my recruiter told me to wear “something feminine” to an interview

A reader writes:

I was contacted yesterday by a recruitment agency that was looking to fill a position at a company I like, and it seems as if it would be a great fit for me. I Skyped with them today and they’ve set me up an interview for tomorrow.

The recruiter just called me back asking what I’ll be wearing to the interview, so I told her I’d normally wear a suit and a smart blouse. She said to me that she would prefer if I wore a “pretty dress” because this company apparently doesn’t like people to come “suited and booted.” She then spoke to someone else on her end of the line (I wasn’t on hold so I could hear) and asked what they thought I should wear, and a man’s voice replied “something feminine, like a pretty frock.”

I’m confused. I’ve been to plenty of interviews wearing a suit. And while I’m nearly 30, I do have a very girlish voice and quite a soft face, which makes me look younger, and I really don’t want to be hired based on how “feminine” I am.

I think as well it’s making me a bit squeamish because I couldn’t imagine the same conversation happening if I were a man. “I’d like you to wear a masculine suit” just wouldn’t work, right?

I realize you probably won’t get time to answer this before my interview tomorrow but I’d really like to have your input on if this is weird or if I’m just being old fashioned. And also, should I bring this up when the recruitment agency request feedback?

Is it an interview to be a courtesan?

Otherwise, no, this is weird.

It would be reasonable to say, “This company isn’t super formal and a suit will be out of sync with their culture, so you should go one step down in formality, like a skirt or dress or pants and a blouse.” But specifying that you should show up in a dress — and specifically “something feminine” — is gross.

If we could go back in time, I’d have you ask the recruiter about it during that phone conversation, first asking if nice pants and a blouse would work — because it’s possible that they were using “dress” as shorthand for “professional clothes that aren’t a suit.” But if they kept pushing a dress or this idea of “femininity,” you could say in a tone of genuine curiosity, “Can you tell me more about why?” … possibly followed by, “Do they really care about how feminine I appear? Why?”

And actually, it’s not too late to that now if you wanted to. You could call them back and say, “I’ve been thinking about your suggestion that I wear a dress” and then proceed to the questions above.

Whenever you’re confused about guidance a recruiter (or anyone in the hiring process) gives you, it’s totally okay to ask for their reasoning. Sometimes this forces them into realizing that the only answer they have is quite ridiculous or offensive, and that is good. Other times it surfaces a miscommunication, or a reasonable explanation for what they said.

In this case, whatever their answer was, hearing it would give you more information about the company they’re sending you to — or perhaps just more info about the recruiters themselves (such as that they were calling you from 1945, which would be an amazing development in time travel technology).

{ 281 comments… read them below }

  1. Regina

    Ick. I love dressing in pink and in feminine clothes in general but I’d be creeped out if someone said this to me. And who says “frock” anymore?

    1. The IT Manager

      I assumed from the use of the word “frock” that this must be taking place in Great Britain. Perhaps I’m wrong though, and they’re calling from the past or an alternate universe where use the word “frock”.

      1. Brightwanderer

        People in the UK do not routinely use the word “frock”. Last time I heard it was in a Famous Five parody.

        1. Anonsie

          I do have some British friends who say frock and apparently the LW is too, maybe it’s some weirdly regional thing?

        2. Mander

          Only in advertisements, anyway. I’m always seeing stupid copy about “party frocks” and “smart frocks” and “fabulous frocks” in marketing emails and websites and such.

          1. FD

            /spittakes

            However, if she were to deign to something as ordinary as an interview, she would be the one setting the dress (frock) code.

            “I can hardly consent to be interviewed by someone wearing ordinary clothes.”

        1. Merry and Bright

          Ha! I just saw on Wikipedia that it’s a word used in British English (present tense!). Er, not in this era.

          1. Elfie

            My husband uses frock quite frequently (and he’s only in his 40s). I do pick him up about it, because he’s the only person I know who does. It’s endearingly old-fashioned in my hubs, rather yucky in a recruitment agency! Just eww.

        2. TheLazyB

          I just said “frock” out loud, to ask my DH if he’s heard anyone use it in the last decade. I don’t honestly think I’ve said that word out loud before. Frock. It sounds weird!

      2. Koko

        I thought that too, but then saw “realize” instead of “realise,” so I’m stumped.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          That was me. I correct spelling and grammar and I Americanize in the process. (I know it’s not a “correction,” per se, but I like everything I print to be consistent. There’s probably an argument for not doing that.)

          1. Chinook

            Standardizing to use only Br. Or Amer. spelling is actually the Canadian standard as we mix our spelling and grammar rules. Otherwise, it is quite distracting to see the same word spelled 2 different ways in the same piece

            1. Cath in Canada

              How about two different ways in the same address?

              Consulate General of Canada
              Immigration Regional Program Centre
              3000 HSBC Center
              Buffalo, New York

              I sent multiple forms, documents, letters, and cash to that address while applying for permanent residence*, and the address cheered me up every time :)

              *Canadian green card equivalent. If you’re on a work permit and applying from within Canada, you have to apply through Buffalo with all the US applicants. I don’t know why.

          2. Mander

            Weeelll, as an occasional copy editor who happens to be an American living in the UK, I have had to turn to a number of authorities on the s vs z front in order to check myself. Even the OED says it’s more or less a matter of personal preference, so I usually end up asking my clients which one they prefer. Same thing with the Oxford comma.

            1. Merry and Bright

              I think that going back ‘ize’ was more common here in the UK than ‘ise’ judging by old books. Jane Austen uses ‘ize’ and the Oxford comma!

              1. a

                A lot of that has to do with the fact that spelling wasn’t standardized in either country until relatively recently. Johnson and Webster published dictionaries around 1800 that used different spellings. Since the dictionaries were published in different countries, different standards emerged. I think Austen grew up before British spelling was really established.

              2. Blurgle

                Many facets of North American English are retentions of forms that have since fallen out of favour in the UK.

                Another example is “while” vs. “whilst”. The latter has been known for centuries but didn’t become the most common form in the UK until ca. 1980. In North America it’s so unknown that some readers – some literate readers – don’t even recognize it as a word.

              1. Jenna Maroney

                I think that a lot of diehard grammar prescriptivists don’t know what they’re talking about (splitting the infinitive is fine! we don’t speak Latin! the passive voice is a perfectly respectable tool in appropriate contexts! no one other than high school English teachers cares about a preposition at the end of a clause!)…….. but you’ll pry my dedication to the Oxford comma out of my cold, dead, and rotting hands.

                1. Sunshine

                  Right? Who are these people and what gives them the authority to make these decisions?

              2. Mephyle

                “Good and evil,” yes, so much. Please post this on your Facebook page so that I can like it all over.

          1. Anna the Accounting Student

            Another of the Dowager Countess’s Lady’s Maids left to get married, for some unfathomable reason.

  2. ElCee

    Also, who the heck says “a pretty frock”? I hope this person was wearing his spats and pince-nez.

