can I discipline a job candidate who no-showed, I’m getting reference fatigue, and more

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

1. Can I discipline a candidate who didn’t show up to a job interview?

I went to send a Discipline Email Form to a candidate who hasn’t attended his interview even though we called him to choose interview time and then we sent a confirmation email including time and location. I was wondering if I can send him an email in which I can discipline him for not attending, which cost me time and money for reserving the location, and inform him that he has been blacklisted from our organization.

No, you absolutely cannot. You have no authority to discipline someone who doesn’t work for you. This would make you look incredibly odd, and would make him think that he dodged a bullet when he decided not to show up for the interview.

I’m also not sure what kind of discipline you’re proposing, since he doesn’t work for you! I think you mean some sort of write-up, but you have no disciplinary authority over him. You can certainly make a note not to consider any future applications from him, but that’s the extent of your power here.

This guy was rude. But what you’re proposing would make you look like the patron saint of out-of-touch, deranged employers. It would be the sort of story he tells people for years as an absurd experience, and rightly so.

Part of the deal with hiring is that occasionally someone will no show. That’s just how it goes, and while it’s annoying, you can’t be this rattled by it.

2. Is there a limit to how many references it’s reasonable to give for one person?

Is there a limit to the number of references it is reasonable to give for a person? One of my former direct reports is having trouble finding a job, and I’ve given at least a dozen references, either by phone or in writing, in the last four months since they left their (two-year, part-time) position here. I always try to tailor my comments to the position, so altogether the time investment is 45 minutes to an hour apiece. Can I gently suggest they try using other references? The cumulative time I’ve spent on this is starting to add up.

This is hard — because you don’t want to be an obstacle in their job search, but it does sound like you’ve invested a pretty significant amount of time already.

How much work history did this person have before you? If they’ve got a decent amount, I’d have less guilt about putting limits on it, particularly because they’re likely to have other managers who they should be able to lean on for help. But otherwise, if the person did good work, I’d try to keep helping as much as you can.

That said, having already invested this much time, you can definitely put limits on it if you need to! One possibility is to say, “I’m going to be especially busy for the next few months and may be harder to get ahold of, so I won’t be able to be as reliable of a reference as I have been — do you have other references you can use?” They might have other possible references who they’re not using, because they think you’d be marginally better or just because you’re the most recent or so forth, and a nudge like this might get them to put other people in the mix.

Also, writing references is far more time-consuming than phone calls are. You could say that you’re available for calls but other work is preventing you from investing the time that written references take. Or with written ones, you could do less tailoring — it’s great that you’ve been doing that, but you don’t have to continue it. For people who really want a written reference, you could have one pre-written reference (ideally something you’ve already written) and offer to do a phone call if they want additional information. Not everywhere will accept that; some places have rigid forms they want you to fill out. But you can push back and say “My schedule means I’d need to do that over the phone.”

I’m also curious about what’s going on that this person has gotten to the reference-checking stage (which is usually the finalist stage, although a couple of fields are weird about this and check them earlier) with 12 jobs in four months, but not gotten hired. That’s not yours to solve, but it’s a surprising thing.

3. Buzz cuts and professional dress

This is something I haven’t been able to get a good answer on. I’m in my early 20s and identify as non-binary, though I present as fairly feminine. I will be starting law school next fall. I currently work in a job that requires me to look “very professional,” but with the understanding that I am still a student, so there is some more flexibility in my dress (e.g., wearing fun colored pumps with my pencil skirt and a patterned button-down, with more conservative outfits on days that require it.) I think I’ve done a really good job of creating a wardrobe of professional clothing while also looking like someone in their early 20s, not someone dressing like they’re 55. I also have clothing that is much more conservative and traditional (black slacks, black blazer, pinstripe white button-down type clothing.)

I currently have my hair in a buzz cut. I’ve had it this way for almost two years now, and I rarely even think about it, though it is definitely unusual. No one has given me any flak for it yet, though I’ve seen some judgmental eyes from older people. Will this hairstyle, while much more common for feminine people than ever before, but still strange, hurt my ability to look and be perceived as professional in the legal field? If I dress very “traditionally” and conservatively (eg only black or navy suits and neutral tops) will that help counter the “strange” hair, or should I start growing it out? I’m in the Southwest, so not super progressive but not super conservative.

This is somewhat region-dependent. In many big coastal cities, it won’t be an issue at all. In the southeast … maybe more so. I can’t speak to the southwest personally (but I bet the comment section can), but my hunch is that you’ll be fine, especially if you’re dressing fairly conservatively. Buzz cuts just aren’t as unusual today as they used to be. That doesn’t mean that you won’t encounter the occasional person who has Opinions about your hair, but you shouldn’t let outliers be the determining factor.

