I can hear my coworkers getting chewed out, interviews on casual Fridays, and more

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

1. I can hear my coworkers getting chewed out

I’m about three months in at my first job out of college. I’ve had a hard time adjusting to certain things, though reading your blog has helped immensely. The open office concept is the worst. Those of us in the cube farm can hear what goes on in the offices and vice versa. This is distracting but not a huge deal.

However, hearing everyone receiving negative feedback out in the open has me very concerned. Recently a manager blasted a coworker for not finishing a project. He didn’t close her office door. I’ve heard another of my coworkers called an idiot and get chewed out (very loudly) by another manager. Even in my previous retail job, feedback was given quietly and calmly, with no yelling or spectators. Is this normal? I haven’t been the subject of a rant yet, but it concerns me. Is there anything I can do as a relative newbie? (Background info, my manager is higher on the org chart and I’ve never heard him behave this way, but I get projects from the other managers.)

No, it’s not normal. It’s true that in open offices, you’re going to overhear people getting feedback — but those should be calm, constructive conversations, and anything really serious should happen in private.

Yelling, chewing people out, and calling someone an idiot are things that aren’t generally okay at work; if they feel like the norm in your office, there’s some real dysfunction going on. Managers who do those things typically do them because they have no idea how to manage effectively; good managers don’t need to treat people that way because if there are problems in someone’s work, they have much more effective tools to deal with it.

If anyone does end up treating you that way, I have some advice here about how to deal with it — but the more important thing is not to let this mess with your ideas of what’s normal. Terrible management has a way of reprogramming your norms so that you start to accept really awful treatment and expect it at your next job. Make sure you don’t let that happen.

2. Should I ask or tell my manager when I’m taking time off?

I have been in my position (graduate coordinator) for almost four years. Until about a year ago, I had a different supervisor (from hell). Now I am very blessed to have a wonderful supervisor. She’s fair, she’s kind, she treats our team very well, and we adore her.

With Old Supervisor, we’d have to ask for time off. We’d also have to explain why, and if she didn’t think it was a good enough reason, she’d deny it or say she’d think about it and then get back to you the day of or the day before you needed. (She treated us all like we were children on many, many levels. She micromanaged to the extreme). New Supervisor treats us like adults.

Last week, when I asked for an hour off to go to a doctor’s appointment, she laughed and said “of course,” and joked that it’s not like she’d ever say “no, you can’t go to the doctor” or take whatever time off (I’ve seen this with other members of my team – she really does treat us like adults who know what they’re doing).

Should I ask her (like last week) “can I take this hour / day off” or should I say “I’m taking the day / hour off”? I don’t want to be rude or inappropriate, but since this was the second time my supervisor joked about the permission aspect, I feel I need a new approach.

In professional jobs, it’s pretty normal to manage your own time and just give your manager a heads-up about times you’ll be away — as in “I’m leaving at 2 on Tuesdayfor a doctor’s appointment.” In some cases, people will phrase it this way: “I’m planning to take the 5th and 6th off — let me know if that poses any issues.”

There are managers who want to be asked for permission, but they tend to be (a) overly controlling managers who don’t trust that they’ve hired competent adults or (b) in jobs where scheduling and coverage is a big thing that needs to be managed centrally.

3. Interviews on casual Fridays

I know there’s bit a lot of chatter lately about dress codes and what is appropriate wear. But what about doing interviews on casual Fridays? As the one being interviewed, I always make it a point to arrive my interview nicely and well dressed – as is expected. But on a few occasions, the interview was on a casual Friday for the hiring manager/HR so there I am in my best and there they are in their jeans. This made me feel awkward – my point of view was, I took the time to look my best for you, could you not also try to present yourselves nicely to me?

I expressed this once to a friend and she said, “Why should they give up their casual day for just an interview?” I countered that they could bring a change of clothes and at least look nice for the interviews.

In the end, it doesn’t change how I will behave during the interview and I didn’t feel that the interviewers were any different than others where they were in usual office wear, but I did feel that it placed me at a weird disadvantage. What’s your opinion on this?

It’s pretty common for interview candidates to be dressed more nicely than their interviewers. It’s just … how interviews go. Rightly or wrongly, candidates are expected to wear suits to interviews in most industries (not all — more on that here). If it’s a convention in your field, you’re expected to adhere to it even if your interviewers are dressed more casually.

You’re right that it’s not particularly fair, but neither are a bunch of other things about interviewing (for example, as a candidate you can’t take a call in the middle of an interview, but your interviewer can). The process is rife with double standards! I’m not endorsing that, but it’s the reality of how it usually works.

4. Applying for a different internal role right after getting a promotion

At my performance review a couple of weeks ago, I was told I would be getting a promotion: new (way better) title, 12% raise, more creative work, the whole deal. However, it won’t begin until the start of our company’s new fiscal year, which is about 2.5 months away.

Now, I’ve just found out that someone in another department at my company is retiring (I don’t know exactly when), and there will be an opening. I’d really like to apply for this job. It’s in a department I’d rather work in and am more skilled in, with a much better manager. The people in this department tend to stay for years, if not decades. So the chance to work in this department may not come up again for a long, long time.

Am I obligated to stay in my current department and take the promotion in a couple of months? Would it be considered bad form to apply for this new position (and to take it if it’s offered to me)? If I do apply, should I let my current manager know beforehand? Of course, I don’t want to cause any bad blood with my current department or manager, but I would so much rather be in this other department!

Ooof, this is tricky and depends a lot on your manager and whether she takes this stuff personally. If your manager is reasonable, you should be able to say something like this: “I’m really excited for this promotion — it sounds great to me in lots of ways. But I want to be candid with you that hearing that the X role in department Y is opening up has thrown me — I’d love to do that work long-term. I know how rarely they have openings there and I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t throw my hat in the ring. If it doesn’t work out, I’d remain incredibly enthusiastic about the role here. But I wanted to talk with you about it before doing anything.”

The key here is to do what you can to prevent your manager from worrying that you’ll see the promotion as a consolation prize if you don’t get the other job or that you’ll have one foot out the door.

5. When should I mention that I’m in the military reserves?

After weeks of applications, I finally landed a phone interview with a company that I am very excited about. The work fits my background perfectly with a lot of room to grow, and the company is doing great things. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about this opportunity. My phone interview was yesterday. Everything went very well, and I am scheduled for a Skype interview (I’m out of state) next week.

The problem? I am a drilling reservist. In and of itself not an issue, but I realized last night that it isn’t listed anywhere on my resume and I forgot to mention it in my cover letter. Should I email them right away? Should I bring it up in the follow up interview? I don’t it to look like I was intentionally hiding the information and am not sure how to bring it up.

Nope, there’s no reason to bring it up at this stage. It’s illegal for an employer to factor that information into their hiring decision, so it’s not something you need to raise now as they can’t use the information anyway (but like bringing up pregnancy at this stage, hearing it may unconsciously bias them). I’d wait until you have an offer and mention it then — and frame it as “by the way, I need to let you know I’m a military reservist” rather than “will this be okay?” since the law requires them to allow you time off for reserve duty.

{ 289 comments… read them below }

  1. Evie*

    I feel like part of interviews is to see how people are in their natural environment and if they dress up just because there is an interview that is more awkward. And if I knew an interviewee expected me to bring extra clothes to work and spend time changing just to talk to them I would think it would be a culture mismatch.

    I just can’t see getting worked up about how other people dress while going about their normal work day. Conducting interviews is just part of their normal work activities and they deserve to dress normally (and in their company environment) during that.

    1. MK*

      The issue is that it feels very awkward to be too over- or underdressed. It’s mostly in the mind, but it makes you feel like you look clueless.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        This. Plus, I do think it’s slightly rude to interview a candidate in jeans. You don’t need to wear a suit or anything, but jeans are just SO casual.

        I don’t interview anybody in my role, but I do have meetings with people from other companies, and I always try to look somewhat presentable for them (even if I/my company has the “upper hand” in the meeting, like one would in an interview). It’s a sign of respect.

        1. Nighthawk*

          That depends on your profession. A nice pair of jeans can be considered dressy in the world of software development.

          1. Just Another Techie*

            Exactly. I wear jeans and tee-shirts to work, but if I know I’m interviewing someone (and sometimes I don’t know until day-of because one of the panelists is out sick or there’s some firedrill they have to deal with or whatever) I will at least make sure to wear dark wash jeans and a button up shirt.

          2. Tara*

            Yea, but at least where I am from, software development candidates don’t go to interviews in suits, either.

          3. Honeybee*

            Came to say this. I work in tech and I wear jeans to work almost every day, as do almost all of my colleagues. The most dressed up of all of us wears casual khakis.

            Our interview candidates generally wear button-front shirts and nice slacks or skirts, and occasionally suits.

        2. Oryx*

          I work in the tech industry in an office with a casual dress code. I also interviewed during the height of summer and I’m pretty sure one of the people who interviewed me was in shorts.

          I honestly can’t get that worked up about that sort of thing even if I was in a dress.

          1. CeeCee*

            I interviewed at a tech start up a few summers ago and was a bit surprised when the CEO came in to interview me in shorts, a tee shirt, and flip flops. You kind of have to just roll with it. (Even though I was standing there in slacks, a blazer, and a button down with heels.)

            1. Emelle*

              My husband’s first job in tech he showed up in a suit, because first impressions… His interviewer had on a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops. (He claims he knew immediately he wanted the job.)

            2. Tammy*

              When I interviewed for my first role at my current company, the CIO showed up for the interview in jeans and a US Marine Corps sweatshirt. I was in a dress and flats (I don’t do heels). I agree with CeeCee – you kind of just have to roll with it.

          2. Kyrielle*

            Yeah, I interviewed in late spring, in a full suit. It was one of those interviews where you meat with 5-6 people, separately, over the course of hours. Some were in jeans (I don’t remember how many), and one was in cargo shorts (that was memorable).

            My thought at the time? Something along the lines of, “Oh, good, I won’t need to update my wardrobe to fit in with the dress code here.” Seeing them in what they normally wore didn’t put me out of place – it was valuable information.

            In almost any other circumstance, I would feel awkward being “over-dressed”. But the interviewee is *expected* to be formal, and being “overly formal” compared to the other people in the room isn’t a faux pas; I can deal with it. It’s a signal of “I know professional norms” no matter what the people interviewing you are wearing.

            1. Kyrielle*

              Argh. Meet; I swear there was no food involved. But yes, I considered it valuable information and didn’t feel out of place at all. I didn’t like being in that suit, but it felt appropriate; and seeing everyone else, I knew I wouldn’t need to wear it to work if I got the job. :)

            2. myswtghst*

              This pretty much sums up how I feel. I recognize that industry norms suggest I dress up, so I do, but I look at what my interviewers are wearing as an opportunity to figure out what the dress code (and to some extent, culture) is in the office, which is useful information.

            3. penny*

              Well said kyrielle. Agree there’s no reason to feel awkward because interviewers would expect you to be more formal. Even if you knew it was casual Friday or the dress code is lax, interviewee will be dressed formally.

              I interview a lot and do jeans (always wear nice ones to work) on Fridays regardless. I’m not giving up jeans day, but I can give “you” fewer days to choose from for the interview if it offends. But which would an interviewee prefer?

          3. Don't say my name!*

            I’m looking at an internal position. The department does consulting for the company executives. And the manager is wearing a suit in his profile pic on our company directory. Yiiiiiipes. So I guess if I interview face-to-face, I’d better ditch the jeans and show up in a blazer and slacks or a nice skirt (I don’t have a suit). Ugh.

            On the bright side, if I get the job and can stay where I am (my current location), it’s back to jeans and t-shirts!

          4. Person of Interest*

            Yes – this. Just roll with it. I think people expect candidates to dress up for an interview, regardless of the company culture. I went to an interview at a nonprofit wearing a suit, and the Executive Director who interviewed me was wearing yoga pants and flip flops. I got the job, and eventually figured out the appropriate dress code – somewhere in between! But knowing her afterward, she would have thought it strange if I came in to interview in a more casual outfit.

          5. INTP*

            Yeah, I posted below, but in a casual industry this is something you have to get used to. Most of the time you still need to be fairly formal for interviewing (a suit or one step below – disregard if it’s a startup), but you’ll be interviewed by people in jeans and potentially even more casual attire than that. It’s just how it works.

        3. kac*

          At my last job, everyone wore jeans most days. I always wore them with a nice blouse, and they were dark, crisp jeans (no tips or fading or bedazzling). It would have been very strange, and a misrepresentation of the office culture, to dress up for an interviewee.

        4. MarCom Professional*

          I think this is why, when I’ve been involved (on either side) of casual Friday interviews, there’s generally an mild apology to acknowledge the disconnect: something along the lines of, “Please excuse my appearance, we have casual Fridays in this office/company.” You a) convey a perk and b) acknowledge the interview attire norm isn’t being followed.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yes, I unexpectedly interviewed someone last Friday, which was a jeans day for us — these are a once a month event, we are usually dressy business casual (but business professional if you’re going to court or hosting clients). Both the HR interviewer and I addressed the jeans situation and noted that her business casual outfit would be perfect for everyday wear in our office.

          2. CMart*

            When interviewing for my current position, they warned me ahead of time that the office wears jeans on Fridays, so to not feel too out of place when I came in a suit.

            Which was valuable information on two fronts: both the “don’t feel self conscious” front as well as the “they definitely expect me to be in business professional attire” front when I’d been agonizing about whether or not a full suit was appropriate for a “business casual” environment.

            1. Mookie*

              Ooh, that’s really helpful and thoughtful of them, and worded not to sound infantilizing. I wish more recruiters did this.

          3. myswtghst*

            I think this is a totally reasonable (and helpful) way to handle it! It lets the interviewee know that jeans are okay sometimes, but not every day, and lets them get a feel for the normal dress code.

      2. Audiophile*

        I had an interviewer where I was in a suit and my interviewer was in a sleeveless shirt and jeans and sandals. She apologized for being dressed so casually and it was very casual (the pants may have been jeggings, I’m not sure) but I just nodded and said no apology was needed. I’ve always worn a suit, the only time I didn’t was when I interviewed with Apple and that’s because I was repeatedly encouraged to come in jeans. I felt weirder interviewing in jeans.