    1. AMT

      What, doesn’t OP want to be addressed as a “nice dame” and be complimented on her “gorgeous gams”?

          1. Anonforthis

            My best friend and I call each other dollface… but we’ll also speak in era accents to each other.

    2. shirley

      The only place I ever see that phrase is in the twee Modcloth descriptions. Makes my eye twitch. No one talks like that!

    3. Robin

      I had a co-worker tell me I was wearing a pretty frock at a company party. She was an american but pretentious.

    1. fposte

      Maybe this is a new hashtag– #delightfullyfeminine.

      Let me just put on my straw hat with the adorable silk scarf and my white tulle dress, and I am ready to twirl my parasol for your engineering firm, good sir.

            1. So Very Anonymous

              And smelling salts! Because someone just said “Lands!” …… (fans self) (slides to floor)

      1. PollyB

        I must try this sometime – I am a scientist who likes to wear dresses, but I feel I need something like this to amp up my look (sarcasm)

  3. Kelly L.

    Yeeeck. I have a weird hunch that there’s some kind of culture war thing going on at this workplace–but even if not, they seem kinda sexist.

    1. Cristina in England

      It isn’t a culture war, it is just a totally different culture. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my decade in Scotland, but the language used by the recruiter and the colleague of the recruiter just reminds me so much of everything I hated about working in Glasgow.

  4. 42

    Frocks are what all the dames wear. It shows off their gams nicely. Frocks are the cat’s meow.

      1. Steve G

        On a side note, it seems controlling for the recruiter to even ask about what you’re wearing (how do you trust me to do a big, complicated job if you don’t think I can dress myself?).

        However, at last co, while men unilaterally wore suits to interviews, some ladies wore some not so interviewy things (and this is not me being picky, the ladies in the office mentioned it first). I remember one came in in khakis and a flower blouse. I immediately got an email from the receptionist “does she know she is interviewing for a REAL job?” I went out to look and thought “gee my mom used to dress like that around the house when I was a kid.” A few weeks later we had one come in dressed like a thrift store junkie. She looked like she just jumped out of a Coachella/iPhone ad – too much jewelry, billowy dress shirt that didn’t match the mchammer style dress pants with open bright shoes and a bag that didn’t match…everything a different color. I pictured her working in a hip NYC coffee shop, but not in a difficult Admin Sales Support role paying about 60K in Manhattan working with conservative people (which isn’t that hard to figure out, because 90% of our Linkedin pics were middle aged men and women in suits, with lots of women wearing big pearl necklaces over their suits).

        1. Laurel Gray

          I wonder if men lose points while interviewing for HOW they are wearing a suit. When I used to take the train daily, I saw quite a few men in suits that were bad fitting or terrible fabrics, un-tailored etc. And with this new cut of suit (“modern”) I’ve seen enough men get the look wrong than right. I wonder how it would sound if women gave men a heads up about their interview attire beyond “wear a suit”.

          “So our interview is set for Monday at 10am. Please wear a properly fitted suit. No manprint/camel toe or bro-fitting suits.”

          1. Steve G

            I think so…I mean, sometimes guys wear suits that look like they are cardboard and were bought at KMART, and/or still have creases from being folded in them, and they have the tie on so tight that it looks like they can’t turn their head. If it looks like you’re first time wearing a suit, it isn’t going to help your image of being a seasoned professional.

          2. Anonsie

            It’s weird, isn’t it? I think about this every time I’m shopping for a suit and I keep having to nix things because the fit makes me look paunchy. Ironed and tailored are important but I don’t think anyone ever said a man looked frumpy and unprofessional because he didn’t look svelt in a suit.

            1. Charlotte Lucas

              I’ve occasionally seen men in suits who looked like their mom just dressed them for their 8th grade photos… Usually a tailor and barber would have solved that problem…

        2. ITPuffNStuff

          i know this is off topic, but i can’t help but ask … 60 K in Manhattan? Really? I mean … how do people survive on that? that’s plenty in Denver, but Manhattan?

          1. Courtney

            :/

            I was about to apply for a job at Columbia a few years ago. Entry level position, so I wasn’t expecting much money. But, also, it’s the Upper West Side, not…Tulsa. They were offering 28k per year. For a full time job.

            60k I could make work. 28k, not so much.

  5. BethRA

    But she did ask the recruiter, no? ” I told her I’d normally wear a suit and a smart blouse. She said to me that she would prefer if I wore a “pretty dress” because this company apparently doesn’t like people to come “suited and booted.” ”

    Not sure if that says more about the recruiter or the company they’re recruiting for, but it’s not saying good things.

    1. neverjaunty

      No, she didn’t ask. The recruiter made a separate phone call and asked her, which makes it extra weird.

      1. The OP

        To be perfectly honest, I’m not enamoured about talking to them too much. They aren’t a recruiter I usually use it’s just the job is local, well paid and perfect and I was so excited I started the process with them… then a day later an agency I have a good working relationship called about the same employer. Oh well.

        I had another weird moment when I returned a call to them, the MD (who also I believe was background frock dude) answered and when I told him who I was he said and this is to the best of my recollection “Oh Lizzie, lovely LUSCIOUS Lizzie! What can I do for my Lizzie”

        My response. “I normally just go by Liz.”

        My hope is I can get an offer nailed and stop dealing with them ASAP.

        1. Pennalynn Lott

          Ewwwwwww. . . That’s just so… *gross*.

          If you get the job, I would definitely tell the hiring company about that. What kind of moron calls a woman — a woman he hasn’t ever met and whom he only knows through a professional transaction — “luscious”? Gross, gross, gross. Blech.

        2. j-nonymous

          Wow. You know, if it turns out that this behavior stems entirely from the recruiting firm (which it’s starting to sound is the case), this employer should know that this is how they’re being represented in the marketplace.

          If I were an employer and a recruiter/firm I hired to find talent for me treated women in such a demeaning manner, I’d fire them.

        3. Purple Dragon

          “Oh Lizzie, lovely LUSCIOUS Lizzie! What can I do for my Lizzie”

          umm – WTF – I really am speechless ! I think my brain is vapour-locked onto “WTF ?” Your answer was much better and more professional than mine would have been, when my mouth finally started working again.

          If you start working for the company I’d suggest letting them know just how unprofessional this recruiter is.

          I’m going off to try and get my jaw off the ground now……. seriously WTF ?

  6. Duncan - Vetter

    This is indeed something inappropriate to say and makes the company look unprofessional, considering that this could be one of their requirements. This is why it is always better to ask for explanations when something seems unclear. The more you know about the company you wish to work for the better. Recruiters are people after all, and sometimes they make mistakes, or what they intend to say has nothing to do with what comes out of their mouth. This is why you need to know for sure with whom you are dealing with. Remember to approach a professional tone and ask as many questions as you need.

  7. Sans

    What the frock???

