what shirt colors are okay for interviews, citing benefits I don’t use when negotiating salary, and more

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

1. Do I really have to wear a white or baby blue shirt to interviews?

I’m an recent graduate searching for a job and this question has arisen for me more than once, although I’m not sure if it’s a valid one or if I’m just being over-sensitive to suggested job-seeking norms.

Most guidelines for professional dress I’ve seen come from university career centers, and beyond wearing a suit they specify wearing either a white or baby blue shirt. Being rather olive skinned, baby blue and white make me look like death. My standard interview outfit consists of wearing a charcoal grey skirt-suit, with black leather pumps. My personal choice of shirt color is a little brighter—a nice kelly green, for instance. Is there a rigid interview-shirt-color norm? Will wearing an brighter color make a terribly huge difference in my professional appearance?

Ignore your university career center on this one. (I should create a keyboard shortcut for that sentence since I end up writing it so often.) Wear a color that’s flattering on you; it doesn’t have to be baby blue or white (both of which are hideous on me as well).

Kelly green in particular might be a little on the bright side for conservative fields — if you’re interviewing in, say, banking — but should be fine for everywhere else, especially as long as you continue to pair it with that grey suit and black pumps, both of which are good, conservative choices. And most other colors will be fine too. Really, the only colors you must stay away from are neons (and how much business wear comes in neon anyway?).

2. Citing benefits I don’t actually use in a negotiation

I just got an offer for a new job, in a managerial role. I got a call from the person who would be my new supervisor to give me an offer. The salary was lower than I expected for a managerial position in this region. During the application process, it asked me to disclose my current salary but they did not discuss range with me. The offer was only a slight increase. And there is a big difference in work and responsibility.

I told the supervisor that I appreciated the offer and was excited about the position, but I hoped we could discuss benefits and if the salary had any flexibility. He explained he was unauthorized to negotiate salary and would need to bring back information to HR. He also said benefits are standardized and generally non-negotiable. He asked me to review their benefits package and note any major concerns via email to him and he would review it with HR.

I explained differences I saw in terms of health care and retirement that were slightly less than my current job. I then mentioned that my office covers some family expenses, including up to $4,000 towards closing costs on buying a home, up to $5,000 in reimbursement for day care, and 16 weeks paid bonding leave for parents (fathers or mothers). I do not have kids and I have plans in the near future of using any of those benefits. Was it wrong to do, in order to discuss a higher salary? Also, is it me or is it weird to get an offer and not have somebody who is unable to negotiate directly?

I wouldn’t focus on benefits that you don’t plan to take advantage of in trying to negotiate a higher salary; focus on the salary, because that’s the part you care about. Otherwise you risk them saying that those are unusual benefits that they’re not in a position to replicate and leaving the conversation there or even saying “Oh, we’re planning to introduce benefits like those soon too,” neither of those will help you. Plus, if you make the conversation about benefits when what you really want to talk about is salary, you risk them missing the point. And it’s a bit disingenuous.

Negotiate for salary based on the market rate of your work; that’s your strongest argument, and that’s more likely to be effective. (Exceptions to this are things like health care coverage or retirement contributions, which are more universally used.)

It’s not that uncommon to be talking to someone who needs to seek authorization for a higher salary offer, especially if you’re not dealing with someone particularly senior, who may not have his own budget or otherwise be authorized to go over a certain range.

3. My coworkers keep touching me and I don’t want them to

I work in a pub as a waitress, and a team leader and my assistant manager keep touching me inappropriately. For example, if I pick up some dirty glasses to take to the washer, either one of them will try to tickle me on my waist. I tend to just walk faster away from them. There’s also a lot of waist, stomach, and shoulder touching from walking past and standing near, etc. What can I do about this? I feel if I tell my manager he will just laugh.

The next time it happens, say directly and firmly, “Please do not touch me.” Don’t smile when you say this; you might be tempted to in order to soften it, but don’t because you need them to see that you’re serious. If they do it again, say, “I’ve told you not to touch me. You need to stop.” (Again, serious tone, no smile.) If it happens after that (or if you feel like skipping that second round, which is also reasonable), then you really do need to go to your manager. The wording you want is this: “Fergus and Percival keep touching my body after I’ve told them directly to stop. I do not want them touching me again. Can you ensure that they don’t?”

If your manager laughs, you’re working somewhere really, really messed up, and at that point you should escalate it over your manager’s head. But most managers — even inappropriate ones who have few boundaries themselves — will respond to a serious “you need to stop people from touching me” statement.

4. I inadvertently withdrew from a hiring process but I want back in

So I made an interviewing blunder and I’m wondering if I can recover from it or if I should just cut my losses and move on.

I applied for a position in early October and had an online interview at the end of October. While I do feel I am quite qualified for the position, my online interview went okay, not great. The interview started off with some technology issues which threw me off and my answers weren’t as polished as I would have liked.

Here is the beginning of my blunder–the day after the interview, I left for a very busy international trip, and I completely forgot to send a thank-you email and/or card. About a month went by and I did not hear back from the employer, so I sent a (very late) email saying essentially, “I apologize that this is past due, but I wanted to thank you for taking the time to interview me for X position. Due to the hectic travel schedule of my current position, I realize now is not the best time for me to be interviewing for a new position, but I hope you will keep me in mind for future opportunities.” (I had assumed at this point that I had been rejected for the job, so I was basically trying to make a graceful excuse for why I hadn’t followed up after the interview.)

After I sent this email, I received a response that said, “Thank you for letting us know. We will withdraw you from the process.” I did not want to be withdrawn from the process! Is there anyway for me to un-withdraw myself, or has that ship sailed? (And again, yes I realize I made mistakes by not following up after my interview and assuming I had been dropped rather than clarifying the situation, but those things are in the past, so I’d like to focus on whether there’s anywhere for me to go from here.)

I think this one has sailed. Your note to them definitely sounded like you were withdrawing, and I think it would be tough to write back and say “no, I’m still interested.” That’s likely to either make you look flaky (you withdrew but now you’re changing your mind) or raise questions about your communication skills (“but she clearly said she didn’t want to be considered”).

If you were really passionate about this job and convinced you were a strong fit, you could give it a shot anyway (there’s nothing to lose after all), but otherwise I’d move on.

5. I need a second job but my schedules would conflict

For the last few years, I’ve been a manager at a Fortune 500 company. The problem is this: I’ve been only part time this entire time. I need more hours, but my manager often tries to cut back my hours because my job is classified as part time, even though the job cannot be done in the part time hours allotted.

I’d like to obtain another job to get more hours, but typically most jobs are from 8-5pm and my job starts before 5pm.

Normally, I’d just ask if I could be allowed to come in later (my manager let my direct report come in later on the busiest day of the week because of school, and I had to take up the slack every time), but my managers are unhelpful and inflexible in my case. They allow their other subordinates more flexibility and respect, but with me, they create strange, difficult rules that only I must follow, let coworkers gossip about me, nearly try to shame me in front of other subordinates, force me to attend unnecessary meetings for over an hour while the rest of my job isn’t being done and my direct reports flail without my guidance, refuse to let me train on certain equipment, sometimes talk to me as if it’s my first day on the job, and so on. If I am late for their meeting, they make an issue of it, but if they are late, it is not a big deal at all. Because of this, I do not think they would be open to letting me come in any later. However, I need my current job because it pays decently, but I need more hours at another job as well, and it is extremely difficult to fit any other job around my present job. What can I do?

Rather than looking for a second part-time job, why not look for one new full-time job so that you can quit this one? Full-time jobs tend to be easier to find than part-time jobs anyway, and this one doesn’t sound worth going through contortions in order to keep it. In fact, it sounds like you should be actively searching to leave it regardless of the hours issue.

{ 323 comments… read them below }

  1. Little Teapot*

    OP5, I agree with Alison. What’s stopping you from applying for a full time job and resigning your current one? It doesn’t sound like a healthy environment at all.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      My first thought as well. Whatever the realities of the situation, it doesn’t sound like the right fit for you, so why not get out while the going’s good?

    2. INTP*

      Agree. Actually, it sounds to me like they might be trying too get the OP to quit, in a terrible way. Either way, it’s time for a new job.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        They are TOTALLY trying to “manage you out” by making your work life miserable. In my many years in retail, I can’t tell you how many times I saw this happen. When management can’t write an employee up because they allow other employees to do the same thing without issue, these were the tactics that were typically employed. Nothing written, all verbal, and any opportunity to make things difficult for you was taken advantage of. For whatever reason, it doesn’t sound like a good fit for you any longer. Take Alison’s advice and seek a full time job. If you still need a part time to make it financially, I’d wait until you’re established in the new job, and begin looking for another part time gig. Best of luck!

          1. Op5*

            Thanks for the comments. They keep telling me that they’re trying to help, but “help that doesnt help isn’t help, right”? They tell me conflicting things constantly, and it makes my head spin; It is a suffocating environment and I feel discriminated against. I haven’t left because the pay is good and I really love what I do there, my direct reports are awesome people, and I don’t have a degree to get different job with similar pay. Still, I will look for opportunities elsewhere. Thanks again for the input!

              1. Op5*

                I dont think its part time. Some people dont seem to like the way that I look. People have quit because they are older than me and, I assume, feel that they should have my position. I just experienced an entry level worker quitting because of this, although his story about the issue much different (he has extensive relevant experience in previous work, and said so on multiple occasions, yet cited a lack of adequate job training on my part). You can usually tell what a person might be thinking when they see you and begin to treat you a certain way based on your looks or gender. Others in non-entry positions could be having similar issues. Just my observation.

            1. MommaTRex*

              Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t focus on not having a degree, focus on all the experience you have gained.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        That’s what u was thinking too, unfortunately, and perhaps why Alison didn’t recommend a script for asking her boss what’s up with all that.

  2. Little Teapot*

    Alison, someone needs to commission you to make a series of posters/information sheets for university/job centres.

    “No! Don’t try to ‘stand out’ from the crowd by sending a potential employer baked goods!”
    “No! Don’t call to check the status of your application every day!”

    And so on.

      1. videogame Princess*

        Start.>>Does it go against basic common sense/follow some silly inflexible rule?>>Yes.>>Don’t do it.>>End.

  3. Jeanne*

    #1, I helped my sister pick out a great red suit to wear to an interview/presentation. She got the job. Nothing wrong with green. If you feel good you are more likely to be relaxed and confident in your interview.

    #5, I think looking for a full time job and getting out of there is great. I have no idea why they treat you this way but it might be easier to leave than to get them to change. If you decide to stay, there are some part time jobs that are only 4 hours a day or so but I have no idea if you are interested in those jobs. They are usually minimum wage. Good luck in your search. Meantime, be a good worker while you are at work but try to not worry about it that not all the work gets done. It’s not your fault.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I was also coming to suggest red! So many studies show that it’s a “power” color (for example, waiters who wear red get higher tips). I don’t know if OP is male or female – I don’t think a man should wear a red button down dress shirt to an interview. I always wear a red shell under my blazer for interviews and I once wore a red suit (got the job).