        1. msnovtue*

          I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s better to be somewhat over dressed than underdressed. Then again, I always worry a bit. My go-to interview choice is a black pantsuit, black (flat) dress shoes, and a nice blouse or buttondown. But I always wonder if I should be wearing a skirt suit and or heels instead.

          Fact is, I’m 40+, overweight, and have destroyed my feet to the point where anything more than a 1 inch heel is extremely painful. Do I need to suck it up and deal with uncomfortable skirt and painful shoes?

          1. Beezus*

            I wouldn’t! I don’t think a pants suit bottom is inherently less dressy or interview-appropriate than an equivalent skirt bottom, and I don’t think high heel vs. low/flat heel is a big deal either. As far as either of those choices go, I think people are free to choose whichever they’re most comfortable in. If you’re uncomfortable or in pain (!!), part of your focus is going to be diverted to that feeling instead of the actual interview.

          2. Murphy*

            I never wear heels and have a good career. I also do hiring in my role and have literally never noticed a candidates shoes. Wear what’s professional but comfortable.

            I’ve also never worn a skirt to an interview.

          3. Crystal Vu*

            I am also in my 40s and overweight, plus I don’t wear makeup.

            Occasionally, I wear skirts to interviews and once in a great while to work, but I never wear heels at all, and it hasn’t stopped me getting called back for second interviews or getting job offers. There are plenty of nice, professional-looking flats out there. I think you’re fine.

      3. Mike C.*

        See, anytime I ever experienced this, the interviewers said something along the lines of, “please excuse our casualness, it’s Friday” and that was that.

      4. INTP*

        Maybe this is a regional/industry thing? I started in Southern CA and in the tech industry. It is VERY common for interviewers to wear jeans all days of the week, but as an interviewee you need to be dressed much more formally. Sitting there in a suit or a sheath dress with a blazer over while the interviewer is wearing jeans is just how interviews tend to work. If you can’t get comfortable with this then interviewing is going to be very difficult for you.

        It never bugged me because I figure they need to know that I can dress up when it’s called for (at least, not wear flip flops for the client visit), but I’m not vetting anything about my potential boss’ fashion sense.

        1. Honeybee*

          I think it’s an industry thing – I work in tech too, but in Seattle, and it’s the same thing. Your interviewers are probably going to be in jeans and t-shirts while you’re in a nice business outfit. That’s just how it works.

      5. Observer*

        I get the discomfort. But, bringing a change of clothing just for the interview is REALLY not a reasonable expectation.

        I do agree that if you are interviewing someone, it behooves you to try to look a bit more presentable, though. And, to let the candidate know that it’s casual Friday or whatever, so they know that you get that they are not clueless.

    2. Al Lo*

      I’m a little puzzled by the OP thinking she’s at a disadvantage. I could see that if she was dressed significantly more casually than the interviewer or if the interviewers were beer-ponging their way through the casual interviews, but I really don’t see any disadvantage coming her way in this scenario, especially since she says she didn’t perceive any difference in the interviewers themselves based on how they were dressed.

      1. Kalli*

        I can see it being a disadvantage – she’s gone out of her way to dress in interview chic, not her normal way of business dress, and some people, if they’re not in their normal clothes, feel uncomfortable or not themselves. The interviewers, being in comfortable clothes, aren’t creating an environment where she even has a chance of fitting in, making that discomfort more pronounced and making her feel like she doesn’t fit in or is oblivious to the culture in that particular office petri dish, and then judging her on how she presents, because that’s their job. It’s very easy for something like that to throw off a whole interview.

        It’s like going on a date, and you dress up because you want to look nice, but then you go play mini-golf and you have to be careful because your date clothes aren’t designed for physical activity. You can still play mini-golf, because it doesn’t require much in the way of bending or moving, but it would be a lot more comfortable if you weren’t in a bandage dress (or pencil skirt or *insert dressy casual item of clothing here*) and worried about it hiking up every time you bend or squat.

        1. Colette*

          Assuming it’s an office job, a suit isn’t inappropriate due to the nature of the activity, and most people will expect the candidate to wear a suit regardless of what they’re wearing. If the candidate is uncomfortable, that’s something she will need to work through – that’s not the interviewer’s problem.

          Even in high tech companies where casual dress is common, many candidates wear suits. They may never wear a suit on the job, but it’s common for interviews.

          1. Michelle*

            # 3 – I had this same experience! In my case, the interviewers donated to charity so that day was a jeans day. It was also a summer Friday, which is another factor lending to a casual feel. I showed up in a three piece gray skirt suit! I felt really out of place. I met several members of the team who were all casually dressed. I didn’t want them to look nice for me, but I just felt out of synch with them. If formal wear is one step up from business casual, I was two steps away because it was formal vs. casual. This is unrealistic, but I wish someone could have said, since the rest of the team will be in jeans, you don’t have to wear a full suit (a blazer would be fine).

            1. Elizabeth West*

              When I had the second interview with the team leader for my current position, I was told that it was a very casual environment and NOT to wear a suit. I erred on the side of khakis and a brown blazer–my now-coworkers were in jeans and sweatshirts. I did not feel comfortable showing up to an interview in an outfit like theirs!

          2. Kalli*

            Exactly – they’re not in their common dress, and that comes with certain psychological (you’re dressed up so you feel and act different – another commenter talks about dressing up helping to get into interview mode) and physical issues (it’s not worn in enough because you save it for interviews and funerals, not used to having a jacket so it’s a bit different to move in, can’t remember whether to do or undo buttons when you stand).

            In this context, where the interviewer is dressed down, that adds an extra layer in that there’s a much larger divide in presentation and comfort, and it actually fosters this kind of attitude, where the interviewee has to actively work on their presentation, and the interviewer doesn’t come across as caring how they present the company. When you want the best candidate, the kind who is interviewing the interviewer and assessing the company, what kind of message the interviewer is sending is really important – especially if it’s “we don’t care about how we present ourselves in public settings” and “we aren’t going to acknowledge that you’re making an effort to impress us”.

            1. One of the Annes*

              Yeah, I think it’s about showing candidates respect. Part of how you communicate that respect is that you dress in appropriate, nice interviewer-ware to conduct the interview. That says, “I take this process and your time seriously.”

              1. Jaime*

                We have a casual dress code — it’s advertised as one of our benefits. We have a top flight reputation in the industry for the excellence of our work. When we decide a person is a potential candidate that we’d like to interview, that is indeed taking the person and the process seriously.

                Honestly. We’re now trashing companies that in good faith are expressing interest in candidates and actually interviewing them?

              2. Observer*

                That’s really a bit much. I don’t care how you are dressed, what matters is how you ACT. Are you busy texting or this like are are you actually engaging with me? If you take an interupotion, is ti rally an emergency, and do you apologize? Those are the kinds of markers that tell you if someone respects your time, and takes the interview seriously.

            2. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Yeah, we recently filed an admin position, and during the interviews, the candidate was in a suit. The hiring committee dressed a step up, from everyday business casual to very nice business casual, as we always do when there’s any event where a guest will be in the department. The department head, who always wears very nice business casual (think the original meaning of business casual, which is everything one would wear for business formal minus the jacket), put his jacket on and appeared in business formal.

            3. Kyrielle*

              Hmmm. Different industries, maybe. To me, an interview doesn’t feel like a “public setting”. It’s a private setting, into which I, as an outsider, have been temporarily invited – to see if we can mutually agree that I will be given long-term entrance to that private setting. Because of the evaluation taking place, I want to see them *as they normally are*; because of the evaluation taking place, and because I don’t know their norms before going in, I go with the interviewee norm of dressing formally.

              I never felt they had to acknowledge I was making that effort to acknowledge social norms. I also made an effort to impress them with my answers to their questions, and my general politeness and personability. They made an effort to impress me with how interesting the work was, with the team dynamic, with how the office actually runs, with the benefits.

              This to me seems like an equal exchange of attempting to impress, but with different areas that will matter to different people. The fact that my interviewers *were* able to dress casually was, in fact, a positive impression, because it told me that at least on Fridays dress was _very_ casual and thus it might be somewhat casual all week. (It’s very casual all week.)

              I didn’t feel any less respected/acknowledged because of the clothes they wore. There was no reason for them to need to impress on me that they knew business norms; they already had jobs, and I wasn’t hiring.

              1. Al Lo*

                Exactly. What I wear when you visit me has nothing to do with how I present the company at an event or being interviewed on TV or whatever. An interview isn’t public.

              2. Colette*

                Very much agree. And, as a potential employee, I will gauge what I should wear on day one based on what the interviewers wear. I want them to dress normally.

              3. Kalli*

                If you are representing your company to someone who isn’t a part of your company, that’s a thing which is a public-facing engagement, as you’re dealing with a member of the public, and who takes that impression of you into the public when they leave. They can, and will, go on GlassDoor or their blog or their Facebook and be like ‘I had an interview, and they were all in ratty jeans and flip flops!’

                The message there for the taking is “this is how they feel comfortable representing their company to people who don’t work there”, a category which includes clients, the media, the general public and people who are visiting the office for any reason, including an interview.

                1. Patrick*

                  Following that line of thought there should be no offices that allow casual dress then…I think people are using having to dress up to interview as a scapegoat for the power imbalance that’s inherent in interviewing for a job.

                  Maybe that company is totally fine having someone in ratty jeans and flip flops represent them, in fact maybe that image makes more sense for their company than someone in a suit – I’ve never seen the (literal billionaire) owner of my company do more than throw on a blazer over his usual collared shirt and jeans, and I’m guessing that’s because he thinks that presenting a traditional corporate image is antithetical to our business.

        2. Roscoe*

          I completely disagree. She doesn’t fit in because she doesn’t work there yet. Of course she won’t fit in. But I don’t know a single person who would mark someone down for dressing up for an interview, whereas they would mark someone down for being too casual. If I’m interviewing on a summer day, would I rather be in shorts and a t-shirt than a suit? Absolutely. However, that is my issue to deal with, not theirs. It is not the interviewers responsibility to make sure I’m dressed how I’m comfortable, its my responsibility to deal with it.

        3. NoWhiteFlag*

          I disagree. Interviewing is not like dating at all. On a date, each person is equal and is representing themselves. We can discuss this upfront and do the whole if I wear a suit, you should wear a suit thing. In this context, it shows mutual respect.

          As an interviewer, I am representing my company and it’s culture to someone who we may later invite to join our culture, our group culture. It is not a meeting of equals. You don’t know our culture nor are we likely to change it to accommodate you. You are free to reject our culture. We are respecting you by attempting to honestly represent ourselves. Therefore, it is probably in your best interest to wear whatever you feel represents your best professional self. A suit is safe and will rarely engender a negative response.

          1. Kalli*

            I would love to visit a world where dating is considered an activity where the people involved have equal power!

            The part of a social engagement where you wear socially-acceptable ‘dressed up’ clothes which are not the clothes you generally wear for that activity or every day, and as a consequence have to be conscious of how they are positioned and how the restrict you in ways you don’t normally need to consider, is the same sort of feeling you have when you are in interview clothes when they are not what you would ordinarily wear for work. This naturally may be more pronounced for some people, in some industries, than it is for other people and other industries, but if your general work environment is jeans and a button down, then wearing a suit and dress shoes is going to make you more aware of how they affect you, because you have a jacket that you normally do not and it is tight across the shoulders and has limited movement compared to a button-down and the occasional windbreaker, and you have dress shoes that you can’t run in because the soles are slippy. If you’re wearing a pencil skirt and you’re normally in an A-line maxi, you’re going to be careful about not taking as big steps and worried about it riding up when you stand. They don’t affect your ability to present in an interview, but they do affect how you present in an interview.

            I hope that’s clearer now.

            1. Honeybee*

              But that’s the nature of an interview. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a skirt and heels or jeans and a tank top – you are by the nature of the experience doing something out of the ordinary and have to be conscious of the way that you present yourself.

              It also emphasizes the importance of comfortable interviewing clothes. I have a couple of interviewing suits and some one-step-down clothes I interview in that I am comfortable in and don’t have to worry about walking or moving differently in (I interview in pants, for example, and I make sure my jacket’s not too tight and that my pants have some stretch.) Why would you need to run when you’re at an interview anyway?

              And besides, how is the interviewer dressing up going to address any of those issues?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      There are many sides to this one. I worked for a place where the work itself required jeans. However, some people made certain that they did bring a change of clothes when they interviewed a candidate, so the candidate would feel less awkward.

      OTH, my husband interviewed for a job where he went to the interview directly after work. It was not until he was hired that the interviewer said, “you need to beef up what you are wearing.” (He said it nicer than that.) My husband wore what was appropriate for his current job to the interview. We went out and bought new clothes before he started his new job. He came home that first day and said, “I looked like everyone else in the place.”

      Most recently our board hired someone. At the interviews half the board members were in jeans. That is because they left in the middle of their work day to do the interview. Because all the board members are volunteering, no one sets high expectations for small things such as clothing. It’s hard enough to find board members who just have the time to even show up. Interestingly, none of the board paid much attention to the candidate’s clothes either. I had on my dress clothes from work and I was over-dressed for the interviewing.

      People can beef up their appearance or scale back if over dressed, however, if they do not understand the job or lack the skills/commitment that is a much bigger problem which cannot be as easily fixed. A good interviewer/boss realizes this. From an job hunting perspective, I would rather be told that I did not have to dress up so much than be told to dress better. I have had both conversations at different times. It did not keep me from getting the job.

    4. rando*

      I do not dress up when I’m interviewing candidates. I am an attorney at a business casual law firm. The candidates must wear a suit, but I do not wear a suit to interview them.

      My view is that that the candidate and I do not need to be dressed the same, because we are there for different reasons. The candidate needs to show me that they can dress appropriately in conservative situations (e.g. federal court). I’m showing the candidate how people dress at our law firm, which they can factor into their decision. Some firms require suits everyday.

      I loved it when I interviewed and saw people in more relaxed clothing. I do not want to wear a suit everyday!

      If someone views dressing up as a sign of “respect” there could be a cultural mismatch.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Oh, man, I so agree with all of this.

        We’re rarely allowed to wear jeans around here. Once we were interviewing someone on one of those days, and my boss called her and told her “we’re wearing jeans as part of a charity event that day, and if you’d like to dress down, feel free.” I’m not giving up my jeans day just so you feel I’m not “disrespecting” you as an interviewee. ;-) (And no, bringing something to change into isn’t a good compromise. It’s more hassle.)