    Something feminine? A pretty frock? Maybe she should bat her eyelashes and giggle softly, just to be sure?

    1. Nerdling

      And twirl her hair while speaking in a soft, breathy voice. The complete picture of a sweetly feminine specimen.

      1. esra

        And if it doesn’t go well, she can forget all her troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream!

        1. Blue_eyes

          Or low fat yogurt that’s supposed to taste like dessert – wouldn’t want to lose that girlish figure!

    2. Brandy

      And what if your just not the most feminine girl. Im not a girl, wear pink and dresses person. I think I dress well for me but the last time I wore a dress was graduation and that’s because we had to. This also applies to skirts. Nope.

      1. Mabel

        At an interview for a senior position, my friend (female) wore a (very nice and very expensive) suit with trousers. After the interview, the recruiter called and was clearly appalled that my friend had worn pants and asked her to wear a skirt suit to the next interview. She said that if my friend got the job, she wouldn’t ever need to wear a skirt there again. My friend was really offended and felt that doing that would be a bait-and-switch. In any case, she didn’t want to work someplace where she needed to wear a skirt to the interview. We wondered if it was just the recruiter being an idiot and not a reflection on the firm, but if so, then who cared enough about it to tell the recruiter that she had worn pants?

    3. Cristina in England

      Don’t get me wrong, I loved my decade in Scotland, but the language used by the recruiter and the colleague of the recruiter just reminds me so much of everything I hated about working in Glasgow.

  8. Turanga Leela

    I wonder if this is coming from the company or the recruiter.

    I’ve never heard of a company that wanted women to wear a “pretty frock.” There are still old-timers in some industries who prefer women to wear skirt suits, rather than pantsuits, but thankfully that attitude is becoming less common.

    1. Cristina in England

      I have worked with people like this (back in Glasgow). It’s MUCH more common to hear ridiculously sexist comments like these, and more! (from men and women too)

  9. Cube Ninja

    One can’t help but wonder how the recruiter would respond to:

    “I’m not really comfortable doing that – I’ve been defrocked for some time now.”

  10. Tinker

    DEPLOY FISHEYE.

    About the best explanation I can think of for that conversation is that the originator of the phrase is one of those people who sees “feminine” as a direct synonym for “well-put-together” when applied to a person who is visibly designated-female-at-birth. This is still not a very GOOD explanation, especially from my perspective, but the other ones are worse.

    Question is whether it comes from the recruiter alone or if it reflects the company as well, and if it doesn’t reflect the company (for instance, if they’re asking for a lower formality level rather than stricter gender conformance) then what is it that they actually asked for? ‘Cause, if they said they definitely don’t want suits and you show up in one, you’re going to look kind of terminally inattentive.

    Which would be kind of unfortunate if it’s actually the guy who spoke on the phone who came up with this idea, and I’m kind of suspicious that this is the case, particularly if the company is not known to be full of not nice people — it sounds like maybe the recruiter was relaying his suggestion, and that’s why she went back to him to ask for clarification.

    But, in any case: Eww.

    1. Sadsack

      My response below seems to be in line with yours. I wonder if the employer suggested that people do not have to wear suits and the recruiters completely didn’t get it. Too bad, because they erred so much on the side of being idiotic. I’d love it if OP follows up with them and posts us their explanation here.

    2. Agreed

      I will, from now till the end of my days, DEPLOY FISHEYE when confronted with squick. Thank you.

    3. Have courage and be kind in Austin, TX

      I have the same suspicion that the recruiting firm is behind this sort of nonsense recommendation. But as a candidate, I’d like to make sure, because even though I wear dresses from time to time, I would not want to work for an employer that considers that important! There’s a huge difference between well put together and wearing “something feminine”. Eew!

  11. Sadsack

    It is really strange that the person on the phone had to ask someone else in the background what should be worn. Is their client telling them, “Hey, don’t send us any more of these women’s libbers, wearing pants and jackets and all!” What would make the recruiter think about what the interviewees are wearing unless the employer is telling then about it?

    1. neverjaunty

      Women’s libbers? Sounds like this recruiter is more concerned about suffragettes.

    2. INTP

      As a former recruiter of a staffing agency with some backwards clients, to me it sounds like that is essentially what is happening. Employer is giving weird feedback about what women wear and making it clear that they want women to be dressed in a girly frock instead of a pantsuit. That would also explain the separate phone call about it – this is probably based on the feedback about someone who just interviewed.

      We had to give some bizarre suggestions, like that college educated entry level candidates for a receptionist position claim they not have any career plans besides being a receptionist in the interview. We also had to tell people not to wear suits for startup jobs because they’d be ruled out over it. Not fun, but if they weren’t willing to follow our advice they’d have no shot so it helped avoid wasting everyone’s time.

  12. KathyGeiss

    This needs an update! OP please tell us what happened? Did you call back and ask? What did you wear? Did you access the building via an old-timey telephone booth that whooshed you back to 1948?

  13. The OP

    Hi guys,

    Yes I’m in England, I’m actually living working in London but the agency is up north hence the ‘frock’.

    In the end I compromised and wore a more blouse-ish top with a blazer, my interviewer was lovely and since I’ve got a second interview I assume it was okay. And while I was at my interview I was sneaking some glances at other women who worked there and NONE of them in ‘frocks’, feminine or otherwise.

    1. KathyGeiss

      I’m slightly disappointed the job didn’t involve time travel but I’m so happy this worked out. Hopefully it was just a weird recruiter being weird and sort of sexist but I’m sure you’ll keep your eyes peeled for other red flags.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        The interview didn’t involve time travel, but maybe the job itself will. *crosses fingers*

    2. Pineapple Incident

      Fingers crossed no reflection on the company, only on the recruiter. Maybe if you end up with an offer from this place, depending upon how comfortable you feel with management, this could be something to ask about. Maybe just a “I’m curious- the recruiter I spoke with seemed to stress a certain non-suit dress code when I was preparing to come in for my first . Is there anything regarding everyday dress code at the office that you would prefer I know before I start?”

      1. jmkenrick

        I think this absolutely should be mentioned/asked about if there’s an offer. It either signals weird judgement on the part of the company (something to know about if you’re going to work there) or it signals that their recruitment agency is misrepresenting them (something they’d definitely want to know – what if that question scared off some other good candidates?)

    3. LQ

      Good luck with your next interview!

      Has the agency given you other reasons to think they are time travelers/this specific flavor of weird? It would better if the recruiter was the weird one rather than the company you are interviewing with.

    4. Beezus

      Yay, and good luck! I am hoping the company asked the recruiter to let candidates know not to go with a formal suit for their interviews, and the recruiter just had a weird way of conveying that.

    5. Cristina in England

      Recruiters have a lot of strange ideas. I’m sure that, despite what I have said elsewhere about working with people like this in Glasgow, it has more to do with that recruiter than the company. But still, if you’re moving up north, it can be quite different there!

