wears something with our colors. They don’t need to be decked out in full green and white (and that would be a little weird if they were, tbh) but a green tie or accessory always makes me smile a bit. That being said, it’s not like it’s a determining factor in candidate selection.

    Gimmicky is when you watermark your cover letter with a huge image of the school’s mascot.

  15. Jillian*

    #3, we have the same issue at my company. I think there are really two issues. First of all, our posting have requrements that aren’t really required (i.e. an associates degree or a specific experience). Often the person selected doesn’t have all the requirements and the frustrated employees didn’t bother to apply because they didn’t have them either. Another issue is with the wording – Transfer Request. Many hourly employees think this means that the person with the highest seniority should automatically get the “tranfer”. They don’t really understand that this is a job opening like any other job opening.

  16. JG*

    #1: I agree with Alison’s advice, but I would encourage you to take a look at the school calendar to see if there’s anything big going on the day of your interview. My boyfriend once interviewed for a position in the alumni office and the first question the interviewer asked was “Why am I wearing a blazer today?” It turns out there was some huge founder’s day celebration and everyone was wearing blazers because of it. He didn’t get the job. Granted, that particular interviewer was a little nutty, but my boyfriend is convinced that had he at least been aware of the holiday it would have gone a long way, and if he had worn a similar blue blazer or something showing school spirit it would have helped even more.

    1. DEJ*

      Honestly, I think that’s more of a case that it appeared that your boyfriend didn’t do his research vs. not wearing the right clothing.

    2. Allison*

      “look at the school calendar to see if there’s anything big going on the day of your interview.”

      I’d recommend that too, for another reason. If there is something big going on, it can make traffic and parking a mess, and that might make you late. If you know about the event, you know to give yourself extra time and what areas you can avoid if possible.

  17. DB*

    I was just hired as a graduate program coordinator for a large state university (which also involves some recruiting). I did wear a sweater that was one of the school colors. After the job offer was extended they remarked on my attire and how it reflected well my interest in the position. I really think it depends on the job you’re applying for. If you are expected to be the face of the university I’d say be tasteful but definitely incorporate the school color !

  18. Cath in Canada*

    Am I the only person here who has no idea what the school colours are for either of the universities I attended (both in the UK), nor for the one with which I’m affiliated now? I guess it’s a sport thing? (University sport just isn’t a thing in the UK like it seems to be in the US – there are teams for lots of different sports, but no-one outside the team and their romantic partners / roommates would ever attend a game).

    1. Kelly L.*

      It’s a sports thing but can also seep over into things that aren’t really sports-related. I do think it’s more common to care about school colors at a really sporty school, but even a student who doesn’t care much about sports will often end up with a school-colors sweatshirt and a school-colors coffee mug and a school-colors (insert other tchotchke here).

      1. Oryx*

        This. My Masters is from University of Kentucky and I could not care less about sports and never once went to a game, but that blue & white Wildcat spirit is infectious.

    2. jag*

      It’s not just sports, although that probably played a role in the origins.

      I’m aware of the colors of the three institutions of higher learning I’ve gone to, which permeate the organizations “branding.” Same for my high school, which had very weak sports problems (it grew out of a “normal college” – ie teacher training college with very little sports as well). And there are two major research universities in my city that I did not attend that have colors that are distinct and which I am aware of simply because they use them consistently in university-wide branding and design. Both generally suck at sports.

      Branding is a bit of a dirty word here, but consistent appearance (which may or may not include use of color) is a good thing for large organizations. Whether that should extend to clothing is a separate issue….

    3. AnonyMouse*

      I went to university in the US but didn’t grow up there, don’t live there now, and have quite a bit of familiarity with the universities in my current country. School colours/symbols/etc do seem to be a much bigger thing in the US – and yes, it’s probably at least partly a sports thing. But even for schools where the athletics program is small or nonexistent, there’s typically a colour scheme that’s used on the website, in promotional materials, for graduation robes (in some cases), etc. I think it’s about creating a community feel and an identifiable “brand,” too.