        I interviewed at a tech firm once, in my suit, and the man interviewing me wore a flannel shirt and jeans. Because his role was Major Player at Young Tech Firm and my role was Person Interviewing For Job. And those were the appropriate outfits for those roles.

      2. Rafe*

        Thanks for this. I have no idea why all these apparently aggrieved candidates don’t take comfort in realizing that, should they be hired, this less formal dress code is the one that would be applied to them, too. (I almost want to say maybe interviewees should try starting a petition to see how well that goes over.)

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        YES. I am also business casual law firm, and I don’t think it’s weird that I don’t dress up for interviews even though I expect the interviewee to do business professional. Law tends to be more conservative on the dress code, and you will wear a suit when you go to court.

        Honestly, I’ve worked in Big Law for so long, I’d feel very uncomfortable going to an interview dressed down. It’s what you’re used to!

      4. Graciosa*

        Thank you!

        I’ve been reading the preceding comments about how wearing normal clothes to work when interviewing is a sign of lack of respect for the candidate with my jaw on the floor. Really? I’m dressing to work in my office, and showing the candidate how we do that at my company.

        I think the bigger issue would be if everyone encountering a candidate dressed differently (for us) under the guise of “making the candidate comfortable” and gave that person a totally misleading impression of what our culture was like.

        As a boss, I’m very straightforward and communicate my expectations very clearly. It would never occur to me to tell candidates anything other than the truth about what it’s like to work here – even visually.

        If this induces some candidates to self select themselves out of the process because of the “lack of respect” of my having interviewed them in my normal attire, I think that’s probably better for everyone involved.

      5. Aster Z*

        Yes. I work for a self-consciously cool tech company at which the de facto dress code is “anything you picked up off the floor on the way out of the house is fine, as long as it covers you from your shoulders to mid-thigh.” I wore a suit and tie to my first-round interview; on the way out, my future boss smiled and said, “By the way, thanks for dressing up today. We’re glad you take the job seriously, and I’ll file you away as someone who will be at ease in a suit if we have to meet with a stodgy client. But when you come back next round, business casual like what you see all of us wearing today is fine.” I was glad to be able to switch to chinos, but I hadn’t felt weird about dressing up to make that first impression.

      6. myswtghst*

        “The candidate needs to show me that they can dress appropriately in conservative situations (e.g. federal court). I’m showing the candidate how people dress at our law firm, which they can factor into their decision.”

        This pretty much sums it up. As my potential employer is assessing me to ensure I’m aware of professional norms in my field, I’m assessing them to see if their normal day-to-day is something I’d like to be a part of.

    5. MashaKasha*

      I have one suit, that I’ve worn to all my interviews since time immemorial. It’s a skirt suit that I wear with tights and 2-2.5 inch heels. At no other point in my IT career have I ever worn suits or heels. Honestly, if I come in for an interview wearing my suit and everyone else is in jeans, my first thought is “Oh, THANK GOD! They have casual days!” (I’ve worked at places that didn’t and it was painful.) If I come in for an interview and see that my interviewers have changed out of their jeans into a suit just to talk to me, not going to lie, I’ll be weirded out, and might assume that there’s some wacky company culture at play that I’m not going to be a good fit for.

      1. Clewgarnet*

        Completely agreed! I haven’t had to wear a suit for work for 20 years. Dress code in my office is ‘jeans and geeky t-shirt’. I’m one of the smarter ones by wearing leggings and a tunic top.

        If I come in, and the interviewer’s wearing a suit, it’s an indication that the company culture and I probably aren’t a good fit. Quite apart from that, getting an entirely new work wardrobe would be a hefty financial investment, and I’d have to REALLY like everything else about the job to be willing to suck it up.

        I’ve never even considered changing into a suit to interview candidates! It would be a) a waste of my time, and b) a misrepresentation of our office culture.

    6. WorkerBee 23*

      I had an interview for an analyst position where the person interviewing me was wearing shorts, an untucked “athletic”-type polo shirt & tennis shoes. I was in a suit & heels. I jokingly mentioned at the start that I felt “overdressed” & he had a genuine laugh & said, “Well, you’re supposed to be dressed up!” He was completely right, of course. I didn’t feel awkward at all but it’s most likely because I tend to overdress a bit for my job as it is, so I was still in my comfort zone. I’m used to being in a blazer & pumps when most people are in jeans so it didn’t bother me.

      I’m the type of person who will wear a blazer & pumps for a phone interview though, just to put me in the right frame of mind. I just feel more professional & put together when I’m dressed up.

    7. INTP*

      I agree. MOST of the interviews I have been on, the interviewer was dressed fairly casually, and I was in a suit or a sheath dress with a blazer. This is my idea of a normal interview.

      I figure, they need to vet my fashion sense but I don’t need to vet theirs. Even if the dress code is casual, they need to know that I can dress up the few times a year that it is necessary. I really don’t care how they dress and if anything I just want an accurate idea of the everyday dress code.

    8. 2 Cents*

      OP, better to err on the side of being “too dressy” in a suit than not. And as for your interviewer, if it’s casual Friday or casual all the time, that tells you a bit about the culture and whether you’d be a good fit. Also, established employees can have more leeway in some companies with dress code than the interviewee or someone brand new.

      I just interviewed someone who came in for the interview (scheduled well ahead of time) in leggings and a t-shirt. She looked like she was fitting us in before the gym. She did not make a good impression on any of us.

    9. Lady Bug*

      In an interview you have to remember both sides are selling something. As a candidate your are selling yourself, part of which is selling that you understand and generally adhere to professional norms by dressing formally for the interview. The interviewer is selling the company to the candidate by showing the culture of the office. It would be weird if the interviewer went out of their way to dress up just because its normal for a candidate to and then find out everyone wears yoga pants and flip flops every day, almost like the company is pretending to be something its not.

  2. Al Lo*

    #3: I wouldn’t ever think of bringing a change of clothes to interview someone. Granted, I work in a casual office, so I’m likely to be in jeans any day of the week, but it doesn’t even seem like a weird double standard to me, the way taking a phone call or an interruption might. It’s just… I’m dressed like I dress for work, and you don’t know exactly how this office functions yet, so you’re dressed more formally. (I interviewed in August when I started at my job, and one of my interviewers was wearing shorts.) If I know I have interviews, I’ll probably wear a nicer jeans-y outfit, rather than a t-shirt, and I might spend an extra couple of minutes on my makeup, but I’m dressing in a way that’s fitting with my workplace. Some days, that might be a dress; other days, it’ll be jeans.

    (However, I’m in one of those “don’t expect suits” industries, so YMMV. I don’t think I’ve ever been on the hiring side at my workplace and had someone come in a suit for an interview. We usually get women in a skirt and top, or dress pants and a nice top, or dressy jeans; and men in nice jeans and a button-down or something similar.)

    1. Evie*

      Yes, I came from an extremely casual environment (yoga pants, shorts, flip flops, were all normal even in customer facing areas of the company). Interviewees don’t know that though before they step in the office and it is surprising how casual we are for the type of business we are. Some days I wear shorts and some days I wear dresses. It is what the business is. Interviewees should have a realistic idea of the culture from the beginning.

      1. Jen RO*

        I never dress up for my interviews and I work in a software company, so I’m usually wearing jeans and a t-shirt. My reasoning is the same as yours: if candidates would rather be in a more dressy environment or would like a more corporate boss, it is better that they self-select out.

      2. Oryx*

        As someone who works in that same extremely casual environment, I agree. If anything, that was part of the appeal in taking the job.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I dream of going to work in yoga pants. Sigh. I did find some pull-on ponte dress trousers that feel like yoga pants, so there’s that. And I just found a dressy-looking linen/lycra blend t-shirt that feels like a normal, casual t-shirt. So when I wear that outfit together, I feel like I’m secretly in yoga pants and a t-shirt. I need to find more such clothing.

        1. Artemesia*

          I spent the last 20 years of my career in NYDJ dark black jeans without obvious jeans styling i.e. no grommets and such but the comfort of jeans, launderability and as black pants they worked with blazers, sweaters etc to be an acceptably professional look where I was. Heck I have given professional presentations to a thousand people in those jeans with a suede 3/4th length jacket and turtleneck and jewelry and felt polished.

          1. Marcela*

            When I read comments like yours, I wonder if I have been buying the wrong type of jeans. I can’t think of a more restrictive type of pants, with their thick fabric and terrible button pushing against my (admittedly annoying) tummy. I can’t short them myself either, and I’m just in the middle area between Petites and Women’s sizes, so they are either too short or too long. They are for me the complete opposite of comfort, and I only have one pair for very specific situations. However, I keep hearing they are super comfortable and some friends only wear jeans, every single day… I don’t get it. Perhaps the ones I’m getting are too cheap? :D

            1. Honeybee*

              At the risk of sounding precious…I have found that higher-end designer jeans are the way to go for jeans comfort. The denim cotton is higher-quality and they have excellent stretch – they feel soooo comfortable. I have a few pairs, and even my skinny silhouette ones are super comfortable, soft, and stretchy. The more often you wear them the more they conform to your body. I get them at Nordstrom Rack for a fraction of the original price – less than half – and if you get a Nordstrom debit card, which doesn’t require credit, then you get $100 worth of alterations every year. I’m short, too, so I often need them hemmed. It’s worth it to me because they’re essentially my work pants; I work in a casual office, so I just wear nice medium-to-dark wash jeans to work.

              I also have some really comfortable Gap jeans from the Gap Factory Outlets. During factory outlet sales you can pick up some jeans there for under $20 (I’ve bought a pair for $11 before).

          1. Honeybee*

            Uniqlo has these pull-on pants that look dressier but feel like yoga pants. I love them! They’re pretty inexpensive, too – I think I bought them on sale for $20.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Mine was the other way round. Exjob was business casual (no jeans), and ThisJob is very casual (jeans, etc.). I was overdressed for my onsite interview, but I was glad to see people in much less formal clothing because that meant if I got the job, I could wear it too. I was tired of dressing up every day.

    2. Dangerfield*

      No, exactly. I’m like you, I might wear one of my nicer office outfits, but I think it’s important that people get an accurate idea of what the office is like before they consider accepting a job there.

    3. Elkay*

      I had pretty much this exact conversation with my other half last week because I said I’d felt a bit weird being in my casual clothes to interview (last week I was dressed more casual than normal for me but smarter than a lot of people I work with, we don’t have a dress code) but rationalised it the same as you, this is what we wear to work. Most people here start out smarter dressed in their first few days/weeks before they fall into the “whatever you want” dress code.

    4. Belle*

      We are the same way. We are a casual work environment and jeans are allowed every day. When I conduct interviews, I don’t dress up. I want the candidates to see that we are a casual dress code and everyone goes by it — even HR and Senior Leadership.

      This is usually something I bring up in the interview though, so they have a better understanding of our work culture. And for follow-up interviews we usually also tell them to dress casually for when they meet with the hiring manager and team (and our hiring managers know this so they aren’t expecting someone in a suit).

    5. themmases*

      I agree. I work in a research office building at a university so our dress is quite casual, and see people coming in in everything from business casual to a full suit. It could mean anything. I really don’t see that it puts anyone at a disadvantage. If you don’t know what the environment will be like, err on the side of over-dressed for an interview. The only time I find it a little funny is when I see grad students wearing full suits to interview for a job that I know is field work where they will end up getting told to dress as casually as possible.

      Personally the more inconvenient I found it to dress up for an interview, the happier I am to see very casually dressed people when I get there. That could be my future!

    6. Tammy*

      This is my experience too. My company’s dress code is SUPER casual (flip flops, yoga pants, tee shirts, etc. are totally the norm, and even our CEO wears jeans and a polo shirt most days) and I don’t particularly dress up when I’m interviewing people to join my team. I might wear a nicer top and not a T-shirt, but I’m pretty much likely to be in yoga pants and sneakers.

      Part of it is that interviews are a two-way assessment of fit and I think it’s only fair for candidates to see how we operate on a day-to-day basis. Part of it is that an interview rarely takes a significant chunk of my day, and my personal preference is that I’d rather be comfortable for the rest of the day. And part of it is that we’re a software company, too, and that seems to be how this industry rolls.

      I *did* wear a dress and flats when I interviewed for my first role here. My first promotion was sort of a fait accompli by the time I found out about it (long story) and didn’t include an interview. My most recent promotion (to management) included an extended interview in the form of several casual conversations over a few days, so I didn’t dress up for those either.

      Industry norms are really, really important to this conversation.

  3. ExceptionToTheRule*

    #5 – Take Alison’s advice, but I’d make sure it was on my resume going forward. There are a lot of companies who participate in ESGR programs and want to actively recruit veterans & guard/reservists. Our parent company recently launched a C-level initiative to bring more service-members (past & present) into the company.

    Good luck on your interview.

    1. Jeanne*

      A lot of companies will mention their interest in veterans in the job advertisement or on the web site. For those I’d say leave it on the resume. For the others, it’s a gamble if it will help or hurt you and you may want a resume without that.

      1. Joseph*

        Yeah, I’d only put it on the resume if the company has some specific mention that they hire veterans.

        That said, keep your eyes/ears open during the interview. If your interviewer mentions anything that indicates they or a close family member is/was in the military, then you can (and should!) bring it up. In this case, it’s not a black mark against you due to availability, it’s a chance to connect and show that you have shared experiences because “oh, your son is in the navy? that’s very admirable. I’m actually a reservist for the air force myself”.

        People who have served personally or have close family members who served are far, far more likely to view your reservist status as an unqualified positive, even if it means they lose you for a couple weeks per year to training.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Our online application specifically asks about veteran status via a yes/no questionnaire, and we are required to give preferential consideration to veterans, provided that they meet the qualifications. I’m at a state university.

        1. Kate M*

          Would the LW qualify as a veteran though? I thought veterans were people who had served in the military and then retired from it/were discharged. If LW is in the reserves, wouldn’t they be currently serving?

          I say that because I know of places that give preference to veterans, but I’m not sure that extends to people currently serving. And if they are currently serving, even if it’s not legal (like in pregnancy situations), interviewers might subconsciously take that into consideration even if they’re not supposed to.