4. Is there a point in your career where you should stop requesting expense reimbursement?

I work at a nonprofit with about 30 employees. I’m one of two chiefs who report to our CEO. Is there a point in a person’s career when they reach certain heights in the org chart, when they should stop requesting reimbursement for things like mileage?

The CEO reviews my requests and has always approved them without comment. I have no reason to believe she disapproves. But I do wonder about appearances and whether if at a certain point it’s expected that top executive staff don’t get reimbursed because such things are implicitly built into their salary (or otherwise). What do you think?

Not generally, no. Those are business expenses — expenses that you would not have incurred if it weren’t for your job — and it’s reasonable at all levels to expect the company to pay for them. (In fact, if anything, sometimes you’re able to expense more things as you become increasingly senior, because your employer may be more willing to pay for things to make your life easier.)

Occasionally you might find a company where it’s a cultural norm for senior executives not to submit for reimbursement for all expenses, but it’s not a general expectation across the board.

5. How can I get out of dressing up for Halloween at work?

I currently work at a good job with some pretty awesome people. Up until recently, I had also been looking forward to wearing a costume to work along with everyone else, but some recent stressful developments in my personal life have sapped me of any enthusiasm for dressing up.

I’m relatively decent friends with the person overseeing our Halloween, and I was wondering: what’s the best way to tell her that my heart really isn’t in it anymore? I have only agreed to dress up, not to provide anything or do anything beyond that. I don’t want to look like — or I want to at least minimize the appearance that — I’m isolating myself from the team, but I also don’t have the energy to dress up. Should I back out, or should I just power through and dress up anyway?

You don’t have to dress up. Frankly, the easiest/lowest-drama way to handle this might be not to make a big deal about it in advance and just … show up without a costume on Halloween. You can explain that you ended up having a bunch of things in your personal life that you needed to deal with, or that you weren’t feeling well enough to put something together, or so forth. But if your sense of your coworkers is that that’ll make it a bigger deal, then it’s fine to say something in advance like, “Hey, I’m probably going to skip a costume this year — too much other stuff going on and I’m just spent. Don’t take it personally!”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 820 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, in addition to being practically impossible, this seems like a disproportionate response to a no-show. Although I understand the desire to blacklist the candidate, with only this information, I’m not sure that’s the best way forward?

    When I’m annoyed or in a difficult situation, I try to imagine the best and worst case explanations for what’s going on. For example, the worst case could be that the candidate is incredibly rude, jerked you around, and has no regard for your time. But the best case scenario could be that something crazy happened in the candidate’s life (e.g., injury, accident, sudden loss of a loved one, force majeure) that prevented them from attending or timely notifying you that they would no show. Then I think through how I would react if this were a situation in which the candidate was not being a jerk.

    Importantly, neither explanation has to be true to inform how you respond. But this process can help give you some emotional distance so you can recalibrate your response. Speaking personally, I find I make better decisions and am a little clearer-minded if I start from the framework of assuming that abnormal behavior may be the result of abnormal circumstances. In some cases, you’ll arrive at the same conclusion. But in this case, I suspect your desire to discipline the candidate would change if you reframed.

    1. Jasnah*

      I wish you could go around disciplining random people who were rude to you, regardless of their employment status with you. I’d discipline the rude lady who cut in line at Starbucks today. Too bad that’s not a thing.

      1. Kathlynn*

        There are some extremely petty/passive aggressive ways to do so if you are in retail. The only thing is, the customer wouldn’t ever know they are being punished. There is also our right to kick people out of the store we are in.

      2. Zip Silver*

        Several months back I started calling out rude people while out and about. Like if a fellow customer is rude to a cashier, I’ll speak up and tell them that there’s no reason to be rude to the employee. It’s amazing how far a little public shaming goes.

        1. AnotherArtist*

          This is the best way to combat bullying – it’s really in the hands of the bystanders, so keep doing it.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            It’s not likely to be dangerous in a coffee shop full of people. If the stranger acted up, others would pitch in.
            Also use your instincts – I usually have a feeling about whether to call someone out or not.
            This fear response is what keeps people quiet and enables rudeness and bullies, so IMHO we need to get past that.

        2. Sarah Simpson*

          Grown adults shouldn’t monitor or correct the behavior of other grown adults unless it is putting someone else in danger. If you’ve never been rude when you were having a terrible day, more power to you, but you’re actually not the king of the world or everyone’s mom.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            Spoken like someone who believes they have the right to belittle those they feel are beneath them.

