my boss keeps telling me “you have a year,” dressing one step up from the job you’re interviewing for, and more

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

1. My boss keeps telling me “you have a year”

I recently started a new job, replacing someone who was in this position for six years and is close personal friends with my boss. My predecessor was obviously very good at her job and very organized, and a lot of my getting adjusted involves reading over her emails and files or my boss sitting in on meetings or calls that in the future I would handle alone.

Overall, I feel like its going well and I do think I can do this job well. My boss continuously acknowledges that, being new to this position, I am taking in a lot of information at once and that I might not remember everything after hearing about it only once. However, several times a week, if I ask a question he will say something along the lines of “you have a year” — meaning that if I am asking him questions like this next year, that will not be acceptable. Sometimes he will ask me about files that don’t exist, seem annoyed I have not reviewed them, tell me I “have a year,” and then a half an hour later acknowledge that they do not exist — but he does not apologize for the way he spoke to me about them. It makes me feel like I’m kind of being threatened.

Obviously I want to learn as much as possible, but I also feel like its unrealistic to expect me to know every single thing about my job this time next year. A year from now, I will still not know as much about my job as my predecessor did after six years in this position. She is also several decades older than me so she brought more experience to the position than I did. The last time someone new joined my department was three years ago, and I am seven years younger than the next youngest person in my department. He acknowledges that he is rusty on orienting people but I don’t really know how to respond when he says this.

You could reply, “Well, you have about one more week if you keep saying that.”

Or not. Probably not.

Is he otherwise a jerk? If so, well … here’s more evidence that you’re working for an ass. But if he otherwise seems reasonable, you could actually ask him about this. You could say something like, “You keep referencing that I have a year to learn the job. My sense was that my learning curve here is pretty normal, but is there anything that’s making you worry that I won’t have be functioning well in the job a year from now? Am I not picking things up as fast as you expected, or is there another reason you keep mentioning that I have a year?” Depending on his response, you could then say, “So that we’re on the same page, please know that I take it as a given that I need to be performing well before a year is up! And if you have any concerns that I’m not, I’d be grateful if you’d let me know well before a year is up!”

Will that break him of the habit? Maybe, maybe not. And obviously you want to factor in what you know of him before using this approach, but it could be an interesting conversation to have.

2. Airline credits and work travel

This came up at my nonprofit (national scope, travel all over the country for staff, for context), and I was wondering what your take would be on this. Currently, we book a lot of staff travel on Southwest (inexpensive, free checked bags, etc.), and one of the quirks about Southwest is that if you re-book your flight and the re-booked flight is less expensive, the difference is a “travel credit” that must be used within a year by the person named on the plane ticket. In the past, our organization hasn’t tracked this at all; some staff use that difference for future personal travel, others only use it for future work travel, others may not use it at all.

I think that if the organization is willing to pay for a staff member to fly from City 1 to City 2 and back, and the most reasonable price is $200, and they choose to reroute through City 3 for a few days (vacation time) but that flight path means there’s a $25 credit, the staff member shouldn’t feel obligated to use it for work travel because work is and will pay $200 to send the staff member from City 2 back to City 1. The part that complicates this is that the money we are using is all money from donors (we’re a nonprofit, like I said up above). How would you handle that?

I’d apply the credits to work travel first if possible. It’s the organization’s money, and the credit represents a saving on the cost of the ticket to the organization, not the staff member. And the fact that the organization was willing to pay $200 doesn’t mean that they need to be stuck paying that amount when the cost ends up being lower, or that the staff person should benefit from the pricing change. Plus, it would look particularly bad for a staff member to complain about that when a work trip is allowing them to get a vacation in a third destination without having to personally pay airfare themselves. I do think it’s worth balancing questions like this against the fact that work travel can be a real burden on employees — and so, for example, it’s nice when employers let people keep the air miles they earn on business travel … but in this case we’re not talking about a travel award but an actual credit toward the fee paid for the ticket.

3. In interviews, should you dress one step up from the position you’re applying for?

When I was in high school, I applied to a job that was extremely casual in dress. I have always heard that you should dress one step above the job you’re applying for, and the job required an extremely casual uniform, so I showed up to the interview in nice medium-wash jeans, a slightly but not overly dressy top and nice but casual shoes.

For the interview, all three of us applicants for the two available positions sat together and were called one at a time into the office for a 15-minute or so interview. When the other two also high school interviewees arrived, I was surprised. The guy was in black dress pants, a dress shirt, a tie and dress shoes, and the other woman was wearing a very dressy blouse, a nice black skirt and heels.

After all three of us finished, the interviewer, who would also serve as our boss should we be hired, said he wanted to give all of us some tips for future (90% of the people who apply and get hired end up being high schoolers). He gave some general interview tips and then gave one that was obviously aimed at me along the lines of dressing to impress and dressing up for interviews.

For what it’s worth, I did get one of the positions, but I know that was because, due to an unusual school schedule, I could work shifts no other high schoolers could, and they really needed more people for those shifts.

I’ve always heard you shouldn’t overdress for a position, and what I wore was definitely at least two steps above the job uniform (think tight, short athletic wear). I haven’t had another job since where I’ve needed to worry about dressing for an interview (phone interviews, being asked to fill jobs by someone who already knows me in a professional or personal context so I didn’t need to apply or go through a formal hiring process.) I’m curious on your perspective and if I was wrong to dress how I did.

If this was a job that mainly hires high school students — something like food service or retail — in most cases you wouldn’t need to show up in a suit, but I also wouldn’t wear jeans (as opposed to nicer, non-denim pants).

The “dress one step above the job you’re applying for” rule is a little misleading. There are a lot of jobs that expect candidates to wear a suit to the interview, even if it’ll be fine for them to wear business casual once they’re hired. This can vary heavily by industry and geographic area, but it does mean that rule isn’t super helpful, unfortunately. Even for interviews where slightly less formal dress is okay, though, a good rule is never to go as casual as jeans.

But you were a high school student, and it’s totally normal that you weren’t perfectly versed in this.

4. What are the ethics of applying for a job I have no intention of taking?

What are the ethics of applying for a job as a test balloon? I’ve been in my current laboratory based scientific position for six years and received one promotion with a plan for another in a year or two. But I find myself nervous about what would happen if I had to find a new job since the techniques I use are pretty narrow. So, when a reasonable job vacancy came up locally that is parallel to my field but somewhat different, it piqued my interest. I match maybe 60-70% of the job description and I think I could talk through how I could learn the rest of it fairly readily. But I don’t want to leave my current job. So, how ethical is it to apply for a job basically as a chance to update my resume and as an ego boost?

If you’re 100% sure that there’s no way that you’d accept the job, you shouldn’t apply — or rather, you could apply, but you shouldn’t accept an interview, since you’d be wasting the hiring staff’s time and potentially taking an interview slot from someone who might really want it. But often people aren’t 100% sure, or shouldn’t be 100% sure. Sometimes people are pretty sure they don’t want to leave their current job but are open to learning about other options to test that premise — and sometimes in the process they learn that they do want to stay where they are, and other times they’re surprised to find that there’s another option they’d prefer. So if looking at it through that lens resonates with you, I do think that’s a perfectly ethical boat from which to apply.

5. Should I re-apply for a job that just rejected me?

I recently applied for a job via a company’s career website. I received a form email rejecting my application. Five days later, the company re-posted the same job. Given the specialized field I work in, it is almost certainly the same position. Is it worth the effort to apply again?

No, it doesn’t make sense to — I’m sorry! They considered your application and decided to pass. If it had been a longer amount of time — like six months or more — it could be worth trying again, but this rejection is still very current.

{ 256 comments… read them below }

  1. Annonymouse*

    I’ve pulled the “Well I’ll quit if you keep that up” on my bosses once.

    It worked because:

    1) I work in a very casual industry AND work place (the most casual I’ve ever worked at)

    2) I knew they were joking

    3) Both they and I knew they’d collapse without me.

    Cured him of that right quick.

    But for you I’d focus on what Alison said: normal learning curve, lot to take in, feedback if his (reasonable) timeline for adjustment and learning isn’t being met.

    I’d also point out that making comments like that actually set you back or push back a bit if he starts having an unreasonable timeframe

    Jane worked her for 6 years to get to her level. You’re expecting me to master everything in 3 months. That is not reasonable or doable. Is there anywhere I should focus my attention more on?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I’m honestly a little confused by the idea that the OP may not be up to speed on her job within a year. Most professional, mid-level jobs I have had expect you to be up and running within 3-6 months. It’s true you won’t know everything that your long-tenured predecessor with decades more experience knew, but you should have enough knowledge to do your job without a lot of day-to-day questions well before a year.

      I understand the OP just started, so I think her questions are normal. Even 3.5 years into my job, I still run across things I have never done and have to ask about, but that’s 1x per month, not several times per week. I think her boss’ comments are annoying, but also not unrealistic.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        (I should also add that it is not all on you if you aren’t getting up to speed quickly enough. Your manager hired you into the role. If it was a big stretch role for you or all the job knowledge was in the predecessor’s head and not in training materials, he should have more realistic expectations on timing. )

      2. Anon Anon*

        I think this is highly industry dependent. For example, in my industry given the nature of the work (and the cyclical nature) it’s pretty much impossible to be completely up to speed in only 3-6 months. It definitely takes at least a year. I tell new hires to expect it to take between 12-18 months before they feel like they have a good grasp on most things.

        1. Hasayear*

          Hi – OP #1. Again, I’m not actually concerned about my ability to do this job but (without saying too much) my job duties change a lot depending on seasonal tasks. This means that there are a lot of smaller tasks that I might only do once a year, so something that I did once my first week might not come up again until I’ve been there for a year, and so on. This is part of why I find these comments so off putting, it’s not like my boss doesn’t know this is how the job works.

          1. SilverRadicand*

            Is it possible that the boss is badly attempting to say “you’ll know this next year” or somethings similar?
            I’m having trouble thinking why they might be saying it otherwise.

              1. MillersSpring*

                Without hearing his tone, it’s hard to tell if he’s joking, neutral or threatening! I’d shorten Alison’s script to the following: “You keep saying that. I think my learning curve has been normal…am I not picking up things as fast as you expected?”

            1. pope suburban*

              Yeah, this one is really dependent on tone. Which makes it a pretty bad idea as work habits go, on the boss’s part, because things like that are so easy to misunderstand. I could see it being meant kindly, like, well, you have a lot of time before you’ll need to tackle this again, you’ll be okay. I could also see it exactly the way OP seems to be seeing it, as a complaint or a vague threat.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          I agree it’s industry-dependent. I’m in banking. I’d expect a teller or maybe a loan servicer to be fully versed in a year. My department? I’d expect someone to know the basic tasks and be working on learning the more complicated ones. Since we’re analyzing customers’ accounts for suspicious activity, it’s a steep learning curve and it takes awhile to be confident and to know how to look at the whole picture.

          1. Anna*

            This is how it is in my industry. Six months to know the basic functions, one year to be familiar with all of them, but closer to 2 years to be completely comfortable. We’re a government program with a lot of rules and requirements that change, so it takes a little longer to not be completely thrown when a change comes down the line.