      1. the gold digger*

        Orange skirt, white t-shirt, black jacket, black boots for my last job interview that got me the job.

        Wore the same outfit for a Harley Davidson interview – not even realizing those were HD colors – and did not get the job. Every single person in that building – not just the factory people but the office people as well – was wearing jeans. I was overdressed.

      2. Laurel Gray*

        Can you guys please please please post examples of red that work? I just purchased a few suits for 2016 interviewing and stuck with navy and black although I am thinking of adding a charcoal gray to the new collection (I see you Ann Taylor and your 40% off). I know these are the usual “boring” hues but what red could work and be interview appropriate? There are two reds I recently saw on the AT website and one is a very Santa red and the other is a burgundy wine but I couldn’t imagine wearing either to interview (the Santa I could only wear to party or as separates),

          1. AnonyMoose*

            I have to voice that burgundy is a very 2015 friendly color but will start looking dated in a few years. I would strongly suggest the gray pinstripe, black, etc old reliables and go fierce fashion with shells and shoes.

            1. AnonyMoose*

              (sorry to those that love it….was just trying to save you so money! lol But I realize now that it’s like saying a certain hair style is outdated – to each their own!)

              1. Jeanne*

                I think it’s less about what colors are in style and more about what looks good on you. If a color makes you look sick, skip it. other than that, wear it.

        1. Ad Astra*

          I think a burgundy wine would look great in an interview. Is it just not a shade you like, or is there something unprofessional about burgundy? I have seen nice cardinal red suits that look great, but I’ve seen them on people, not at stores. Burgundy is everywhere right now (Pantone was right about “masala” being the color of 2015), but you may have better luck with truer reds in the spring.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I would go with a red that has blue undertones instead of orange undertones unless it looks weird with your skin tone. The red suit I wore was from Ann Taylor.

        3. Honeybee*

          as a side note, Ann Taylor has 40% off sales all the time. So if you miss this one don’t worry, another one will come. Their best deals tend to be in early January, after the holidays are over.

      3. K.*

        I was going to say the same thing about power colors! I pretty much never wear white or light blue under suits; I look good in bold colors (as opposed to pastels) so I’ll wear red or deep green or royal blue or burgundy.

        1. LBK*

          When I started working in an office I basically bought every color of shirt Express sells. Pink! Purple! Orange! Neon blue! I aim to be so bright that it’s difficult to look directly at me. Like the sun.

      4. Vicki*

        Yup. I almost always wear a red top for interviews. I like red. I look good in red. I _feel_ good in red. Feeling good is important for an interview.

    2. MissChirp*

      Thanks for the advice! I’ll definitely check out red in the future. I decided to wear the green to my last interview on Monday, and I was surprised at how much more confident I was. (The interview went marvelously well, by the way).

    3. AMG*

      I wonder the same thing about wearing a pink shirt with a black or grey suit. All shades of pink look great on me, but I am afraid of looking like Elle Woods.

      1. Liztomania*

        I’ve done the black suit with pink shirt thing before, and it’s worked really well for me in interviews.

  4. abankyteller*

    1: Reminds me of Catholic school uniforms. I think that’s the only time a strict white or baby blue matters.

    5: You sound unhappy in general in your job, OP. Is anything keeping you from looking for a new one altogether?

    1. Op5*

      I like my job, but the bad people are killing me (stress kills, I’ve heard). I dont have a degree and the better jobs require one…

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Sometimes but not always. I don’t have a degree either (about 1.5 yrs of college and a certificate from a 1 yr trade school) I’ve noticed larger corporations tend to care more about requiring a 4 yr degree because I’m always hired at smaller companies and the one I’m at now pays very well (above market). I’m sure it varies regionally but don’t get discouraged.

      2. AnonyMoose*

        Ooooh well there’s an idea. How about going back to school for a degree? Lots of grants and scholarships to help with living costs…?

        1. Windchime*

          Sadly, this is only true for those who are basically destitute. My son was trying to get through the prerequisites so he could go to nursing school, and there were zero scholarships available to him at our small-town school. He was able to qualify for grants, but that was because his employer had cut his hours to something terrible like 4 hours a week.

    1. Little Teapot*

      What do you mean? Like at what point is it easier to just throw in the two part time job towels and search for full time?

      1. Little Teapot*

        Or do you mean, and the more I think about it the more I think you meant this, like what type of job is it easier to get A full time job versus a part time one? Like stories ive heard of places like Starbucks only hiring people at 30 hour weeks so they don’t have to pay benefits?

        1. Jessen*

          Right, that. I’m stuck in that part where most jobs want to hire you part time so they don’t have to pay benefits, and it’s hard with my credentials to move up into full time. (My credentials are mostly good for academia, which has also hopped on the part time wagon.)

          1. nofelix*

            Within a company, one way is to gain enough responsibility so that restricting your hours hurts them m0re than it saves money. You may have to push a little to show them, and be vigilant about working unpaid overtime.

            When job-searching, have you done research into the type of permanent roles you could aim for? Maybe talk to a mentor about what stepping stones are needed to get there.

            1. NJ Anon*

              Be careful with the “working unpaid over-time.” If you are non exempt it is illegal, at least in NJ. Where I work non exempt employees are not allowed to work overtime, pai or otherwise.

                1. Oryx*

                  I read it the same way as you: be vigilant about working unpaid overtime in that *don’t* do it and only work your set, restricted hours. That way, when you provide value to the company but only within the hours set and those part time hours start to hurt them, they may be more flexible in wanting to offer you a full-time position.

              1. Anon for this*

                If you’re non-exempt, it’s illegal everywhere in the United States – that’s what being non-exempt means (though it’s worth pointing out that employees aren’t the ones who would be getting in trouble with the law – the issue is that it’s exploitive and not something the company is allowed to do).

                I interpreted nofelix as saying that it’s important to be vigilant about it because that will force them to formally deal with it if they want you to be working more hours.

                1. Anon for this*

                  … I was still Anon from something else. Wow. I was not in fact going Anon for saying that, haha.

            2. Jessen*

              I’m stuck in the retail trap right now – and I don’t want to take another 2-3 years hoping for a full time retail job. But really the trouble is I don’t have great credentials – I have a BA/MA in philosophy, but that’s mostly useful in academia. Which pays even worse than retail proportionately.

              1. Chameleon*

                You’d be surprised! A Phil. degree can be great for jobs that require critical thinking and arguing logically (I’m particularly thinking of a friend who went from Phil to law).

                1. post-retail librarian*

                  You might be surprised how hard it is to find a company that actually pays money for those valuable thinking skills – after all, don’t business and engineering majors also have logic and critical thinking skills? :) (Says the MA in history who finally gave up after years in retail and went to library school.) Law is of course a great application of philosophy, but also requires a very expensive degree.

                2. Rana*

                  Yeah, I have a BA, an MA, and a Ph.D., and none of that will get me hired outside of academia. Employers these days generally want in-field experience that they can confirm by looking at prior work; they’re not willing to take on someone they need to train in their specific area, even if that person has great skills otherwise.

              2. Doriana Gray*

                Go into insurance. Seriously. I know a couple of people who are in claims with a philosophy degree.

          2. Overeducated and underemployed*

            I think it depends on where you live and your field, but I’ve found that when the competition is stiff enough, the odds of getting hired full time are better just because it’s the more standard schedule so there are more openings overall. This is not true for, say, academia and museums, but in my city those are the fields where you have tons of qualified people willing to work for peanuts to get the experience, so the part time jobs are hard to get too. University administrative and government have more full time positions.

          1. Liana*

            So does Trader Joe’s! They start giving benefits (not full benefits, but some of them) at 15 hours a week.

            1. Chalupa Batman*

              Kohl’s too! When I worked there (several years ago) the health benefits ended up eating my whole check, so it wasn’t a good fit for me, but I can see it being a lifeline for some of my coworkers, who were piecing together a few part time jobs to support themselves.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      Yeah, when I was looking for work so many of the jobs I was interested in were, unfortunately, part time–and these were office jobs.

      1. Xarcady*

        This. The job description reads like a full-time job, with tons of responsibilities, and then you get to “part-time, 30 hours a week, must be available evenings and weekends.” For office jobs.

        I tried for a while to get two permanent part-time jobs, but simply couldn’t, because I’d say at least 75% of them want you available evenings and weekends as well as M-F, 9-5. It’s as if management says, “We need a bit more help around here. We can get someone to do X, and Y, and Z, plus all the scut work no one ever wants to do, and clean the toilets (I have seen this in two ads in the past week), and we can have them cover whenever anyone’s out on vacation or calls in sick. But make it part-time so we don’t have to give benefits.”

          1. Artemesia*

            As long as health insurance is tied to jobs this will be the norm. It was always a ridiculous idea and unfortunately is entrenched in our system.

        1. Overeducated and underemployed*

          Out of curiosity, are these nonprofit or corporate jobs (or something else)? I’ve only seen the part time office job with weekends and evenings required in nonprofit job ads.

          1. Xarcady*

            Mostly smaller businesses, I’m guessing about 25-50 employees. One was an auto dealership, so the weekend/evening hours make sense there. But the others, at least from the ads, seem like straightforward office jobs.

            It’s possible that they don’t want their part-time employee having other obligations, such as another part-time job, so they throw in the “evening/weekends as needed” bit to weed those people out.

            I’ve found it easier to be a full-time temp, working between 8-5, and also hold down a part-time retail job, which lets me do only evenings and weekends. (And I have to be available evenings and weekends for that job.) The temp jobs bring in enough money to live on, and the retail job pay gets saved for the gaps between temp jobs, which fortunately haven’t been many, or very long. But there’s a limit to how long this will be sustainable, so I’m still looking for full-time work.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I hate that availability crap. I think that’s the reason it’s considered easier to get one full-time job, because you don’t have to worry about juggling schedules/trying to find two (or more) that have compatible hours. That is, if you can find any.

            2. I'm a Little Teapot*

              If it’s mostly small businesses, I have a strong feeling that they are planning to actually have you work full-time and only pay you for part-time, because in my experience a lot of small businesses pull tons of illegal crap while manipulating or intimidating their employees into never reporting it, and fly under the radar by being small and making a lot of noise about how they’re “the little guy” and “sooo much more ethical than those big evil corporations.”

              1. xarcady*

                Totally agree. The number of part-time jobs I’ve seen advertised that are 30-35 hours a week (full-time in my state is defined as working over 35 hours a week) is huge. You can’t tell me that at least some of these companies aren’t replacing a full-time person with a part-timer who will be expected to get the same amount of work done. So the “part-time” employee will be persuaded to work more hours, but not enough to get time and a half.

                1. I'm a Little Teapot*

                  Oh, I was thinking they were going to, say, pay them for 30 hours and require them to work 20 more hours with no pay at all. I’ve seen some really slimy operations – so yes, I’m that cynical.