            1. Sarah Simpson*

              No, I was raised to be polite and respectful to everyone. But this new trend of adults thinking they are responsible for correcting other adult’s behavior because they find it unacceptable seems a bit crazy to me. Like I said, if you see someone being harmed – abused physically, verbally, or emotionally – please step in, but also remember that you really can’t make everyone do exactly what you want them to exactly the way you want them to do it.

              1. It's not rude to call out rudeness*

                It’s not correcting behavior, it’s standing up for the person being treated like garbage. I’m not correcting the rude person’s behavior, I’m letting the cashier/barista/whomever know that not everyone is just going to stand around and let them be treated like that. Some people actually care about being kind.

            2. VAkid*

              Actually I’m a person who will sometimes call out others for bad behavior, but something happened to me the other day that made me think “I don’t know what that person is dealing with”. I was entering court to deal with my ex husband and was in my own thoughts. I followed this woman into the building. I kind of heard her say “you’re welcome”, and then she stopped, turned and said right in my face “you’re welcome.” I had not thanked her for walking in the door. I felt really bad and it was already a terrible morning.
              Also, recently I was at Target and had more than 10 items but the cashier told me to come through cause no one was there. As I was unloading my stuff the woman behind me glared at me and said “I thought this was a line for less than 10 items.” I mean, I get it, but the cashier told me to go there. It made me feel kind of sad.

              1. Rectilinear Propagation*

                In the first instance the woman had a disproportionate response: it’s polite to thank someone for holding a door but it’s not a big enough deal to make an issue of. Lot’s of people are just lost in thought or are multitasking while they’re out and about and they aren’t intentionally ignoring you. It can sting if it happens a bunch or if it seems clear they saw you hold the door and just chose to ignore it but it’s not worth it.

                In the second instance, the cashier should have said they told you to get in line. However, it’s not uncommon for that to happen and that woman should have considered that.

                But both of these are in a different category than, say, yelling at a cashier.

          2. Galatea*

            What the heck?

            I agree with stuff that isnt hurting others– the person clipping their nails on the train is an ass, but whatever– but having a terrible day is no excuse to take it out on a cashier who cant realistically defend themselves at work??

            I’m really astonished at this comment tbh, cruelty to someone making minimum wage who cant get away is not acceptable behavior — am I misunderstanding this comment??

          3. SierraSkiing*

            Some people treat service staff really horribly, though, and having a bad day doesn’t justify bullying someone else. Since a lot of service staff can’t push back without endangering their jobs, it’s a kind thing for other customers to push back on rudeness proportionally. (I.e. someone taking a while to go over every. item. on the grocery receipt doesn’t deserve someone else yelling at them, but someone screaming at the cashier should be reminded that the cashier is human too.

            1. Sarah Simpson*

              Exactly – if they’re abusing or harming someone, intervene if you can. If they’re doing something that irritates you, let it go.

          4. CatCat*

            I’ll go ahead and keep telling the a-holes on their cell phones in the movie theater to cut the crap and put it away. Because they’re not the kings of the world either.

              1. Ralkana*

                Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But I will go and find an usher to deal with it if it doesn’t, because I’m not here for having my $18 movie ruined by a moron faffing around on social media.

                1. Rainy*

                  Ushers are heroes. People, do not use your mobile, bring an infant to a non-cry-night showing, vape, or spark up a joint in a movie theatre. Come on.

            1. Elizabeth W.*

              They’re why I go to Alamo Drafthouse if I’m really excited about seeing a film. They have a no-talk, no-text policy so they will back you up if you complain, unlike other cinemas, which do have a please-be-quiet policy but never enforce it.

              I’ve asked people to keep it down (politely) in other venues and so many of them just have no self-control at all. Even if they hush, sooner or later, it starts right back up again.

            2. Cafe au Lait*

              I shamed the guy sitting in front of me during Thor: Ragnarok who was scrolling through Facebook on his phone. It was my due date and Hubs & I were out for a date night as that might be our last chance for a while. I was not willing to let some idiot ruin it for me with a tiny bright light.

          5. Delphine*

            Grown adults should speak up when they witness people being mistreated, even if it’s just rudeness from a customer…

        3. Sarah Simpson*

          Does that really work? I honked at a guy about to hit a pedestrian with his car once, and he followed me home to scream at me.

          1. Sarah Simpson*

            This was a reply to ZipSilver – it didn’t end up being clear:

            Does that really work? I honked at a guy about to hit a pedestrian with his car once, and he followed me home to scream at me.