        3. Joielle*

          When I was interviewing for my current job, one of the questions I asked was what the learning curve is like for new hires – i.e. how long does it take to be fully functioning in the role? Pretty uniformly, the answer was five to seven years. Our work is very cyclical, and there’s just not a manual for all the weird, nuanced situations that can come up. So I agree – it’s impossible to say everyone in a professional job should be up to speed within six months, or a year, or whatever.

      3. Annabelle*

        I think this is definitely dependent on the industry, but I also think we’re all (generally speaking) always learning and improving. So OP might have questions at the six month mark that will seem silly in another six months.

        Also, there’s a pretty big difference between being good at your job and having like, expert-level proficiency. It’s hard to tell, but it sounds like OP’s boss might be expecting the latter by next year.

      4. YoungWorker*

        I agree completely with the notion that 1 year isn’t an unreasonable amount of time to be up to speed on core tasks. It sounds more like the OP1 is a young worker and is suffering from a little anxiety from things yet to come. Things don’t take an exponential leap in difficulty; you’ll be fine.

        1. Hasayear*

          Original OP – right, I think it’s unrealistic that I’ll be an expert in a year. Also, I only really feel anxiety about the situation when he says this to me. I am confident in my skills and what I bring to this position.

      5. Stranger than fiction*

        I’m almost wondering if she should ask “ a year for what, specifically?” Like after one year she should never have any questions for her boss? That hardly seems reasonable but at the same time the frequency of questions should be going down naturally over time. Her predecessor clearly had a lot of tribal knowledge and also presumably knows the boss quite well. I wonder if anyone else at this company can assist op with some of her questions just sonshe doesnt have to keep asking cranky mcnoquestions.

      6. Pine cones huddle*

        Is it possible LW works in a cyclical industry where it’s possible that she needs to go through the whole calendar cycle to really get into the swing of things? I work in a role like this where there is a communications plan for the year and the fall looks like this and the winter looks like that but the spring is more this and the summer is time for that… then it’s fall again and you start all over. While you still typically are running at full speed in a few months, seeing a full year really puts you in a place to plan and update because you know what’s coming and you see how it all comes together.

        1. General Ginger*

          My job is very like that, with very defined busy seasons as well. And while the bulk of the work doesn’t change between busy and slower times, I don’t think it’s possible to really appreciate how different and how much more demanding the busy times are without having gone through a cycle of those.

      7. General Ginger*

        While I generally agree with you on the “up and running within 3-6 months” bit, I’d say I really got absolutely fantastic at my job about 2 years in. That’s how long it took me to fully understand exactly how my piece fits into the overall work we do, and as result, to be able to troubleshoot and prevent issues on a larger scope. Essentially, to obtain company know-how rather than just skill at my own tasks.

        1. General Ginger*

          My instinct now is to downplay the “oh, I’m fantastic at my job” bit, but I really do feel like there was a massive leap in my performance between just doing my own pieces well and having a deeper understanding of whole company functions.

        2. OhNo*

          Agreed. I’ve been working in my job for four years now, and it’s really only in the past two years or so that I’ve been able to initiate my own projects. Before that, I tried, but the things I came up with weren’t always a great fit for this place’s specific needs. Depending on your industry and workplace, it can take a while to understand things well enough to operate freely.

        3. sstabeler*

          3-6 months is really an estimate of how long it tends to take to get a good grasp of the basics- two years is a reasonable timeframe for grasping the more complicated bits- like in your case, fitting your job into the wider work the company does.

      8. Liz*

        The last 3 hires in our team, including my boss, I told them (nicely) to expect a steep learning curve for the first 6 months and that it wasn’t unusual to take 12-18 months to really feel you are starting to understand the work. No-one believes me at first. When they’re 6 months in, they come back to me and admit I was right! Most people hit their stride about 2 years in. (People are learning the technology and/or the data and/or the industry. We can never hire anyone with all 3, so aim for people with 2.)

      9. 2 Cents*

        I may be divining too much from the OP’s description, but it sounds like the Boss expects her to have the same level of institutional knowledge as the predecessor … which could take more a year to have. Either way, his remarks of “you have a year” are demoralizing and counterproductive, if OP is otherwise on top of what she needs to be at this point in her new job.

    2. Robin B*

      Sounds to me like the person you replaced, his good friend, has hinted she may want to return in a year.

      1. Hasayear*

        I understand why you would think that, but for reasons I won’t get into for anonymity’s sake, I don’t think that’s the case

        1. OrganizedHRChaos*

          Can you take notes and label them by season or task so you won’t have to ask the same questions next time they come up?

          1. Hasayear*

            Original OP – I am! I just think it’s unrealistic that I’ll have zero questions my second time around doing certain tasks.

            1. OrganizedHRChaos*

              Oh I agree, you may always have questions and that is certainly ok, I have just found in past jobs when I have had bosses like this, that past answers have been forgotten by the bosses when asked again at a later date and the newly given answers are not consistent. This also due to the lenght of time since the process was last done. I also don’t get what his internal point is for his sayings, but I would just try to have fewer questions by taking quality notes where applicable. Good luck.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, the fact that your organization is a nonprofit has a big effect on the analysis. If there’s a credit, that needs to go to the organization, first. If staff are routinely doing this, you’re going to end up with a private inurement problem, which can undermine/threaten your organization’s tax-exempt status if it comes up through an audit. And are folks treating the credits like compensation and paying taxes? Because what you’re suggesting sounds like additional compensation.

    Legal issues aside, a policy that lets staff keep a nonprofit-bought flight credit for personal use does not look great. People have high expectations that nonprofits will use their donations in a cost-effective and responsible way. Usually that means that donors will want to see the money go to programs before it transforms into a staff benefit. I’d be pretty surprised and possibly salty if I found out a national nonprofit was routinely allowing staff to use org-bought flight credits for non-work purposes.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      #2 There’s definitely a balance to be found with non-profit staff. You do need to spend money some on things that might perhaps seem to only benefit staff, but help with staff capability and retention.

      But if you can change your flight and end up personally taking some money from the original cost of the flight and keeping it yourself, that doesn’t look great. Because presumably the cost of the original flight is approved and the receipts are submitted all before the person gets the $25 or whatever back.

      It’s a bit like, say, if I claimed some office supplies on expenses, submitted a receipt, then exchanged them and got a credit note for the difference which I then spent on myself.

      It doesn’t look good, OP, I’m afraid. I think in this situation, someone should be tracking the cost of the new flight – matching up the expense to a flight number and asking for new info if it changes – and what happens to the credit.

    2. Teapot PR consultant*

      #2, allowing staff to keep credits for travel changes is in my view a fraud risk–it would enable a hypothetical member of staff to book an expensive fare, take a cheap one and pocket the difference.

      I am not suggesting that you would or intended to do this; just that the risk that someone would do it is there.

      Air miles/frequent flyer points are quite different.

      1. eplawyer*

        which is the solution here. Southwest does have a frequent flier program. The traveler can use their rewards number to get credit in the program, but the nonprofit keeps any travel credits for cheaper flights.

      2. Snowglobe*

        Yes, fraud risk is the first thing I thought of, and the reason that this should not be allowed.

      3. paul*

        That is exactly why we have to use those credits for work travel.

        The only limiting thing has been when someone got a credit then didn’t travel again until it expired or they left. But that’s just the breaks IMO.

      4. JS*

        I honestly don’t see how it would be a fraud risk unless the company is allowing the person to book their own travel. If HR is booking or a travel agent, etc, and they book the cheapest flight at the time then it couldn’t be seen as fraud if prices change later.

        Unless this is happening so often where a single person is pocketing thousands of dollars I don’t see it as a problem.

        This also brings up the issue of what to do with delayed/0verbooked flights? Usually airlines offer vouchers or credits for delays/overbook if someone is willing to give up their seat. I don’t think it would be considered fraud or the company should profit from the traveler being inconvenienced.

        1. sstabeler*

          the difference is that for delayed flights or overbooked flights- and business travellers often can’t wait for the next flight, so can’t volunteer to give up their seat- is that the credit isn’t from something the traveller did. In the OP’s case, it’s not really functionally different from returning the company-bought ticket and buying the other tickets with the proceeds- which is much clearer as fraud, since the traveller is profiting at the company’s expense. It’s no worse than some other expenses scams I’ve heard of, but it’s not really acceptable.

    3. Sue Wilson*

      I would agree that any credits need to be used for work travel first (and I would go further and say that employees should be required to use them for work travel if they have them, since the OP says some people don’t use them at all), and they need to be clear about the legality as you said. But I think there’s some ambiguity in that the credits are non-transferable and time-limited. In that case there simply might not be an opportunity for that specific employee to use the credit for work within a year. Should they just let it lapse?

      Because of the way the credits are applied, I disagree with Alison that the company having to pay the higher fee is relevant or that this is practically a refund on the fee. This is clearly Southwest’s way of not charging a rebooking fee AND declining to give an ACTUAL credit, but essentially give a voucher to the traveler (like some airlines do if they themselves take a passenger off a flight and put them on a later one). The company is going to have to pay that fee regardless. That said because of the legal issue I would suggest the company call Southwest and see if they can make a deal to actually refund the difference to the company, instead of the voucher policy, since the non-profit uses them pretty exclusively.

      1. Nines*

        This was my thought! Southwest can’t manage corporate accounts any differently than this? That seems bizarre!

      2. Snowglobe*

        The company I work for has a corporate account with Southwest, and we can transfer credits to a corporate “bank” which can be used by other employees.

        1. SpiderLadyCEO*

          This sounds so much more helpful. I imagine keeping track of credits that only last a year and can only be used be one person is a giant hassle, so if this is an option for the NP in question, they should definitely go for it.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I was going to say this. If the org uses Southwest this heavily, my understanding is that Southwest’s business services accounts allow organizations to keep and redistribute the credit to other travelers within the organization.

        3. JS*

          This sounds like the best solution for a non-profit. Otherwise there is no practical way to transfer credits as usually travel is booked through coporate or HR and they would not be using the specific person’s account therefore not having access to the credit.

      3. Observer*

        In that case there simply might not be an opportunity for that specific employee to use the credit for work within a year. Should they just let it lapse?

        Yes, they should. And the org should be managing this better. I’d be willing to bet that the credit could be used most of the time, since travel is common at the org. But even if not, you never want to have a situation where an employee has a clear incentive to play games. In a private company, the management cold make a decision that it’s a reasonable risk to take. In a non-profit any auditor worth anything is going to be questioning this one.

        But, yeah, I have to believe that there is some way for Southwest to handle corporate accounts more sensibly.

        1. Em Too*

          Yeh. UK civil service workers were (are?) not allowed to book first class train travel even if it’s the cheapest option*, to stop people deliberately booking late in the hope that the cheapest tickets left are first class. Opportunities for staff to play games are not good.

          *UK train pricing is kinda crazy.

  3. T3k*

    #3, also depends on the industry. The one I’m in, almost everyone does casual (shorts, graphic tees, etc.), though some may do what you did (nice shirt with jeans). If someone showed up to an interview dressed in a suit, they’d be side eyed because it’s so out of the industry’s norm, though it wouldn’t be egregious enough to not hire them. So really, it’s also understanding a particular industry’s norms and planning accordingly.