          1. Dan Wagner*

            From someone serving in the National Guard and in an HR department that has an affirmative action plan I can understand your confusion. Some member of the guards or reservists do qualify as veteran status if they earned a Campaign Metal or have the Armed Forces Service Metal. While I don’t qualify for this, many currently serving members of the guards and reserves do. There is a good infografic by the DOL here: https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/posters/Infographics/ProtectedVet_InfoGraphic_JRFQA508c.pdf

          2. Nikki H*

            To qualify for veteran status you have to have been serving on active duty for at least 2 years. It doesn’t matter if you are still serving or already discharged.

    2. Nikki H*

      Thank you! I completed 6 years of active duty in October, and that part is most certainly on the resume. It’s just my reserve status that isn’t mentioned anywhere. I have found most places very appreciative of my veteran status, and even a couple negative responses I’ve received on applications have taken the time to thank me for my service. It may not seem like much to some, but it is very appreciated.

    3. stevenz*

      If it were me, I’d be proud to be in the reserve and would definitely put in on my resume. (It will never be me; not an army on earth would want me.) But that’s coming from a completely uniformed perspective. Still, it seems that military service is considered to be excellent experience and an indication of good character, whether true or not.

  4. Lulubell*

    #1 – My first few jobs out of college (advertising agency, pr agencies) all included a lot of yelling, blasting, and general dysfunction to the point where I was years out of college before I learned that wasn’t normal.

    1. Stephanie*

      Oof. Yeah, I work indirectly with a lot of yellers. It’s definitely a sign of bad management and good at making it look like you’re doing something without actually doing something. And it does elicit an immediate, albeit scared, response (which eventually turns into spite). I definitely have to remind myself that it’s not normal. OP, keep this in mind!

      1. Feo Takahari*

        Upper management at my job is full of screamers, and lower management tends to take the brunt of it. I think that’s part of why none of the entry-level workers try to earn promotions. They’re going to have a lot of trouble filling my boss’s role when he finally finds a better job.

      2. Lora*

        OMG I never thought of it that way – making it look like you’re doing something without actually doing something – but this is a brilliant insight. Thank you!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Screaming = “I lack the skill set to handle this situation.”

      The few times I have yelled on the job are when there was clear and IMMEDIATE danger. “HEY! THAT [LARGE ITEM] IS FALLING TOWARDS YOU!” And I got thanked for quickly speaking up.

      1. LQ*

        I shouted once when something very large fell on me and hurt like all the swear words. Though I managed to not swear, I didn’t manage to not yelp.

        I also had a couple of incidents when setting up a street fair of yelling when someone was about to run into someone/something with a truck.

        I feel good about those yells. They seem reasonable. I’m not sure what other yells are appropriate.

      2. Mike C.*

        Yeah, safety issues are the big exceptions. Sometimes you just need to get someone’s attention right now.

      3. LJL*

        I yelled once when the driver started moving the car before I was completely in. I thought that was appropriate.

      4. teclatrans*

        Re screaming and skillset, I once read something on a blog that really stuck with me. The writer noted that when she finds herself yelling at her kids, this is her sign that they have outgrown her parenting, and it is time to assess what they need at this new stage and learn some new skills/approaches.

      5. Murphy*

        I so desperately want to walk into a meeting this afternoon and yell “I lack the skill set to handle this situation.”

    3. moss*

      I used to work at a university. When I switched to private industry, there was no one screaming (professor vs grad student in the most memorable incident) in the hallways! It was a new norm I had to adjust to.

    4. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I ran into that kind of dysfunction when I left my university job to go work for my department head at his small, private design firm. I’d worked for him for six years and had only ever known him to be calm and collected (very demanding, high-maintenance, and in control, but not in a yelling or bullying way). His wife, on the other hand, was a piece of work. Most of her feedback, to me, to the architects in the office, to any contractors, or basically to anyone who wasn’t a client, was via yelling and insults. I lasted there about eight months because that amount of dysfunction is neither normal nor tolerable (well, tolerable for the architects, maybe, because working there was helping their careers, but I can be an admin anywhere).

    5. Kelly L.*

      Yeeeeep. My very first job had a boss who would randomly explode. Normal for a while, then SHOUTY SCREAMY AWFULNESS for a few hours for no reason, then she’d want to be all buddy-buddy with everyone again. I’ve had other screamer bosses, but she’s still the first one who comes to mind.

    6. Audiophile*

      This is making me realize just how dysfunctional my last job was and I’m actually sitting here laughing.
      The COO got yelled at by the CEO’s assistant. I got yelled at by the CEO’s assistant. Apparently everyone got yelled at by the CEO’s assistant, it was treated almost like a right of passage.

      1. OP1*

        OP #1 here – thank you so much for letting me know I’m not alone! I’ve never had a supervisor who yelled before this. I expected some noise when I saw the setup but the first time I heard someone being yelled at I was incredulous. Thankfully I don’t work with the worst offender but I keep waiting for the day I’m the subject of the rant.

        1. Sadsack*

          I’d try to make this place a stepping stone to something better asap. A place where that kind of behavior is apparently acceptable is no place I’d want to work for very long, even if my current direct manager isn’t like that.

    7. Pwyll*

      Yup. My old boss in PR used to call to scream at employees; he’d almost always do it via speakerphone because “he’s a lot more imposing over the phone.” (He was a very short man, but sounded a lot bigger on speakerphone). Sigh.

  5. Mean Something*

    #3–I teach in an independent high school with a “professional” dress code, and we periodically have jeans days, spirit days or other themed-clothing days (e.g., it’s Earth Day, you may wear jeans with a green, blue, or brown shirt). Teachers and staff are welcome to participate in these and we often do. I will skip it if I have a candidate on campus that day just to make that person feel more comfortable during our one-on-one interview time, but I’m sure they feel especially odd wearing either teacher garb or teacher interview suits to teach a sample class full of kids in jeans or weirder attire like class colors or animal attire like zebra pajama bottoms or kitty ears!

    1. Al Lo*

      This wasn’t an interview, but my work has a Halloween themed event every year, with most of our 500 constituents/members in attendance. The event is in conjunction with a big working weekend, and takes place on the Sunday, so we work all day, and then have this event in the afternoon. Well, I’m in a bunch of production meetings for a show that day (meeting with sets, props, wardrobe, etc), and last year, I wore this temporary tattoo. I loved it, but I had a few colleagues who had a hard time taking me seriously in meetings. Somehow, it’s more difficult to concentrate on a conversation with someone wearing something right on the face than it is with someone wearing a cow costume. (I’ll probably still do a similar look this year, though! It was a hit! Dressing up without any effort — I have a couple of corseted, steampunk style coats, so between that, the tattoo, and a fascinator, it was a perfect costume.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Oh wow, can you imagine having an interview when there is a Halloween day going on?

        “How was your interview today?”

        “It went great. I met with a spaceman, a vampire, and a box of cereal.”

        1. Frustrated ENTJ*

          I actually did interview on Halloween once. The experience sold me on the culture – there were people in varying degrees of costume… some full out, some with funny hats/headbands, and some in regular clothes. And it didn’t seem like there was one “right” way to do it. I loved that the culture had that kind of diversity in events like these.

  6. Five-O Fridays*

    #3 i ended up having to interview someone on a Friday, catch is our group did Five-O friday’s that day. What’s Five-O Fridays? its flip flops, shorts and Hawaiian shirts, usually everyone in the team dressed formally (suit and tie). The guy i interviewed was quite surprised to see me and my colleague that day, however i’m pretty sure that’s why he took the o when we offered it.

    Reason i’m saying this, as the interviewed party you do need to dress for the companies regular dress code, the person interviewing you needs to picture you among the team on a regular day, you don’t need to stand apart y anything other then your attitude and qualifications from the pool.

    1. SL #2*

      Five-O Fridays sounds awesome, in all honesty. Pretty sure our higher-ups would never, ever go for it, but I love the idea of being able to wear flip-flops into work.

    2. Kalli*

      How is an interviewee supposed to know the company’s regular dress code? At best, they can guess based on industry knowledge. It’s not like the interview packet or ad comes with ‘and this is our dress code’.

      The only interview attire I’ve ever received was “imagine how you’d dress to go to work there, and dress one level up for the interview”.

      1. Michelenyc*

        Depending on the size of the company you can usually find information like this on their website. A majority of the time there is a section called working here under the career area that describes atmosphere, benefits, etc. I have seen mostof them mention the casual work envrionment as a benefit with photos of employees at work. If you happen to be working with a recruiter directly they will also tell what the tone of the office is like and if it is casual or not.

      2. Tammy*

        I always ask the recruiter or whoever’s arranging my interviews what the company’s regular dress code looks like. For me, dress code speaks, to a certain extent, to corporate culture. Corporate culture is a pretty important deciding factor in whether a position is right for me, so I ask a lot of questions around getting a read on the culture.

        I also recognize, given where I am in my career and what I do and that I’m good at it, that there’s a certain amount of socioeconomic privilege wrapped up in that statement. Take it for whatever it’s worth.

      3. INTP*

        IMO, you don’t need to match the exact dress code, you just absolutely 100% cannot be more casual than that dress code. The best way to do this is to err on the side of more formal than is standard for your industry (i.e. a suit, or a blazer over a business casual outfit). It won’t be held against you if you’re a bit more formal – in fact, it’s expected in my experience.

        I think rather than matching the usual dress code, a good rule of thumb is to dress to match (or exceed) the most formal outfit that might ever be required for that position – what you would wear when visiting a client or hosting the CEO in the office or something. Everyone knows that you can dress more casually than your initial interview outfit if that is needed. They don’t know if you have the fashion awareness or the wardrobe items to dress MORE formally when needed.

        1. catsAreCool*

          Yeah, what INTP said. Where I work, there’s a casual dress code, but when you are an interviewee, you’re expected to dress more formally.

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      That sounds fun, but it’s important to emphasize that it’s a special theme day in the interview, so the interviewee doesn’t feel uncomfortable. “You may notice we’re all wearing Hawaiian shirts. This is for a special theme day. Normally we wear business casual.”

  7. Encolpia*

    #3: I had a seasonal job at a chain craft store for a few months in college. When a manager called to schedule an interview, she specifically told me that it was a pretty casual environment, so I didn’t need to dress up. I still wore khakis and a nice sweater since dressing up helps me switch into interview mode.

    When I arrived for the interview, I think the manager was already sitting at her desk. I didn’t pay too much attention to her clothes; I got the impression she was wearing a plaid flannel shirt and a fleece sweatshirt. She walked me out after the interview. As we were walking, I realized she was actually wearing flannel pajamas (shirt and pants) and a fleecy robe. Everyone else I saw that day and during the time I worked there was in the standard retail uniform. I never did figure out why she was in pajamas that day.

    1. Elle*

      That is absolutely hilarious!! I think it’s a good thing you didn’t figure that out until the end, it may have been very hard to concentrate!

    2. Knitchic79*

      I had an I interviewer wearing camp counselor shorts and his boxers filled the inside of his shirts leg. An hour of forced eye contact, and trying desperately to not get a case of nervous giggles. I almost exploded when I left the interview. Lol I got the job and maybe the most memorable interview of my life.

  8. Feo Takahari*

    Regarding #2: number of employees also matters. My current job has relatively few employees, so when one employee needs to miss a day, it can be hard to find someone else to pick up the slack. (We had a lot of trouble with one employee who kept forgetting to tell us about his doctors’ appointments until the day of, usually leaving me or the assistant manager to come in on short notice and fill in for him.)

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      Great point. This is something I need to remember. While I work in a large office, I am part of a small team of three: boss, counterpart, and me. Although I see coworkers taking random days off (because it’s fine for them), coverage for my team is a lot harder to deal with.

      Unfortunately I am still used to asking for permission to take time off (per my first job out of college). I’m struggling with it because my boss has given me so many mixed messages! It was fine for me to take off several days for illnesses, but it was a huge issue to ask permission for once a week appointments that keep me away from my desk for ONE HOUR. Ugh.

  9. marilyn*

    It’s true; dysfunction in the workplace really will reprogram what you believe is normal, much like an abusive relationship. That’s the way I look at it. I had a boss that would degrade me so bad in the office, and not only would she not shut the door, but she would make sure other people heard it. She was a ranting, raving lunatic. I don’t know why I stayed loyal to these people at the cost of my mental health. The general attitude around the office was “Oh, you think it’s bad HERE? Just wait until you start working somewhere else…. management won’t be so understanding….” and guess what? I have switched jobs, and no, none of those other employers turned out to be any “meaner.” It didn’t occur to me until later: would I allow a friend or a boyfriend to treat me this way? The answer is no. I had my foot out the door.

    1. OP1*

      I’m really glad this came up. Part of what prompted me to write was that I started to just accept that this was part of work; thankfully my dad was shocked enough to make me reconsider. (This isn’t the only dysfunction around here, and I’m trying to keep everything in perspective).

      1. videogameprincess*

        The part of me that gets excited by the tabloids in the grocery store REALLY wants to hear more stories; if you are comfortable sharing more it would be really interesting to hear. If not, totally understand.

        1. OP1*

          I definitely don’t mind! My recent pet peeve has been a co-worker “borrowing” my computer since it runs more quickly. Honestly my computer is probably the only one that could handle the project but that’s an issue in itself!
          Every time something goes wrong computer wise, the admin assistant (who is wonderful) gets some angry person yelling at her. Keep in mind she recently asked me how to post pictures on fb, so it’s not like she herself can fix the problem. She can just call IT.
          My first day, I was asked to donate to or volunteer for no fewer than 4 causes.
          I’ll come back with a longer story when I’m on lunch!:)

          1. videogameprincess*

            The yelling at the admin sounds ridiculous! Also the asking for money on your first day (??). Sounds like you work in a place where everybody wants to load off their problems onto someone else as quickly as they can.

            1. OP1*

              I love our admin so much. She is amazing and every time someone is even remotely rude to her I want to march over and stick up for her.

          2. OP1*

            Probably the craziest day was within my first two weeks. I was working in a conference room with a manager who is usually remote, and in comes Yelling Offender #1 with two of my co-workers. He shuts the door with me and Remote Manager still inside and proceeds to absolutely rip into the others. He leaves with them still in the conference room with us. All I could think to do was pretend I hadn’t heard a word (which is absurd). When they left, Remote Manager said, “Oh wow, he’s a *bit* grumpy today!”. I wanted to ask what really grumpy looks like if “a bit” is essentially ripping someone’s head off.

            1. videogameprincess*

              . . . :O
              wow, that’s bizarre. Good luck with whatever choice you make from here!

    2. Seattle Writer Gal*

      Seconding this.