            1. LAP*

              I side with you on this, I don’t think it works other than to make the finger-wagger feel better about themselves. As a former retail employee I think the best thing you can do is commend the cashier for how they handled themselves with an irate customer. Someone did that to me once, years ago, and it made my day.

            2. Zip Silver*

              It works fine in line at the grocery store. If somebody went into a road rage and followed me home, then that’s what my CCW is for.

        4. Kendra*

          I did this in the lobby of an event in a theater that included a movie screening followed by a Q&A with the director. They weren’t letting latecomers in until after the screening, so I was waiting with a group of other people that were starting to get frustrated with the stressed-out ushers. I made a small comment supporting the ushers that didn’t seem like enough to me, but they all told me afterwards how much they appreciated it. (I already knew one of them, so I was chatting with her when it came up).

      3. LarsTheRealGirl*

        Yea it seems like this OP has a weird relationship with “discipline” and wants to punish/shame the candidate in a way that’s not done in the workplace.

        Alison has said many times: poor behavior/performance at work has natural consequences. You don’t “punish” adults who behaved badly at work, you enforce consequences related to the behavior.

        In this case, missing an interview has the consequence of being taken out of the running for this job (and future roles within this organization). That’s a natural consequence. Some sort of shamey letter is super condescending and odd and reflects weird beliefs about power dynamics.

        1. NerdyKris*

          I agree, this person needs to seriously re-calibrate how they’re approaching interviews or any sort of management. They’re reacting far too strongly for the level of relationship they have with the person. If this is how strongly they react to a minor slight, what they do to actual subordinates is probably worse.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I would love to find out how OP planned to discipline the candidate. Dear Candidate, you are a very naughty person. I demand you spank yourself and go to bed without supper. Signed, Angry Interviewer.

          1. Squeeble*

            It makes me think of Lindsay talking to Maeby on Arrested Development: “You are punished. I…punish thee.”

            1. Micklak*

              Ha, I just watched that episode. It’s a perfect example to illustrate my confusion with this. Lindsay didn’t actually know what punishment was. I have no idea what discipline means in the LW letter. Is the disciplining knowing that someone is upset with you? I thought discipline was about consequence.

              And I’d still like to know what a Discipline Email Form is. That seems so sinister in a bureaucratic torture kind of way.

          2. VAkid*

            Hahaha, I was also kind of picturing this. Like, what did the OP mean by “discipline”. My thoughts went kind of out there honestly!

        3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Right, I think the natural consequences here is the candidate is blackballed from further interviews. Anything beyond that is just weird.

          I’m really struggling to thing what this discipline letter would look like.

          Dear Candidate,

          You are hereby notified of our intent to discipline you for your part in events of October 5th, 2018. You have been found guilty of a no call/no show to the interview that was arranged and confirmed with Delores Umbridge. Having been found guilty you have been sentenced to copying lines. Please write “I must not skip interviews” with this special quill until the message sinks in. Please return quill in this self addressed stamped envelope along with a picture of your hand. If you fail to complete this detention within 4 business days then you will be visited by the Inquisitorial Squad or by the Spanish Inquisition (Yes I know that was a surprise because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition).

          D. Umbridge
          High Inquisitor

          1. Fergus*

            Yea disciple for what, the interviewer is getting paid, the interviewee isn’t getting squat until he get paid to do a job, maybe he received an offer in salary much higher then the job he was going to interview for at their company. Then there is no reason to go if the circumstances changed.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              If he didn’t want to be rude and wants to consider others than himself, he could have let them know he wasn’t coming. Then they would feel good about him, especially if he let them know in time for them to do something else with the time. And he would be considered for future jobs there if he applied.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Great idea! I’d send these emails to half the people I meet on the freeway on my way to work. Is there a way to send an email from a moving car to another moving car?

        1. MsSolo*

          To be honest, with bluetooth and the IoT, I’m fairly certain there are some scenarios where you could already send them a message (which would probably interrupt their tunes in that most annoying of monotones!) and it’s certainly going to get easier and easier!

          1. TardyTardis*

            I would like to send a message to the honking car in front of me–“No, I will not run over a pedestrian just because you’re late. Deal.”

        2. Mamunia*

          There’s no way to tell who is who, but I have seen instances where people have used Airdrop hoping they got the right person. (In one case it was someone trying to flirt with the girl in the car behind them.)

        3. LKW*

          I always envisioned just having a bullhorn like the police or those old-timey politicians had where I can just yell.

        4. feministbookworm*

          I have fantasies of a world in which people who do rude things on their morning commute get “poofed” back to bed, quasi-groundhog day style, and have to start all over again until they get it right.