      1. Gens*

        I’ve worked in places so casual people showed up in PJs and management still rejected interviewees who didn’t wear business formal

        1. Mike C.*

          I remember my father telling me once that he was almost rejected for a job he’s had for years specifically because he wore a suit and they thought he was really out of touch.

          It really depends on the workplace.

        2. SpiderLadyCEO*

          Who are these people that feel comfortable wearing their pajamas in public? I don’t like when non-immediate family sees me in mine!

          1. Anon round the world*

            Where I am, if QA knows they’re going to be crunching (basically working round the clock with sporadic sleep) they’ll generally show up in something they can collapse in bed in as soon as they get home.

          2. Bea*

            Right?! I worked somewhere for a decade where I could have done it but it feels way out of touch. I guess it’s all very much how someone feels comfortable and their idea of pajamas too.

          3. Stranger than fiction*

            In my area, I believe it started with the high schools (several years ago) sometimes having “pajama pants day” and spread from there.

          4. General Ginger*

            I think the last time I felt comfortable wearing pajamas in public was in my 8AM freshman year lecture (one of my worst scheduling mistakes).

      2. many bells down*

        Video games. My husband went to his last interview in jeans and a polo shirt, but people showing up in a video-game tee and shorts would not be terribly surprising, especially for a company in California.

        Heck, there’s a guy in his office right now who never wears shoes. I’m assuming he didn’t wear them to interview, either.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I definitely think it’s about knowing your industry but even then there’s often disagreement (eg I’ve seen articles where people from the same industry have opposite things to say about whether a suit is needed).

      I would generally stay away from jeans. I personally have never owned a suit, and I don’t like wearing heels. I have always struggled to pull together interview outfits but will generally go with something along the lines of dark trousers and some kind of print shirt/blouse.

      In the fields I’ve worked in (media and non-profits) there hasn’t been a noticeable correlation between having a higher level job and dressing more smartly.

      The really key thing is to look like you made an effort and aren’t sloppy – having clean, non-crumpled clothes, hair that’s not wet from swimming*, etc. (*AAM has taught me this is not, in fact, a given.)

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah, I feel like in the situation she’s describing, the hiring manager was basically saying, “No jeans.” Even though many pairs of other pants are equivalently casual, I find that jeans read as more casual, unless they’re particularly trouser-y and paired with a blazer or something. In medicine, one of the few rules of dress is no sweats and no jeans. Those dress pants that are basically thick leggings? Totally fine. Khakis, t-shirt, and cardigan? Fine. Just not jeans. It’s funny. I wonder if jeans’ history is just too linked with physical labour and causal wear to be seen as ‘professional.’

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I would even take it further and say “no blue jeans” – I have totally gotten away with black jeans or even nice maroon ones at business casual jobs (including that that only allowed jeans on Fridays). Especially if you pair them with a nice blouse.

          1. Windchime*

            My workplace actually has a “No *blue* jeans” dress code. You can wear black, pink. yellow, gray–any color of jeans except traditionally blue jeans. I find it odd.

            1. EddieSherbert*

              I like that dress code, haha – I love my jeans and would helpfully wear them everyday! But that’s funny they explicitly call it out… I usually assume people weren’t actually aware that they were letting it slide or didn’t realize I still had jean material on.

    2. Lady Phoenix*

      I went to an interview at a tattoo parlor and I asked before the interview about how to dress. They still wanted business casual for the interview, even though The actual work would be in tshirts and jeans.

      So just because something IS casual doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put your 100% in first impressions.

    3. Bea*

      I worked at a mill and the only reason wearing jeans is acceptable for the interview process is because there’s a chance you’re hired and could start that day. Otherwise showing up too casual runs the risk of looking like you’re not interested in showing you’re serious about getting off on the right foot with the company.

      My boyfriend had a courtesy interview for a labor position, he was just meeting the boss for the sake of meeting them. However he dressed appropriately and didn’t come in wearing shorts and a tshirt because that looks sloppy to so many folks. It’s hard to find a balance because even in the same industry, I’ve seen a wild difference in each company’s culture.

      I’ve worn a suit for the last two jobs I’ve had and always end up wearing jeans and t-shirts day to day.

    4. Rebecca in Dallas*

      As a general rule I think it’s better to overdress than underdress, so I have always worn a suit (or at least dress pants and a blazer) to interviews. When I was a retail manager and hired a lot of high school and college kids, I always thought it was more important that they look polished rather than really dressed up. I saw everything from fast food uniforms to suits. I know their budget is tight and that they also may not be up to date on interviewing norms, so I’d give things like jeans a pass as long as they were clean, no rips, etc.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Oh, and I can remember a couple of instances where the interviewee was more casual than I would have liked but I still liked them enough to hire them. I always made sure to cover the dress code with them at the end of the interview, even though I knew it was also part of the onboarding.

    5. Kate 2*

      Yes, this is so industry dependent. Even region dependent. Where I am NO women in office jobs wear suits to their interviews, or even on the job. You look really out of touch if you do, and get side-eyed. What they go for here is really classy, upscale business casual. Nice jewelry, a fancy sweater, slacks or skirt. I found this out the hard way the first couple of interviews I had. Luckily I caught on and started dressing the way those 2 interviewers had.

    6. OP #3*

      Honestly, I felt this fell under that. I was a lifeguard, so the uniform was a swimsuit. If you’d just been in the water, you literally walked around finishing your shift with a towel wrapped around your waist.

    7. Scott*

      I think it’s somewhat dependent on the level to which you’re applying. If you are applying to fast food, entry level, type job I would go with maybe non-jean pants (either kakis or dress pants, but not necessarily custom fit), and a button up dressy shirt, and try not to have wacky shoes. For my engineering internship interview I interviewed with a suit except for the jacket. I think for anything above an entry level job, this is the bare minimum, even if you walk into the company and you’re the only one who looks “dressed up”. After all, you’re not trying to fit in, you’re trying to stand out, and you definitely don’t look stupider when you’re overdressed than when you’re underdressed. It’s really not expensive to dress this well if you go cheap.

  4. Annonymouse*

    Yeah, it is still too recent for you to be considered again.

    It’s going to look like Gumption! ™ at best and like you can’t take the hint/want to be put on a blacklist at worst.

    If you believe there was a terrible mistake because of how narrow your field is then the BEST you might be able to get away with is asking for an update on your original application.

    But your field has to be pretty narrow and your skills and experience outstanding.

    E.g I’m a martial arts teacher who is a gun at admin/can run day to day operations pretty much by myself. So if I don’t even get a phone interview for a position at another school when there are only about 15 people in my COUNTRY with a skill set like mine (and they run their own schools)… there’s been a mistake.

  5. TL -*

    OP3: for interviews where I’m not sure about the formality (lots of lab interviews are puzzling on this front), I have a deniably formal outfit that I love – black slacks, black flats, and a nice dark blue silk Burberry shirt, in the style of a button-down with only three buttons and short sleeves (that was on sale and still ridiculously expensive and totally worth it.)

    With my hair neatly done, minimal make up, and a necklace, it looks nicely formal without being imposing – I don’t look ridiculously overdressed next to someone in a t-shirt and jeans, just a bit nicer. But put me next to someone in a suit, and I only look at step or so below them.

    I think a lot of this has to do with the dark colors and the fabric – the shirt is silk, cut nicely, and looks like it, but it’s not starched or ironed (or wrinkled, obviously!) so it doesn’t look stiffly formal. I can also throw a black suit jacket over it and bam! I have suited up :)

    1. SS Express*

      This is the perfect outfit for that situation! Black pants, black flats and a silk/chiffon blouse in a dark colour is one of my go-tos when I’m not sure of the dress code, or have multiple events that require different levels of corporate-ness (e.g. meeting with an important client, fancy lunch, laid back training session, beers and burgers with someone who won’t be in work clothes).

    2. Caelyn*

      Interviews can be really tricky to dress for before you figure out a couple of go-to outfits.

      I recently interviewed for a paralegal position at a small law firm and wore a black button down blouse tucked into a pencil skirt (woven, black with some blue, green, and silver threads running through it), thick black tights, and black ankle boots. It was warm enough for the weather, and they complimented me on my outfit after I asked about the firm’s dress code. It’s an outfit I’ve worn to work before, but I also could’ve thrown a blazer on top if I wanted to.

    3. TL -*

      I realized that this advice is only relevant for women – if a man, I…have absolutely no idea what the appropriate outfit would be. Maybe a colored button-up and dark slacks?

      1. tink*

        Yes, that’s basically my partner’s go-to outfit. Black dress slacks, a colored button-up, with a tie brought along in case the place is more formal.

        1. Penny Lane*

          Except please don’t do that look where a guy wears a tie with a button-down shirt, but no jacket. It looks like a ten-year-old boy playing dress-up!

          (This is different from being in a business formal office where a man might remove his jacket and be sitting at his desk with button-down shirt and tie. It’s assumed that the man still has a jacket someplace.)

          1. Turquoisecow*

            Yeah, the jacket-but-no-tie look is better than the tie-with-no-jacket look.

            My husband works in tech. For important but not too important meetings, he’ll wear a jacket and no tie. For more important meetings he’ll wear a jacket and tie with nice slacks. For really important meetings, a suit. Everyday, it’s khakis and button-down shirt (not always buttoned).

          1. Safetykats*

            There is no such thing as a short-sleeved
            “dress” shirt.

            Although technically, very few businessmen wear a true dress shirt, as a true dress shirt also doesn’t have a pocket.

      2. HannahS*

        A lot of men I know go for light khaki pants and a coloured dress shirt, plus or minus a knitted sweater/cardigan depending on the weather.

    4. Stephanie*

      My “I’m unsure how dressy to go” default is a nice wrap or sheath dress with low heels (both in dark colors) for similar reasons to TL (I can look put together, but if I goof up, I still look pretty put together). I also throw a suit jacket over it to look dressy. (I kind of hate most suit pants.)

      I think if you’re not going to do a suit, the key is for the clothing to be as high-quality as you can afford, neutral, and well-fitting.

      In my industry (engineering), a suit is usually a safe bet unless it’s a startup or tech company.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        I periodically do a What Not to Wear session for engineering undergrad students and this is basically exactly what I recommend, combined with TL’s outfit for a pants option.

    5. Knitting Cat Lady*

      I interviewed at a hospital once.

      I showed up in my usual interview clothes (nice black pants, nice shoes, blouse, jacket).

      I was told to ditch the jacket, handed a lab coat (to blend in and not confuse the patients) and was interviewed while being shown around the hospital facilities.

      I was interviewing for a technician role concerning radiation treatment.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I’m just remembering the time I had a group interview (ugh) at a well-known newsagent in the UK (begins with W) and when they called to offer me the interview they said to come as myself, jeans would be fine, no need to dress up. I said I had facial piercings and would take them out. They said no need, it was fine to wear them. I got the job, but later discovered the manager had said “I hope she smartens up.” I was so annoyed when I found out about that! I would have looked smart if I hadn’t been told not to.