    6. TheLazyB

      I am from North East and north west (yes simultaneously!) and never hear ‘frock’. Oooh is t Yorkshire?! They say weird stuff there ;)

      (Disclaimer, I have family there and love it!)

    7. INTP

      I wonder if it’s the result of the recruiter asking someone that is clueless about women’s fashion. Like “a pretty frock” is just his idea of women’s wear that’s not a suit or a tshirt and jeans and the recruiter ran with it.

    8. Not So NewReader

      Well played, OP. Dress in an ordinary manner. Let’s face it, if you have to wear a “frock” every day do you really want the job? Dress in your usual professional manner and see how well that fits in with the company.

      I was concerned for you at first, so thanks for updating. One company I know of had Plain Jane sitting at the front desk. Jane looked neat and presentable every day, but nothing flashy. (Not doable on what they were paying her.) Let’s skate by the part about how she did a good job.
      For some reason, company changed gears. The next thing Jane knew is that people were coaching her with her wardrobe problems. When she said she could not afford what they were asking for they insisted that she learn how to shop at thrift stores and get some fancier items there. The whole thing blew up when she did not do this (no money) and felt that she was being forced out of her job. After that the company hired a series of replacements. Every single woman was BEAUTIFUL. And they all had short skirts and/or plunging necklines. I don’t know how they looked so on trend with a minimum wage paycheck. It soon became clear to everyone there that the front line people had to be beautiful/sexy.

      So it does happen and it is a good idea to watch out for this going on in places. Your company sounds fairly normal so far, but I am a bit concerned about the recruiters- I don’t think they are doing any one any favors.

  14. Episkey

    The *only* thing I can think of is they’ve had a problem with previous applicants not being dressed professionally enough? One of my close friends has been interviewing through temp agencies a lot recently and said an interviewer thanked her for dressing appropriately and mentioned a previous applicant had come to interview dressed in a jumpsuit.

    1. AW

      That does explain why they’d ask but it doesn’t explain why the OP’s reply of a suit wasn’t good enough.

  15. UI/UX Dev

    Ugh, barf. I don’t think I would have been able to hold my tongue – I would have called the recruiter out on it and directly asked what they mean/why.

    I worked with a recruiter briefly when I was unemployed over 2 years ago, and he has called me every couple months since then trying to pitch me other jobs (despite the fact that I tell him every time that I’m happily employed, not looking right now, and will contact him if I need his assistance), always from a different phone number so I can’t really screen his calls. Needless to say I find this tactic rather annoying. Anyway, he called me recently to tell me about another position, and despite me saying the same old spiel, he continued on and said that this company was specifically looking for “more of a female candidate” and that’s why he thought it would be up my alley. (Not, y’know, because of my skills or anything. Because I’m female.)

    I told him point-blank that I wasn’t comfortable with that suggestion and that I wouldn’t want to work anywhere that hires based on gender anyway, and he went on to make jokes along the old lines of “men are monkeys when they’re alone together, they need a woman to keep them in shape, hahahahaha!”

    I told him no again and hung up. Haven’t heard from him since (hooray!). Still WTF-ing about it to this day.

    1. Kristine

      Translation: of the existing employees, no one does the essential but unloved work and they need a female to dump on (because we are so desperate for jobs, of course), and then to blame everything on when the company inevitably goes under.

        1. Pennalynn Lott

          No, silly, girls don’t smoke cigars! Give her flowers and candy on Secretaries Day; that will really demonstrate your admiration for her brains and work skills. Oh, and be sure to compliment her on her “feminine” frocks; we all know that girls *love* having stereotypical gendered behaviors be the only reason they receive praise at work!

      1. INTP

        Yeah, sounds like they’ve discovered that dishes left in the office sink don’t wash themselves. And God forbid they ask a man to do it.

    2. Laurel Gray

      “more of a female candidate” geez-us!

      WTF does this mean? And how was he even sure you were more of a female than other candidates? Was there a “how female are you” screening process? Percentage of your bra was lace? Cup size measurement? Shaved legs check?

      1. UI/UX Dev

        I think the “more of a” part was just his way of trying to soften the real statement: that they specifically want a female candidate because they need an “office mom”. But yeah, definitely strange phrasing. More female than what, exactly?

        1. Anonsie

          Oh for sure, I would have guessed as much even without the “guys need a woman to keep them in line” bit thrown in there.

          It’s kind of insane how hard it is to avoid being Wendy.

      2. alter_ego

        It was that buzzfeed quiz that tells you how masculine and feminine you are. No one under 75% feminine will be considered.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger

      Wow. Another appropriate situation in which to DEPLOY FISHEYE (thanks Tinker)!

      I would probably start hanging up as soon as I heard that recruiter’s voice. If they always call from different numbers, that tells me that they probably KNOW that no one wants to talk to them, but they’re trying to get around it!

  16. Amber Rose

    Depending on the industry there are definitely companies that hire women for their ability to look nice in a short dress. I saw plenty of that at the trade show I went to, where a solid quarter of the companies had booth babes in mini skirts and sequined strapless tops.

    This is important info because that’s probably not a great work environment. That said, in this case it may just be the recruiter being weird. Its a red flag but not, I think, a reason to run for the hills.

    My recommendation: polish up those mary jane’s and show up to the interview in a poodle skirt. Bonus points for an eye searing shade of pink and an excess of bows.

    1. KathyGeiss

      Ugh. You’re right about tradeshows. But often these roles are hired through a modelling agency and you would know what’s what when you apply.

      I still think it’s gross but it seems different from the OP’s experience.

      1. Dasha

        Yep, those girls are usually hired by an agency and not actual employees of the company.

        1. Anonsie

          +1. But there are definitely other circumstances where bringing in an attractive woman who dresses well for a role, especially one involving trade shows or sales or whathaveyou, is still a tactic.

        2. the gold digger

          I did not impress the VP years ago when we were walking through the poultry trade show in Atlanta and saw a bunch of Hooters girls at a booth selling equipment to transport headless, eviscerated, plucked chickens across the factory floor.

          “Why don’t they just offer blow jobs and be done with it?” I suggested.

          The VP was shocked, but not as shocked as I was later when I talked to some of the company salespeople who told me that my suggestion was not that outrageous considering what really went on after hours. I was just joking, but I guess I was smarter than I thought.

          1. Clever Name

            LOL. That sounds like something I would say. And I definitely think that’s what goes on after hours at trade shows. My husband and I were at a bar downtown, and we had seen a bunch of people with those swing tag ID badges you see at trade shows, so we figured there was a trade show going on. We saw some men and women together at the bar, and we just couldn’t figure out hoe they “went together”. The women looked at least 10-15 years younger than the men, and there were 3 women and 4 men. I finally realized they must be booth babes “entertaining” the guys. They were so loud and obnoxious that the manager of the bar actually came and apologized to us.