      I grew up in an abusive household full of yellers and I truly did not realize this kind of stuff wasn’t normal until years (and $$$$ of therapy) later. My mom has been criticized many times for yelling at people in the office, but she always dismissed it as “I get loud when I’m excited” and I always did the same up until the past year or so. This is how I have spent years of my career working for abusive jerks.

      I’d also like to point out that abusive jerks don’t always have to yell to be jerks. I learned this one the hard way.

      1. Mishsmom*

        i did not realize yelling was not an appropriate response until my early 30’s. i feel bad for anyone who worked with me until then. i was that sweet person who blew up every now and then and didn’t get what was so wrong about it. +1000 to the second point as well.

  10. lamuella*

    re: #2, as this is a new manager and your old manager had a very particular style over time off, one approach to reduce confusion might be to just ask “How do you want to deal with time off? My previous supervisor wanted us to clear all time off before we took it. Do you want to continue like that or just notify you of the time I’m taking?”

    That would both clarify what your manager wants and clarify why you were asking.

    1. BadPlanning*

      Yes — I was thinking it might be handy to let the new manager know that you’re re-calibrating. Then you’re not a weird needy person — you’re just adapting as appropriate.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      Definitely an important conversation to have when you have a new manager. It’s critical to get deep into it. My boss professes to want us to take all our vacation time, but her behavior is very different from what she says.

  11. FiveWheels*

    OP3, being in a suit doesn’t put you at a disadvantage. If anything it’s the opposite! You’re looking formal, professional, well put together and they’re in jeans. Advantage to you!

    On another note, shouting and calling people idiots… That’s normal in law firms right? I get the feeling we have different parameters for reasonable behaviour…

    1. Jeanne*

      The yelling might be considered normal in law firms but it’s not right. You’re adults and should be treated with respect. It’s like how hazing is considered ok because we got through it.

    2. Kalli*

      No, it isn’t normal in law firms. Neither are gaslighting, unhealthy hours, or faking billables. The perception that these are normal makes people less likely to complain about them, but they are not normal.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Yeah, I worked at a law firm for almost three years and never experienced yelling. I experienced a lot of other dysfunctional things, and sometimes unethical behavior towards our clients, but never yelling. I didn’t get a yelling boss until last year (no longer in the legal field), and I quickly noped out of that situation.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I have to tell this one. There is a law firm near me where the way the help treats each other is exemplary. The clients pick right up on that so quickly and talk about how polite/kind people are to their cohorts. It extends out because the employees are very respectful/supportive to their clients. People who feel supported, support other people in turn. It’s a ripple effect.

        1. Tammy*

          I found this quote online recently and I’ve used it in several presentations to my team and my leadership:

          “The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel.”
          – Sybil F. Stershic

      3. FiveWheels*

        Another commenter said she yelled to let people know if a box was going to fall on someone’s head. My experience of law is there can be s lot of metaphorical boxes – sometimes there is more to be done by deadline than can get reasonably done, partners are personally liable for anything that goes wrong, and small mistakes or oversights can torpedo a case.

        Tempers fray!

        1. LizB*

          I see what you’re saying, but I really think yelling needs to be reserved for situations with real, physical boxes, not metaphorical ones. Yelling because someone’s safety is at risk if they don’t move in the next two seconds? Understandable. Yelling because someone made a mistake that will cost lots of money, but nobody is going to get hurt, and yelling won’t change the outcome of the situation? No. That needs to be dealt with professionally. Tempers fray, but if that’s happening regularly then either the level of stress in the working environment needs to be reduced or the person in question needs help to manage their emotions.

          1. Cat*

            I agree with this. I think it’s understandable that, when the chips are down and you’re trying to get something out on a tight deadline, people don’t spend a lot of time on pleasantries. I think the extreme hierarchy you see in law firms functions the same way sometimes. You need to have clear roles and responsibilities and orders need to be given and taken in a hurry sometimes. But none of that translates to yelling being okay, IMO.

      4. OP1*

        Hmm. We’re not exactly a law firm but the culture is similar. I wonder if that’s why my co-workers don’t seem shocked about things like this? That there’s a negative perception that these things are normal?

    3. Triangle Pose*

      Nope not normal in law firms – shouting and calling people you work with idiots is not normal!

    4. teclatrans*

      I worked in law firms for about 7 years, 2 permanent and maybe 5 temp jobs. No yelling. (Though, I did have a micromanaging attorney try to belittle me, and once actually start typing on the keyboard where I was currently also typing. But we all knew he was an ass.)

  12. Kalli*

    #4 – Is it possible the manager knew about the position opening up in Other Department before it hit the gossip train and offered the promotion as a carrot to keep LW in her department?

    1. Joseph*

      It’s possible, but I wouldn’t assume that from the letter. I’d say that’s less likely than either of the following:
      1.) Most likely, the manager was legitimately unaware of the position opening up. LW’s description indicates that the promotion was discussed a “couple” weeks ago, but she just heard of the (future, non-specific) retirement more recently. It’s possible the manager found out after their performance review, just like LW did.
      2.) LW’s manager probably doesn’t even know that LW would prefer to be in that department. I mean, presumably positions in other departments open up across the company, but LW hasn’t been applying to every single one, right?

      1. Kalli*

        The manager is higher up, though – the potential for retirement could have come up in a manager’s meeting and just now be leaking to employees. If the LW has a lot of experience, has cross-trained, has expressed interest in moving across -or- if someone in that department said “hey, Manager, you’ve got someone there who we might be interested in for a position that’s coming open, you’re doing her performance review now, how does she look? Do you think she’d be interested? Can you raise moving up with her?” the manager may well be taking defensive action or read that as permission to offer a promotion. We can’t know from the letter, but it’s certainly possible, especially since we know all managers aren’t perfect, but it seems like something that could possibly have been part of the chain of events leading to this.

      2. LW4*

        LW #4 here.

        I doubt my current manager knows I’m interested in this other department. My company has three main departments: X, Y, and Z. I have lots of previous experience in X, am currently in Y, and the opening is in department Z. I also haven’t applied for any internal positions at this company before.

    2. LW4*

      LW #4 here.

      It’s possible, but doubtful. My department was hit with a re-org last year and I and one other co-worker were the only ones left in the department keeping it afloat. We each did the work of about 2.5 people for almost 6 months. So I think the promotion has more to do with that. :)

      That said, because of the re-org, my manager has only been around since January, and she is the type to take this personally.

  13. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #3: When I interviewed for my first office job, my interviewer showed up in jeans, a short-sleeved button shirt, and a t-shirt underneath it for what I learned later was his own band. I was wearing the one formal interview outfit I’d managed to scrape together from the thrift store. It was…. interesting, I’ll say that. But his attitude that went with it was really chill — he showed me his “jeans day” sticker on his badge and explained that it was a bonus that was occasionally given out. It ended up putting me at ease, because it meshed in with his low-key approach to the interview overall.

    I think you might want to work on how you’re thinking of this. There are definitely situations where casual dress screams “I’m not taking this seriously,” but not all job interviews are going to fall under that heading (at least, not for the interviewer), especially if you’re interviewing for a lower-level position.

  14. MechE31*

    On my last two interviews, I’ve been horribly overdressed, but I got both jobs. I’m ok being overdressed, even knowing I will be, because the first impression matters. If the interviewer doesn’t think you’re taking the company seriously, it’s a bad first impression.

    The first was an extremely casual workplace. Their interview notice said business casual, so I did dress pants, button down dress shirt and tie, but I left the jacket at home. One of the managers in my panel interview was wearing a tshirt and shorts that no adult man should wear, at work or otherwise. I don’t think anyone on my panel wasn’t wearing a tshirt and most had on jeans. Normal workplace attire was tshirt and shorts or jeans at that place. Flip flops were normal if you stayed in the office and didn’t go to the build areas.

    The second was a more traditional workplace, but the interview was in a non-air conditioned building. It was a large event with 20+ managers and departments in one place and that was the only place large enough to hold them. All of the interviewers wore the same tshirt and most wore jeans. The room was about 80deg and they were in there for 8+ hours. I was in a suit and tie and tried my best not to sweat profusely (it didn’t work)

  15. wet gremlin*

    #5 – definitely keep your drilling status to yourself until you have a job and are past any probationary period. The archives over at the Service Members’ Law Center will remove any doubt that employment discrimination against reservists and guardsmen is rampant. Once you’re settled in at work, then you should give your employer as much notice as your training schedule allows. I recommend getting well-versed in your rights and responsibilities under USERRA, if you’re not already. Good luck!

    1. Liane*

      “definitely keep your drilling status to yourself until you have a job and are **past any probationary period**.”

      I don’t think that keeping it secret until after probation is possible. I understand from friends who have been/are in the Reserves, that drilling is one weekend per month, plus several weeks in the summer. Most probationary periods are 90 days/3 months. Even if the OP starts a job in fall or winter, that means 3 weekends. What is OP supposed to to tell their boss during the probationary period instead of “I have drill for Reserves”? “I have to leave early/take off Friday for an appointment”? Three times in 3 months as a *new employee* is not a good way to develop a great rep at your new job. What if this a job where a weekend on-call per month (or regular weekend hours) is the norm and it is OP’s turn on drill weekend? Does OP call in sick all weekend? That would raise questions even if OP wasn’t new.
      And after the probationary period, when OP finally tells them about being a Reservist? What are the new bosses/colleagues going to think when they realize OP was keeping this from them for several months?

      OP needs to tell them at the time they receive an offer.

      1. wet gremlin*

        It depends on the OP’s work schedule. If they’ve already done their summer AT (the two weeks) and their job is a Monday through Friday 9 to 5, their service won’t have any impact on their employer until the next summer, at which point they have plenty of time to plan. If the OP’s job requires weekend work, or if they know they’ll have to train outside of the standard timeframe or might deploy in the near future, telling their employer earlier is necessary, obviously. But they should wait until the offer is accepted and make the notification during the first week of employment, during whatever orientation their employer provides.

        I know there’s a lot of big talk out there about valuing vets, etc in the workplace, but words are wind. I have seen my fellow servicemembers lose out on jobs over this, even though it’s illegal. Offers get rescinded. Even working for a federal agency, I experienced retaliation for my guard duty absence. I just want the OP to have the chance she deserves.

        1. Tammy*

          I don’t have anything meaningful to say advice-wise, but as someone who works with a bunch of veterans, and who has a number of close friends who serve/served, this makes me angry. wet gremlin, OP, and anyone else reading this thread who is/was in the military: Thank you for your service and your sacrifice. I appreciate you.

          1. wet gremlin*

            Thank you! And I know there are lots of employers/managers out there with your viewpoint.

        2. Graciosa*

          I understand this, but it makes me sad to hear.

          I have – thankfully – worked for very large companies where military duty was treated perfectly normally and no one raised an eyebrow.

          My current employer really values military service. We have a lot of former military and reservists, and it’s not uncommon to see references to it in email signatures, for example. We work with placement services for service members transitioning to civilian life, and participate in related recruiting events. We went through a period when some reservists were being deployed, and everyone just worked around it.

          I guess intellectually I understand that this may not be the way everyone else handles it, but it’s disappointing to run into a perception that military service might be something to conceal rather than something to be honored.

          1. wet gremlin*

            I’m really happy to hear about your employer’s attitude to vets and reservists. This comment is seriously a bright spot in my day. I try not to be a pessimist – I’m sure many, many employers are like yours! – I just know or have heard of enough managers who treat an employee’s military duty obligation like a howlingly unfair burden cast upon them personally by the universe/servicemember/whatever, and I let myself get negative and adversarial. I need to work on that.

        3. Nikki H*

          Yes, the job is not a normal Monday-Friday 9 to 5. It’s 2nd or 3rd shift and strange day rotations. I’ll likely need schedule rearrangements every month. On top of that my AT is scheduled for the end of August, so interviewing for jobs now without bringing it up is killing me. If they want me to start right away, I will only be available for a few weeks before I’m gone for 16 days.

          One positive side of that is that my reserve job is very similar to the jobs I’m applying for. So at least the training that I will be leaving for will likely be beneficial to my civilian job when I return.

          1. Friday Brain All Week Long*

            Good luck to you OP! And thank you for your service. Don’t worry – people interview for new jobs and reveal upcoming work time conflicts at offer time all the time. Some things just have to be scheduled and can’t wait until after a new job’s probation period… surgery, court dates, prepaid vacation, etc. My sister started a job a few months ago, only a couple of weeks before her wedding and honeymoon. They were fine with that and she’s greatly enjoying the working environment.

            Any employer that gets all harrumpy about your August AT doesn’t deserve to have you working for them!

          2. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

            That sounds like a really great in for bringing it up at the offer stage, though! “I’m a military reservist (or whatever the appropriate way to phrase your role is) and I am scheduled for duty August X through X. Does it make sense for me to begin the position on [suggested start date], or would you prefer to push back my start date to [date after that]? I usually have X much advance notice for my reserve duties, which are 1 weekend per month and 2 weeks each summer.”

            You’re presenting it in a matter-of-fact way, assuming that of course they will accommodate this as they are legally required to do.

  16. Pygmy Puff*

    “Candidates are expected to wear suits to most interviews.”

    I love this blog, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes it is really hard to try to take the advice and modify it for my field. It feels like 95% of the people on here are in some sort of corporate, “traditional” office. It just always feels weird to me for people to say: well, you have a specialized field, so of course it is different. First of all, don’t we all have a specialized field?! Second, my field is natural resources and people always act surprised by the fact that there are millions of people employed in this and the many sub-industries. Very few except the highest of positions, generally in government, would ever even consider a suit.

    Just something to consider when giving advice across the board and using terms like “most.”

    1. Triangle Pose*

      But…it is true in “most” fields. Nothing you’ve said contradicts that. You are in a specialized field and yes, certain specialized field have different norms. Yes, this blog skews toward traditional offices, non-profit and corporate environments…I’m not sure what you are getting at here.

      Not every field is a specialized field. You’re in a specialized field and you seem slightly irked that people don’t realize a lot of people are in your field? That certain rules that do indeed apply to most offices don’t apply to yours?

      You know your office best and it’s okay to not apply the advice given here that does not apply to you.

    2. Mustache Cat*

      I mean…what would you have her say instead? “Most” is factually accurate. What’s the alternative? “Candidates for millions of jobs are not expected to wear suits, while candidates for millions more jobs are expected to wear suits.”