      5. NerdyKris*

        I think it’s a mix of people not knowing what makes high beams different from regular, and people replacing their own headlights and pointing them straight ahead instead of angled towards the ground.

        1. Antilles*

          Another part is that there’s usually little to no regulations on how bright a ‘low beam’ headlight can actually be* so even regular headlights can be incredibly bright. I can 100% assure you that there are vehicles on the road whose ‘normal’ headlights are notably stronger than my ‘bright’ high beams.
          *As an example, the entire state law on brightness of headlights is basically “your low beams can illuminate a maximum 150 feet in front of the car”…which is both (a) not a very precise measure of brightness and (b) completely impossible for a police officer to check anyways.

          1. fposte*

            Also, as cars have gotten taller regular lights have ended up mounted higher. If you’re in a compact, a lot of SUVs will have headlights pointing right in your face.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          “I think it’s a mix of people not knowing what makes high beams different from regular…”
          —Driver’s Ed 101… I know, I know…

          “…people replacing their own headlights and pointing them straight ahead instead of angled towards the ground.”
          —One of the many, many, many things I insist we hire a professional for. It is worth the money to pay to have things done properly by people who know what they are doing AFAIC.
          I mean seriously, dude (almost always a dude…) how much is your time worth? So you spend X amount of your time doing Y activity at Z $ per hour…how much did you invest? And it’s still wrong/not fixed/etc. Just pay the people who know what they are doing!

          Ok, sorry /r …

      6. AdAgencyChick*

        OMG yes! I’d be laying the smackdown left and right on all the cars that run the stop sign nearest my apartment.

      7. TootsNYC*

        This is actually what’s wrong with our country right now–there are people for whom this urge is not just some wry commentary, but a genuine thing they want.

      8. Michaela Westen*

        I remind myself that people that rude are usually very miserable – negative, oblivious, self-centered, few if any friends, hate their job… :)

    2. Woodswoman*

      I think doing would run the risk of having the company ridiculed. I can imagine that the recipient of the “discipline email form” might find it odd to receive this from someone he doesn’t work for. Let’s say he then posts it on Facebook as a can-you-believe-this kind of thing, and more people share it, and then your professional reputation and that of your company is subject to public ridicule. Don’t do this. Just let it go.

      1. On Fire*

        Yes. If, say, as PCBH suggests above, I had no-showed due to an emergency and then got the OP’s proposed email, my response would be (privately), “Well, aren’t you just special.” Then I would proceed to share the story, with the company’s and OP’s names, with everyone I knew. Not out of spite – it would absolutely be my “top this weird interview” story.

        1. Mockingjay*

          I did this once. I ghosted an interview when my grandmother was suddenly hospitalized and I chose to go with my dad to the hospital. I attempted to call and leave a message (this was back in the dark ages before email was a regular thing). I did call the next day and apologize. I got the interview rescheduled a few months later.

          I am so glad I was with my dad that night; it meant a lot to him to have support while he arranged for her care. My grandmother died a few weeks later.

          People are human and things happen sometimes. OP, let it go.

          1. Brent*

            That’s not ghosting though. Ghosting means no contact at all after a certain point. You did the right thing.

          2. Rater Z*

            I had to opposite happen to me. I drove 200 miles for a job interview and nobody knew I was coming. The receptionist did make arrangements for another person to talk to me and I wound up really running the interview. The person I was supposed to meet did call me the next day to explain what happened. Seven years before, his father had an operation and went into a coma. At 9 am, the morning I was to meet with him, he got the phone call that his father died. Naturally, he went running out the door, not telling anyone about my coming in. He offered to come over to me and I said not to. I went back a few days later. I almost got the job but somebody above him told him he couldn’t hire me.

            1. Rater Z*

              I forgot one little detail. He got his phone call 15 minutes after I left home. In those days, I didn’t have a cell phone so he had no way to reach me even if he had thought about it. My wife and I left time to make some stops on the way before we got over there for my 4 pm appointment.

      2. Sara without an H*

        Right. Glassdoor also has space for interviewees to comment on the company. OP really doesn’t (or shouldn’t) want to land their firm there.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh my god, you are right! That email form would be online within hours, with the company name listed for all to see. If there is a better way to send a broadcast message to everyone saying “don’t work for us, we are terrible”, I can’t think of one.

        1. RVA Cat*

          The OP should really think about this going viral with his or her name attached – while job searching after getting fired for this power trip.

      4. WellRed*

        It’s like the reverse of the candidate who didn’t get the job and wanted to send a bill for their time.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This is exactly what it reminded me of, too! Both seem like such an out-of-proportion response to the offense.