          2. Pennalynn Lott

            Reminds me of my six months as the Exec Asst to the President of a division of a distribution software company wherein one of my chief duties was getting creative with the receipts from strip clubs and escort services, as well cash disbursements that covered the cost of prostitutes (who hadn’t yet set up shill companies so they could accept credit cards), just so the president and his [all male] sales team could get reimbursed without drawing too much attention from corporate. The vast majority of the expenses were for “entertaining” clients they were wooing.

            I couldn’t find another job fast enough.

            P.S. This was also the boss who snorted lines of cocaine on his glass-topped desk, and who put me in charge of keeping his liquor cabinet fully stocked, and who said to me — in front of half the office — “I had a dream about you last night. We were working late, alone, in the office. I was sitting on top of the conference table and you came over and put your head in my lap. ::smirk::” I replied, “Holy crap. Even in your dreams I’m sleeping on the job when there’s serious work to be done. I better go get busy!” He was also the guy who told my assistant that he was disappointed that she’d put a safety pin in her [normally low-cut] blouse because, “I really like seeing what kind of bra you’re wearing for the day.”

            P.P.S. He did, eventually, get his comeuppance, but it’s a long(er) story.

            1. Anonymousaur

              Please share this long story… I’m sure plenty of people would like to hear how karma came back to him on this

              1. Pennalynn Lott

                I’ll try to do it quickly: The division was sold to a big, rich, cash-heavy Australian company. The execs of the Aussie co flew the president of the division (we’ll call him “Rick”) to NYC to talk terms with him (how big of an increase he would get, how much stock, how big of a bonus for staying on, where he would be put on the exec committee, etc.).

                During Rick’s meeting, the managers of every dept in his division got together in the conference room and called the NYC office of the Aussie company and had the CEO pulled out of the meeting with Rick, claiming it was a [highly confidential] emergency. The managers — all on speakerphone — said that if Rick was kept on board they would all quit before the end of the day. And, furthermore, they had the signed resignations of 85% of their staff, which would be effective immediately upon Rick’s confirmed continued employment with the company. The managers explained why they were making such a drastic (and dramatic) move. The CEO took a few minutes to take it all in. . . and then he walked back down the hall and fired Rick, right then and there in NYC at what was supposed to be his “Now I’m a Millionaire” meeting.

                Also, Rick’s wife left him (for cheating on her over and over and over) and got the house, the boat, the vacation home, and a shit-ton of cash.

                I know all of this because the manager who was now going to take over as the head of the division, and whom I’d stayed in contact with, wanted to hire me as his assistant. But by then I’d moved onto the tech side of tech (vs the admin side) and no amount of money could make me go back.

                Oh, and Rick’s wife had found out about his cheating while I was still there. Rick was convinced that someone in the office had tipped her off, so he had IT place voice-activated recording devices around the office, as well as set up his desk phone as the “master control” phone that would let him eavesdrop on conversations through the speaker of any other phone in the office. As in, you could be standing there talking with a co-worker and he would be listening in through the speakerphone capability of the phone on the desk nearest you.

    2. Bend & Snap

      Companies in my industry are starting to get dinged for booth babes. We’re b2b though…I don’t know that it’ll ever stop in the consumer realm.

      1. KathyGeiss

        Same here thank god. I had someone in my company recommend them once and I was told my death stare helped set the tone that I was NOT on board with that suggestion.

          1. Pennalynn Lott

            I was at one industry convention 3-4 years ago and the main sponsor had go-go dancers in towering plexiglass cubes at the entrance to the convention hall. They were dressed in jeans and the dark blue polo/t-shirts that their retail store representatives had to wear, and they were 70/30 male-to-female. And no one was “model” quality. It was the most awesome, goofy, tech show thing I’ve ever seen. :-)

        1. Blurgle

          I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m going to start using the word “frock” wherever I go.

      2. Pennalynn Lott

        I went to a Small Business Expo a couple of years ago, hoping for some contacts for the 3D imaging company I was working with. I sent emails to every single company that had booth babes telling them that there is no way that I, a small business owner and a woman in the professional world, would ever use their product/service, based on their sexist business model. Sadly, only one company responded and it was along the lines of, “Thank you for contacting us. We consider the opinions of our valued customers highly…” Which sounded to me like a roundabout way of saying, “We have enough sexist male customers whom we are happy to cater to, such that we don’t need your company’s money,” since, ya know, I wasn’t actually a customer.

  17. Ann

    Frock?? Did I get AaM confused with a fan site for The Murdoch Mysteries? I would call back the recruiter and ask. I’d really want to know if it this was coming from the recruiter or the company, because I’d be running far and fast from one of them.

    1. Cristina in England

      I have heard people in Scotland say frock before in normal conversation, not typically in business situations, but it isn’t considered so crazily antiquated there.

      1. fposte

        My Dundonian friend used it once, when she had to buy a dress for the queen’s garden party. I think that’s about where it belongs.

        1. Laurs

          My 95 year old grandmother says frock – as do I – I’ve been living in Scotland my whole life and yes it is very much a queens garden party/strange local government reception thing.

  18. YandO

    A recruiter called me and asked to come in for a “prep” interview within an hour for an interview with the company scheduled for the next day. I was wearing a black skirt, a casual top, and a casual (but professional) cardigan. He gave me a lecture on how I need to wear a suit and look professional. I was dressed perfectly appropriate for my office and I had no idea that morning I will end up in an interview.

    I thought he was being rude and unprofessional and I never worked with him again.

    1. Hlyssande

      That is so incredibly rude, I don’t blame you.

      If he wanted you to dress up beyond the normal business casual look (which it sounds like you were rocking), then he needs to give you at least a day of notice.

      Ugh.

  19. Kristine

    Dress as you feel appropriate and crack a joke upon entering about the voice having requested “a pretty smock.” Then announce, “Of course I knew you were kidding! I like an employer with a sense of humor!” See what they do with that. They asked for it.

  20. Bend & Snap

    You should see my ew face right now.

    I’ve had direction on clothing from internal recruiters, but it was along the lines of “please wear a traditional suit” or “please feel free to wear jeans”

  21. Laurel Gray

    You definitely MUST stress that a woman should show up to an interview feminine and in a pretty dress because without this direction women tend to show up in:

    – a house coat and slippers
    – an “ugly” dress
    – pants (ewww, not another Kate Hepburn type!)
    – an apron over her standard house dress and without her – clutch them – pearls!
    – hair un-coiffed (ugh, the nerve!)

        1. Collarbone High

          There was an elderly woman at my church, when I was a kid, who always showed up for Sunday morning services in curlers and a headscarf. Looking back, I wonder what she was curling her hair for if not for church, and kind of hope she had a secret life as a badass biker and had fooled everyone into thinking she was a sweet church-going grandmother.

    1. Chinook

      No – we types who own frocks know that the apron is removed before leaving the house otherwise we would be mistaken for a servant. (Learned this while working as a historical interpreter. Other warnings included not to “time travel” by showing up in the wrong area wearing costume from different time period. I.e. no voyagers with sashes waking down 1905 street).