    3. Gaia*

      Is t safe to assume you do field work? Because when I worked in natural gas I worked in the office of a major natural gas company and no one – and I mean NO. ONE. – outside of field workers would have been considered had they showed up to interview in anything less than a suit.

      1. Pygmy Puff*

        Never safe to assume. I’m actually a Director of Education at a large environmental non-profit.

    4. Macedon*

      I think it’s up to readers to do their due diligence and figure out whether AAM is a good resource for them and their particular industry.

      I’d say about… a third of Alison’s general advice is out of sync or completely wrong for my field — the whole ‘you don’t want to look like a job hopper’ comes first to mind — but I take that into account when deciding whether I want to follow her recommendations. We can take advice from anyone, but it’s still ultimately our responsibility to figure out if we want to enact it.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m confused by this because I specifically made a point of saying “most industries (not all — more on that here)” and linking to a post that talks about how to figure out if it’s true for your field or not.

    6. berdnerd*

      I totally agree! I’ve shared this blog with tons of my friends as we are all mid to late 20s coming out of grad school. But we are all in widely different industries and half of the stuff doesn’t apply to a single one without. Come one, who wears a full-on suit unless you are applying to be the director or upper level corporate? We don’t wear suits in non-profit environmental organizations. My friend was told never to wear a full suit when applying to occupational therapy jobs, just the pants and button down shirt, and a tie depending on the place/position. My boyfriend works in legal libraries…same deal. Same with my roommates, one is a software designer for the state’s biggest educational company and the other works upper level management at Lands’ End.

      1. zora.dee*

        Several large non-profits I know of, they do expect interviewees to come in a suit. It’s not that if you didn’t wear one you would automatically be disqualified, but those who do are considered the most professional and competitive candidates. Wearing suits to interview, and suits day-to-day are two different things.

    7. Patrick*

      I think the overarching point is that it’s generally better to be overdressed than underdressed. Most people are not going to penalize you for wearing a suit, but they might ding you for wearing a polo and jeans if the company standard is above that. Obviously this is a YMMV situation but like Alison and others have said a lot of this stuff is total guesswork for an applicant.

      Weirdly enough, today I interviewed a candidate who was wearing a suit – our company culture is extremely casual and I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, but I would have been more concerned if the candidate had come in dressed as casually as I was. I can’t fault someone for trying to make a positive impression in a totally normal way.

      The type of workplace where you’d (rightfully) reject a candidate for wearing a suit to an interview is honestly pretty rare as far as I can tell – I often get the impression that a lot of people who say “NOBODY wears a suit to interview anymore” are not actually that involved with hiring/interviewing and are more just reflecting the culture of their company once you’re actually employed if that makes sense.

  17. plain_jane*

    #2 – I think it depends on what you’re asking for. “I need to head out early tomorrow afternoon for an appointment” vs. “I am taking the last 2 weeks in December and the first two weeks of January as vacation”.

    One of those is ok. The other, for me, is not. Lots of people want to take off time in December and I need to balance coverage & fairness if you also took off 3 weeks in December last year.

    1. Hlyssande*

      I agree with this. For small things, like appointments, I think telling is fine. For bigger things like extended vacation, something more like “I’d like to take Xday – Yday off, is that okay?” makes more sense to me.

    2. Joseph*


      The way most managers view these things is more of along the line of “don’t worry about small things” than a “don’t say anything ever”.

      A couple hours on occasion? Basically irrelevant, as long as you’re still putting in enough hours to get your work done. You should still mention it in case something comes up, but it’s not asking permission, just dropping a casual heads-up that you’re leaving early. Frankly, as long as it’s infrequent, not only will your manager not make a big deal out of it, she probably won’t object regardless of whether your reason is something critical like a doctor’s appointment or something more frivolous like tickets to the ballgame.

      If you’re planning on being out for several days, then it’s no longer a minor item, because it becomes a planning issue to handle your workload, rearrange projects, etc.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is generally how I deal with things, but I did have a guy who used to do the latter (always around a holiday and without regard for his coworkers’ plans) and that caused a LOT of problems with the rest of the team. I sat him down repeatedly to make the distinction between telling me he needed to leave early for a kid’s school conference and telling me that he was going to be taking two weeks off around the holidays and not be accessible the whole time. He genuinely did not care about the impact on his teammates or the project teams that he was on being inconvenienced. Then, he got mad about having to “ask permission” to use the time off that was part of his compensation package. And then got mad at HR when they backed me up and said he was entitled to use it but not when it interfered with his job function (and that I was the final word on whether or not it did affect his job function).

      The funny thing about it was that this team was amazing at covering for each other and helping each other out. I never had to deny a vacation request because they’d swap work coverage themselves and just tell me what was going to happen. Had he approached it in a more collaborative manner, everyone would have been more open to working with him.

    4. plain_jane*

      Oh, and here is where I admit that as a callow youth, I did once tell my manager that I was going on a 3 week vacation. I had also already booked tickets (though I did not tell them this).

      He was displeased – with reason – and I learned my lesson. (The vacation was approved, and I never told him of the booked tickets – I figured it was an important lesson, and am thankful it wasn’t an expensive one as well.)

  18. Dawn*

    In professional jobs, it’s pretty normal to manage your own time and just give your manager a heads-up about times you’ll be away — as in “I’m leaving at 2 on Tuesday for a doctor’s appointment.” In some cases, people will phrase it this way: “I’m planning to take the 5th and 6th off — let me know if that poses any issues.”

    Thank you SO MUCH for confirming that this is OK! I’ve been in the working world for almost 12 years now and still feel kinda weird *telling* my boss when I’m taking off.

    And plain_jane, I totally agree that saying “Hey I’ll be out next Friday for a friend’s wedding” is a completely different thing than “Oh, by the way, I’m taking the entirety of January off just FYI”! I’d think most people would understand that you need to coordinate long vacations with your manager… tho honestly I’ve been surprised at the things that people need to be explicitly told sometimes….

    1. Mabel*

      I used to also feel kind of presumptuous about telling my manager when I would be out of the office, but now I send her an Outlook meeting request (set to “Free” time with no reminder – because it’s going to sit on her calendar) that says “Mabel – PTO” or “Mabel – Dr. Appt.” and she accepts it (she has never declined one). Even for my vacation (next week – yay!), I sent a meeting request, but I gave her enough notice that it wasn’t a problem.

      If it’s recurring or at a weird time, I type a note into the request to give her more information. For example, I used to go to therapy (but to her, it’s “dr. appt.”) every week, and now it’s every three weeks or so. When I scheduled the first not-weekly appointment, I let her know that it would not be every week anymore and that it might not always be on the same day at the same time. She said she appreciated the heads-up.

      There were two times I asked (instead of informing) her because we were at a certain point in a project, and I didn’t know if it actually would be OK for me to be out.

    2. Lore*

      My work’s policy is pretty sensible. Anything less than three days off, schedule as you will, put it on the shared calendar, and ask someone else in the department to be your point person for emergencies. Three days or longer, run it by your boss before you make any non-cancelable plans, especially in summer and at the end of the year, when a lot of people want to take time, and try to book a temp freelancer to cover your desk. Also, we’re closed between Christmas and New Year’s and you’re generally discouraged from taking substantial time off both before and after that break unless there are special circumstances.

      I’ve never been turned down on a vacation request, but I’m also sensible enough to book things in advance if they’re critical, and to be flexible if I’m looking at the shared calendar and three people are already off in a given week.

      1. Lore*

        To clarify–it’s not a problem for many of us to take time off either before or after the break, but the same person shouldn’t do both without special circumstances.

      2. JB*

        I send my boss the invite for a day or longer, and put it on the team calendar. If it’s longer than two days, I’ve likely already asked and checked the calendar. Our work can usually be done at any time, so half days don’t have much impact. She never asks what we need the time for, if we have it, we take it for whatever we want. I take a 1/2 day 3 times per year for a hair appt. and she knows that what it’s for.

        My boss is very good about making sure that we all get to take time off around the holidays, or at least rotate it fairly if everyone wants time off at the same time. No one person gets stuck working all/every holiday, whether you have children or big plans etc. Everyone’s time is considered valuable.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, we have a shared vacation calendar for our department, so especially around holidays we can see when others have requested time off – first come first serve style.

      For leaving a bit early or taking a longer break on work at home days, it’s just “here’s a heads up”. For general PTO, I generally say to my manager – hey, I was planning to do this, see any problems with that? And she knows I’ve checked the shared calendar and so forth so it’s basically always a yes.

    4. Decimus*

      #2: A shared department calendar is a useful thing when you want to allow people to be professional but also still need a minimum number of bodies on the location. I used to work in a professional consulting job where one person was supposed to be on site during the regular work day at all times, absent special circumstances where the client had to be informed. So a shared calender made sure Jane and Wakeen weren’t both on vacation the same day, or one didn’t have a doctor’s appointment when the other was out. Now if Wakeen got sick while Jane was out on vacation, well, that happened, but then the client needed to be informed so that did go through management.

    5. Ad Astra*

      I still feel the need to ask for a whole day off, but not for a few hours here and there. I guess in my head, the main difference is that my boss doesn’t get to tell me *if* I can go to my doctor’s appointment or funeral, but he does have some say in whether I get to go on vacation. But it’s a relaxed office, so I don’t have much trouble either way.

  19. Patrick*

    Letter #2 is tough for me as a manager – there really shouldn’t be an issue with telling vs asking, but telling always comes off a bit brusque to me. My team members generally just shoot me an email saying “I was thinking about taking X days off, is that cool?” but they also realize I approve 99% of the requests I get (the only time I’ve ever had to deny a request was when I had an employee who conveniently booked vacations for weeks he knew were going to be really busy, and the “no” came after he had already pulled that stunt twice.)

    As a manager, the only thing that annoys me around approving vacation time is people trying to back me into a corner without even talking to me first – the big example is people booking flights before giving me a heads up they want to take time off.

    1. Joseph*

      “the big example is people booking flights before giving me a heads up they want to take time off.”
      That would really irritate me.

      There’s a huge difference between the OP’s example of “hey, I’m leaving a couple hours early tomorrow” and your employees taking several days vacation because you’re flying somewhere.

      Think of it in terms of the typical 40-ish hour workweek: I’m pretty sure you could handle a normal workload even if you leave at 3 pm tomorrow for (reason) – maybe you stay a little later today, maybe you work through lunch tomorrow, maybe you push a minor task to next week, maybe you just stay super-focused. If you’re taking two days off? Um, no, I don’t honestly believe you can provide a full workload if you’re out of office for 40% of the week.

      1. Patrick*

        Oh totally – I glossed over the part of the original letter about needing to leave early/come in late etc. That I agree is a “hey I’m leaving early tomorrow, just a heads up” situation.

        I generally agree that one day absences also are doable 99% of the time but if someone is going to be out for a full day I still prefer to be asked just because once in a while there is that nonnegotiable event on the calendar. I try to trust that my staff can spot those, but I’ve had the occasional issue with lower level staff thinking that just because something will happen whether they’re here or not (like a scheduled meeting with our execs) it’s OK for them to take the day off. But those nonnegotiable days are few and far between, there’s like 5 to 10 of them a year for us.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, I think days vs hours is kind of a huge difference. It’s basically never a problem for even my entry-level staff to come in an hour or two late or leave an hour or two early for an appointment, but I would like the opportunity to approve days off. That said, I book flights before requesting the time off pretty often myself. But there’s no real “coverage” issue with my role.

      1. Mabel*

        I had a staffer once who asked me if we could make a deal. She often came in a bit early, and she asked if she could keep track of her time and make sure it added up to 40 hours/week, even if she needed to come in late sometimes after taking her son to school. I said that was fine because I trusted her to keep track, and I thought it was a reasonable request. Also, I knew she would never have missed a client meeting or been late for anything important. I really just needed the staff to get their work done, and normally I wouldn’t have been worried about actual total hours worked in a week, but we were billing a client for our time, so I had to make sure we each did 40 hours/week.

        1. Joseph*

          That’s a pretty common arrangement. So common, in fact, that it often will just happen organically and/or be an unstated policy at the company without any active discussion. It only becomes an issue if someone starts failing at the general expectations of (a) work 40 hours per week, (b) get your work done without causing issues, and (c) make most of your hours overlap with typical business hours of 9-5. Beyond that? There are people who are morning people and would prefer to start at 7 am, there are some people who would prefer to start at 10 due to traffic/kids/whatever.

          At my internship in college, there was actually one employee who worked 6:30 am to 2:30 pm. Her reason? It allowed her to pick up the kids from school, every day, at 3:00. Never became an issue because she was diligent in making sure that her first couple hours were always spent on “solo” tasks, so she had the entire 9-2:30 period free for any team related meetings or coordination.

    3. Gaia*

      I just hired a new employee and when discussing how we handle PTO I addressed my biggest pet peeve explicitly: booking flights and then asking about taking time off. As a manager, I do everything I can to never say no to PTO. But because we have to support other departments and customers, sometimes we really cannot have more time off on X day or Y time. I will look for other options, but there have been two instances I have had to give a firm “no.” And I felt terrible about it but I would still be livid if an employee followed up with “but I already booked my flights.”

      1. JessaB*

        Yeh. Unless it’s something you cannot change (a wedding, a funeral, a graduation, surgery, etc.) you really shouldn’t book before asking. On the other hand except for a funeral and emergency surgery (which is sick leave not holiday leave anyway,) you get advance notice. You should ask the minute you get the notice. Some companies it won’t matter, but if you know (and you should know,) that there are limits to people being off, the second you get any kind of notice, you ask. You also make it clear that it’s a one time thing and the date can’t be changed.

        It’s something that sometimes bothers me about strict first come or seniority for days off. Sometimes someone has an event that has a beyond their control date (you can’t go to a wedding any old day, you can’t go on a cruise at any time (you can go on a general holiday though, etc., or choose between a couple of cruise dates))

        And barring people taking major advantage exceptions should be made for one off, unchangeable date items.

    4. Mostly Sarcasm*

      I actually had this confusion with my manager recently.

      I was told that we just needed to put time off in the shared calendar and send an e-mail as a heads up and I’ve been dong this for months (this is my first professional job out of school). Then suddenly he informs me that I’m supposed to ask for the time off. We’re a small company and we don’t have a lot of formal processes like this and it felt weird to have to ‘ask’ for permission when there’s no need for coverage.