        1. AnnaleighUK*

          I had a Saturday job with the Newsagent That Starts With W and they made me take my earrings out. And basically gave me a huge lecture about dress code at my interview which you don’t need as a sixteen year old, plus you have uniforms so uh… yeah.

          This was like twenty years ago but I wonder if it was just my branch seeing as the cashiers in our local one now have like pink hair and nose rings. That wouldn’t have flown in the one I worked in.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            I’m totally American, because until you mentioned cashiers, I assumed newsagent was similar to a newspaper or magazine. :)

        2. Penny Lane*

          I think it’s entirely within the range of normal to expect that a person with facial piercings (for non-religious reasons) would take them out. I’m kind of surprised that someone would keep them in, knowing how others are distracted by them. Why take the chance?

          1. JustaTech*

            Because there are some facial piercings you can’t put back after you take them out? I don’t have any, but several coworkers and classmates with them have told me that not all piercings are the same, and particularly with some styles of lip piercing if you take the jewelry out you’ll have to get it re-pierced.

            And then there’s the issue of showing up to your first day with piercings you didn’t have at the interview.

            1. LavaLamp*

              This. I have an extra ear piercing that if I so much as look at it funny it gets infected or irritated. If I leave it without jewelry for more than the amount of time to change the earring it starts to close. Some piercings can’t just be taken in and out at will. I don’t take that earring out for anything including surgery.

          2. Kate 2*

            Lots of people are “distracted” by lots of different things. For me this gets precariously close to saying other people should get to dictate how you look and dress. I have heard people seriously remark that they find “unnatural” hair colors distracting, clothing that fits distracting on women, etc. In my high school tank tops (bare shoulders oh my!) were so distracting to boys that girls weren’t allowed to wear them. If we were polite and didn’t wear anything that anyone finds distracting we’d probably all look like the wives of polygamous cult leaders. Covered chin to toes!

            1. Penny Lane*

              That’s quite a leap, going from distracting facial piercings to wearing full coverup gear a la sister wives. Are there no shades of gray between the two?

              As a woman, would you wear a tank top to an interview? Why or why not? Or what about an outfit that reveals lots of cleavage? (Let’s assume this isn’t a job application for Hooters) If not, does that mean other people are dictating how you look or dress? Because I don’t really believe that you think *anything* flies at a job interview. How you present yourself is full of all sorts of meaning, whether it’s pearls and a sweater set, a Brooks Brothers suit, a hoodie with jeans, tight leopard-skin pants and stiletto heels, a Stevie-Nicks-bohemian-gypsy look, or the just-rolled-out-of-bed-sweatpants look. And that goes for accessories as well – you are making a statement about yourself in how you adorn yourself, whether that’s a pearl circle pin, an antique cameo brooch, an expensive logo’d designer handbag, or visible tattoos / piercings.

            2. Thursday Next*

              In all honesty, many people would find the totally covered-up look distracting as well. It’s sufficiently outside mainstream dress norms, and signals religious orthodoxy.

              I agree with Penny Lane below that three are certainly gradations of dress/accessories, etc.

          3. Ramona Flowers*

            Because they told me to. And I didn’t want to seem like I couldn’t follow instructions.

      2. TL -*

        Oh interesting! I worked in an academic lab role in the hospital and I think literally the only dress code we had that wasn’t safety-inspired (no open toed shoes, no midriffs, no short-shorts) was not to wear a lab coat out of the lab, because they didn’t want patients mistaking us for medical staff.

        The doctors I worked with, however, were much more formal in their clothing – business professional without the suit and nice brands of clothing.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          If I had ended up in that role I would have been the one to actually figure out what and how much radiation treatment to apply. To that end I would have been expected to get another degree in medical physics.

          I made the second round but declined another interview because I had already accepted another offer and wouldn’t have taken the job anyway.

          My mental health wouldn’t have held up dealing with cancer patients for long.

          Imaging was more my thing.

          Currently I do radiation protection, where I ended up via safety analyses…

          And the dress code at my company for us engineers is very easy:

          1. Don’t come naked and keep the important bits covered.
          2. Be clean.

          At my job interview for this role the HR guy showed up in suit and tie. The department head did too. And my future boss showed up in ratty jeans, a threadbare fleece pullover and extremely worn sandals.

          I did dress up a bit my first few years to get taken more seriously as I look extremely young for my age. As in I still get carded for stuff you need to be 16 to buy at 34.

          Now I wear jeans and t-shirt. Or Bermuda shorts in summer.

          1. TL -*

            Yeah, my manager only treated lung cancer and I am very glad that is not my career path.

            But our lab was great for clothing – our PI always wore a suit, the MD/PhDs dressed really nicely on days they were MDs and holey jeans and t-shirts on days they were PhDs, us lab rats ranged from jeans to slacks to sweats/workout leggings, and the admin staff and lone grad student dressed business casual.

    6. Parenthetically*

      Yes! Dark colors, particularly black pants, are SO versatile! My husband just navigated interviews for a job where he wears a hoodie, jeans, and hi-vis gear, and his go-to outfit was crisp black chinos, grey suede boots, a grey collared shirt, and a dark green sweater. He wouldn’t look out of place next to someone in jeans and work boots but he also looked “put together” enough to be in an office interview setting.

    7. Science!*

      I’m in biology. After college I applied for research assistant positions and wore a suit to my interviews. One interview, after I met with the PI, had me go in the lab and run a PCR (it was weird, the post-doc who had me do this made a mistake and got salty with me about it). Trying to do labwork in heels is not fun. I wish I’d been warned.

      When I interviewed for grad school they specified that part of the interview would require going out into the the street and walking a block, in a cold, snowy and possibly icy environment and we were advised to wear comfortable and safe shoes. One of the PIs who gave an interview is wildly eccentric and loves to show off his “fancy shoes”: white sneakers painted black. The program director always wear a bright blue fleece vest in the winter. At the same time, dressing business casual is expected for the interview. It was commented on about the one candidate who wore jeans (but with a nice button down top) but I doubt it truly affected their ultimate decision about him.

      1. TL -*

        You should not have been doing bench work during your interview! Literally everywhere I’ve worked you can’t so much as pick up a pipette without their specific institutional safety training. Though I’ve found a suit is usually too much for most labs and heels are not appropriate (because you can do a walk through of the lab and they are not practical for safety reasons.)

        It sounds like you didn’t get the job and I think you dodged a big, big bullet!

    8. NaoNao*

      I have a similar outfit: slim black cropped trousers, silky shirt, cropped boxy blazer with small embroidered flower detail on it. It’s not “banker” formal but it’s one step above business casual and it reads as a suit in a pinch. I can dress it down with flats or up with heels.

    9. OP #3*

      But the thing is, I wasn’t unsure of the formality. I was applying to be a lifeguard so the uniform was literally a swimsuit and flip-flops, sometimes with shorts and a tank top over it.

      1. TL -*

        The formality of the interview is quite different from the formality of the job – this is what I would wear to interview for a casual dress job like a lifeguard.

      2. OxfordComma*

        When you interview for a job, you’re trying to be the best you that you can be. Think of it that way. Even if the job means you’re gonna be in a bathing suit, being a bit more formal at the interview means that you’re serious about the job.

        At a minimum, I’d argue that with a few exceptions mentioned here, jeans are almost always a no. If you’re a woman, I’d suggest staying the heck away from leggings as pants and jeggings as well. They might work for some jobs, but they’ll be seen as way too casual in too many others.

        When you start looking for full-time work in your chosen profession, try to find out what the industry standards are and if they differ by region.

  6. Someone else*

    #1 is a toughie. I think there are two possibilities here:
    1) Boss is a jerk. Having the conversation Alison suggests may clarify if that’s the case or not, and then you can decide if you’re cool with it or not.
    2) You may have seriously misjudged your current progress and pace, and while I don’t think he’s doing this in a remotely tactful or productive way, these comments may be his version of “setting expectations”. That might actually still make him a jerk, but slightly less of one and it might be useful information to have if he expected more progress by now.

    I’m struggling reading the scenario myself because I can’t help but project a little. I have a situation at work where we absolutely expected a person in a particular position to be fully functional at all their jobs duties within 6-9 months of starting, and they were apparently surprised by this after taking the role. We wouldn’t expect someone with significantly less experience than the person they’re replacing to be as great at the job as the person with six years experience and tons of institutional knowledge. However, a year in, to expect you to know what you’re doing, to have full ownership of that position, there’s no job in my company where that wouldn’t be entirely normal and expected. I don’t think OP1’s boss is communicating this in the ideal manner, but the notion of “you have one year” on its own, absent more details about the role, sounds normal to me.

    So I think, if the specific things he’s saying “a year from now you shouldn’t need to ask for help about this” about strike you as something no one with only one year in could possibly achieve, I’d probably take a step back and examine that. On the other hand, if the things he saying this about are more “of course in a year I’ll know this, but I don’t know it today“, that’s a different type of problem. And of course, if he’s doing it about both types of things and just generally putting you on edge all the time, then it’d make me think it’s even more likely he might’ve been spooked in the past by a bad situation in which he wanted someone up to speed in one timeframe and they had a drastically different idea of what’s reasonable. I don’t know whether his timeline or yours is reasonable, but regardless if your notions of how long it should take to fully assume the role are drastically different, you might be in a “bad fit” territory.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Sure, but it must be really demoralising and strange to hear someone say this constantly – instead of being told what goals you’re expected to meet in, say, one month, three months, etc.

      And I suppose for me there are two ways of looking at it. You can focus on what he’s saying and forgive the poor delivery – or you can focus on how he’s saying it. I think I would find it very hard not to do the second one. Sometimes you can explain away the meaning of what someone is saying with plenty of reason and logic, when in reality they are saying it to someone who is understandably worried or stressed by whatever it is that’s being said.

      It is, let’s face it, unhelpful and weird of the boss to keep saying this – but it’s also possible he doesn’t realise it’s become such a tic. I’d be interested to know how boss responds when asked about it.

      1. Jesca*

        Yes, this. It is sort of like recieving a warning every time a person has a question. I can see how this would definitely create paranoia. I do not think the OP is writing in because she is concerned about not being up to speed. I think she is writing in because she is afraid and for a couple reasons.

        1. Her boss seems to be threatening her ever time she asks a question. (this is one of those times where the intent I don’t think matters much. It sounds threatening to say that to a new employee every time they ask a question – and she is knew as she just started there)
        2. That she will be afraid to ask questions after a year. Sure you can be “up to speed” in a position, but you also may not know or remember every where files for something are stored or how X ran in the past. Basically she is afraid to be her boss will be unreasonable, because he is expressing himself in an unreasonable fashion now.

        The OP says she is comfortable with being up to speed but I think she recognizes that she will need help in the future from time to time, and doesn’t want her manager to threaten her every time she asks.

        I know that if a boss was saying this to me every time I asked a question, I would not be able to help myself from responding with “This is a two way street. You have a year to convince you are worth working with as well. So either speak to me about this is more specific terms, or be more reasonable.” (don’t do what I do, though, as I am not a very agreeable person lol).