  22. Dasha

    This recruiter sounds kind of icky, but don’t let it skew your view of the company! Go to the interview and see what they’re like since they’re who you would actually be working with.

  23. Chriama

    I don’t understand the phrase ‘suited and booted’. What does it mean? Does it lend any context to the phrases that came after it?

    1. Merry and Bright

      It’s an informal phrase used in the UK sometimes to mean wearing smart clothes, especially if you want to make a good impression. (I think the ‘booted’ is just there because it rhymes with ‘suited’) but I’m happy to be corrected).

      1. Elfie

        I always thought it meant wearing really smart shoes (or boots) as well as the suit, but surely you’d do that anyway. Right?

      2. Rae

        Men’s dress shoes can be called boots. Not sure if it’s regional, but they’re referred that way in Scotland.

    2. Cristina in England

      I’ve heard this phrase before in Glasgow several times. It just means all dressed up in a suit, although to me it always sounds like someone in combat fatigues or something.

      1. Mel (correction: Other Mel)

        I envisioned it exactly like that too. Like she was going to fight some crazy women’s lib war or something :-P

    3. Laurs

      Just means conservative office dress – I use it all the time with staff in prep for external meetings

  24. Kat M

    In defense of “frock,” I use it regularly, but only to refer to a party dress. The kind of dress I imagine as being interview-appropriate probably wouldn’t qualify.

    1. Bend & Snap

      I actually see people wearing evening wear sometimes in my super corporate company. It’s like they think suits are dressy, so chiffon will be even dressier and therefore appropriate for work.

      Substitute chiffon for sequined shrug, satin pants and rhinestone shoes and you get the idea.

      1. Pennalynn Lott

        Wait. You’re saying people in your office actually wear a “sequined shrug, satin pants and rhinestone shoes” to WORK.??? (Where “work” isn’t some sort of euphemism?)

        1. Bend & Snap

          Not all together but one of those things with daywear, yes. Not everyone. There are 10k people at my location so I’m noticing what’s probably a small percentage.

        2. Laurs

          You’d be surprised. We have had staff turn up in evening or club wear to our business casual office!

          The sequinned booty shorts were a particular low point

  25. Liane

    IF they hadn’t emphasized “feminine” so much I might have thought they were time travelers from the 1800s and had meant a gentlemen’s Frock Coat.

    1. Mander

      I’d love to see the OP turn up in a frock coat made from some kind of floral fabric. With lace trim. I’m envisioning something that wouldn’t look out of place in a Falco video.

    2. Cristina in England

      Frock is such a weird word, I totally agree. I never really got used to it. It’s commonly used in parts of Scotland to mean a nice dress.

    3. Elizabeth

      Our dress code is officially business casual. At the last major revision, I did an electronic photo collage of the gamut of clothing that technically met the dress code. Everything from an Edwardian frock coat with ruffled blouse & high heel boots to Lolita dresses with white patent leather Mary Janes, to basic white sweater & khaki slacks. The point was that there was plenty of room for personal expression within the written code, so everyone could stop frothing over how narrow it was. (I still want the purple velvet frock coat.)

      No where does anyone talk about “feminine”. That gives me shudders just thinking about it.

  26. gsa

    Sounds like the OP is in good shape.

    My original thought/reply, fwiw:

    http://youtu.be/h_AnHJOQQcs

    After that, dress down one click and ignore the fact the your recruiter has a pig on staff…

    Congrats on the second interview!

  27. gsa

    First thing that came to mind:

    I Feel Pretty – West Side Story Lyrics: http://youtu.be/h_AnHJOQQcs

    Second, dress down one notch, and forget the fact your recruiter has a pig on the payroll.

    Congrats on your second interview!!!

    I once was told during an interview, “We don’t wear no suits ’round here…”

    That was twenty years ago and suits were the rule for first interviews. The fact that he thought I would wear a suit as a Construction Superintendent was an indication…

    Ultimately hired, while wearing a suit, by a man in a suit.

    Again, congrats!

  28. Lily in NYC

    I had a recruiter tell me to wear lipstick for an interview and I flat-out refused. I am terrible at applying it and would have looked like a clown and probably would have some on my teeth. She looked so shocked that I didn’t jump on the suggestion.

    1. Cristina in England

      Ugh, gross. I can’t wear lipstick for so many reasons, and I hate the smell of it. I have never had a recruiter tell me how to present myself at an interview, I would have given her my patented “are you effing kidding me?” face.

    2. Not So NewReader

      “Nope. We can’t hire, Lily. Sure she has all the quals and experience but she does not wear lipstick. Our company would be doomed to meet its untimely end.”

      Bullet dodged.

    3. Windchime

      I hate lipstick, too. I can’t stand the thick, tacky feel of it and I just feel so strange with brightly painted lips. Burt’s Bee’s tinted balm is about as crazy as I’ll go.

  29. Cristina in England

    I’d just like to give a general cultural difference heads-up to the other Americans reading, based on my experience working in Scotland, that it is much more acceptable to make sexist comments there. It’s kind of complicated to explain but it isn’t men making all the sexist comments, women make them too, about men, and also about women too. Things like “women are good at this” or “women do that differently”, not women being derogatory about other women, just… sexist.

    I was shocked at my first two jobs in the private sector, how easily racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes were thrown around. By the time I had moved into the public sector I was kind of desensitized but also it was a better environment so I didn’t notice it as much, and there wasn’t as much to notice. It was a huge culture shock.

    Frock is just a pretty dress.
    Suited and booted means wearing a full interview suit (as an example).

      1. HB

        Thanks, this is more what I wanted to say but I’m awkward and couched it with “haha” even though it’s not funny. You’d think if I learned anything from AAM it was to just be direct, but apparently I still have some things to learn.

      2. Saurs

        Seriously. Also, the last general election put paid to the notion that England is the wiser and more tolerant partner-in-Empire.

    1. ScotlandLove

      I had the opposite experience! I worked in the highlands after a bit in lower Ireland and loved every minute of it. I did hear some homophobic stuff, but I nipped it in the bud quite quickly. It wasn’t so much cruelty as it was cultural differences – it’s a sensitive subject for me anyway, but the group I was with was understanding after I made my point.

    2. Laurs

      I’d disagree. In a decade of working in Scotland I’ve witnessed very little sexism, racism, homophobia and sectarianism that wasn’t instantly squashed – working exclusively in the public and voluntary sectors has probably helped.

      Growing up in Glasgow sectarianism was A Big Thing but it’s moved on in lightyears in the last 10-15 years.

      1. Cath in Canada

        eh… I love Scotland and I had a blast living in Glasgow for three years, but I was very, very careful about where and when I’d let random people hear my English accent. Sometimes I’d walk into a bar and just know that I needed to let my Scottish friends do all the ordering, for example, and we had some trouble at the T in the Park music festival when the people in the next tent over in the campsite realised some of us were English. Luckily my flatmate was able to swear at them in Welsh, which was a risky move, but they left us alone after that!