      Miscommunications like mine (and maybe the one you described) could be avoided if the employee knows exactly how they’re supposed to request time off. (Or better yet, have an automated way of requesting so you don’t have to talk to a person to do it – problem solved, no human communication errors!)

      1. JessaB*

        I agree, it doesn’t matter how big or small the company is, there should be A: a specific way to ask for time off, B: a specific timeline for finding out if it’s approved (if you need approval,) and C: a generally understood concept of what is approvable and what is not, and what times are pretty well blacked out except for emergencies.

        An employee should have a clue before they want to ask as to what needs to be done and what the response would be.

  20. sjw*

    Re interview attire — we have occasional casual Fridays, and to be honest I try not to interview on those days. (I try not to interview on Fridays period — it’s my “catch up and get ready for next week” day) That said, if I ever do interview on a casual day, I always tell the candidate in advance and assure them that they are welcome to dress down a tad. I also, however, make sure to inform them that our normal attire is business professional. No need to give people the wrong impression — and those things matter to many candidates.

  21. NoPantsFridays*

    I actually interviewed for my current job on a Friday. I still remember it clearly because both of my interviewers (my manager and his peer) were wearing jeans! I still wore a suit though. Some managers here do dress up on days they know they have interviews, but most of them wear the usual business casual, or jeans if it’s a Friday interview. But the candidate still needs to wear a suit!

  22. A. Nonymous*

    Most industries vary. When I interview for my creative/freelance stuff I’m in jeans/appropriate for the weather clothes. When I do meetings for my engineering job I look professional in a conference room, dress down on the site. But I know the company cultures involved.

    One of our managers keeps a suit in his office just in case. It’s more for the comfort of the people interviewing with than it is any sort of professional standard. He always ends the interview with “you don’t need a full suit for the next interview” if they’re way over dressed.

    That being said, I hate dress codes that serve no practical purpose and in particular I hate casual Fridays. If you’re okay to wear jeans on Friday then it pretty-much invalidates the whole dress code to begin with. Your work’s no different on Friday than it is on Monday-Thursday, is it?

  23. Not Karen*

    #2: I phrase my time off requests as a question, but it’s not really asking for permission as the answer is always a casual “Of course!” Though I haven’t asked for anything big like a week or two at a time – those I would be more careful about asking if it was a bad time to take off. My manager has told me that anything less than 2 hours before/after my normal start time does not need to be run by her at all.

  24. Brett*

    #3 Anyone else ever get same day notice that they are interviewing someone? I don’t really do casual days, but with current job (where I am sometimes part of an interview committee) I could easily see not knowing I had an interview that day until it was too late to change clothes.

    1. Pwyll*

      Which I think just furthers Alison’s point. IMO, the interviewer should be wearing what they’d normally wear at work as an example of what the culture is. As an interviewee, I want to see what the company is like when I interview, and that includes dress code norms.

  25. Jessie*

    OP #5: I would definitely bring it up if you get an offer because companies have different benefits for reservists. For example, my company pays differential pay when I go to AT, which means that they pay the difference between my base pay rate and my salary.

    AAM, do you have an opinion on whether or not to include Reservist time in your resume? Does the possibility of being looked at unfavorably outweigh highlighting military experience?

  26. Lindrine*

    As a person who is sometimes the hiring manager and often interviews candidates, I have to share my thoughts. I work in the marketing department of a tech company. We have a very casual dress code so even when it isn’t Friday I’m likely to be in jeans and a fun t-shirt. Sometimes I don’t find out about interviews until the same day and I can’t change what I’m wearing even if I wanted to. The hard truth is that interviewees are held to a higher standard. I’ve been there too – I wore a suit once to interview at a call center where my interviewer was in jeans and a hawaiian shirt. He kind of raised his eyebrows and asked me why the suit and I made a joke about how my momma always told me to dress up for interviews.

    TLDR: Interviewers should try to make candidates comfortable. Interviewees should understand that interviewers often have a lot more to do in a day than interview people.

  27. blu*

    I interviewed for my last job on a Friday and was supremely confused about the dress code as my interviewer (who became my boss) was wearing a denim suit. I don’t mean like she just wore two pieces of denim, this was an actual denim skirt suit and once I started working there, I also discovered she had a denim pants suit as well. Still have no clue where you would buy casual suits.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Normally, you would time travel to the 1980s to buy a denim suit. Sometimes you can find one in 2001 (if you’re Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears.)

  28. Bend & Snap*

    #1 my boss at my last job was a screamer. It was awful. One time he came into my office, slammed his hands down on my desk and screamed in my face. Everyone heard and I felt physically afraid. So after many years of that, I finally left 4 years ago.

    I left my screamer of a husband last year too. My current job is full of reasonable, professional people and no yelling.

    So I now have diagnosed PTSD from filling my life with conflict, but am in a WAY better environment now, personally and professionally.

    Yelling isn’t acceptable. It isn’t professional or respectful. It’s not how adults should communicate.
    Get out before this becomes your normal.

    1. OP1*

      Oh my God, that’s awful! I’m so glad you made it out of there and are onto better things. I honestly have no idea how I would react to something like that other than crying! Since I’ve only been here a couple months, do you think it’s still okay for me to look for something else? Or is it worth it to stick it out briefly?

      1. Bend & Snap*

        In your shoes I’d find something else. That kind of environment never gets better and can be really damaging.

      2. Jadelyn*

        I’d say that kind of depends where you’re at in your career, just how toxic your current environment is, and what your existing job history is. If you’re in early career (which I think you are?) with almost no job history, and the environment is toxic but manageably so, I’d say stick it out for at least six months, preferably a year before you start trying to get out. It’d be different if you had a long work history of positions you’d held for 3+ years each time and were more senior, but without that background you have to be careful not to develop your history in a way that makes you look like a job-hopper, because that’ll make it harder to get something better down the line.

        The only coping advice I can offer you is to try to keep in mind that it’s not about you. You’re not the problem here. They are. They are a bunch of dysfunctional jerks, and that’s not a reflection on you, your capabilities, or your worth as a person.

      3. CMT*

        Also, the longer you stay there, the more likely you are to come to think of this behavior as normal.

      4. catsAreCool*

        AAM says you can leave positions off of a resume, especially if it only leaves a short gap (like a 2 months). It might depend on how long you spent looking for this job. Also, if they ask you for every position you’ve had, include it.

        1. OP1*

          I only looked for this job for a couple months. I’m hoping to get another bite soon and I really appreciate the advice from AAM and the commenters!

  29. Roscoe*

    #3 I think its similar to using “colorful” language in the office. Not talking about f-bombs or anything like that. But my office has a very casual attitude, and you’ll hear lots of cursing. If an interviewer lets a few pg-13 words slip out during an interview, its fine because thats how the office is, and they are giving an accurate representation. however, if an interviwee were to start the conversation with the same words, it will be taken a bit differently.

    And I know that cursing in the office won’t sit right with some people, and thats fine. Better they know that is the culture going in. Similarly, if you are uncomfortable with people wearing shorts and flip flops in the office, better you know that going in. Point is though, in this situation if you are being interviewed, you need to impress them.

  30. Mental Health Day*

    OP, the culture at your place of work sucks. There’s no way around it. There’s nothing you can do to change it.
    However, you do have one huge advantage in this situation and you should fully utilize it. This is your first post-college job and it is extremely common for young grads to job hop a bit until they find the right spot. Try to make it maybe to the 6 month mark, a year if you feel like you can hack it. But the important thing is that you start looking NOW. Do not wait until you are totally beaten down by this toxic culture to start looking. If you do, it will be way to easy to accept another equally bad position because your thought process will morph into an “anywhere but here” mentality. Trust me. I’ve made this mistake. Very best of luck to you. No employer is perfect, but screaming and yelling in the workplace is way beyond anything anyone should be expected to tolerate.

    1. OP1*

      Thank you! You actually addressed my exact worry. I have a couple long stints at previous jobs, but they were retail/college jobs and I don’t want to be perceived as a job hopper.

      1. Kate M*

        Honestly, I think longevity at a job only really starts to count once you’re out of college. Short positions while you’re in school are so common because of internships, people leaving for the summer, different schedules during different semesters, etc. You really have nothing to lose by starting to apply now. If someone looks at your resume and says, “why are they applying after only being there for three months?!?” then you’re in no worse a position you’re in now. But there’s the possibility that you do get interviewed/hired somewhere. It just won’t happen unless you apply. The only thing is that I’d try to make sure you can stick out the next job for at least a year or two.

        1. Kate M*

          And rereading your comment I realize you said that your college jobs were long-term, which can help. But I think my point still stands – once you get out of college your job longevity can be like a clean slate. It’s fine to have one short stint on there, especially if its your first job out of college. That’s really common.

      2. Mental Health Day*

        You should be golden. You’ve proven that you can hold down a job. Just play it cool until you can find that better opportunity. Don’t be tempted to “spill the beans” if you are given any kind of exit interview. You are leaving for a better opportunity. That’s it. Nothing more is required or necessary and it won’t do you any good to explain that you wanted out of the toxic environment. Best of luck!

        1. OP1*

          I feel so much better after reading these responses. I’ve heard kind of mixed responses from friends about how to handle things so this is definitely clarifying things for me. It’s weird because most of the time, it’s not bad. When it’s bad, though, it’s BAD.

  31. C Average*

    At my former employer, 95% of the managers were polite, kind, reasonable people who knew when and how to deliver negative feedback in a professional way.

    But there were some yellers.

    We used to joke about our director, who could be heard berating people even with the office door closed. His voice carried throughout our open-plan area adjacent to his office. We liked to tell people he had graduated from the Victor Newman School of Management, named after the “Young and the Restless” big shot who liked to stomp and fume and berate his underlings. (Basically, he was Donald Trump from “The Apprentice” years BEFORE “The Apprentice” aired.)

    My own manager, who was a musician by background, kept a small guitar in her cube to strum on when she had writer’s block, and she would sometimes pick a few chords from “Kumbaya” while the director ranted, which we always found hilarious and delightful.

    Everyone generally liked the director, and we’d all reached the point of shrugging off his occasional tantrum.

    And yes, I was once on the receiving end of his wrath. It was really, really unpleasant.

    1. OP1*

      How did you react in the moment? I’ll be honest – knowing myself, I’d probably cry or have a temper flare up that makes things 2000x worse.

      1. Anne*

        I was on the receiving end of a blow-up once. The boss (who was notorious for throwing incredible tantrums) kept the office door open while she laid into me, so everyone in our department could here her shouting. I too have a tendency to tear-up in heated emotional situations, but I think I was so shocked by what was happening, I held it in. I wasn’t able to get one word in the entire time, left without saying anything and then went into the bathroom and got all the tears out of my system.

        I found the courage to confront Boss about the situation the following day (from the encouragement of co-workers who overheard the situation). She reacted like she didn’t even realize she had blow her lid. Some people with serious anger issues just cannot control it and don’t realize it’s happened until someone acknowledges it. She was incredibly apologetic. Even invited me and my SO to a social event with her the next day (I declined).

      2. Lora*

        When I worked with one particularly egregious offender, I just sat way back in my chair and stared at her like she was a zoo animal and didn’t react at all until she started literally stomping her feet and crying. Then I held out the tissue box and asked her to take a moment to collect herself, go to the restroom and we would talk about this later when she was able to speak calmly. But, she was a peer, not a boss.

        Only had one boss yell at me and after an hour I did cry because it seemed like it would just never, ever end, and I knew I didn’t have the cash on hand to say, I quit, and walk out – and he wasn’t going to let me leave his office until I made some kind of response to his accusation that I had been rude to a field engineer. The aforementioned field engineer had screwed up a system installation I was on, made several bigoted remarks to both me and the client, then complained that it was my fault for making him look bad, and I told him that from now on he was to leave the work to the experts and offer SUPPORT ONLY to clients and to me and that if he couldn’t be supportive we needed to have a talk with his boss about that. I got screamed at, basically, for complaining about the guy’s bigotry. The moral of the story being, douchebags gonna douche, I guess?

  32. LawLady*

    #3 – I think it’s worth thinking a bit about what dress signals, because dress does different things for the interviewer and interviewee. When an interviewee wears a suit, she is indicating that she understands social norms and is donning the default business attire. She’s also abiding by the “better to be over-dressed than under-dressed” maxim, since she might not know what the attire is in the business.

    The interviewer, on the other hand, is representing the workplace. It actually benefits the interviewee to see exactly what’s going on in the workplace during the interview. That includes the level of formality.

    1. OP3*

      OP here. The comments have been very interesting – thank you.

      Absolutely, the dress of the interviewer most likely reflects the general attire and culture of the office and if I interviewed on a Tuesday morning and found people in Jeans and t-shirts, I would take away that their business casual was fairly casual. And I would dare say that there would be many other clues to this by the time the interview was over (as you walk through the office to the interview location, if given a tour, for example).

      But this one particular event (years ago already, but I was mulling it over in light of the recent dress code questions), the interviewers did indicate that it was a casual Friday and they explained their attire. This relaxed me a little; but how from that was I to know what the dress code/culture would be the rest of the week? It’s not always available online on their websites.

      In the end, I expect the interviewer to dress like he would dress every day – of course! – not to dress up as formally as I would as I am the one being interviewed and I’m the one dressing to impress. But if casual is allowed ONLY on a Friday, it tells me only what is allowed on Friday and not what is representative of what is worn the rest of the week.

      I won’t stop dressing up for interview nor would I ever expect to do less unless told otherwise.

      1. Anne*

        When I had my second interview for my current job on a Friday, I noticed that the interviewer was wearing jeans and asked if they had casual Friday. I think I already knew that their normal dress code was business casual, but if I hadn’t that seems to be a perfectly reasonable thing to ask about.

  33. Cat*

    I try to remember to wear something nicer than normal when I have interviewees coming in on Fridays, but a lot of times, I forget. To be honest, I suspect that’s a lot of the reason for the asymmetry – it’s not necessarily in the forefront of the interviewer’s mind for the day.

  34. Pam Adams*

    We were interviewing a few years back at our state university campus, and had an interviewee in a team interview, when the ‘Shake-Out’ (California stat-wide earthquake drill) occurred. We had explained that it was coming, and that we would be actively participating. He came under the table with us quite cheerfully.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’d be happy to know a place I was interviewing took disaster preparedness seriously! We have state-wide tornado drills here. I wouldn’t mind if one occurred during my interview (a drill, not an actual tornado).