      5. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Yeah – but the scenario you describe sounds so entertaining that I kind of want to pop a bowl of popcorn, settle in on the sofa, and encourage the OP to go for it. :)

      6. kittymommy*

        I wouldn’t even know what a Discipline email Form is if I was the candidate (I’m not entirely sure I know what one is at all). This is going to make the interviewer and the company look bad.

      7. AdAgencyChick*


        Especially if it turns out the candidate had an excellent reason for no-showing. You DEFINITELY don’t want to be the “my mom was rushed to the hospital with a stroke and then I got a disciplinary notice for not coming to my job interview” company!

    3. TooTiredToThink*

      And not only is it possible the person was a no-show due to an emergency; I had a momentary flash of horror at the thought; what if a family member had opened that letter of reprimand and the person had either died or been seriously injured? Not only do you run the risk of the applicant bad-mouthing the company to everyone else; but if the applicant were out of the picture in some way; the company would have a major image problem to contend with.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Yes, this. When I read this letter the first place my mind went was that something bad could have happened. If, say, they’d found out a family member had been seriously injured on the same morning as the interview, I can see where cancelling the interview wouldn’t be the first thing on their minds. And someone else raised the possibility that they did try to cancel but the message somehow didn’t reach OP in time. If either of those was what happened, and the candidate gets a disciplinary form (and what could you even enforce anyway, if he’s not even your employee right now?) it’s just going to reflect badly. Put the candidate on a do not hire list if you want, but don’t take it any further than that.

        Anyone remember that letter about the boss who’d been abroad, came back thinking one employee had no called no showed and left a message full of swearing on the voicemail, only to then find the employee had died over the holiday and the rude message was picked up by the family, and the boss tried to blame his assistant who’s also been on holiday for not telling him of the death she didn’t know about? My mind went to that one.

        OP, don’t be that boss.

      2. RoadsLady*

        This too is where my mind went. Worst case scenario: interviewee departed this mortal coil.

        Choose another candidate and move on.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My mind went to a short story I read once, about a kid whose parents place an order at a bakery for a cake for his eighth birthday. On the morning of his birthday, he gets hit by a car while walking to school, and that same evening he dies. The parents go through canceling the party, organizing the funeral, and of course, the terrible grief. Meanwhile, the baker keeps calling the parents on their home phone (story takes place in the 1950s or so), outraged that they had not come to pick up the cake and pay. He calls, asks “have you forgotten (child’s name)?”, and hangs up, then does it again a few hours later. As you can tell, I was pretty shaken by this (fictional) story.

          1. Cafe au Lait*

            Yes, Raymond Carver’s “A Small Good Thing.”

            Fun fact: he expanded upon the original short story he wrote into a much longer version with more details. In the second version, the baker is much more sympathetic. He’s a man whose livelihood has been affected by the events. Not much, but some. In the first, short version he is the villain.

      3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        When I was in college a friend was ghosted by a date. She fumed, complained to all her friends, but didn’t go full social media meltdown. Which ended up being a good thing because he called her from the hospital 2 months later. He’d stopped at the bank on his way to meet her, was attacked, and had been in a coma. She felt so bad for thinking so horribly of him. I always think of her before I flame out on someone for a no show.

      4. Katherine*

        Reminds me of the Sex and the City episode where Miranda gets stood up, works herself into righteous indignation, calls the guy’s house, gives his mother an earful, and then finds out that…. the guy died.

      5. all the candycorn*

        I worked somewhere where we one of my employees no-called no-showed while I was on my way into work. Whoever was in charge at the time decided to solve this by leaving me (commuting) and the employee an avalanche of screaming phone calls and angry emails, threatening to fire her and discipline me for my bad management.

        She called in 30 minutes later to say there had been an unexpected death in the family 15 minutes before her shift started and she’d been shocked and also had to rush out of town.

        When you assume you make an ass out of u and me.

      6. Michaela Westen*

        When I was hosting Spanish Club I got an email that said “please stop sending meeting notices to Jane, she passed away” from a relative! This does happen.

      7. Decima Dewey*

        Yeah, you don’t want your company to be in the news as “Accident Victim in Coma sent Discipline Form for No Show Job Interview.”

      8. mrs__peel*

        I worked in my law school’s free clinic as a 3rd-year law student. (Basically, with my first-ever real clients). On my first day, I was required to send a stern form letter reprimanding a client who hadn’t shown up for an appointment. I found out a few days later that he had died, and I was completely mortified!!