              2. Sketchee*

                Yep I worked with a coworker who had a horror story like this. I worked with her and her husband well after this happened. After her second child was born, she decided to go part time to save on child care costs. However, she ended up working on the same assignments. When it didn’t work out, they wanted her to continue with the same workload for reduced hours. This happens to full time employees too, I know, but it was pretty unfair. When I worked with her though, she had returned to full time. I always felt that since her family hadn’t diversified their income, that they were reduced in their negotiating power in this instance

    3. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I think it depends on field, location, and job whether part-time or full-time is easier to come by. Most office jobs in my area are full-time, for example, but most retail jobs are part-time. But part-time office jobs seem to be more common in more rural areas.

  5. LadyCop*

    White or baby blue shirts *shudder*

    I have never had a problem with a black or gray suit and a jewel toned blouse. It says “I’m professional and this isn’t my first rodeo.”

        1. Blurgle*

          Although I have to admit, I never wear actual button-up blouses. Turtlenecks most of the year; I don’t do slinky fabric, and high necks hide an old scar.

        2. MashaKasha*

          I have an eggplant suit with very subtle gold stripes. Bought it on a clearance in 98 and it’s been my only suit ever since. So, it’s gotten me every job I’ve had since 98. I’ll try a red shell with it next time!

        3. Pixel*

          Tweedy grey suit with teal shell underneath. Would have gotten the job but had to decline as it wouldn’t give me the experience I need to complete my professional designation :/

    1. Nina*

      Yeah, it sounds fine to me. I’m glad we’re getting away from the standard whites and blues for interviewing. Kelly green is lovely. And wearing a blazer in a muted shade (if OP isn’t already wearing a suit jacket) can tone down a bright color if necessary.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Two weeks ago I had an external job interview (in banking, which I always heard was conservative) where the hiring manager/AVP of the division I was applying to wore a burnt orange suit jacket (and it actually looked quite good on her) with black pants and a coral cowl neck top. I wore a red cardigan over a navy blue and white dress (and agonized over that cardigan beforehand – I almost wore a black one). Turns out the hiring manager loved my outfit, which didn’t surprise me given what she was wearing.

        I think if you look clean and tailored and, like Alison said, don’t get too crazy with your color combination, you’ll look fine.

        1. Ad Astra*

          I had a similar experience when I interviewed for (and eventually got) a job with a bank. It’s true that banking is a conservative industry, but only the most conservative banks will be turned off by a brightly colored shirt under a skirt suit. Do you want to work at a place where Kelly green is considered inappropriate?

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Exactly. I wouldn’t want to work at a place where that burnt orange was inappropriate! I like my color. (And changing up my hair every couple of weeks, but that’s a whole other topic.)

        2. Anna*

          I think this idea that you can only wear dark clothes with light tops is becoming a little passé. Especially with men’s clothing where the actual styles are fairly limited, it’s more common to see bright shirts and ties.

    2. Dew E. Decimal*

      When I started reading the question, I thought it was a man writing in, and I was gasping since for some dudes (definitely not all, but some, and certainly in specific fields) I would consider a jewel coloured shirt – to quote Nina Garcia – to be a “taste issue” that would stick out on a first impression. But the OPs outfit sounds lovely. I wish I could wear kelly green!

      1. Nashira*

        I think it depends on the guy’s coloring, frankly, just as it would for anyone else. My husband has a deep sapphire blue shirt which looks far nicer on him than white. Most pale colors wash him out, because he isn’t white. Paired with deep grey, the sapphire makes him look good without calling attention to itself.

        1. Jaydee*

          Yeah, I think this is one area where women have more options for what would be appropriate. For men, I don’t think white and baby blue are the only appropriate choices, but I don’t think you can stray too far. A darker shade of blue should be fine, or maybe a grey. But probably not a green. For women, on the other hand, certainly there might be some shades or color combinations that would be too much, but I can’t really rule out any colors categorically.

          I actually think that not strictly following that advice to wear only white or baby blue will make you look less obviously like a new grad and more like someone who has some experience in the professional world.

          1. Artemesia*

            good point — the black suit with white blouse is sort of an intern/newbie uniform for women. People higher up the food chain tend to wear texture, brighter colored tops etc even if the suit itself is neutral.

            I have always liked cream/creamy yellow shirts for men. I think it looks more upscale than a solid white shirt. Dark gray and dark blue shirts somehow look more ‘conservative’ or formal than green and look fabulous on men of color. Like for women styles change on this of course. Some years stripes and contrasting collars are standard and other times solids and whites are what men are wearing.

        2. Ad Astra*

          When I hear “jewel tones” I think of satin blouses, which of course would look really odd on a man, especially with a suit. But I guess there’s no rule that jewel tones have to be shiny satin numbers. Anyone else have that association or am I going crazy?

            1. Kelly L.*

              I always think of a low, square neckline, because I used to think that was what a jewel neckline was.

        3. Annie Moose*

          Good point about skintone. I suspect a lot of advice floating around out there about “appropriate” colors is from the perspective of what looks good/professional with pale skin, and it doesn’t always hold true for dark (or at least darker) skin.

          1. Observer*

            Not really – there are different types of “pale”, and they don’t all look good in the same colors. And when you add in hair color, that’s even more so.

      2. OriginalEmma*

        I am jealous of women whose skin tones let them wear these vibrant, gorgeous colors. Like that dark eggplant and deep yellow trend from a few years ago? I could see that sassy combination rocking an interview with the right employer…but I’d look ill.

          1. Artemesia*

            A dark hunter green is one of my best colors and I bought a turtleneck in a sort of artichoke color and it made me look like a zombie — went into the donation bag before I even wore it once. So even within one color palette there are huge variations. Looking good should be a base standard for color selection. And women can wear about any color that doesn’t scare the horses in combination with a conservative suit. If it looks good with her skin tone, it will be the right look.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Hunter green is my bestest color in the history of ever. I put it on, and it’s like someone flipped some extra lights on or something.

      3. Snarky McSnark*

        I’ve only worn colored shirts to interviews in corporate finance jobs. Including one of my favorites which is a light green as I have a few ties that work really well with it. But my absolute favorite combo is a tan shirt with a paisley baby blue and tan tie. With my black suit with blue pin stripes, I wear various shades of blue with no concerns.

        I am a naturally colorful/cheerful person and if someone is going to not hire me because of a shirt color, I probably wouldn’t fit in that culture anyways.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Years ago, I read an article that said to wear blue to interviews because blue is the color that most people like and do not feel put off. Navy is a shade of blue, I used a lot of navy because I felt comfortable. I think a lot of this is purely mind-set. If a person feels comfortably professional in their clothes then they probably will interview a bit better, exude a little more confidence, etc. OTH, from the interviewer’s perspective, clothes telegraph the first warning that the interviewee has no clue about the work environment or the customs of the particular arena.

      Where I work now, a young woman came in one day to see if we were hiring. I cannot be absolutely certain, but the clothes she was wearing looked like pajamas. We were not hiring, nor will we be hiring, so the point is moot. But I had to wonder why-oh-why would someone wear something that could be mistaken for pajamas?

      1. brightstar*

        I work at a conservative establishment (dress code is just under suits every day) and was conducting interviews last month. Each interviewee had been told to dress business professional. Our top contender on paper showed up wearing an outfit that was one step above a tracksuit. She also had purple hair, which we didn’t really care about nearly as much as the tone deafness of dressing so casually to an interview after being told the dress code.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Serious question: would your company accept dress pants and a separate blazer, say black pants and a grey blazer, as business professional dress for an interview? Signed, someone who’s terrified of second interviews because she only has one suit… TIA.

          1. brightstar*

            It would depend upon the position and how high ranking it is. I was interviewing for entry level, so a dress shirt and pants or sweater and dress were fine for the interviews. Also on the culture. I would err on the side of being too conservative and go ahead and get either pants or a blazer to match.

            I had to buy a new suit to conduct interviews this time and found one at Ross for $40.

          2. Wolfman's Brother*

            Depending on how much time has passed between first and second interviews (like a week?), I would probably feel ok wearing the same suit, but with a different blouse under it, different shoes. Something to make it feel like a second outfit.

            1. Artemesia*

              Absolutely. If the suit is grey, navy or black or even dark brown, having a very different blouse or sweater underneath will give it an entirely different look. If a blouse was worn the first time, then perhaps a nice sweater and scarf the next and it is going to be subliminally totally a different look.

          3. eplawyer*

            Women obsess too much over wearing the “same suit” twice. Men have about 3 suits and no one cares (vast generalization on the number of suits men own). If men can just alternate between 3 suits, then so can women.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Women also tend to notice each other’s clothing, either for comparison or copycat purposes, which is probably why. But yeah, it doesn’t matter. Different blouse, different shoes, and it’s good.

            2. Izzy*

              Three suits? Times have changed. My father’s work wardrobe (in the 50’s) was one suit, six white shirts, a tie or two, dress socks and one pair of dress shoes, and a hat. Buying a second suit was a big deal. That one might have just been for church, at least when it was new.

              1. NotherName*

                I grew up in a working class household in the 70s and 80s. My dad had one suit for weddings, funerals, going to nice restaurants, and other special occasions. I think he had two ties, also. (A somber one for funerals and a more colorful one for happy occasions.) And it was a Big Deal when he bought a new suit, because it was going to last him several years.

            3. VintageLydia USA*

              Women are also punished* more for wearing the same or very similar outfit multiple times in a shorter timespan.

              *punished probably isn’t the right word but I can’t think of another.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Looked down upon? In any case, yeah, the pressure isn’t solely coming from within the woman’s head. She’s not “obsessing,” it’s a real problem in some workplaces.

    4. Kelly L.*

      I think the blue mostly got popular because of symbolism anyway. “Blue says sincerity!” I don’t think there’s any tangible reason.

        1. Sourire*

          Yeah, I was going to say I’m very, very pale (like most foundations are way too dark on me pale) and crisp white and light blue actually look very good on me. It’s the pale pinks/creams/certain tans I have to watch out for – then I just look washed out and gross and/or like I’m not wearing anything, which is never a look I’m going for. I bet a lot depends not just on paleness of skin but also the undertone (warmer or cooler).

          1. NotherName*

            This is true. I am pale, and so is my sister, but we have different hair colors and skin tones. Some colors we can both wear, but there are definitely some that look great on one and not the other, and neither of us looks good in pastels. (We can do some other muted colors, but I can only wear pink if it’s hot.)

    5. OriginalEmma*

      I’ve even wore a dark grey suit (had brown undertones) with a dark brown V-neck shirt. Got the job!

      Seriously, as long as OP doesn’t look like she’s dressing up in Mom’s power suit and wears colors and cuts flattering to her, she will be fine.

    6. Jubilance*

      Yup! I’m a big fan of wearing a flattering bright color with a suit – I’ve worn red a lot and both gotten compliments and the jobs :-) I think the key is to make sure everything fits well so you feel confident.

        1. Oryx*

          This is why I tend to wear dresses/skirts to interviews. Suit jackets make me feel ridiculously uncomfortable and I’m not a fan of dress slacks.