      2. Annabelle*

        Yeah, this is an important point. This sort of weird, vague warning isn’t gonna help OP be better at her job. It’s also pretty normal for people to have questions about things when they’re only a few months in, so it just strikes me as kind of a jerk thing to say.

      3. Competent Commenter*

        Yep, how demoralizing. Makes me think of the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride telling Westly every night, “Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

    2. Huddled over tea*


      I would honestly be very surprised at hiring anyone into our company who wasn’t up to speed in well under a year…

    3. JennyAnn*

      At my last position, I was advised by my boss that the expectation was it would take at least a year to be fully trained. The day to day stuff, yeah, we were expected to pick up in a reasonable time frame, but we were operations assistants in the construction field, so a lot of our other responsibilities were dependent of the job schedules, the nuances and specifics of the jobs themselves, etc.
      I’d definitely speak to your boss about their time frames. I just did this myself – asked to meet with my supervisor and my project managers to make sure we were all on the same page about my pace. It was reassuring to actually talk it out rather than second guessing myself on things.

      1. schnauzerfan*

        We are a staff of 9. 3 of us have over 30 years each in the department. Us 3 old timers have to remind the newer staff that none of us knows what all of us know. Just because you’ve been here 5 years, 10 years don’t be afraid to ask for help. Also, some of the newer staff know way more about this social media thing or that popular culture thing than some of the long term people, and we won’t hesitate to pick the brains of the person(s) who know “thing.” Much better to ask then to give a bad answer.

        We also have many things that only happen once a year or once a semester…

    4. Ainomiaka*

      But what he’s asking is to have 0 questions in a year. Maybe my jobs are just more technical, but I have never had a job where I asked 0 questions a year out, or junior coworkers that I trained had 0 questions a year out. That just seems so weird to me. Also at least in my industry a way to fail future audits.

      1. Hasayear*

        Hi original OP here – thank you all for your comments! As I said to someone earlier up in the thread, my main concern is that a lot of my job duties shift throughout the year and so there are a lot of tasks that i literally do once a year. There are things I did once my second week won’t come up again until I’ve been on staff for a year in two weeks. Now that I’m thinking about it more, part of me thinks he actually thinks he might be encouraging me to ask questions by saying this (because I’m established in this career) and as also maybe a little bit of a jerk…but I feel like it’s threatening and as other people noted, I think it’s really unrealistic that in a year I will have zero questions. I guess I’ll try to address it with him in our one on ones but I am nervous about it.

        1. Ainomiaka*

          It could be more in the sense “you have a year before you have to do it again”, maybe? Still weird, still not helping, but I guess less of a threat? Unfortunately it sounds like you already know you have to talk to him. I hope you give an update, I’d love to hear how it turns out.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Hopefully there’s some documentation you van reference for these things that only come up once in a while or once a year? If not, start making some.

  7. AcademiaNut*

    For high-school part-time or summer jobs, I think it’s usually safe to define the zero-point (ie, the most casual outfit you should wear), as non-jean slacks and a non-t-shirt top which covers the shoulders, no matter how casual the actual work attire would be (like a lifeguard job where you wear a bathing suit).

    Outside of that, it’s very common to dress better for an interview than you would expect to dress at the job, but it varies a lot by field and position.

    1. Penny Lane*

      I think that is a good frame of reference. I am surprised that parents of a high schooler wouldn’t tell the high schooler to go one level up beyond jeans, no matter how casual the ultimate job might be.

      1. Momofpeanut*

        Many high schoolers don’t bother asking their fuddy duddy parents – all three of our daughters were struck by a lightening bolt that sent them out omapply for a job on a whim!

        1. OP #3*

          It actually was a lifeguard job. I did ask my parents, and they thought what I was wearing was fine (although, fwiw, neither of them work office jobs, and my dad’s job was dirty). Again, I’d say what I was wearing was two steps, at least, above a swimsuit and flip-flops. One step being lighter jeans, tennis shoes and a fitted t-shirt.

  8. JamieS*

    #3, I’ve always taken the dress one step up advice to mean dress slightly better than you would on a day to day basis with business casual being the general minimum level of dress. For the future, I’d recommend thinking in broad categories instead of literally one or two steps above. For example if the job is casual (anything less than business casual) wear business casual, if the job is business casual probably still wear business casual but slightly dressier, business casual that strongly favors the business then go with a business look and hold the casual.

    Course there are industries where jeans are perfectly acceptable to wear to an interview but if you’re not 100% sure I’d still err on the side of wearing business casual since, IMO, companies are more likely to be put off by dressing too casually for an interview than dressing too formally so long as you don’t dress way over the line of formality.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      In business casual offices, I’ve always seen interviewees (wow, spellcheck thinks that’s a word!) dress in business formal.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Yeah, I know what the OP means. . .I worked in a plant during high school, and while my mother made me wear slacks and a jacket to the interview, most people wore jeans and a nice shirt at best. But, there are too many exceptions to consider this a rule, especially for high school jobs. What if you are interviewing to be Chuck E. Cheese? Or as someone mentioned, a lifeguard? I think the rule really only translates to 1.)biz casual offices, where wearing a suit or sport coat to an interview is what is appropriate, or 2.) industrial manual labor type jobs where a uniform is worn OTJ and jeans and a nice shirt are okay for an interview.

      1. JamieS*

        Agreed there are definite exceptions but I’d still go with business casual at a minimum unless you’re 100% sure (which I can’t see a high schooler at their first interview being) or are specifically told by the company to wear something more casual. Sure you may be slightly overdressed compared to others but I don’t think it’ll be a problem 99.99% of the time as long as you don’t go overboard by showing up in something like a 3 piece suit.

        If I were in OP’s place, I’d find some outfits that are dressy-casual. Dressy enough to pass as business casual but casual enough to not be out of place in a casual dress interview environment.

        1. Momofpeanut*

          I have never heard an interviewer complain about a person being overdressed. Business formal (or dressing for a funeral if you’re a high schooler) shows respect, care, and consideration.

      2. Stormy*

        This would make an amazing crowd-sourced article. What did Disneyland characters wear to their interviews? How about haunted house actors? What about special effects makeup artists–is it appropriate for them to go all out? So many questions!

    3. LizB*

      Agreed with all of this. I think the one-step-up rule kind of falls apart when the baseline dress code is ultra casual. If you’re interviewing for a swim instructor position, you’re going to be wearing a swimsuit to work most days, so technically jeans would be a step up — but I’d still go with nice business casual for the interview. Better to think about it in categories, like you said.

    4. OP #3*

      Well, fwiw, I’d consider a suit minus the jacket (which is essentially what the guy applying was wearing) to be way overdressed for a job that requires athletic wear. I’m pretty sure you can’t get more casual than that!

    5. Arlie Ermy*

      I almost missed getting a job because I was too dressed up! I was wearing a matching long cardigan and skirt. The advertised job was veterinary assistant; this was a couple of years before the Vet Tech programs developed.

      The docs gave me a tour of the clinic. They kept giving me odd looks. Towards the end, I saw a calendar with a picture of a huge horse barn and said, “That reminds me of my last job!” They asked what I did there. In the morning I swept up behind the guys that cleaned the 75 stalls, and then worked for a trainer, grooming 14 Saddlebreds, cleaning tack, and “other duties as assigned.”

      They hired me on the spot. Later, the boss told me that they thought, because I was nicely dressed, that I wouldn’t want to get dirty!

  9. Mookie*

    The thing that seems especially galling to me about that phrase jettisoned at LW1 is that she, LW1, will never be Predecessor. Not in a year. Not in six. Not in sixteen. Predecessor shaped the role over those six years, that much is clear. In a year and should all go well and Boss stop acting a prat, LW1 will likely have molded it to fit herself and fit it amply, but it’ll be different. This is Marnie in reverse. You can’t go home again, and sometimes people, who are your friends and who are under you, leave. Boss needs someone to sit him down and tell him this.

    1. MilkMoon (UK)*

      Yeah I’m getting a vibe that he may never be satisfied with anyone but the predecessor :|

      1. Mookie*

        And if his concern has merit, was Predecessor involved in any transitional training, did she sit in or provide feedback during the hiring process? And was Predecessor independent enough over those past six years that the boss is unable, because of ignorance, to adequately orient the LW to tasks and procedures? Did Predecessor hoard information, did she never compile a policy manual?

        There’s an axiom out there that involves a mentee borking up so badly that their manager is being advised to fire them; if I remember it correctly, according to the axiom if that heinous borking happens in the first few weeks or early on enough that some lesser, but related mistakes could reasonably have been anticipated, the manager is the one that looks bad and actually did the borking. If the LW really is doing a bork, the manager is the one that’s failing and should be held accountable. Lecturing someone to Get Better Faster, Even When I’m Giving You Bogus Information is not really the mark of competence and good faith. It’s an order that goes from Do This Unspecified Thing to Profit?? without any intervening steps. It also may indicate that this passing-of-the-buck will never change and that the growing pains of this position, under this specific boss, may not be worth the hassle or may, in fact, never really dissipate. I know who I’d blame for that.

        Anyway, he sounds like he knows he’s not performing at full capacity here, so this is more about lack of will, rustiness, and/or laziness on his part. People need to be able to ask questions, even when it’s a situation like this, where research into Predecessor’s Greatest Hits are a useful fount of information. No, the same questions shouldn’t be asked again and again, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what the LW is doing.

        My script, roughly, would be: “I notice you’re frequently giving me, in the moment, a deadline for twelve months from now to get myself sorted. That’s useful to have a timeline and I’m glad to know you’re aware of the challenges I face. Knowing more about the role now than I did when I started, I am confident I can meet those challenges, but I’m also aware that in getting used to this position I will be asking you questions that in a year from now will not be appropriate because I should already know the answers and have had the experience applying them. I’m wondering if instead of trouble-shooting this piecemeal, we take advantage of Predecessor’s organization and lay out explicitly some expectations for me in a year from now so I can start systematically working at specific goals. I think doing so would help me to shift to the independence you want me to have while also making us both accountable about how we want to get there.”

        1. I am Fergus*

          I had a boss one time say to me on m 11th day (yes 11 days) and I quote

          You have have no critical thinking skills.
          You are no better than a college intern
          You are getting paid more than a college intern
          We are over paying you.

          I should have quit on the spot. I lasted @3 more weeks. I don’t know why he recruited and hired me.

    2. Hasayear*

      Hi original OP here – I think you captured this situation pretty well haha. Part of why I wrote in is because at this point I GET IT, he wants me to have a been handle on things in a year. Obviously I want that too, and I’m not concerned about my ability to do this job (and he has also told me he thinks I’m doing a good job, was the right fit etc), but I am not this other person and I think in his best case scenario my predecessor would never have left.

  10. Aglaia761*

    OP #2, if your company uses Southwest that much, they really need to join the free SWABIZ program. Then, any credits earned will go back to the organization automatically and they may qualify for free tickets or use the credits towards more expensive tickets. And, the auditors and CFO will appreciate it.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Wow, so there’s actually a way to avoid this entire situation? I hope the OP sees this.

      Especially as, with this solution available, the optics kind of look worse if people are personally benefiting from not using it.