        (Fortunately, we were able to help his family with some other legal issues, and I don’t think they had opened or read the reprimand letter because they were very pleasant to me. It was never brought up).

    4. Rectilinear Propagation*

      This was my first thought: Imagine sending this discipline email and getting a response back like, “I’m sorry my unexpected hospitalization inconvenienced you.”

      1. Sabina*

        I called and cancelled a scheduled job interview once. I left a message with a receptionist, probably two days before the interview date. Got a call the day after the interview date from the HR department “why did you not show”, etc. I was actually IN THE HOSPITAL when I got the call. I guess the message didn’t get passed on, so yeah, it was a very awkward conversation, like, “sorry I got cancer and your administrative staff sucks”…

    5. Calmeye*

      Honestly, most no-shows are just inconsiderate jerks. Whenever applicants don’t turn up I wish them bad karma. But ultimately it doesn’t really matter what I think. I would still respond professionally if I ever saw them again (outwardly, at least – inside I’m hoping their car will be pelted with pigeon poop).

      If you miss out on an interview because of a genuine emergency you should still reach out later to apologise. Barring a major crisis, this is just basic courtesy.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Absolutely. It’s just that OP already sounds full of righteous indignation, and I think it may be clouding their perspective on how to respond. As Wendy Darling and zipzap note, if OP actually tried to do what they’re proposing, it would likely go viral and reflect really poorly on them because it’s such a bizarre idea.

        1. Jenn*

          I find it weird they would get so worked up over this. If they’ve been hiring for a while and this has never happened before, they’re lucky. If they are new to hiring, they need to know, this happens, particularly for entry level but even (although less commonly) with higher level hiring.

          I usually go “sweet, bonus hour” and get other stuff done. Or get coffee. Interview days are exhausting.

          1. Gigi*

            I feel the same way. No shows are a product of hiring….it happens. Why in the world get so worked up over it? Sure you’re out the time spent preparing for this interview but how much time was that really? An hour? Do you know how many people I work with who waste my time on a daily basis? I should send them this Discipline Email Form. Or at the very least, put them on Double Secret Probation!!

          2. MsChanandlerBong*

            I have had a few no-shows in the last few weeks, and I am actually happy when it happens. If my calendar shows that I am on an interview, none of my colleagues will ask me anything on Slack, so I get 15 minutes free of that blasted bell notification that goes off every time someone messages me. It’s glorious. I can actually be productive for 15 minutes.

          3. schnauzerfan*

            yeah. No show? Thank you for telling me you’re not reliable BEFORE I went to the trouble of hiring and training you. One time we had someone no show call us with an excuse and we rescheduled and ended up hiring her… and she was a disaster. Always with a good excuse, including the Tuesday she called saying she was stranded 6 hours from work and would be back Monday, maybe. If only we’d believed her when she told us she was a flake. I’m not saying everyone who know shows would be this person, but I take such things as a very valuable piece of information indeed.

            1. Jenn*

              Exactly. I strike you from my list with minimal effort on my part. The result is the same if you came in and bombed the interview, except I got a free space and I didn’t have to do the work (and a bad interview can be painful, I do try to salvage if someone is just clearly nervous by steering them to a more comfortable space but it is hard sometimes).

              1. schnauzerfan*

                OMG yes. A bad interview can be so painful. We are generally hiring for entry level jobs, and we try to be friendly and low key, but some people are so nervous they can hardly speak and it’s just miserable trying to get through our list of mandatory questions.

                1. Dezzi*

                  Ugh, I feel your pain here. One way I’ve found to combat that with the most nervous folks: once you’ve done a metric ton of those interviews, you’ll almost always notice a pattern–one or two questions that people have an easier time answering, or give longer answers to, or answer faster. (For us, it’s “tell me the kind of people you get along best with, and why” which I realize is a stupid interview question, but hey, I didn’t write it.) Screw the official order and move those ones nearer the beginning, and you’ll almost always get better answers for the rest of them.

          4. Dust Bunny*


            And I confess I come from a long line of *super* righteous women. Privately, we’d be pretty bloody annoyed by this and probably fantasizing about telling the no-show off, but there is no way we’d act on it, because that’s just unreasonable.

          5. Aiani*

            Before I started interviewing as a part of my job duties I would never have believed how many people are no shows to their interviews. So, so many! It’s definitely not worth getting super worked up over because it just happens too dang often.

        2. TardyTardis*

          This sounds like the person who wanted to send a fake counseling letter to someone who left their employ over not being able to go to their own graduation (while other employees got to go to rock concerts and suchlike).