    7. MissChirp*

      Wow, these all sounds like great ideas! I’m so relieved that people in the ‘real’ career world wear colors besides white, black, grey, and blue. For follow up, I did decide to wear the kelly green on Monday to an interview. The interview went really well as I felt a lot more confident. I also noticed that compared to other interviews the interviewer treated me as an equal searching for a good fit. Whether this is because of my appearance or just me being more confident I’m not sure.

      1. Renee*

        Kelly green is a beautiful color, and it would not occur to me to even question the wearing of it if it is flattering. I’m glad you wore what you felt good in and that it helped with your confidence. Good luck on getting the job that you want.

    8. Mike C.*

      I’m not sure I could pull that off. :p

      One other thing to consider is to have your suit tailored. I did this years ago because the store I bought my suit from offered it.

      Holy cow, the difference is amazing. It’s certainly a real confidence booster.

    9. hodie-hi*

      Dark blue pinstripe trouser suit that fit perfectly, thank you Ann Taylor. Cobalt button up under that, Ann Taylor again. Shiny fuscia pumps. Got the job. God, I hope that suit still fits the next time I need it.

    10. Stranger than fiction*

      Same here. Wore a red and white polka dot blouse under my black suit when I was hired at my current job and I’ve worn everything from pink to deeper tones like you and never a problem. Back in the nineties the trade school I went to advised never interviewing in green buy never said why. I was young so I listened. They did end up placing me and I was at that job for a couple of months before I was brave enough to wear my green suit to work! I waited until I had seen a couple of other ladies wearing green suits lol.

  6. Vee*

    OP#4 – I would write back and explain your timeline. Something to the effect of…”Thank you very much! My travel schedule should calm down in 3 months, so if anything is available then, I hope that we can continue our conversation.”

    1. Sourire*

      I like this approach a lot for multiple reasons. Not very likely, but could possibly get OP back in the running for the original job if it is indeed a very long hiring process (and they know so up front), but also it may ease some doubts in their minds about keeping OP “on file” so to speak for further postings since she has now put a concrete end date on her hectic travel schedule.

    2. HR Dave*

      I like this approach. That said, my take is that you were probably already rejected (internally at least) for the role, and the response you got was actually a courtesy so they didn’t have to send you a rejection and so that you could feel like it was your choice to pull out. It can’t hurt to follow up with them, but I think that ship had sailed before you sent your email.

  7. AcidMeFlux*

    Touch me when I’m holding a handful of dirty glasses and you’ll end up with a floor covered in broken glass.

    1. Matt*

      I don’t mind being touched from in front when I see it coming (although I don’t necessarily like it), but I’m very easily startled when touched from behind. Like someone poking my shoulder to get my attention. I can’t help it, but when someone does this, I make a full-body jerk like a horror monster has just grabbed me. (I probably have mild Asperger’s – self-diagnosed ;-) and this is a typical symptom of it) I’ve had lots of fun at school when my fellow pupils discovered this …

      1. MommaTRex*

        I think my son has mild Asperger’s and I have been wondering if his hair-trigger startle response is related. For him, not so much touching, but if I walk up behind him while he’s on the computer and say “Hi”, he reacts like he just heard a bomb explode.

    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      Bonus points if it can “accidentally” crash down right on their foot.

      (That said, kitchens and bars are places where you should probably expect to be touched a bit – they tend to be confined spaces, so people are apt to manouevre you out of the way, and noisy, so that they might have to tap you to get your attention – but tickling is a nope)

      1. Chinook*

        “(That said, kitchens and bars are places where you should probably expect to be touched a bit – they tend to be confined spaces, so people are apt to manouevre you out of the way, and noisy, so that they might have to tap you to get your attention – but tickling is a nope”

        But there is a world of difference between someone grabbing me to manoeuver me and someone poking or tickling me. I dislike both, but the second would probably get an elbow somewhere painful.

        Plus, I worked in a kitchen (as a dishwasher). Never once did anyone have to touch anyone to get them to move. The standard was to loudly state “behind” when you walked behind someone so they wouldn’t back into you or “move” if you wanted someone to move.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        I was thinking that too. While the tickling and any ass touching is wrong I don’t see a problem with someone touching your arm or shoulder (I put my hand on coworkers arm or shoulders all the time when I’m consoling them about something) and the waist I may let slide because at restaurants and bars when it’s busy it’s normal to kinda scootch people out of your way when crowded around a computer or other tight spot…but at the same time I realize people have different levels of touching they’re comfortable with so if the Ops not ok with it then she needs to say so.

    3. Sourire*

      Sadly I can almost guarantee that ending up with OP in trouble and nothing at all said to the offending coworkers :/ I’d like to point out here that I am NOT saying this is right (in fact it’s terrible), but this kind of harassment and “I was just playing around” type of behavior is so, so common in a lot of the bar and food service industry as well as plenty of others. (My job is very, very boys club and I put up with a lot I shouldn’t have to, to be honest).

      I’m not at all saying OP should grin and bear it though. I like Alison’s advice an I really hope it works, but I guess I’m pessimistic. I’ve just seen too many times where making a complaint about something legitimate like this ends up badly for the person who complained. It’s a general societal problem (which we have discussed many times on this site) that I hope is in the process of changing, but unfortunately it’s just so hard sometimes as a woman to decide which harassment you’d rather put up with, sexual or the general harassment received post-complaint… (or of course simply finding a new job, which is often the best case scenario)

      1. Sigrid*

        Seconded. The fact that she works as a server makes me think that complaining *will* likely result in her manager laughing at her. Finding a new job — outside the service industry — is probably be the best idea, but I know that’s easier said than done.

        1. Anon the Great and Powerful*

          +1 The restaurant industry is insanely dysfunctional, even more so than the rest of the service industry. I would be amazed if the manager didn’t laugh and then start harassing her as well.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Or start giving the undesirable shifts or stations…wish I had $1 for every time I saw that happen.

        2. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          But this is such a sad reaction. I worked in restaurants for years and years through school and put up with a fair amount of this kind of thing–but the only way to change it is to address it. If you don’t address it and play along, or just leave the industry without every having a conversation about it, this kind of crap continues. You don’t owe it to anybody to be the bastion of change, but it always makes me feel better to stand up for myself.
          For what it’s worth, there is a bit of this kind of “touching” that can be unavoidable in a small kitchen (e.g. “Watch out, I’m right behind you with a hot plate. I’m just going to squeeze by.” accompanied by a butt-to-butt brush), but “tickling” is inappropriate anywhere, and actually intentional touching like this has to be addressed.

          1. Sigrid*

            I don’t disagree, but the OP is under no obligation to be the one to push back. Whether or not she wants to risk it is going to depend on her.

        3. Chinook*

          ” The fact that she works as a server makes me think that complaining *will* likely result in her manager laughing at her.”

          I am curious, would a typical manager’s reaction be different if the OP loudly stated “do not touch me” while there are customers around?

          1. GT*

            He might address it in the moment, but I can see it being played off as an accident that she’s oversensitive about and then being 10X worse later on. (“Don’t bring this up in front of customers!” etc.)
            My old restaurant job there seemed to be a contest over how many times they could brush past my butt when I was behind the counter. There was almost always plausible deniability there. I tried making myself as small as possible (and I was already pretty small), and it took me a bit to catch on to what they were doing, when I realized how much space they had to get past me and they brushed past me every single time (except for one worker – the largest one). That job sucked, but I don’t think it was an unusual place for the restaurant industry.

          2. Tamsin*

            She might never be scheduled for shifts again. She might be fired for insubordination or causing a scene in front of a customer regardless of the circumstances (seriously — imagine a person in your company making a point about how bad the management is IN FRONT OF CUSTOMERS). It’s almost 2016. Yes, the industry needs to change but no, OP is not going to win either this battle or war on behalf of women (and especially should take with a grain of salt women advising OP safely from positions of job security to take a hit for womenkind).

            1. I'm a Little Teapot*

              Ugh. I wish sexual harassment suits were really like what some people think they are: you win and you are set for life, preferably by being legally entitled to most of the harasser’s assets and future earnings. If this kind of crap would ruin the rest of a perv’s life, a lot fewer people would do it in the first place, and victims wouldn’t have to worry so much about “what if I’m fired/never hired again because I’m litigious?”

      2. Shan*

        Yep, I had a major issue when I was sexually harassed at my last job, and it was textbook definition of sexual harassment. Like, the video they had us watch in training said, “An example of sexual harassment is X” and my awful coworker literally did X to me. When I complained, management said, “Aw he just likes you!” or “He’s just joking around!” Looking back I think he was really infatuated with me and I’m sure he meant no harm, but I had nightmares. No means no, dude.

        What worked for me was the “no smile” technique Alison suggested. And I completely stopped talking to the guy. Luckily we had different roles in the organization that never crossed so it didn’t impact work at all, except for making it a little awkward. I’m always very polite and maybe overly friendly, so my coworkers knew I was serious when the offending coworker would say innocent things like, “How’s it going today?” and I wouldn’t even respond. I started looking for a new job and by the time management got around to formally reprimanding him, I quit.

        1. ancolie*

          Ugh, and what I can’t stand is how so many people who say the stuff like your management did (brushing it off or saying he just likes you) are ALSO the ones who complain about having to take any sexual harassment courses because OBVIOUSLY we all know what sexual harassment is and this is just a waste of time. ¬_¬

  8. CreationEdge*

    “(I had assumed at this point that I had been rejected for the job, so I was basically trying to make a graceful excuse for why I hadn’t followed up after the interview.)”

    That might have been true, anyway. Their reply to you was fairly canned, so they might not have even looked up your file/status. They may have already written you off without notification, and still didn’t tell you.

    Moving on is good advice, even if you hadn’t withdrawn inadvertently. Until you get an offer, nothing’s set!

    1. Artemesia*

      This is what I assumed when I read it. They didn’t say you were in the running, they just responded to your request with a canned ‘okay’ response. I mean there wasn’t the hint of a ‘we’re sorry to hear that’ in the response. Assume they forgot to be politely responsive to you just as you were to them and call it a wash.

    2. Betty*

      This is what I was thinking too. A month is a long time to not hear back after an initial interview, and you know the interview wasn’t fantastic, so I think most likely you were out of the running already. But it would be pretty unnecessary for them to respond to a candidate’s withdrawal with, “Oh, actually we had already rejected you, we just didn’t bother to let you know,” so you got a canned, polite thank you instead.

  9. Mike B.*

    #4 – While you should indeed always send a follow-up note, forgetting to do so is not generally a disqualifying error unless your profession demands impeccable etiquette (eg, hotel concierge). Only a manager with questionable priorities would give weight to such a minor lapse.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Agreed, especially since this wasn’t even an in-person interview. Thank-you notes help but their absence isn’t a deal-breaker if you’re otherwise a strong candidate. (You should still do them because they’re so quick and easy and can help, but I wouldn’t assume this is the reason the company wasn’t interested.)