    2. CatCat*

      Yeah, I used to travel a lot on Southwest and switched flights fairly often, which occasionally resulted in a flight that was cheaper than the original booking. My employer used SWABIZ and I never had to deal with anything like OP is describing.

    3. paul*

      We apparently don’t do enough travel on them to do that (so I’ve been told–I don’t know the requirements and maybe they just mean it isn’t worth the paperwork for 5-6 flights a year) but yes, this exactly.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      Seriously. Constantly being told this for asking questions would send my anxiety through the roof.

      1. Hasayear*

        Original OP – Unfortunately I really do think I need to stay for several years, my last org folded and I left the position before that because of a difficult boss, so even if he tells me that every day for the next year I’m sticking with it.

  11. MommyMD*

    Maybe if you applied for a position six months ago and it came up, you could reapply. Five days? You would look like a candidate who cannot take no for an answer. They reposted the position to bring in fresh applicants.

    1. Triplestep*

      I’m the age of Applicant Tracking Software, I don’t know if this is true. You have no way of even knowing human eyes have seen your resume.

      This last time around, I applied to a job for which I checked every single box, right down to my knowledge of some obscure software that I happen to know is not popular in my region. If history is any guide, I should have at least gotten a phone interview. The application included a mandatory field which asked the year of my college graduation. This seemed like a thinly veiled attempt to determine the age of applicants, so I scrolled way down and picked the earliest year, 1917. Lo and behold, no interview, and the job was reposted.

      I’m nearly positive my application was dumped by the ATS for having graduated more than “x” number of years ago. The job poster (as seen on LinkedIn) was about a year out of college. That is who is reviewing resumes these days, but only after a computer has filtered the results. When a job seeker has some rare skills and experience, she can often find herself a better judge of how good a match she is for the job than an inexperienced in-house recruiter using an ATS, but there’s not much you can do about it but reapply with a slightly different resume. (One that will make it through the ATS filters).

  12. L*

    You definitely have to take industry into account whe looking at the rules of dressing for interviews. My husband is a programmer and nice jeans with a good button up shirt, definitely no tie and a nice jacket are perfectly acceptable. A suit may actually be seen as too stiff or trying too hard to make up for a lack of skill. But that’s a weird industry and not the normal business world.

    1. OP #3*

      I actually did take industry into account. As I said in my letter, this was extremely casual – tight shirt athletic wear. I was applying for a lifeguard position, so the uniform was a swimsuit.

      1. Windchime*

        For what it’s worth, I think your interview outfit sounds just fine for a lifeguard position. Honestly, it would seem kind of weird to me to have people showing up in suits and business wear for that type of outdoorsy, athletic position. Maybe my viewpoint is skewed; I work in IT and a candidate who came in wearing a fancy suit and carrying a briefcase would get some serious side-eye. Nice slacks and a button-up or blouse is about as fancy as we get in IT (at least in the Pacific NW).

      2. Triplestep*

        I agree with Alison’s advice about jeans, but I can’t believe someone *lectured* you about attire for a lifeguard interview.

        One of my son’s first jobs in high school was as a lifeguard. When he came home from the interview, I was dismayed to see he had gone in looking rather scruffy and in rumpled t-shirt. He said “Mom, no one cares!” And in fact they did not because he got the job. (I viewed this as one more way the universe was trying to prove me wrong to my kids).

    2. Momofpeanut*

      I would argue that this is missing the boat. It’s not occupation; it’s corporate culture for the worksite. I worked in state government; a programmer who showed up for an interview there in jeans would be summarily dismissed, even though many of them are allowed to wear jeans to work.

      You will never go wrong in pair of slacks, shirt and tie for men or blouse for women, and a par of shoes that are leather (real or man-made) or comparable material. I frequently see people coming in for interviews dressed as if they dropped it off the street. I want to feel as if interviewing with my company is worth all the time and effort to be I frequently see people coming in for interviews dressed as if they dropped it off the street. I want to feel as if interviewing with my company is worth a little time and effort to the applicant, not something squeezed in on the way to the store.

  13. Pollygrammer*

    #1–He’s being a really terrible manager. I’m sorry you’re dealing with it.

    Can you joke it off? “I’ll have it down pat in 11 months and 29 days, don’t you worry!” If he’s pissy about a file that turns out not to exist, “so I can take that one off the 1-year countdown then?”

    Maybe there’s a chance that if ~you~ bring up the weird 1-year thing more, he may realize just how much he’s using it and how odd it is?

      1. ChaoticGood*

        Agree – match the level of jokeyness that your manager is being. If it’s truly a joke, you’ll feel a light-hearted response. You can always follow it up with “No, seriously, [predecessor] didn’t leave me good notes, what exactly is that file you want?”

        If there’s true annoyance, you gotta listen to other commenters: in one year, you need to be in another job. There’s nothing wrong with that and you have to respect your own time and happiness in jobs – and sometimes that means getting out.

    1. Hasayear*

      Original OP- I like that idea. I’ve kind of frozen/not responded every single time he’s said it because it’s really off putting and I just don’t know how to handle it but I’m totally going to try this.

  14. Stephanie*

    #1: Ugggggggh, I had a boss like this. I didn’t even get a year. Maybe like six months in, he said I asked too many questions and then asked me to start documenting the times I was going to ask a question and how I resolved it on my own. I sort of got that he was trying to get me to be more independent, but it did have the effect of making me terrified to ever ask a question.

    I’d ask him about his expectations for you being fully proficient, but it sounds like you’ve got an asshole boss. Only way that situation got resolved at that job…that boss quit.

    1. Amber O.*

      It also implies that there’s an expectation to know EVERYTHING on day 366 and that LW should never have to ask another question again. That’s unrealistic (and a little bit insane) at best. No one will ever know absolutely every single answer. I work with directors who have been with my company for close to 30 years (some for longer than I’ve been alive), and even they don’t know the answer to some questions I’ve come across. Or, they don’t know and they ask ME, the 20-something admin. Everyone has questions! It’s normal! I get encouraging people to be self sufficient and find answers/solutions on their own, but that tactic would make even the best of people paranoid and self conscious.

    2. Bea*

      These people are why I have to remind new folks that questions are necessary part of working as a team. Ick! I’m sorry the OP and you had to deal with these jerks.

  15. Mad Baggins*

    #4 How would this be an ego boost for you? Because you could talk your way into an interesting field and open up more possibilities for your future career? Sounds like you’re interested and should give it a shot!

    #3 I think this is a good opportunity to prepare several outfits for gray-zone dress codes. It’s always good to have options for times when you’re not sure if it’s business? Business casual? And then you’re going on a first date afterwards? Or bowling? And it’s going to be cold and rainy/hot and muggy?? Finding quality items that can work in multiple situations is part of putting together your adult wardrobe! (Though I think for most adults, myself included, it’s still a work in progress!)

    1. OP #4*

      Hi all. OP #4 here. Thanks for the nice comments so far.

      Applying to this job would be an ego boost because a potential interview would show that I’m marketable and for lack of a better word “wanted”. Maybe a little bit like when someone flirts with you while you’re already in a relationship. It feels good and makes you think “I’ve still got it”. Maybe its the 6 year itch too. The benefit to my resume and cover letter skills would be good- definitely shaking off the cobwebs.

      1. Shah Rukh*

        About a couple months ago I applied for a job with a salary range that was twice of what I’m making. I received a phone call from the recruiter but didn’t bother to return it, because I got the sense it was for a small, dysfunctional company and I wouldn’t last long there. Great ego boost though! I started applying for jobs I’d actually want to get, and I think the knowledge that I was qualified for a ridiculously high-paying job (even if only on paper) has helped make me look more confident at interviews.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        Your point about feeling “wanted” is interesting. As you say it’s certainly great to feel in demand, but does that mean your current employer doesn’t make you feel as valued? Maybe hearing out this company will bring to light issues with your current employer, and then you can choose to jump ship or stay and lobby for what you’re missing. Some food for thought! Either way sounds like you’ve got two great choices!

  16. Faintlymacabre*

    I once worked at a veterinary clinic, and a guy showed up to an interview for a receptionist position in a suit. It got him the side eye, but that paired with the fact that when he was asked if he had any pets, he replied he had a dog growing up and when asked what kind he said black, well, it seemed like he may not be the best fit.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      See, regardless of industry, I’d assume receptionist = customer facing = suit for interview. Not sure why that would raise eyebrows.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        All medical type receptionists I ever met wore some variety of scrubs.

        And in my industry the front desk is usually staffed by security and they wear the uniform of whatever security company is providing the security staff.

        No idea what one wears when interviewing at a security company.

        1. Oryx*

          And my experience has been the complete opposite. I’ve never seen a medical receptionist in scrubs. They always are dressed in some form of business wear.

          1. JLH*

            Medical receptionist here. I’m given the choice of wearing business casual or scrubs, but I choose business casual because I don’t deal with the actual medical aspects of patient care.

            For what it’s worth, I prefer interviewing in a nice dress, black sweater and tights, and plain black flats. It’s never seemed to be a detriment to me, but I agree it’s important to try and know the field. I did wear a suit for the interview I had working as an assistant in a construction office, and it made a good impression although was almost wildly formal compared to the people interviewing after I was hired. Mileage varies.

      2. Trickle*

        Yep. It seems seriously weird to side eye an interviewee for turning up to an interview in a suit. I bet people who are a little unconfident or new to the world of work stress out reading posts like this.

        In the U.K. It’s easy: go formal and you can’t go wrong. Nobody is going to penalise you for making an effort but they may penalise you for dressing down/looking scruffy. It’s just a sign of respect and taking the interview/their time seriously. I showed up to an interview for a factory production line in a suit. Got the job. Cutting icing off cakes for nine hours per day.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          The first time I interviewed for a Silicon Valley software job, where they flew me in from Texas, I wore the suit my mom insisted I had to have. Practically everyone said “you do know you don’t need a suit, right?”, but it was always in a helpful “we know you’re new to this” tone.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I think vet receptionist is a different type of role than medical. At least at the vets I’ve been to, the receptionists help take the animals to the exam rooms, sometimes clean up the exam rooms, and have always been dressed in scrubs or similar working clothes. A suit is pretty out of place for an interview if the job involves being hands-on with animals.

      He’d probably be fine if he was interviewing for a receptionist position in a regular office, but suit + answering “what kind of dog” with “black” definitely indicates that the guy isn’t familiar with vet office culture.

      1. Faintlymacabre*

        Exactly. Both details showed him to be out of touch with the position. The suit was an indication that maybe he didn’t understand the field, but if he had been otherwise excited and had relevant skills, we would have thought he erred on the side of formality. But he was just generally clueless.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        I don’t think a suit is out of place for an interview – everyone knows it’s not what you’d wear for the actual job in most cases. It’s showing you’re taking the process seriously. Smart jacket and tie would do as well for a not hugely formal job, but suit doesn’t raise eyebrows… a man coming without a tie is, here anyway, saying that he doesn’t really want the job.

  17. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 I actually think you could go – but if and only if you’d be okay with potentially realising you want the job after all. Which could be a right old spanner in the works if you don’t want to be faced with choosing between two jobs.