  35. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I usually request time off as a question – as in “do you mind if I leave an hour early?” or “can I take the first week in August off?”, but hmm, now I’m wondering if this is annoying to my manager! I usually do mean “I’m planning on doing this but let me know if there’s a problem”. The only time it’s an actual question of permission is when I know that it’s going to interfere with something important (Board meeting, etc.) … and I always tell the boss who he can count on to solve any issues in my absence.

    1. Liana*

      If I’m only requesting an hour or two, or even just an afternoon, I usually frame it as an FYI. I doubt you’re annoying your manager, but I think it does affect how you’re perceived! I think most reasonable managers expect you to handle your own time however you see fit, provided you’re getting the job done, so asking permission for an hour off seems … I don’t know, overly deferential? I don’t want to say childish, because I think that’s the wrong connotation, but it doesn’t help the “I’m an adult and can manage my own schedule” narrative.

      There are also some managers out there who likely don’t care how you’re phrasing it and understand that you need the time off, so if your manager is one of them, you should probably listen to him and not some strange commenter on the Internet.

    2. CMT*

      Same! Definitely with anything longer than a few hours. And for doctors appointments, I usually say something like, “I have a doctor’s appointment Friday morning at 9, if that’s okay.” Which, I guess is a statement, but still looking for confirmation that it’s alright. I don’t expect my supervisor to ever say it’s not okay (and to be honest, I’d be a little perturbed if they did), but I don’t feel comfortable yet just telling them when I’ll be out.

  36. TootsNYC*

    I just wanted to say: I admire these letter writers for NOT using the term “dream job,” and instead being clear (with themselves, and with Alison) about the factors that make these jobs very appealing.

    The “dream job” narrative is sort of bad for the world, so it’s nice to see examples of how to talk about these great opportunities.

  37. Liana*

    When I first graduated college and started working in an office, I *really* struggled with how to word time off requests. My previous experience had been working in restaurants, where we used an online scheduling system to request time off, but I had no idea how to approach my manager to ask this directly. I think for my first time off request, I spent nearly 30 minutes trying to craft the email. It’s hard, because you want to sound appropriately respectful toward your manager, but you’re also an adult and should be allowed to manage your own time as you see fit. And a lot of retail companies and restaurants tend to treat all their employees like children, and that type of work is usually the bulk of a recent college grad’s experience while they’re in school, so it shapes their expectations.

    I think my current default is to just state when I’m taking time off for a doctor’s appointment or a similar one-off situation, and ask to take time off for a longer period of time, like a week’s vacation or something. I’m not expecting the answer to be no (I’ve also been pretty lucky and had reasonable managers so far), but it just seems more courteous.

  38. Persephone Mulberry*

    The owner of our company likes to remind us that he’s from Out East (we’re in the Midwest) and that’s why it’s okay for him to be loud, rude and sarcastic (at least he’s an equal-opportunity yeller – employees, vendors, clients!). Our VP actually pulled me aside earlier this week to apologize for an outburst that was aimed in my direction. Fortunately, he’s usually not in the office all that much.

    1. Sadsack*

      I think it is crappy that upper management allows his behavior to continue. I am also from out east, and still here. His behavior would not be tolerated where I work.

    2. Liana*

      I’m a born and bred New Englander, and his behavior sounds terrible. There’s certainly a bluntness about us that the rest of the US doesn’t necessarily share, but it sounds like he’s using it as an excuse to be a jerk. I’m sorry :/

  39. MindoverMoneyChick*

    #3 – that is an absolute pet peeve of mine. It happened to me early on in my career- not on a Friday, just in a more casual environment. I got the job and later the boss made a joke about me showing up in my interview suit. I mean, what was I supposed to wear to an interview?

    When I got to the stage where I was the one doing interviews, I was working in a very casual office. We usually had interviewees talk to at least 3 of us while we were there. I always made a point to dress up for these interviews, but I could rarely get my co-interviewers to do so. “That’s just the way it is” was the general attitude. Oh and yes, we did want to see that the candidates had dressed up.

  40. Amy*

    I work from home and interview candidates via webcam. I do try to look nicer on those days – with a cardigan or something like that. I have had candidates unprepared and wearing pajamas even though I warn them ahead of time that there’s a webcam involved. I know working from home is very casual, but I’d expect that serious candidates would make some kind of attempt to look professional.

  41. Megs*

    Okay, so a question about terminology here: OP #1 mentions working in an “open office” and then talks about the folks in the cube farm hearing what happens in the office. I’ve understood an open office set-up to be different from a cube farm + private offices situation. My idea of an open office is like where I work: three long tables each with eight computers in two back-to-back rows, no dividers whatsoever. Here we are assigned a computer for the duration of the project, but in other open office situations, you just pick any station when you show up and it could change every day. I would far, far, FAR prefer a cube farm because at least there’s a pretense of privacy.

    1. OP1*

      I would say it’s semi-open. There are cube walls around a large area and then multiple people have desks inside that area.

  42. Anna*

    About interview dress, if I came in dressed up nice and saw my (hopefully future) employer wearing jeans, I’d be relieved! The only thing it would clue me into is that I would make sure to check in about general dress code and what I should wear before my first day started. It may not be a casual Friday but a casual each day dress code, based on the company.

  43. Coolb*

    This is so easily solved. Ask the recruiter or whoever is setting the interview what the office dress is. Candidates ask me that all the time. My personal advice is always dress one notch above (I would never wear yoga pants even if they told me that was the norm) but you can calibrate so you don’t feel awkward. I’ve worked in CA tech, call center and sales environments where it’s super casual. I have also interviewed people on Halloween in a costume, I just call it out in advance.

  44. stacdc*

    #3 – Our office is casual, most of us wear jeans most of the time. However, I do expect and prefer the interviewee wearing a full suit. We see clients often and we need to see how the candidate presents to a client. We wear full suits to client locations most often, and our clients will sometimes be in jeans or casual wear. Just like I can’t expect a client to dress up for me as their consultant, I wouldn’t be pleased to hear a candidate expect me to change clothes to make them more comfortable.

    We live in a world of double standards.

  45. Chicago Recruiter*

    I interviewed for my current job right before the holidays. I was wearing a suit, hose, heels, the whole nine yards… and the team that interviewed was wearing their finest ugly Christmas sweaters – they were having a contest that day. It was awkward at first (they apologized), but it gave me a good feel of the personality of the team and the casualness of the work environment.

  46. Kalli*

    It is stunning to me that so many people think they can just ask about dress code and office culture in an interview.

    I went for an interview at a government office, and while I was in the waiting area, I saw at least 30 people come in and out of the elevators in jeans, tees, baggy pants, the works. This was in the kind of building where the agency had the name on the building, so it was quite clear that they worked there, especially since you needed keycard access to the elevator.

    In the interview (3 interviewers), I stated that I had seen all these people entering and leaving in this kind of casual dress, and I asked if that was what was expected, and whether that indicated a more casual aspect to the culture. The interviewers were so shocked they literally turned and started talking to each other – in front of me – about what they should say, it was such a weird question, nobody ever asked that. Then they turned back to me, repeated that it was a weird question, said nobody had ever asked about dress code before, it was such a weird question. This was laced with a heavy dose of ‘why would you even ask that what’s wrong with you’. I reiterated – I had seen many people entering and leaving their building dressed like this, and I wanted to know whether that would be required of me in this position, and whether those people indicated the kind of culture where that was okay, and all that went with it.
    Turns out those people worked in a different area of the business (a call centre), and in the area they were interviewing for, they were very strict about suit-stockings-heels, and that should have been obvious. They also explicitly pointed out that what I was wearing would be suitable for working there.
    Even when the interview was over, they were still bringing it up, and I have no doubt that they are still telling it as an weird interview story.

    A few years later, I went for an interview in a private firm, and I turned up in a skirt, shirt, vest and jacket, with my nice conservative heels. They were wearing daggy old business trousers and see-through shirts, and so clearly, going by commenters here saying that they’re reflecting the company standard, they didn’t give much time of day to what people wore or what clients saw.
    Ten minutes of the interview (with all men) was devoted to how I could walk in those heels. Another ten minutes was devoted to the “you seem kind of alternative, how do you intend to indicate to people that you know what you’re doing”, because I wore a vest over my shirt. Then came the “you’re so soft-spoken, how will you assert authority” spiel, to which I pointed out that if I needed to raise my voice or assert myself, people would remember it, and my track record of dealing with one of the most loud and self-centred partners in the industry (known to the point where the question was usually “how did you deal with X for so long” rather than “how do you deal with difficult people”) indicated that I was not only able to do so, but often didn’t need to (with examples).
    Imagine my surprise when I was invited to a second interview. I consciously went up another level and wore a dress suit. The dress was the kind fashionable at the time, black with a coloured panel, and I wore matching shoes. Ten minutes of this interview was devoted to how I walked in those heels, and how I thought people would take me seriously dressed like that.

    The kicker was that they rang me up and flat out told me that I didn’t get the job only because it was a country office and they didn’t feel I would fit in, but if the position was in the city they would have hired me. The position was in my home town. People literally, instead of going into the office, go to my mother and ask her to get me to call them, because they don’t trust the person in the office, and they know me.

    Obviously, I wouldn’t have been happy in either position, and if I’d been offered them I would have had to seriously consider self-selecting out. However, it’s not always a simple matter of asking about dress code, office culture, or dressing up for an interview, because if you get one of those bad interviewers, you won’t actually get a useful answer and have to take secondary cues as an indication. In the first case, my answer came from their behaviour – they had a script for the interview and weren’t able to go off it, and either didn’t know their own office culture or were hiding something. In the second case, their response clued me in to some rather awkward ideas the partners had and that they didn’t know what they needed in the position, and I wouldn’t have felt safe training there. In either case, if the issue, whatever it was, had been able to be discussed openly and honestly, it would have been more useful, and in the second case it may have meant they would have been able to get over their preoccupation with my shoes and hire someone for the position at all.

    1. Ultraviolet*

      I think those reactions you got are really unusual though. A lot of things you can or should do when speaking to a good or okay interviewer won’t help if your interviewer is bad.

      Bear in mind that some of the people here who “think” you can just ask about dress code at an interview have done it with no problem!

      1. Kalli*

        Yes; I wanted to point out that it isn’t always going to not be a problem, especially with a bad interviewer.

        1. Ultraviolet*

          I totally sympathize with the impulse to point that out. From your wording (“It is stunning to me…”) I thought you were presenting the possibility of a really bad reaction as more likely than I think it is, and that you would advise people to factor that risk into what they do more than I think is optimal. If I’m wrong about that, and you meant something more along the lines of “If you do get a bad reaction, it really sucks, like in these experiences I had,” then I see much better where you’re coming from. (And those interviewers did sound like jerks!)

    2. stevenz*

      It’s good to be observant of your surroundings when going for an interview, but you should just file those observations away for later as you evaluate all the elements of the opportunity. Asking about dress code in a job interview is comparable to asking how much vacation time you would get. It’s irrelevant, it will be what it will be.

      In the first case you were interviewing at a government agency. Government usually has rules about equity and bias and all that, and they are frequently required, by law or political expectations, to absolutely guarantee that everyone is treated the same. The script protects them from accusations of bias which benefits all parties. Unfortunately, they are often boring questions and boring interviews that don’t allow you to really show off your abilities. But, alas.

      As for your shoes…, well, I’d be sure I was wearing my best shoes and keep them shined if they are going to be such an object of attention. (Today for my interview I’m wearing the most expensive shoes I own – $475 hand made Australian boots. Unfortunately, no one mentioned them. ;-) But, yes, talking about shoes in an interview is weird and dumb and a waste of valuable time. But the second one sounds like an all-round weird place so your instincts were right.

      1. Kalli*

        It’s not irrelevant if people who work there are going in and out wearing clothes that would be starkly inappropriate in any other office setting. Unless you’re saying you can’t ask about red flags in an interview when they flat out go “do you have any questions?”? They couldn’t answer mine. Things like vacation time, dress code, flexible arrangements can be really important to know before the offer stage – they’re not entirely irrelevant, because you need to know if it’s an environment you can be happy enough in to be productive.

    3. catsAreCool*

      I would think reasonable interviewers would want you to ask about the dress code so that you’ll know what to wear if you work there.

      1. Ultraviolet*

        I don’t think Kalli was ruling out asking about the dress code after you’ve accepted the job (but before you show up your first day).

        1. Kalli*

          I was trying to point out that asking can end up being rather weird, in my experience, as a counter to the people who were saying “Just ask!” if an interviewer was in casual clothes. It’s not always that simple. You can still ask, at any time, but the reaction may be a little less effusive than “Great question! What you’re wearing now is fine, and we have casual days and theme days for charity.”

  47. stevenz*

    I’m generally better dressed than interviewers even when they’re in business attire! But, no, I don’t expect them to dress up for me, it’s my job to dress up for them regardless of the day. For instance, I had an interview today, a Friday, and am all dolled up, including a brand new tie. (I have always hoped the old saying “the clothes make the man” is accurate, so I spend a lot of money on clothes.) But don’t worry about the distinction – they aren’t judging you because you’re dressed up. You can’t possibly know if they have casual Fridays anyway. And don’t call attention to the fact that you’re dressed differently than they are. They know that.

  48. Curious Em*

    Thanks to both the writer of Question 2 and to Alison for the answer. This is something about which I’ve never quite known what’s expected and/or what’s considered professional.

  49. Thebe*

    One of my coworkers told me she interviewed for her position on Halloween, and our boss interviewed her while wearing a bee costume. She aced the interview, of course, once she got over the fact she was being interviewed by a 6-foot-tall bee wearing glasses.

  50. sper*

    I know I’m late to the party, but I need to weigh in on #3.

    As a manager, it can be difficult to get people to accept the idea that taking advantage of perks like jeans day are acceptable. We have jeans days on Wednesday (as an incentive to walk for 30 minutes during the work day). When we started this program, very few people took advantage of it, because jeans had been verboten for so long.

    I interviewed for my current position on a Wednesday shortly after the walk in exchange for wearing jeans program started. My interviewers were in jeans – they were doing their best to send the message to staff that it was not just ok, but important to take advantage of this new health initiative. Sometimes managers do things like that because they recognize that they are role models.

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