    2. NK*

      I was coming here to say this as well. When I conducted first round interviews recently (8 in a day!), we had already decided by the end of the day who was in the yes/no/on the fence pile. Neither of the “on the fence” candidates sent a thank you note, so we pushed them to the no pile (part of our concern was whether they were truly interested in the job, and the lack of note confirmed this). It turns out the “yes” candidates did send thank you notes, which I think further confirmed our decision, but honestly we would have asked them back even without a note.

  10. Bend & Snap*

    #1 I have a personal rule to stay away from pink in professional settings, because I work in a male-dominated industry and don’t want to appear fluffy. But I really don’t think kelly green is too out there. A pop of color is nice and can be memorable!

    1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      My go to outfit is actually a black suit with a bright-darkish pink collared shirt. I call it my lucky interview outfit because I’ve loaned it out twice and both people got the job!

      1. Chloe Silverado*

        Jewel tones tend to look best on me, and I’ve interviewed a few times in a fuchsia/berry color and gotten the job. In my case, I paired it with a dark gray suit and black pumps so it still looked quite professional, but I admittedly work in a female dominated field so YMMV.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          I work in PR. In my agency days, I wore pink ALL THE TIME. Now I’m in house in Big Tech and there’s no way that wearing pink would help me wrangle alpha males swinging their dicks around. Like I said, it’s a personal preference.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      I wore a grey pant suit and kelly green blouse (specifically pick that color). Got the job. I think the pop of color is great. It’s all about feeling comfortable.

  11. JM*

    OP #4 – I’d like to politely disagree that “there’s have nothing to lose, after all” by following up again. Say you do, and they read it as flakiness or poor communication. If you want to apply at a position in that company in the future, you would be remembered for that rather than not remembered at all, or remembered as someone where the timing simply wasn’t right.

    1. Erin*

      I hear you, it certainly could go that way. I also think there’s a good argument for taking a chance and being candid.

  12. Pepper*

    #3: What is it about bar/waitressing work that attracts the chronic pokers?! Everyone I know that has ever worked in the service industry has at least one story of the time a co-worker inappropriately touched them. The instinct is to smile awkwardly and say nothing while internally wanting to bleach your whole body, but Alison’s script (and Captain Awkward’s, if you want to check out that site!) really do work.
    Anecdotal, but aside from saying “No” and “Don’t do that” what helped me was to outright say to a (female) co-worker, “Hey, did you have this issue with this guy and how do I get it to stop?” Letting someone else know I was very firmly Not Okay with all the weird clutching of my hands and the personal space invasion and the poking while holding heavy glassware made it easier for me to stand up for myself when it did happen because I had someone in my corner.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      I think that it is partly the work environment. As I said above, it’s often crowded spaces where there’s jostling/close contact to hold a conversation/falling over each other etc. In that kind of environment it can be difficult – both for touchers and touchees – to know where the line gets drawn, and so it’s an ideal breeding ground for creeps who take advantage of that.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        Sure, but that’s why you yell “Behind!” when trying to move around someone in a crowded galley kitchen or behind the bar. MAYBE, if you have that kind of relationship, a light tap to the shoulder or back to signal you want to get by. But tickling? Hope you didn’t like that glassware because now it’s glassconfetti.

        1. Artemesia*

          We have a tight kitchen as do several of our friends and sometimes we are crowded together getting food out for a party or something. Whenever I pass behind someone I sort of put my hand on his shoulder in back so he is physically aware — it does not require any sort of touch that is even slightly intimate — this is a ‘touch’ that would work with total strangers in super crowded settings. No excuse for pokes or touches that suggest creepy even in a chaotic crowded workplace unless creepy guy is trying to cop a feel.

          1. OfficePrincess*

            Ah yes, the open palm lightly grazing the other person’s back was a staple in my pharmacy days. It helps both people judge the distance enough that it’s the only contact they make and the person being passed knows immediately when it’s safe to move again. It’s also pretty unobtrusive if it’s happening in front of customers.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Yeah, some people are just touchy feely and you’re going to notice it more in cramped quarters where everyone’s always moving around. When I lived in Texas, I notice strangers at loud, crowded bars tended to touch my back as a way of saying “excuse me, I’m passing behind you.” Not sure if it’s a regional thing or a characteristic of that specific town, which was extra friendly in general.

        Some people would be fine with the kind of touching OP describes while other people would find it totally uncomfortable and inappropriate. Shutting this down could be as simple as setting clear boundaries and making her preferences (needs? demands?) known.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Hmm, upon second reading, I think most people would agree that tickling a coworker is inappropriate. It might be ok if you had an unusually close relationship with that coworker in an unusually casual work environment, but even then… kinda gives me the creeps.

    2. Xarcady*

      I second the suggestion of Captain Awkward. She has some good scripts for when you tell someone to stop touching you, and they come back with, “I didn’t mean anything by it!”

      Like, “That’s fine, but I still need you to stop touching me.” “I understand, but I still need you to stop touching me. Don’t touch me.”

      1. OriginalEmma*

        I wouldn’t even say “That’s fine,” because it’s NOT fine…which is why you’re bringing it up as a problem. Just like smiling, it would cause confusion as to whether you’re serious. Agree with Capt. Awkward “I still need you to stop.”

    3. the gold digger*

      I was a cocktail waitress on year over Christmas break in college. One night, a customer grabbed my butt. I froze. This had never happened to me before.

      Five minutes later, I got the courage to march up to him and say, “How would you feel if someone treated your daughter that way?”

      He looked really confused, then he laughed, then he said, “I don’t have a daughter.”

      For a second, I was stumped. (I am not quick on my feet, which is why I totally failed the McKinsey interview – they need people who can make stuff up quickly and smoothly.) Then I said, “Well, if you DID have a daughter, how would you feel?”

      He looked contrite and gave me a $20 tip.

      I took it.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I wish I’d thought of that when, long ago at Golden Corral when we had to wear those little teeny brown skirts (before it was a buffet), someone pulled me onto his lap. Or I wish I’d had a full plate of hot food so I could have “accidentally” dumped it on him.

        1. Windchime*

          It would have been such a shame if your elbow had accidentally made sharp contact with his nose on the way down.

    4. College Career Counselor*

      In my experience (fast-food), there was a lot of arrested social development (think of a workforce that was pretty much late high school-aged or a little older) and a serious lack of professionalism/training from “management” that contributed to that culture of poking. I’ve written here before about my experience years ago with a co-irker who jumped me in the parking lot after work. That incident was actually precipitated by his continual physical prodding of me. I finally told him to knock it off and called him a name (at 5:30am, I am not my most polite). Calling him out on his aggressive invasion of my space and person escalated the situation because he took that as an affront to his ego/manhood. I only found out later that this guy was annoying as hell to many other people who worked there, so I second the advice to approach others to ask for help, as I would have found out that I was not standing alone against this person (and what I thought was a united front of his friends).

  13. Stephanie*

    #5: Heh, I know it’s vague and could be applied to many places, but this sounds exactly like my company and position. (We’re full of PT jobs that should probably be FT.) I did find a second job, but honestly…just as a stopgap. I’m actively looking and working on ways to GTFO. Assuming your job is vaguely white-collar, you should be able to use that to get into a better full-time job. And you sort of have a built-in excuse for leaving–that you want full-time hours but are unable to get them.

    1. OP5*

      Gosh. It makes me feel much better to not be the only one. This is definately a part time that should be full. And there is way to much favoritism, especially when people who don’t work there KNOW management plays favorites.

  14. Anon1234*

    Use your loud voice. Perverts get away with it because no one tells them off. Embarrass him in front of others. Tell his boss. Don’t be “nice.” Don’t let him tell you that it’s all in your head. They’ll keep on doing it until you make them stop.

    1. Shan*

      So much this. I said above, I’m always very polite and maybe even overly friendly, I hate to ruffle feathers or rock the boat. So when I was sexually harassed of course I was really nice about asking for him to stop. Management thought it was cute that he liked me and did nothing. Once I raised my voice slightly, put on my “mean face” and did not smile, people started taking me seriously.

  15. Delyssia*

    On #2, I think I actually disagree with Alison. I see nothing wrong in making it clear that your total compensation package at your current job adds up to more than what they’re offering. Essentially, while they have offered a slight increase in pay, in terms of total compensation, they’re offering something of a cut.

    I agree that you don’t want to emphasize the benefits discussion too much, and you probably should acknowledge that some of those things are outside the norm (“I realize I’m very fortunate to have exceptional benefits available now” or something). But shifting the conversation to total compensation package vs. total compensation package–with the understanding that the salary piece is what’s most likely negotiable, not the benefits–seems completely valid.

    1. GS*

      I agree with you so long as OP makes it clear that they understand the difference between total compensation and salary (and even perhaps make it clear to hiring manager, who may really only consider benefits as “add-ons”), and make it crystal clear that what you’re looking for here is additional salary more in line with the marketplace, not a shift in benefits (or the promise of a shift in benefits), which I think is what Alison was getting at.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Actually, this may be a brilliant framing – if what was offered is below marketplace, OP can pull out, “I know I was also getting below marketplace at my previous job, but they were compensating with unusual benefits.”

        1. Ad Astra*

          I think this framing is especially useful in a situation where the new employer knows your old salary, and is presumably making their offer based on that information instead of basing it on the candidate’s actual value. If they really think past compensation is an important factor in determining current compensation, then it makes sense to consider total compensation.

      2. OP#2*

        Thanks. This post came out after convos with the employer. I did bring those up. I did cite “I understand to grow in my career, I may need to make sacrifices. I am hoping we can work together to come with a package that minimizes that” They did make a higher offer and did say these are benefits they had never considered offering and it was helpful to know that competitors were offering that. The supervisor also made a point to say that they really pushed to go beyond the normal budget for this position because of the benefits they saw I would be losing.

        Also because I brought up benefits, they took time to discuss a number of benefits that aren’t cited in the HR handbook they gave me – many of which were things I don’t have now. This included a 4 day condensed work week in the summer and the option to create a one day a week telecommute schedule (case by case by supervisor approval).

        The biggest help in my negotiation was the constant reference to total compensation. I also think that I kept citing my flexibility and where I was willing to make sacrifices to come to their company – I think this helped show that it was a mutual conversation.

    2. JC*

      I can’t entirely tell from the question because I think there is a word missing, but it seems as if the OP doesn’t use some of the benefits she named (parental leave, childcare, closing costs). If my employer offers benefits I don’t use, I don’t consider them part of my total compensation package, because I have not been compensated. I suppose it wouldn’t be lying to say “my employer offers $X as the total compensation package,” but it wouldn’t be entirely straightforward either.

      As a related example, I have worked for employers that have offered student loan reimbursement, but I (very luckily) don’t have student loans and so would not use this benefit. I would never tack $10k onto my total compensation because other people I work with get up to $10k a year in student loan reimbursement.

      1. OP#2*

        I suppose the difference, is there are many benefits, like student loan forgiveness that aren’t relevant. I for example have a tuition reimbursement at my current job. But I have a terminal degree, so it is not as big a monetary benefit for me. The family benefits are things I may use in the future, but I don’t see using in the next 5 years or so. My spouse and I want kids, but are not making plans for 5 years. I think it is better for us to start saving the money we would lose from the benefits and save it over 5 years.