  19. tomatonomicon*

    #1: I work in higher ed. In the Chancellor’s office, the office staff are not allowed to wear the colors of my employer’s in-state rival. Apparently some well-heeled alumni got hacked off when they were there for a visit and saw office staff in the wrong color blouses. (SPORTSBALL YEEEEEEEAAAAAAH!)

    So. I agree with AAM that it’s gimmicky (I’d skip the mascot lapel pin), but as long as you aren’t over the top with it, it can’t hurt.

  20. Former Professional Computer Geek*

    A friend of mine went to a school whose colors are… plaid. (When I researched, I found that officially it’s, like, red and white or something, but everything has that particular plaid on it!)

    Apparently, yelling, “GOOOO, PLAID!” is a thing there.

  21. Hooptie*

    Reference Letters

    We are not ‘allowed’ to write professional letters of recommendation. This was also the policy at several other companies where I’ve worked during my career. What I was told (and I know this sounds horribly paranoid) was that if we provide a letter of recommendation – even for a current superstar who has just outgrown their role – you never know when anyone will do something egregious enough to get fired. They can then use that positive letter as evidence either for unemployment benefits justification or as evidence in a wrongful dismissal case.

  22. Not So NewReader*

    OP#4. I think your formal process is probably okay. It’s the informal process that has problems.

    I have worked several places where bosses would say “Don’t bother applying they already picked out who they want and the application process is a mere formality.”

    My father worked in a place where the policy stated that people could be moved/promoted on the manager’s say so. What a kicker that one was and no one noticed. People at my father’s workplace felt that they should not have to apply because of it. “If management wants me to move over to X they can just put me there.” The problem came in where the employee wanted X and refused to apply because of this confusing policy that management could just move you.

    I worked one place where a BS was necessary for a particular job. We all assumed it would be a BS in a field related to the job itself. NOOOO. Any old BS would do. Someone with a degree in a health related field could apply for an IT job. Not a problem. (I know… sigh.)

    The was another place I worked at where I was told “If you do not accept the new job assignments or promotions offered, then you do not need to apply for any open position, either. Because they will remember that you failed to step up to the plate when asked.” People were cut off from applying.

    And lastly, the criteria. Let’s say position X is open. There are 6 points covered as requirements for the job. I cannot count the numbers of time I have seen people not apply because they had 5 out of 6, only to find out that the person who was eventually hired had 4 out of 6. Angry does not describe their reactions. I have seen work and systems sabotaged over something like this. (I’d find out later. Meanwhile, on the surface it appeared like the department always had some sort of malfunction going on with machines or processes. Stuff disappeared and so on. But every department had similar problems.)

    And that last one doubles the problems. Not only is the transfer process under question but then the employees have to deal with angry coworkers, too. I have days where I could go get a root canal and be happy about it.

    I have no idea how you would break through the gossip/rumor mill crap, because that is what most of these stories here are basically. But what you are saying makes sense. Employees do understand how to fill out the app and the path the app takes. What they actually don’t get is how decisions are made, it could be that they do not trust the decision to be fair. And it could be that they are told a lot of “misinformation” about what is going on behind the scenes.

  23. Anne*

    #3 – is it possible for you to post the list of transfer criteria with the job posting in the break room? That would give employees the chance to review the criteria without notifying HR that they’re interested, but they can still come to you with questions when they’re ready to apply.

    I also wonder if it’s perhaps your transfer criteria itself that is causing the problems, if the list has some items that seem to be arbitrary or contradictory, or some points that just aren’t clear to those who don’t already know how the criteria are applied.

    1. KD - submitted #3*

      Anne, I just posted the criteria on our job transfer board (with a new job transfer opportunity) – I’ll be curious to see if there are any obvious effects of that. I agree with what you said about the criteria seeming contradictory. The criteria cover most possible occurrences (e.g., we don’t have any internal candidates who meet criteria, so we look outside the company without finding any good candidates… and can then use the internal candidates even though they may not meet all criteria). I think that this – the accounting for all eventualities – may make it confusing to read for associates. Maybe it’s just information overload.

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