    I once went to an interview for a job I was sure I didn’t want and regretted applying for. Almost cancelled the interview, but couldn’t think what to say. So I went along… and fell in love with the place. Ended up taking the job!

    Why not update your resume anyway? You could always write the application and not send it. At the very least, shaking the cobwebs off your resume is good to do when you’re not under pressure.

    1. Antilles*

      From the outside, it’s really hard to be ‘sure’ you don’t want a job before even applying unless it’s not in your field (duh) or there’s some kind of logistical issue that makes it not feasible – relocation when your spouse can’t move their job, listed pay is way too low for you to live on, etc.

    2. Trader Joe's Fiend*

      Yes, this. I recently went on an interview that I was pretty sure I didn’t want. My flight there was delayed and I called my parents while sitting in the airport so that I could vent about how annoyed I was and how much I wanted to just go home.

      Turns out the job was a fantastic fit for my career plan, AND they treated me with respect through negotiations (which is something that the place I thought I wanted didn’t do).

      At the very least, an interview is a fact-finding mission, and it’s always worth finding out the facts.

  18. AlwhoisthatAl*

    #1 – so tempted to go with Alisons answer, I mean to say what an idiot. Whats it supposed to be ? Some kind of motivational expression taken from the “I like my employees to leave quickly” handbook ? I would be tempted to start looking round for something else, if he asks why you can also reply “well you said I only have a year”

    #3 – I would always turn up in a suit, for the simple reason that suits are far cheaper than smart casual and usually acceptable anywhere. I can pick up a new black suit jacket, trousers and blue shirt with free tie for £40/$60.
    (and I don’t possess any smart causal wear anyway)

  19. Marvel*

    #1 – I’m curious about the tone this is being said in. I could see it being an acceptable thing to say if it’s supposed to be reassuring–like if the subtext is a friendly “don’t worry about asking me questions, you have a year before I’m going to think it’s strange,” or something.

    But… assuming that’s not the case, honestly, I’m pretty appalled by this. Sometimes it makes sense to set a reasonable deadline at which you shouldn’t be asking routine questions anymore, but this is sooo not the way to do it. And you don’t want to be reminding someone of this “deadline” every time they ask a question, especially not in their first few months, when it’s perfectly normal and expected for them to do so! That’s bizarrely hostile and threatening. I’d keep an eye out for other red flags, and have that conversation with your boss–and if he doesn’t walk back the behavior, I’d be looking for another job.

    1. Parenthetically*

      “Bizarrely hostile and threatening” was exactly my read on the situation. I definitely do not want to work for a person whose emotional posture is Constant Mid-level Exasperation.

    2. anon scientist*

      I was wondering if there’s any chance he could be joking (albeit really poorly). From the other details, it doesn’t sound like it, but maybe it is possible? My boss likes to “joke” but she is also a micromanager and harsh in other ways, so it can be super difficult to understand when she is joking. I also think she says things in earnest and then says later that she was “just joking.”

      Ugh, I’d use Alison’s advice, but also think about how much you like this job and whether you want to find out what happens in a year.

    3. Myrin*

      Yeah, I’m honestly having a hard time even realistically imagining the situation OP describes because it’s so bizarre.
      My brain conjures up the image of him looming there over OP’s shoulder like the godfather while she frantically tries to explain that the files don’t exist and then he murmurs threateningly into her ear “You have a year, hihihiii~” and slinks outside.
      I seriously can’t come up with a situation where the “you have a year” line would sound in any way natural, let alone normal. (With the exception of the examples you’re giving, Marvel – I can see it as part of a much longer sentence/conversation but that doesn’t seem to be the case the way OP describes it.)

  20. Akcipitrokulo*

    I’ve been in current job 4 years. I’m very good at it and know a lot about different parts of business – it’s got to stage where people will say “ask Akcipitrokulo!” when someone comes in with random query.

    I still ask questions because some things I don’t know. Questions are reasonable. If I’d got the “you’ve got a year!” thing I’d have been job hunting because I don’t need that stress.

  21. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    The interview dress thing is such a minefield. I don’t own (and have never owned) a suit, and I work as a contractor in a fairly casual industry in the UK. The last four (successful!) interviews I’ve been at I’ve worn:

    1. A black jersey dress with grey blazer over, black tights, black boots, statement necklace
    2. The same dress with a cardigan, tights, flat pumps, statement necklace
    3. Black skinny trousers, breton striped top (from Boden, for UK readers), coloured blazer, flat pumps
    4. Same skinny trousers, patterned shirt, blazer, brogues

    None of these is super-smart, yet on every single occasion I’ve felt overdressed compared to the people interviewing me – at a training tryout last week the hiring manager was wearing holey jeans and shirt which had not seen a washing machine of late let alone an iron… I got the gig, but I think it’ll be ‘jeans and a nice top’ when I’m actually working there!

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      I usually grab black jacket & black trousers from Asda or the like for an interview – tada! Suit! Nice blouse or top and sorted.

    2. Trickle*

      Yeah I’m honestly fine wearing a suit to an interview for ANY job. I’ve worn a suit to interview for a factory production line operative and a pizza delivery driver as well as for my current professional roles. Got the jobs. You can’t go wrong with showing you’re taking it seriously and trying to impress/making a little effort.

  22. Gaming Teapot*

    @OP 3: Throwing in my 2 cents for advice on future interview wear:

    1) The level of dress depends not only on the industry, but also on the position you apply for. I work for a company that tests video games. Our only dress codes at work are “moderately covered” and “no open-toed shoes” and most employees show up in absolutely casual wear. That said, if you were applying for hour HR/payroll team, you’d still be expected to show up in a suit.

    2) I advise the following approach in general: get yourself a pair of comfortable, but nice-looking shoes (no sneakers!), a proper suit, and a nice dress shirt/blouse. And if you think the job’s too casual to apply with that, wear it anyways, but leave the jacket/blazer (and tie) at home. You’d be surprised how much less fancy that outfit looks without the jacket and tie. Also, for the love of god, make sure you go into your interviews with a nice, neutral-looking handbag/purse. No fancy bling/patches/prints etc.

  23. A paralegal*

    #3 and #4

    Friend of mine took an interview for a job he had no intention of taking (for the free trip). Interviewed in jeans and a hoodie ( west coast tech industry) and was offered so much money he took the job.

  24. Bookworm*

    #5: From personal experience, I wouldn’t bother re-applying ever, unless it looks like there have been staff (specifically the HR manager or the particular boss/supervisor who would oversee you) changes. I’ve re-applied to jobs I’ve been rejected from, usually because I assume after like 90 days or so it didn’t work out or another spot opened up, etc. It rarely succeeded unless they had a new HR manager/boss/etc. I’ve had a couple of instances where the place was amenable because the interview had gone well and all, but it never led to a hiring.

    If they want you, they’ll get back in touch. And even then I’ve had a couple of instances where (in retrospect) they only asked because they needed an applicant pool and I would have ticked a few boxes for them.

    I hope I’m wrong and maybe it’ll be worth it if you choose to re-apply in the future or they do end up contacting you. Good luck. :)

    1. Kept on Trying*

      To be contrary, I applied for similar jobs at my company at least four times before being hired. I’ve been here for four years and been promoted twice, with another one planned. You never know how their internal process works or what superstars might have applied earlier that aren’t in play this time – but I agree with the six month wait between applications to the same hiring manager.

  25. Oscar Madisoy*

    In response to 4. What are the ethics of applying for a job I have no intention of taking?:

    I disagree with Alison’s comment that one reason you shouldn’t accept an interview is because “you’d be wasting the hiring staff’s time.”

    There are companies who have no qualms about wasting applicants’ time by interviewing people they have no intention of hiring (for example, they already have someone in mind but for whatever reason feel obligated to “go through the motions”).

    If they’re willing to waste your time to suit their needs, it should be fair game for you to not worry about wasting their time if it suits your needs.

    1. WellRed*

      So how do determine if a specific company plans to waste your time and therefore it’s acceptable to waste theirs back?

    2. Trickle*

      Exactly. It’s just the way it works. At this early stage the company doesn’t feel any responsibility towards you and will as you say think nothing of interviewing people they know they won’t hire to make the numbers up. So there should be no problem the other way around.

      The thing that’d prevent me doing it is not wanting to take a space another serious job seeker might actually use to get the job.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Two wrongs don’t make a right.

      More importantly, if OP has zero intention of accepting the job, they are potentially taking away an interview slot from someone who desperately needs that job.

      1. Buffy*

        Personally, I’d see this as an opportunity to treat others the way you want to be treated. (Meaning, if it would bother you that a company did this, you should do the same regardless.)

      2. Mephyle*

        If you justify it because some companies waste applicants’ time, you’re passing on bad karma – it’s like a distorted mirror image of thanking a good deed doer by passing it forward.
        Here, you’d be “getting back” at a company that you have no idea of whether they’re one of those who interview people they know they won’t hire, plus as mentioned above you’re muddying the pool for genuine applicants who want the job.

      3. Shah Rukh*

        What are the ethics of going to an interview as a way of networking though? As in “I really want to work for the company someday, and even if the job I’m interviewing for isn’t my first preference, if the interviewer likes me then maybe he/she will think of me if there’s another position in the future…”

    4. Artemesia*

      We did national searches and could bring in at most 3 people for interviews and consideration. Someone looking for a free vacation trip seriously abused the process. There was no commitment to accept the job of course, but someone who was just sightseeing caused us serious harm. Because some companies treat applicants badly is no reason for job applicants to rip off companies. If it is local and just an interview — no harm, no foul. But if it involves paying for an expensive interview trip, it is pretty jerk behavior to agree to the interview with no intention of taking the job or very seriously considering it.

  26. matcha123*

    For #3, if you are in high school and interviewing for jobs that are typical for high schoolers (fast food, retail), then I don’t think you need a suit, but jeans are a no.
    I did wear a suit to a job interview in high school, but it was a “trendy” suit in a very non-traditional color and I didn’t even want to wear it.
    With that said, in the future, for more “white collar” jobs, a suit would be better. People will say this depends on the industry. You can ask the hiring manager or whoever contacts you about the interview dress code.

  27. Lady Phoenix*

    #1: I would clarify with your boss about the following;
    1) If you are at an acceptable pace regarding learning or independence
    2) If there are things he wants you to learn and do faster
    3) Why he keeps saying “you have a year”

    If you get no answers or aggression for 1 & 2, then your boss is a jerk and I would anscond as soon as you can

  28. Anonandanon*

    While this absolutely does not pertain to OP #1 at all, I do wish that my boss had higher expectations with regard to one of my coworkers. He’s been with the company going on 4 years now, and it always amazes me what he *still* does not know about our industry and his responsibilities. We work in end user support, we have a very small internal customer base, but his knowledge of those we support is non-existent. He is constantly asking others questions for which he should already know the answer. When anyone asks him for help, he always responds very condescendingly as if we should already know something that he put in place, but for which no one was ever trained. He’s the worst.

  29. KHB*

    Q1: I’m confused about what’s going on with the files that don’t exist. Is this an honest mistake on his part (like he’s asking you about the Johnson account when he meant to say the Jackson account, or something like that)? Or is he deliberately making things up to keep you feeling off balance?