      2. Doriana Gray*

        As a related example, I have worked for employers that have offered student loan reimbursement

        Okay, who are these employers and are they hiring?!

    3. Greg*

      Re: #2: Anyone else bothered by this: “During the application process, it asked me to disclose my current salary but they did not discuss range with me.”

      ARGHH! Not putting this on the OP, since I know these situations are stressful, but you are absolutely within your rights — especially after you just divulged your current salary — to turn the question back on them. “Is that in line with what you’re looking to pay for the role?”

      After all, the goal in asking you about your salary is supposed to be to ensure your expectations are aligned, not so they can use that info to squeeze you in negotiations. Don’t give in to the information asymmetry, people!

      Yes, there are plenty of employers who will refuse to divulge that information, and you should feel free to judge them as much as they’d judge you for the same thing. But in general, by the time you get to the offer stage you should have at least some idea of what they plan on giving you. And if they’re smart, they should feel the same way.

  16. voyager1*

    OP1: I always wear blue shirts to interviews, usually with a different tone of blue tie. As a male I stay away from red at interviews because it is a power color, or at least that is what I have heard. Maybe it is true because ya know Tiger wears red shirts on final rounds, back when he was known for being a golfer LOL.

    1. RVA Cat*

      I was just going to say that the career center’s horrid “advice” seems geared to males – though they have more leeway too. A male stockbroker (so very conservative industry) I used to work with who is Greek and similar complexion to OP#1 wore bright colored shirts all the time and looked fantastic.

    2. Dasha*

      From the female side of clothing- I’ve also heard not to wear red because it is too distracting.

      1. Kelly L.*

        And Barbara Ehrenreich has an interesting bit about women and colors in Bait and Switch. She’d been wearing black in academia because it was perceived as authoritative, and then got all this advice to wear soft earth tones in the corporate world so she wouldn’t be perceived as “too aggressive” as a woman. :/

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yep, it was right after Nickel and Dimed, and she went undercover in white-collar work during the worst of the recession, and had so much trouble getting jobs at all (most of her offers were really MLM) that she mostly ended up writing about interviews and horrible “self-improvement” seminars instead.

        1. Artemesia*

          Although a black suit can be rich and expensive looking, every cheap suit on the market is black. To look impressive and experienced and tasteful, the options are much better in earth tones, grays etc where there are lush fabrics and textures and cuts that are more authoritative for being obviously expensive and stylish. My previous boss was a late middle aged woman with fabulous slightly edgy taste and her choices made her more authoritative than a black suit might have.

    3. MissChirp*

      I’ve also heard red is a power color. When I competed on a speech and debate team I always won when I wore my red suit–but the context is different because during competitions you want to visibly stand out. I’m a loud personality as it is, so wearing a bright red might be too much just by default.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      I read that as ‘Tigger wears red shirts’ and was thinking it would clash with the orange stripes. I was about to go google Pooh and Tigger images!

  17. Dasha*

    #3 oh this is the worst. I’m going through something similar with my coworkers in an office job! I was thinking back to previous jobs and I don’t think I’ve ever touched my coworkers besides a handshake or if I was leaving the job I may have given a side hug to some coworkers when I was younger. I’m really thinking hard here.

    I’m curious about other readers- do you ever touch your coworkers in any sort of way besides a handshake?? Do any of them ever try to touch you?

    It makes me super uncomfortable because even if it is “innocent” I think of a post before where someone mentioned creepy people don’t start out at level 10 mega creepy they start out doing things that just slightly push the envelope and then get creepy.

    1. Chloe Silverado*

      This was at one of those companies where everyone is “like family.” My former boss was a hugger – whenever he thanked me for a job well done on a project, he would go to hug me. I don’t think he meant anything creepy by it, but I am decidedly *not* a hugger (like, even with friends and family) so I would recoil in horror. It would always catch me off guard and I’m not great at thinking on my feet so I never said anything, but he luckily realized after a few attempted hugs that it made me uncomfortable and switched to high fives.

      1. Snarky McSnark*

        You would not do well in Brazil, they not only do hugs on many occasions, but many times once you have met someone a few times they do a double cheek to cheek kiss in addition to the hug.

    2. Erin*

      I know I used to touch people/coworkers on the shoulder when talking to them, I think more women than men (I’m female). I think it’s because I tend to be more quiet and introverted, so it’s my way of trying to be friendly and outgoing. But as I’m quickly learning, not everyone is comfortable with that.

      One coworker in particular told me a story about how our boss once asked her permission to give her a hug, because he knew how she hated being touched in any way. She said it in a carefree, joking kind of way, so I don’t think it was necessarily pointed at me and how I’ve definitely touched her on the shoulder before, but I took the hint either way.

      I make a conscious effort now not to touch anyone unless they instigate it first. I did have a different coworker give me a hug a few months back after she was excited from winning an online auction or something, and I hugged back, but again, I wait for the other person to initiate.

      If you think someone is touching you in an innocent way then just saying, “Hey sorry, I have a thing about people touching me” should be enough to put it a stop to it. Because normal people will respect that.

      But if there’s a creepy undertone, or it’s been repeated many times, I’d go with Alison’s very firm, “Please do not touch me” and “I’ve asked you not to touch me, please stop.”

      1. Navy Vet*

        “If you think someone is touching you in an innocent way then just saying, “Hey sorry, I have a thing about people touching me” should be enough to put it a stop to it. Because normal people will respect that. ”

        No. Do not say “sorry” or apologize for setting your personal space boundries. Ever.

        As someone who has PTSD from sexual harrasment/assault in the military (aka the workplace) it took me years, but I have zero compunction about setting my boundries with people. If they argue or try to tell me I’m being overly sensitive my reply is usually “You are making me uncomfortable. I would appreciate it if you respected my personal space.” And I set that on repeat. I do not waver from it or change my position.

        On another note, I would like to add, a light touch on the shoulder to let someone know you are behind them is one thing. Touching someones waist and/or tickling them is entirely too intimate for a work setting IMO.

        Set your boundries and stand your ground with them. Do not let your coworkers or boss shame you for wanting to work in a harassment free work place. It’s your body and you are allowed to dictate who is allowed to touch you and how.

        Always remember that.

    3. Allison*

      A handshake makes sense when I’m first meeting someone, or sealing a deal, or concluding a meeting with someone I don’t know well. To me it’s super formal. But honestly, I don’t like being touched at work. I don’t wanna hug my coworkers and I don’t want anyone touching me on the arm, shoulder, back, etc. Depending on the situation, it either seems flirtatious or patronizing/condescending. No thanks.

    4. Judy*

      In general in the office, I’ve only gotten hugs at going away times, either when someone is retiring, quitting or maybe once or twice having surgery. Handshakes when being introduced.

      It’s not entirely unusual to be touched or to touch on the arms or shoulders, like a tap to get someone’s attention, but it’s rare. It happens to me much less often now that I have an office and my desk faces the door than when I was in the cubicle. Usually I “knock” on someone’s desk if I need to get their attention in a cubicle.

      I’m generally not opposed to a quick touch on the arms or shoulder by acquaintances or work friends, but I’d be concerned if someone touched me on the waist.

    5. Delyssia*

      I find that there’s a surprising amount of hugging in my current workplace. Not on a day-to-day basis, but it seems to come up routinely when colleagues are visiting from other offices or when I visit other offices. It doesn’t bother me, and I haven’t felt like anyone was being creepy about it, but I do find it odd.

    6. another IT manager*

      Female in hospitality: other people I see 1-4 times a year will initiate hugs when we see each other, but for people I see every day, it’s handshakes when I meet them and high-fives or fistbumps when we finish something big. I am not a hugger and do not initiate hugs.

    7. Shell*

      I don’t like being touched. Seriously, there is a shortlist of about five people whom I’m happy to trade pokes and physical affection with, but most people are not on that list.

      Years ago, one of the long-standing members at my Toastmasters group sometimes brushed my shoulder with his hand when he talked. He was old enough to be my grandfather and I think he was being mentor-y or something. It weirded me out.

      I also had a coworker (my age-ish) who would do the same. Also weirded me out.

      In both cases they weren’t trying to be creepy, but I definitely pulled away. I don’t like being touched. High-fives/fist-bumps/shoulder-punches are about as touchy as I can get, and I haven’t done any of those in about six years.

    8. ThursdaysGeek*

      I don’t consider myself a hugger in professional settings, but I do recall hugs with co-workers in this and the last job. I usually wasn’t the instigator, but in the cases I recall, it didn’t bother me either. I’ve had hugs from both male and female co-workers, and they are purely from friendship and nothing more.

      I’ve also had co-workers that I very much do not want to be touched by. So it very much depends on the person and the circumstances. And there are two people in any touching, so if at least one doesn’t want it, it shouldn’t happen.

  18. Mickey Q*

    #3 – Down block to the groin. Say it’s just a reflex from taking karate. There’s also knife hand to the throat. Self-explanatory.

    1. fposte*

      Perhaps not self-explanatory in a restaurant, where knife hand could be the hand holding a knife–that you really don’t want to do, because an assault charge is not going to help you.

  19. Katie the Fed*

    #5 sounds like an incredibly dysfunctional workplace. Your direct reports “flail” without you there for an hour? Yikes!

      1. Temperance*

        This is my not-so-charitable opinion, but could OP be exaggerating this detail? From the way that she also complained about someone else being given permission to arrive late on “the busiest day of the week” for school, I’m wondering if she is the problem here, not literally everyone else she works with.

        1. Erin*

          Maybe, but I’d be believe it. I can think of someone in my workplace who, when they’re out of the office, everyone is like, Oh my God! Where is Lucinda? How is this going to get done? What’s going to happen??

          1. Anon for this*

            I once knew someone who flailed for an hour because an appliance “was broken” and I didn’t start work till 9. It was unplugged.

    1. OP5*

      I feel like I need to reply to this one. Not to make excuses but try to explain. There is a lot going on. A lot. Nobody can see the big picture because they’re in their slots, doing their job. My job is to see the big picture and coordinate. No coordinator? Not enough coordination. And with the deadlines we’re under, and all the things that can and do go wrong, it’s a recipe for a piping hot, Sloppy Nasty. And we don’t have time to clean up sloppy nasties. Hope this explains. And yes, I’m working to the point where direct reports don’t need me as much. But we just had a massive restructuring. I mean different equipment, different place, and not enough people to do everything.

  20. FD*

    #1- My general litmus test is this. Is it distracting? I.E. if it’s bright enough, or the patterns are noticeable enough that my interviewer might be distracted by them while I’m talking/gesturing/etc., then I should probably choose something else.