        A friend of mine got pretty badly beaten up just for having an English accent in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I got some verbal abuse from drunken Glaswegians a couple of different times. It’s easier for women and it’s easier if you have a Northern English accent like mine (the friend who got beaten up was a quite posh Southern English man), and most of the time it isn’t a problem – but when it is, it’s bad.

        1. Kiwi

          When it’s bad, it’s bad, yes – as with any large declining ex-industrial city in which one might live. I probably wouldn’t go for midnight fog walks in Detroit, either. By the same token, I wouldn’t ever make a judgment on the entirely of the people who reside there.

          It’s a risky move to come into a culture from outside, spend a short time there and then make broad judgments and generalisations about an entire people who you really have a very superficial understanding of.

          Yes, a small minority of Scots hate the English. However, that’s absolutely mutual. Have a read of some of the scathing (English) comments online on a wide variety of major English newspapers and you may see what I mean.

          1. Cath in Canada

            I was trying very hard not to generalise. That’s why I said ” most of the time it isn’t a problem”.

            Re: “any large declining ex-industrial city” – I lived in Newcastle for three years, too, and while I got called a Southerner plenty of times (which is funny, because I was born North of Newcastle, but grew up in York and sound Yorkshire), I never felt unsafe in public places in the same way I sometimes felt unsafe in Glasgow.

            1. HB

              I think Kiwi was speaking more to Cristina’s comments generalizing that from her time in Scotland she needed to make Americans aware of how OK it is to make sexist comments there.

      2. Bunny

        Yeah, this.

        I’m working in Kent right now, and my co-workers are the grossest, most homophobic, racist, sexist *oh but we’re just joking around* people I have encountered in quite a while. Different UK regions might have their own accents and culture, but gross shit like this is, sadly, universal.

        (I was warned about “strong personalities” when I took the job, and am still on probation as a new hire, so I’m not really able to speak out about it. Also HR has been outsourced to a different country with a very different culture, so I don’t really feel like I can expect complaints about that stuff to be handled appropriately).

  30. Mel (correction: Other Mel)

    I am both amused and appalled about this at the same time. Amused because of the on point replies, but appalled because. well. What in the???
    I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m in the South and I have voluntarily gone to interviews in nice, professional dresses when told that it was a business casual environment (and my suit skirt was in the cleaners), but even then as a DC native I felt horribly under-dressed. (It’s like wearing open-toed shoes to interviews… I know culturally what is accepted here, but it just feels weird. ) But to be TOLD to wear something feminine? No thanks. I’m not in the 40s or 50s, I will not serve coffee, and I will not take a job that wants me to be more feminine. In fact, I tend to be very subdued on my makeup in an interview too (ie- foundation, chapstick or neutral lips, and light mascara). I want them focused on my skills and not on my styling.

  31. Stone Satellite

    My mind autocompletes “feminine” as “feminine hygiene product”. I vote OP wears a tampon.

  32. 2horseygirls

    There’s a company in the general geographic area that ALWAYS has openings for admins. My husband happened to be talking to a mutual vendor, and learned that the elderly CEO has, for decades, liked the admins across the company to wear short, tight skirts. Since I would severely traumatize my coworkers if I did that — and probably get arrested for assault if he tried anything inappropriate — I just made a note of the company and moved along on my job search.

    1. Connie-Lynne

      You know, I get so crabby sometimes that during my sabbaticals I often consider applying for these places and then Teaching The Sexists A Lesson.

      Of course, I probably couldn’t even get hired there, since it’s been 25 years since I was a secretary, but in my fantasies I am the RECEPTION AVENGER.

      1. This

        If life were a movie, that would totally happen. As is stands, it’s so exhausting fighting that sort of crap. I wondered if I temped at the place 2horseygirls mentions, but gosh, it’s so pervasive that it could be anywhere. I once took a temp-to-hire job that sounded great. As it turned out, the place was run by, and rife with, people who had views completely opposite my own, but they wouldn’t have known that because I kept my mouth shut. The head guy used to receive mail at the office from a strip joint, a couple of the other head guys were talking about how hot the new direct hire was (my replacement), actually saying that that was part of the job. So I basically lost that job for not being hot enough. I was told to wear jeans, but the direct hire wore short skirts and had full on hair & makeup. I might’ve femmed it up if I’d known, though I would’ve bristled at the unwelcome advances she received during her training (which, of course, I conducted). It’s still 1945 in some parts of the country…

        1. Pennalynn Lott

          The [male] owners at the company that I mentioned in the resume thread (a tech contracting firm) once joked to me that I was lucky to have impressed them so much in the interview with my brains because they normally had their female employees pass the “elbow” test. As in, stand up straight and put your hands over your ears. . . if your boobs stuck out further than your elbows, you were hired.

          WTH is wrong with people, and how did I end up working for ALL of them??

        2. Mephyle

          Reading these comments, I thought, “someone should totally make that movie”. Then I remembered, someone did – 35 years ago! This has got a lot in common with the premise of 9 to 5. Time for a remake, maybe.

          1. Chocolate Teapot

            Yes! I think there could be lots of material for several remakes of 9 to 5. Hotdesking and remote working springs to mind.

            I sometimes use the term Posh Frock, which does come from Barbara Good in The Good Life, to refer to an evening type dress with plenty of poufy tulle skirts and sequins. (Imagine somebody has blown up Audrey Hepburn with a bicycle pump and you get the idea).

  33. Z

    Y’know, this is interesting to me in a pretty specific way.

    I’ve really struggled in the past with what to wear to an interview, and in fact “looking professional” in general. Luckily I’ve spent the last two and a half years in hi vis, but that job’s gone now.

    My problem starts with women’s blouses – y’know, the analog to men’s button up business shirts. They never fit me. Ever. Without fail, blouses in my size are too short, being unable to tuck into my pants and becoming midriff shirts if I do anything with my arms above chest height. They are also huge around my abdomen, completely obliterating my figure and hanging out with lots of extra material, which looks terrible if I tuck it in to anything. Going up one or two sizes cures the length problem, but makes me look like a child “growing into” my clothes, which is pretty unprofessional.

    Moving on, me and skirts don’t work. My legs are very pale and blemishes on them stay forever, also I have dark hair so that’s it’s own problem (even right after shaving). So I always wear pants. I can wear a skirt or a dress if I have to but I must do it with very dark stockings to hide my legs.

    Lastly, shoes. As it turns out it’s literally impossible to find “professional” looking women’s shoes that aren’t high heels? I am not wearing high heels. They’re dangerous and difficult to walk in, not to mention forbidden in my line of work.