    In either case, this is not normal or reasonable behavior (in the former case because he needs to be apologizing, and in the latter case because he shouldn’t be doing that at all), especially because it sounds like he’s doing this on a regular basis. It’s hard for me to see an interpretation of this that makes your boss anything other than a huge jerk.

    1. C in the Hood*

      LW later said that Boss acknowledged the file didn’t exist. Which makes what Boss is doing gaslighting.

      1. KHB*

        Yes, I saw that, but that could still happen in two ways: Either the boss only realized later that the files didn’t exist, or he knew it all along.

        Not that it matters much. Asking someone an impossible question and getting annoyed when they can’t answer it is a jerk thing to do. If you do it by accident, you owe them an apology. If you do it on purpose, you’re just a jerk.

        1. Hasayear*

          Original OP – so a specific file not existing was why I wrote in, though this has happened multiple times. I honestly think he thinks these documents do exist, but I wish he would apologize after (what feels to me like) an accusation of laziness for not reading something that literally is not there when he realizes it is not.

  30. Catherine*

    #3 I definitely don’t think this is something you should worry over, especially considering you were in high school. To bring a slightly different perspective, I’m thinking there may have been a difference of opinion about whether “nice jeans” constitutes a step up. When I was growing up, lots of parents had jeans they might wear to work—roofing, road work, etc.—and then nice jeans that they would wear to things like kids’ school events. When I entered a more middle-class work world, I saw that jeans were considered all one category and that one full step up is a category that I now call “not jeans,” as my past three jobs have been ostensibly business casual but were really a range from business casual down to casual but no jeans and t-shirts (i.e., what the other interviewees were wearing). Your background may not be working class like mine, but I do think high schoolers also operate on a different scale of casualness than adults—and you’re far from the first person to hit a bump. The trouble adjusting can come from the other side too—I’m sure somewhere there is an office that is still insisting women wear skirts and heels rather than trousers and flats.

  31. Lord Gouldian Finch (formerly Decimus)*

    #3: This really is a minefield sometimes. I interviewed for a public library job once and wore a suit. Everyone else was in business casual. I was told THREE TIMES during the interview “this is a shirt-sleeves environment” and my response was basically “my day to day wear would be a polo shirt, I just wear suits to interviews” and the hiring committee just seemed to feel I was totally out of sync with the culture. The next job I interviewed for (same field, but private sector) my interviewers wore suits and formal wear.

    1. Observer*

      Well, the hiring committee sounds like a pretty ineffective bunch. If they don’t understand what you were saying, that’s a bad sign. You probably dodged a bullet there.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Yeah, those interviewers seems like they might be a bit out-of-touch!

        My current workplace is EXTREMELY casual, and we actually tell people in the phone-interview to dress casual for the in-person interview… and we still regularly have interviewees come in suits. We don’t make it weird or judge them for it – dressing up is definitely the normal thing to do and we get that you felt more prepared by doing it!

    2. Marthooh*

      Yeah, sometimes dressing up for an interview can get you a “We’re not that professional!” vibe — or worse, “So you think you’re better than us?” Either way, not a good sign. This is another instance where it’s good to remember that interviews work in both directions.

    3. SoCalHR*

      I think its absolutely ridiculous for penalizing anyone for dressing too formally for an interview (save a tiara or tails), unless the person was told a specific way to dress.

      1. Observer*

        Sure. If someone is told “show up ready to show you swim strokes” or “We’re going to be on the factory floor, and you’ll need to be wearing a hard hat” then a suit and heels is a bad idea. But otherwise?

  32. Willow Sunstar*

    Is there someone else you can ask questions to? I would try to find another resource, maybe someone else in the office who would be willing to act as a mentor, at least for a few months. Also, is there any documentation? If not, I suggest making a list of your questions and then typing them up in Word. This way, you have a resource for both yourself and another new person in the future, and also, you can ensure you’re not repeating questions.

  33. Lily*

    #5 – What if it’s a big company, a similar job title, but closer to what you’re currently doing than the job you previously applied for? The only thing is I don’t know who gets to see submitted applications, and if HR will see that I *just* applied for a different position even though they’re not necessarily for the same department.

    1. SoCalHR*

      You may get listed as a duplicate, or you may get funneled into the job the screener feels you are more qualified for. It did throw red flags to our staff when someone applied for half of the available postings but two or so were fine.

  34. Goya de la Mancha*

    Does #5 only apply if it’s the same position or does it apply to the whole company? If you applied for llama herding in the llama beauty department and didn’t get it, but 4 months later, a position for llama herding opened up in the llama grooming department?

    1. what about....*

      I’m also curious if Allison’s advice would change if you applied for a position and DIDN’T get one of the automated rejections, but a couple months later the job was still posted/reposted. One of the reasons I hate applying for job is that most of the time you never.hear.back.from.them., even for a rejection. How do I know my resume was even seen!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      @Goya de la Mancha: Yes — different position that you haven’t already been rejected for, so it’s fine to apply for that.

      @what about….: There’s a point where enough time has gone by that you could reasonably assume it’s a whole different slot or the search has been restarted, and thus apply again. Two months is too soon, but something like six would be fine. Otherwise though, you’ve applied and they have your application if they’re interested.

  35. mf*

    #1: This seems like a bit of a red flag to me. I could see if the boss said: “Here’s where I expect you to be a year from now…” as a way of setting goals and expectations. But simply saying “You’ve got a year” is a pretty jerk-y thing to do. And yes, I don’t think you’re off base in feeling anxious and a little threatened.

    If this is any indication of how this person manages his employees, I’d keep my resume up to date and start thinking about my next step, even if that’s still a year or two away from today.

  36. boop the first*

    1. I guess I’m having difficulty imagining “you’ve got a year” being inserted into regular conversation. Out of context, it just sounds like a catchphrase. I would be tempted to make it more annoying to say “you’ve got a year” than it is worth, by acting confused and requiring clarification every single time as if the conversation is always new, heh.

    “You’ve got a year.”
    “I’ve got a year for what?”
    “Uh.. for asking newbie questions.”
    “Oh, which questions ?” *bright-eyed, pen in hand*
    “Umm… hey look it’s time for lunch.”

  37. OP #3*

    Thanks for the response. Yea, it was mainly high schoolers hired. I do and did know how to dress for an interview. I also researched it beforehand. If I had been applying for almost any other job or a job in an office, of course I wouldn’t have worn jeans!

    I was purposefully being vague, but it doesn’t really matter because I hold no ill will for the guy and I liked the job. I was a lifeguard, so the uniform was literally a swimsuit, sometimes with a tank and shorts over it, and some sort of flip-flop/slide sandal.

  38. ALadyfromBrazil*

    My story has a little difference to this one: I was sent for a trial for an internship when I was in college. It was one day of work to see how I would deal with the activities of the internship in a retail company. So, the job consultant told me to wear nice clothes and shoes to make a good first impression.

    Then there I went, in heels, nice pants and top, to arrive at a company where I would have to walk on gravel (in a place almost like this one

    In my defense, I did research the company but I didn’t receive enough information about the job specificities before the trial, so I thought it would be an in office job.

    I didn’t get the internship, of course.

    I’m from Brasil, so please forgive my mistakes.

    1. Autumnheart*

      That’s totally on the job consultant. They should have found out about that before advising you on what to wear.

  39. m.kay*

    LW#1: I would not be surprised to find out the boss casually threatening your job and asking you to do literally impossible tasks, then gaslighting you instead of admitting they made even a tiny mistake, is the reason the previous person in your position left. I once had a boss who led me to believe I wasn’t living up to an admin wunderkind until I realized it was just that he was one of those people who seems to live in an ever-shifting reality.

    1. All Hail Queen Sally*

      I love that phrase about living “in an ever-shifting reality.” It fits the management of a company I used to work for perfectly! Thanks!

  40. Frequent flier*

    #2: “for example, it’s nice when employers let people keep the air miles they earn on business travel …”

    It’s not merely “nice,” it’s pretty much required if you have employees travelling frequently. I travel approximately two-thirds of my working time and love it, but I would not be willing to do this if the company tried to claim my frequent flier miles.

    I believe that Lufthansa has a program whereby both the employer and employee can accrue miles. IIRC American tried to set up a program a few years ago in which the employer could retain all miles. So many employees began avoiding American that they cancelled it promptly.

  41. Automated rejection*

    #5: merely because a company sends an automated rejection does not mean it’s the final word.

    I once applied for a job with one of the Big 5 tech companies using the online portal. I received a rejection within 5 minutes. Concurrently, I e-mailed my cover letter and resume to the head of the department in which I was applying to work. We had a great conversation and I was invited to interview. (Ultimately, after about two rounds of interviews, the company decided to redefine the position to be more junior than initially anticipated, but the process was very pleasant and I’ve kept in touch socially.)

  42. Perilous*

    #2: If your change in route for a personal side-trip resulted in an increase in the travel cost, I assume you’d have to pay that yourself. So it seems to me you should get the advantage of keeping the credit.

    I can see where someone could exploit that and book a trip knowing that they’d re-book and get the credit — but I don’t think that would be common, and I’d rather that the company go after those who knowingly game the system, and not penalize those who get the credit through sheer good luck. If someone is re-booking often, that’s when to start looking more closely.

  43. Psychdoc*

    #3 In college, a supervisor once told me about an undergrad she was working with who was going on her very first interview ever. She asked what she should wear and supervisor said to dress up. The poor woman took that to mean dress for date night and apparently wore a tight dress, full make-up, and heels. I don’t think she got the job. It’s important to remember that one needs to define terms and not assume everyone has the same definition of things like “dress up”. Hehehe.

  44. OP #2*

    Hi – OP #2 here
    Thanks to everyone who had comments about SWA BIZ – I didn’t know about it, and I suspect that we hadn’t known about it either because a) we receive a hefty amount of travel vouchers from SWA and so book quite a bit of travel that way instead of paying for flights but also b) our organization has grown significantly over the 3 years since I started (we had probably 20-30 employees and we’ve grown to over 75 now) so it may not have made sense from the paperwork aspect for a small number of people traveling a significant amount. We also don’t have one person booking all of our travel (our event manager only books travel for participants, not for staff) so that may be a factor to consider. I have forwarded this on to our event manager so they can investigate further (they were the person who brought up this dilemma).

  45. Anxa*


    Oh this is interesting, because I reapply to frequently posted positions. I’ve interviewed 3 times now at one department (4 if you count a satellite location). One was for a very similar job that was posted in September.

    The job ads are very generic and vague with a Position Level 1/Position Level 2 job title.

    I figure just because I wasn’t the final choice doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t consider me again when the next slot is opened up.

    I guess this is because I’m not assuming that’s literally the same position that has remained vacant, and rather another opening.

    1. Anxa*

      Also, it’s a government position so they can’t just go back to my application and call me in again.

  46. OP #4*

    Thanks for the comments everyone, on all the threads! I decided not to apply to the somewhat interesting job afterall. I did give my resume the Ask-a-manager treatment, which allayed my fears about when I do need a new job. And it’ll be ready for the next really great opportunity.

Comments are closed.