  21. Erin*

    #5 – While you’re looking for a full time job, keep an eye out for part time jobs that might not conflict with your current schedule. But, yeah, look for a full time job…:)

  22. GS*

    #5 honestly sounds to me like the department heads want you to leave on your own. I once worked in a very large corporation that treated one single employee like this (including being the only part-time manager, and not allowing additional hours). When the person finally quit after their mistreatment, the Department shifted some people around and used the saved wages from the PT manager as a budget savings. I still think that was always their goal. At the end of the year, apparently they were praised by the senior leadership (in another state) for being so far under budget that cycle.

    Get out and find a place that appreciates you!

    1. TootsNYC*

      It really does sound like they’re trying to drive you out.

      You don’t deserve to be treated like this; if they need to save budget, they should just lay you off, and if they don’t like your work, they should be open about it so you can improve.

      Look for full-time work–or, if you have to patch together part-time work, find some other part-time work to be your primary job, and quit this crappy place. Then you’ll have energy to look for another part-time job.
      I hope you can find it.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      That’s such a dick move. I wouldn’t want to work for a place that did that, so I wouldn’t really be motivated to hang onto the job.

      Good luck, OP. I hope the exact perfect job falls right into your lap and you can quit this crusty bunghole.

  23. Allison*

    #1, it makes sense to encourage people to be clean, neat, and conventional looking when they go to an interview, so they can present themselves as being professional without having their wardrobe (or hair, or makeup, or smell) distract from their candidacy. That was probably the reasoning behind this advice, because most men in the workplace nowadays wear white and blue shirts to work and to interviews, in most “normal” fields anyway. But if you’re wearing a suit, your shirt is a great way to add a “pop” of color.

    No reasonable person sits in an post-interview debrief meeting and says “well they seemed great, but they were wearing a green shirt, so . . .”

    1. TootsNYC*

      There was a time when it was Not Done for men to wear colored shirts in the workplace. But that was long ago.

      A white shirt is safest–nobody can really complain (except the graphic-design department, I guess). So that’s why it’s held on.

      1. Marcela*

        White is not really safe for some of us. DH and I look sick in white. I don’t wear it at all, but DH is usually lost in the sea of colors, so he bought a white shirt for his interviews, only to discover that people would ask him if he was ok or if he wanted to change the interview to another day so he had a chance to recover from whatever illness he had. We knew white is not our color, but not that it was that bad.

    2. MissChirp*

      I follow their reasoning up to the distracting part, but it really is distracting when I wear white. I’ve tried cream but the same result happened. As a recent grad it’s often difficult to tell which university given career norms are really real, and which are just traditions passed down through the career centers until they become solid rules that aren’t found anywhere else. But I definitely don’t want to jeopardize a potential job for something as simple (or complex) as my choice of dress.

    3. Artemesia*

      No one ever says that, but they may nevertheless be influenced by what they perceive as inappropriate. One of our best finalists for a position was negatively influenced by his Mickey Mouse glasses — it really turned off the powers that be. There were other reasons they didn’t approve him, but the glasses didn’t help. No one has to say ‘green shirt’ — it can be ‘he didn’t seem like a good fit’ or ‘he didn’t seem professional’ or ‘I am not sure he is serious about the job.’ They might not even know WHY they have that impression.

      1. Shell*

        I adore Mickey Mouse (see my icon), but yeah…my Mickey Mouse stress ball did not make it onto my desk until months after I’ve been hired. And I can see how the candidate may not be taken seriously in a front-facing position if he has Mickey on his glasses.

        For better or worse, the interview is when the candidate has to sell their best/most professional image, and cute/non-conventional things can undercut that impression unless it truly doesn’t matter that that company/job/industry (and it’s rather hard for outsiders to judge that aspect sometimes).

  24. Naomi*

    #4, you’ve learned a valuable lesson here: don’t withdraw unless you mean it! Feel free to mentally move on when you haven’t heard from an employer, as Alison always advises, but there’s no reason to preemptively withdraw because you think you’re going to be rejected. As this example shows, it’s always possible you’re still in the running.

    1. Anna the Accounting Student*

      Seriously. I think it’s about time college employment centers got another post discussing their shortcomings, perhaps with a guide to Red Flags. (But that’s just me.)

    2. Zscore*

      We had an applicant include a photo on her resume, so our HR person emailed her and asked for a resume without photo. She emails back asking why. HR person cites HR best practices, figuring a clever candidate should be able to deduce the reasoning.

      Applicant emails back, says she has checked with her university placement center and that our HR practices are out of date! But, she says, she will resubmit without a photo just for us. That told us all we needed to know about the candidate and her university’s placement center!

      1. BethRA*

        Wait, she told you you we using bad practice… and thought (even if she had been right) that this would be a good idea?
        (that sound was my jaw hitting my desk)

    3. eplawyer*

      They haven’t had to actually apply for jobs in a while?

      At my law school, the career center was literally staffed with people who had graduated from the law school and gone to work in the career center. Had never worked in a law firm. But were telling us what we HAD to do to get jobs at the firms.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Yeah, that’s the thing. Even if they don’t have significant experience in interviewing and hiring, you’d think they’d be doing something to keep up with the job-seeking world. I mean, I’ve only had four jobs since I finished college but I still can give decent job-hunting advice just from reading AAM every day. Seems like someone whose job is to help people get jobs would look into that.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. I worked in a University where we had a rather innovative undergrad programs that was interdisciplinary and most of our grads went into management training, HR or other business related positions or sometimes into development, cultural/museum etc management tracks and so forth if they didn’t go to law, med or business school. We were paying big bucks to the career center (our programs all paid ‘taxes’ to support this operation) and they were hopeless at advising our students or getting them placed. We had to essentially fold career development including resume and interview prep into our internship program because the advice they were getting centrally was so bad. We had the best placement rate for all the undergrad programs. The people who ran the internship program had all been in the corporate world at some point and many of them had professional HR experience and they also kept up with the career development literature.

        1. Ad Astra*

          My “professional” school (in this case, journalism, but could also be engineering or architecture or business) had its own career center, separate from the university’s general career center. It was really helpful to get industry-specific advice from people who actually knew what they were talking about.

      2. Jennifer*

        That’s pretty much it. If you haven’t been working in “the industry” and you don’t have a huge knowledge of a lot of industries, you probably just have no idea.
        If anyone’s ever read Po Bronson’s “What Should I Do With My Life?”, one guy in it is a college career counselor and he clearly just has no idea how to do it and really just fell into the job.

        1. Not me*

          Yes, that guy! That guy is who I think of whenever I think about career counselors.

          I read Bronson’s book when I had just graduated from college, and I thought that was a cool story. Someone who hadn’t known what to do for a career was able to help people in the same situation.

          A few years later, yikes. :-(

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not that. (I haven’t had to apply for jobs in a while either.) It’s that for the most part they’ve never done any significant hiring themselves, something that I’m convinced is necessary to give out good advice on this topic. So all their advice is by necessity second-hand, and they tend to get it from bad and/or outdated sources.

    4. MissChirp*

      My university center is literally a resume mill, and after one bad experience I decided to never go back again. But they pass out these handy post cards with examples of what to wear to job fairs, and that is where my question about the white shirt/blue shirt rule originated. So glad that this rule isn’t actually a rule.

    5. Allison*

      same reason why Cosmo gives out bad sex advice, and why there’s so much terrible “weight loss” tips out there, there’s only so much “good” advice you can give before you have to either start repeating the good stuff over and over again, or make stuff up to stay relevant.

      this could be remedied either by college career centers hiring people with recent HR backgrounds, or having constant communication with the HR/recruiting departments of the employers they partner with for career fairs and on-campus interviews to figure out what they look for, what they like, what turns them off, etc.

  25. The IT Manager*

    #4, I agree this is a lost cause because you told took yourself out of the running; although, there’s also good chance you were out of the running anyway.

    The problem is you lied – a little face saving white lie, but a lie none the less. The why seems to be #1, you felt obligated to send a followup, forgot (or put it off), and then instead of just saying I’m sorry this is so late I was travelling you felt the need to toss add “I’ve decided I’m not interested in your job anyway” to explain away your forgetfulness. And #2 this also sounds like you thought you had been rejected already and decided to essentially say “well, I decided I don’t want your job anyway.”

    I’m pointing this out to you for you to take this as a lesson learned for the future because when you describe your blunder you gloss over the fact that this is not a misunderstanding since they understood exactly what you were saying. You probably barely gave it thought, but if you hadn’t lied you wouldn’t have had to ask Alison this question.

    1. Ann*

      I think you’re being a bit harsh calling them a liar. It sounds to me like the thank you note just got forgotten and then they (mistakenly) assumed that so much time had passed that the position must have been filled. Perhaps their communication was not clear, but I didn’t get the impression there was any intentional lying.

  26. TootsNYC*

    for #4:

    Alison wrote: “If you were really passionate about this job and convinced you were a strong fit, you could give it a shot anyway (there’s nothing to lose after all),”

    I think there is something to lose–the future. I think that getting back to them to say, “no, I didn’t really mean it” will make you look really flaky. If you were my strongest, most favorite candidate, the about-face would take you -right- out of the running. So you wouldn’t get this job anyway (at least, not with me).

    However, if you were my strongest, most favorite candidate, and you left it alone, you could come back to me in 9 months and say, “I’d interviewed earlier, but it turned out to be a bad time. The time is good now, and I’d love to hear about any openings you have,” you’d go on the top of my list.
    I’d think, “This is a person with integrity, in addition to all those other good things.”

    So, I think you will hurt yourself if you go back and say you didn’t mean it when you said, “Now is not a good time for me to try to change jobs.”

  27. Bowserkitty*

    Really, the only colors you must stay away from are neons (and how much business wear comes in neon anyway?).

    Well now, this sounds like a scavenger hunt challenge!

    1. Nanc*

      Am I the only one here old enough to have job hunted in the 80s? I finally found a dark suit, but it still had neon green piping and jacket lining!

    2. LBK*

      No neon suits for me, but I do have a few shirts that I’ve been told are hard to look directly at because they’re so bright. I actually intentionally wore my brightest hot pink shirt to my first day at my first professional job. I am not so much one for blending in to an office culture.

      Disclaimer: This is not a tactic I would advise for everyone. I’ve kind of conducted my career by steamrolling into workplaces and making it clear that a) I intend to kick ass at my job and b) I don’t intend to adjust my appearance to convince you of point A. I’ve accepted that I’ll probably look like a teenager until I’m 50, so I just kind of lean into the whole “youthful exuberance” thing – brighter colors, tighter fits, edgier hairstyles, etc. Worked so far!

  28. grasshopper*

    #1. Wear something that is clean, well-fitting, appropriate, professional and that you feel comfortable in. Someone who is well put together and feels good wearing their clothes is going to give a much better impression than someone who is wearing clothes that don’t suit them or make them look awkward or uncomfortable. Unless you’re in an ultra conservative field or wearing a screaming loud colour or pattern, a little bit of colour and style doesn’t hurt.