    So the last interview I went to, I was wearing tailored pants, a suit jacket, a men’s button up business shirt (these actually fit me far batter than any women’s blouses I’ve ever tried. No joke.), and very low-heeled enclosed boots which looked professional enough with the pants covering the top part of them. In short, I was dressed exactly like a man. This was worrying to me. I didn’t feel like I looked feminine enough.

    This is kind of hard to explain, but it’s like I’m doing too much male gender signalling while being obviously female. It looks weird. Wrong. I think it makes me look less professional because I’m sending a constant message of “this person doesn’t know how to dress professionally as a woman so she’s resorted to dressing professionally as a man”, which is pretty much exactly what’s happening. “Women’s professional attire” either doesn’t work on me or is too hard to figure out.

    Oh god. Help. :( :( :(

    1. M

      A simple string of pearls with matching earrings whether from Tiffany’s or Target will make a world of difference to any outfit.

      Also you don’t have to wear makeup but cleaning up your eyebrows and clear polish on your fingernails.

      Not sure where you live but search other stores to shop in. Maybe set budget higher for a few pieces from higher end stores. It is hard to shop for professional clothes but I’ve never regretted the few pieces I’ve splurged on.

    2. Clever Name

      Button front shirts also look terrible on me, so I never wear them. Shells are a good alternative for shirts to wear with women’s suiting. They are silky fabric and don’t have buttons down the front, and they are typically cut so you wear them untucked.

    3. Connie-Lynne

      I have worn pretty much what you describe to interviews, except that because I have such problems with button-up shirts I wear mock-turtlenecks.

      Is your blazer/coat tailored for a woman rather than for a man? If so, I think you’re fine.

    4. nona

      I have some of the same ~issues~ with clothes. I’m also tall, so while online shopping is wonderful, I can’t pick up something at the mall the day before an interview.

      I give up on blouses. Like Clever Name said, shells work. They’re prettier and more comfortable, too. Nicer sweaters in the fall/winter.

      You might also try the “tall” sizes some stores carry, even if you’re average height or shorter. The tops and dresses are longer and wider through the shoulders and chest. Finding clothes that are made for your proportions can make a huge difference.

    5. Andrea

      I don’t like to wear heels at work because I am a klutzy person and try not to share my love affair with gravity at the workplace. I’ve found Clarks makes a functional, comfortable flat. I can be on my feet all day wearing them.

    6. LeighTX

      I wouldn’t think a woman wearing a pants suit was dressing as a man unless she was wearing a tie. I think your “professional” outfit sounds just fine, although I’d agree with the other posters that if you wanted to make it more feminine you could add some bold jewelry, or switch out your button-down for a shell or light sweater. Also, flats can be very dressy and comfortable. Some of the most comfy flats in my closet came from Payless, actually.

    7. Something Professional

      A jacket, pants, and button-down (even a men’s button-down) doesn’t necessarily look “mannish.” That said, if you’re concerned, you might look for a more “feminine” jacket; something that is nipped in at the waist or has a bit of detailing, perhaps? Shells and light sweaters in various colors can be your friends if you don’t want to go the men’s button-down route, and they look just as appropriate under a jacket as a button-down shirt does. Accessories like scarves and jewelry are also nice touches.

    8. Bunny

      I have never found a blouse that fits right, either. Always sitting up around the middle of my torso showing off the top of my trousers. Sadly men’s shirts are a no-go for me as well, because I have HUGE breasts, so to get one that does up neatly over the bust means being swamped in fabric with the armscye sitting somewhere around the middle of my upper arm.

      I either wear a smart tunic and trousers, or wear a dress with a suit jacket in a similar style. I’ve found those options look smart enough to land me jobs at the level I’m working, and I don’t spend the interview worrying and tugging my clothes about awkwardly.

    1. BeenThere

      30k + Bonuses, multiple bonuses. I can only think of what you get a bonus for with that CEO.

  34. Rose of Cimarron

    Reminds me that a few weeks ago I had to have my company picture taken for our website and the photographer said I looked ladylike. I immediately realized that I was clearly doing something very, very wrong.

  35. jamlady

    Oh please do call back. I’ve had this same thing happen and I asked why on the spot. I was told the manager is old-fashioned and likes to keep and engendered dress code. I told them I wasn’t a good fit for that culture and to please let the manager know I was not interested in going forward. Understanding, the recruiter relayed the message and helped me end up with a different company a few weeks later.

  36. ITPuffNStuff

    Wow. This is just awesome. And by awesome, I mean horrible.

    People in general, and men in particular, doing crap like this — they give all men a bad name. They are, in my opinion, one of the chief reasons women frequently express feelings that men are Bad People. And with situations like this, who could blame them. I would be completely flabbergasted if I was asked to “wear something that makes you look manly” to an interview. I would probably consider the request to be such a red flag that I wouldn’t even go to the interview.

    It takes 10 good men to counteract the effects of 1 jerk. If the jerk happens to be in a position of power (and many are; as jerks find power position attractive), it takes 100 good men to undo the 1 jerk’s work. Sigh.

  37. Retail Lifer

    Again and again, I keep findinf out that recruiters don’t seem to have a full grasp of the requirements of the job they’re trying to fill. I’ve been given incorrect or incomplete information from several recruiters. I don’t know if this is the norm, but given my experience, I wouldn’t worry about what the recruiter is telling you to wear. (A) They probably don’t know what they’re talking about and (B) if this company is impressed by frilly frocks, you don’t want to work there anyway.

  38. robin

    Many years ago, in 1974, I had successfully interviewed for a position I really, really wanted by the woman who would be my boss if I was hired (it was in a creative field and I wore attractive pants, blouse and jacket to the interview) and an appointment was made for me to meet with her boss. As I left the interviewer made the strong suggestion that I wear a dress to the next interview because her boss, a man, liked to see women dress that way. Remember, I very much wanted this job as I knew it would be an important step up in my career. Yet at the same time I was about to turn 30 and I was resentful that I was being asked to wear a dress so that a man would feel good about me (or not threatened by me?). I also knew that the woman I interviewed with was not going to be at the second meeting. Plus, I had the very kinds of pleasing business-type dress that I knew I was being asked to wear.

    My decision was how I was going to present myself and at the same time be true to myself. I gave it a lot of thought and ended up buying and wearing a terrifically attractive spring (it was April) pants suit, combining it with a very nice blouse, good looking heels and understated jewelry. That was as far as I was willing to go; dressing that way ended up being more important to me than fitting into some sort of patriarchal cultural stereotype. I reasoned if going the more traditional route was necessary to get the position then I wasn’t interested, even though the job was potentially pivotal. It was a scary, quiet stand in many ways — again this was 1974 and while women were beginning to make “waves” it was still not the norm 41 years ago. I’m pleased to report that I still got the job — and two years later ended up as head of the agency after my original boss moved on to another organization! But… it could have gone differently. Perhaps I was just lucky; perhaps I had found a way to be both ladylike (or womanly or whatever) and not kowtow to a cliche.

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