  29. Master Bean Counter*

    #3–This is why working in restaurants is the worst, especially if you are not a touchy feely person to begin with. First bit of advise I can offer is don’t be afraid of wearing the B label. own it and embrace it if you have to. Sometimes it’s the only way to get people to leave you alone ans at least act they are somewhat professional.
    Secondly this was /is my route of escalation on this issue:
    “Please Don’t touch me”
    “Don’t touch me”
    “I’ve asked you to not touch me why are you still doing it?”
    Very loudly so others can hear it, “Why are you touching me again I’ve told you not to do it.”
    And if anybody had ever had the nerve to tickle me, they probably would have been hurt. But I have issues.
    Once a customer grabbed my butt. I calmly asked him if he liked having his hand attached to his body. He immediately dropped his hand and his friend tipped me $20.

    1. Retail Lifer*

      THIS. I’m lucky to never have had to deal with this, but this is exactly what worked for a friend of mine. She made it blatantly obvious in front of people that something was happening and the behavior stopped.

  30. Retail Lifer*

    #5 I don’t know that I agree that full-time jobs are easier to find that part-time jobs. At least where I live, the job boards are always full of a ton of part-time jobs that never get filled because everyone is looking for full-time work. I would whole-heartedly advise against going full-time in retail However, for part-time work most places are pretty flexible with hours (as long as you don’t change your availability from what they originally hired you for). The vast majority of retail staff is part-time and stores are used to working around school schedules and other jobs. Restaurants, call centers, and warehouses also offer shifts on odd hours, although I don’t know how flexible the latter two are with start times. None of these jobs are glamorous, but they might work with your schedule if your boss won’t be more flexible.

  31. Nervous Accountant*

    I don’t understand how a white shirt can look hideous because of skin tone (fit, style, I can understand). Isn’t it a neutral color?

    1. Artemesia*

      I look like death on toast in white. Back when I died my hair to its ‘natural’ dark brown, it was fine — now that I am gray it is awful. White can make people with fair skin and hair look washed out and sickly. My gray hair is pretty great looking but it really surprised me how many old favorites in my wardrobe didn’t really work once I went that direction. Jewel tones are my friend.

      1. Chinook*

        “I look like death on toast in white. Back when I died my hair to its ‘natural’ dark brown, it was fine — now that I am gray it is awful.”

        To get the true death on toast look, though, you need to be pale with black hair and white shirt. My sister made the mistake of trying to go goth and one look in the mirror told her that that was the worst idea ever if she didn’t want to be mistaken for a corpse.

    2. MissChirp*

      Well, I don’t have a scientific explanation, but just because it’s neutral doesn’t mean it looks good on everyone. Grey, cream, and white don’t look good on me at all. I have just enough of an olive skin tone that they make me look jaundiced. The shirt will look fine, but I won’t.

    3. Kyrielle*

      A “neutral” color is a color that plays well with other colors, except those that are very close to them (this will be key). If my sweater is a neutral color (white, grey, black), it’s not going to clash with my shirt, whether the shirt is orange, purple, green…. (now imagine a poppy-red sweater with any of those! It might work with the orange.) However, a white sweater over a cream shirt and off-white pants that lean slightly toward tan won’t look put together – the whole outfit will look strange because the colors read as almost-but-not-quite matching, even though each of them is a neutral independently.

      Neutral also is relatively trend-proof (if you’re a woman, no one will look at it and say, “Oh, why are you wearing white? That’s so last year!” – men by and large escape trends in my experience, unless they’re in very fashion-conscious industries).

      And they don’t tend to pull attention to themselves.

      But that doesn’t meant they all go with all skin tones. Most, yes – but if the skin tone is too pale, white can make you look sick or mottled (similar to how it can mis-match with cream), and I can imagine that for other skin tones it might just be too stark and bring out the wrong undertone colors.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yup, mottled is what it does for me–I’m pale but kind of ruddy, and white makes me look flushed and mottled and ill.

        1. Anxa*

          Yes! That’s what it is. I never understood why white was so unflattering me because I’m not THAT fair, but it’s the mottled ruddiness.

          1. Kelly L.*

            And blotchiness! That was the other word I couldn’t think of earlier. I look like I have my teenage skin back. And that’s not a positive.

            1. Chinook*

              It is not blotchiness or mottled ruddiness – these words are way to negative a way to look at our skin type. The best phrase I have ever heard was “peaches and cream.”

    4. Ann*

      No, white is definitely not a neutral color. Most people look much better in a slightly off-white shade.

    5. Ad Astra*

      I would argue that a whole lot of people, maybe even most people (or perhaps most caucasians) look bad in white. It’s a basic color that goes with pretty much all other colors, but it doesn’t flatter people of a whiteish persuasion. I have olive undertones but my skin is actually pretty fair (apparently, this is a common combination for people of eastern European descent) and stark white makes me look terrible.

      1. Arielle*

        Yeah, I think you have to have a skin tone closer to, say, Lupita Nyong’o, to look good in white clothes. I have the same pale/olive thing going on and white looks terrible on me.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Not even that dark. I’m caramel with red and yellow undertones to my skin and I look great in white.

    6. Chinook*

      “I don’t understand how a white shirt can look hideous because of skin tone (fit, style, I can understand). Isn’t it a neutral color?”

      Because not all whites are the same (just take a look at wedding dresses.) Some whites are actually ivory (which make me look like death warmed over) while others have a blue or pink undertone. A true pure white is very rare and very expensive (in my experience). As well, when you try it on in a store, it will reflect the light of the store, which is not necessarily the light in the office and is most definitely not day light.

      1. Chinook*

        I also want to add that pale skin doesn’t mean you have the same skin tone. When I was in Japan, I had a make-up artist try and convince me that she could sell me foundation in her store. I was friends with the owner, so I let the artist try because I couldn’t convince her that my Irish “white” skin was not the same colour as her Japanese “white” skin. She started doing her thing and within seconds realized how horrible the foundation looked on me (it made me look sick but I knew it would because the same thing happened when I used my mother’s makeup (her metis heritage only shows up in her skin colouring. My brother is the only one who got that gene.)). We then had an interesting discussion on how I also avoided Japanese skin products with whitening agents because a) I couldn’t go lighter without being translucent and b) there is no risk of me tanning because my melatonin only shows up in spots called freckles and I just go from white to red then back to white.

    7. Nervous Accountant*

      This is all very eye opening and interesting. I’m fairly light skinned, with I guess neutral undertones? The only time I pay attention to color is making sure my foundation matches….other than that, I’ve never shied away from wearing any color (only in an interview situation). Then again, I’ve also been fairly overweight/hard to dress all my life, so truth be told, I’v put more focus on finding clothes that fit/flatter rather than worry about color, so pick your battles I guess.

      This was interesting though

    1. FD*

      That was meant to be towards Nervous Accountant above.

      To elaborate, clothes generally don’t look good if there’s not enough contrast with the skin color. For white clothing, this only matters with people who are extremely fair skinned, since most people fall somewhere in the middle of the human skin tone range.

  32. TL17*

    #1 – I’m not so sure the advice was bad, so much as it was really narrow. I work at Teapots And Associates Law Firm. We often have interns from the local law school. We’ve had people show up dressed in all sorts of odd ways,* and I’m pretty sure it’s because nobody told them differently. The words “white or blue shirt” are conservative and safe, and probably prevent serious weirdness.

    I’ve also been a part of a hiring team. I recall being very struck by a particular candidate who dressed for her particular body type and looked great. She did this without wearing a suit, although all the other candidates wore suits. Really stuck with me.

    *the #1 highlight was finding the intern in her workspace wearing khaki pants and a bikini top. Not sure what intern handbook says this is appropriate law firm attire.

      1. Kyrielle*

        …hopefully not. :) Heh. Yeah, the khaki pants would be no problem in my office, but the bikini top…just no. (Which is impressive, because no one bats an eye at the guy in cargo shorts and a t-shirt, but there *are* things that would be too far out of norm here.)

  33. Izzy*

    #3 – the touching. Dropping the glasses is satisfying to imagine, but do not do this. The shards can bounce up and cut you. Dangerous. My son dropped a box of glass Christmas ornaments and I had to take him to the ER to have glass shards removed from his eyes.

    My horror story – my part time job in high school, when I was fourteen or fifteen, in a little burger place. Most of the other employees were also teens, but there was one older lady, who sort of took me under her wing. When business was slow she’d encourage me to confide all my teen boyfriend issues to her, and started grasping my hand in an intense emotional manner that made me uncomfortable. But I had been taught to be respectful of adults, especially older ones, and I figured she was just an emotional person. Then one day she took my hand and planted it firmly against her crotch! I froze. I thought at the time that she didn’t know what she was doing, didn’t realize where my hand was, she was old and possibly had some dementia. After that I avoided letting her corner me. Decades later, I realized that she wasn’t elderly, more like middle aged (when you’re very young, adults appear older than they are), if she had dementia she would not have been working there, she did know what she was doing, and it was totally inappropriate! I had difficulty allowing women to touch me (friendly hugs, etc) for many years until I realized why.

    I realize that’s not the letter writer’s situation. That was therapeutic to write, thanks for your indulgence. Just want to point out that inappropriate touching is not always male on female, and just because it’s someone of the same gender touching you doesn’t mean it’s necessarily okay.

    I also do the full body jerk when people approach me unexpectedly (it can also be in front, say I open a door and there is someone standing on the other side of it). My coworkers knew to make lots of noise, bang on my file cabinet, cough, etc, when approaching. They are nice people and actually apologize if they make me jump. My kids, on the other hand, think it’s a great joke to sneak up on me.

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Ugh, I’m sorry that happened to you. And I hate it when kids are told to excuse bad behavior from “their elders” and to assume inappropriate touching is because of “dementia” or that old standby “he probably has Aaaspergerrrs!” (Or any other “But you should ALWAYS assume remotely possible disability instead of creeper, and if it’s a disability you have no right to object!” argument.) That crap is doing the predators’ grooming for them, and I’m sorry you were taught to think that way.

      1. Annie Moose*

        Ugh, I’m now having flashbacks to a recent internet argument where someone seriously tried to argue that it’s ableist to do anything about sexist, creepy men in IT fields, because “men in IT have higher rates of mental illness, so you’re just discriminating against people with mental illnesses!”

        Apparently in their mind, having any form of mental illness whatsoever was grounds for being instantly forgiven for any inappropriate behavior. (and apparently we’re just supposed to assume that all (or at least most) people working in IT have mental illnesses, which is its whole own set of weird assumptions)

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Gross. I’d love to see what this person would say about a female rape survivor with PTSD committing some kind of violence against a guy who creeped on her at work and justifying it with “he triggered me.” Somehow I suspect it would be the exact opposite of their original position.

  34. MissChirp(or OP#1)*

    Hey all, thanks so much for the feedback on my question. I know it isn’t a terribly huge deal but it’s been bugging me for a long time! Anyways, just a quick update: I wore the kelly green shirt to an interview this week, and it went marvelously well. My confidence was way up, and it made a BIG difference. It is nice to know that the white-shirt-blue-shirt rule is one I can toss out the window. From now on I’ll just make sure that I’m dressing un-distractedly professional, and focus the majority of my energy on polishing my interview skills. :)

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