      2. EPLawyer*

        If the person is an inconsiderate jerk for no showing — you don’t want them working for you anyway. Problem solved. Sending a disciplinary form is investing more energy in someone you didn’t want to hire anyway.

        Plus if they are an inconsiderate jerk, getting the form is not going to make them realize the error of their ways. If they are an inconsiderate jerk, they will continue to be one. OP is not going to change that by sending some form.

        Basically OP, what are you hoping to achieve by sending the form? A begging groveling apology? Never going to happen. Reimbursement for your time and expense? Never going to happen. The person wandering the wilderness forever, forlorn they will never allowed to work at your company again? Never going to happen.

        1. Psyche*

          This exactly. Yes they are most likely just inconsiderate in which case the letter will achieve nothing (or make them happy they didn’t go). On the off chance that there was an emergency, the letter will make the OP look bad. There is no good outcome other than venting frustration. Call this a successful interview (you learned that you don’t want to hire them) and move on.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Worse, if they are an inconsiderate jerk and get annoyed at the letter, it can still be used to make the OP look bad, if they are willing to look a little bad at the same time. (“I feel pretty stupid, I completely forgot this interview, but look at this letter I got in response! Guess it’s a good thing I forgot.”)

    6. C*

      I don’t wanna say the candidate dodged a bullet by no-showing…but they definitely dodged a bullet by no-showing.

      1. LKW*

        Agreed. If this person is willing to send a “Discipline Letter” to someone who does not even work at the company, I can only wonder how often that Discipline Letter is used internally.

        1. mcr-red*

          Yeah I feel like Discipline Letters fly freely in that office. “You had a tone when I asked you for the TPS report. Discipline Letter!” “You slammed the door to your office. Discipline Letter!”

      2. Fergus*

        If I ever received a discipline email for being a no show at an interview there would be no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision for not showing up for the interview. I would have felt I dodged at least 2 bullets. The first one of not working for that boss and 2 not working for the company that hired her.

    7. Snickerdoodle*

      I’m willing to bet that the candidate heard about this kind of behavior at the OP’s company and decided to dodge a bullet.

    8. Leaving for Paris*

      I try to reframe interviews no shows as me not having to spend time on a candidate who is clearly not interested in the job so i would want them working for me anyway.

    9. ColleenGayle*

      Only twice in my career did someone not show for an interview, (to work with youth in an after school program for which I was the Director).
      Both times, I telephoned the individual and left a message “checkng in, missed you at todays interview, please let me know if you have obtained another position or need to reschedule). One person had an accident ( It was clear when this individual returned they had an injury) with another there was a misunderstanding about day/date with the other person. Always possible that I might share fault with a date misunderstanding.
      A brief check in phone call …or email…in a neutral voice gave me more information.
      I always believed I could learn something new.

    10. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, exactly! Especially in situations like this where you haven’t heard from the person again. Think about how you would feel if you sent them a raging email and then found out they had gotten in a terrible accident and ended up in a coma for a month and then they woke up and read your email. It’s certainly not the most likely scenario but the fact that it’s possible means sending emails like that is rarely a good idea.

    11. Bee Eye Ill*

      Personally, I think OP#1 SHOULD send the notice. Tell the candidate that you are writing their name on your board and adding not one, but two check marks next to it. Then ask him to print your form and get his mom to sign it and fax it back to you. Hopefully, the candidate will then post the form on social media, it’ll go viral, and the whole world will learn where not to ever send a job application because management there are psychos.

    12. Peter the Bubblehead*

      OP1 says in her letter; “…a candidate who hasn’t attended his interview even though we called him to choose interview time and then we sent a confirmation email including time and location.”

      OP1 never states whether the candidate was even aware of the ‘agreed upon time.” It sounded to me like they left a voice mail and sent an e-mail with no response from the candidate and only assumed the candidate received the messages and would show up.

      OP1, did you actually speak directly WITH the candidate and agree on a date/time/place for the interview, or are you wanting to punish this person because YOU assumed they should know all the information and for all you know could be somewhere with no cell or internet service and has no clue they were scheduled for an interview that day?

  2. Greg NY*

    #1: I think the discipline was to not consider him for future opportunities, which is essentially what the LW is doing. We’ve had more than a few letters here about interviewers who cancel or even don’t show up, and it goes both ways. In an ideal world, everyone would always show everyone else courtesy, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way. No-shows are part of the cost of doing business, just like with hotels and restaurants.

          1. Project Manager*

            I’m wondering if it’s an internal candidate. Still not appropriate to discipline them, but it might at least explain why OP thinks they have the authority for this.

            1. Bea*

              But how do you blackball a person if they are an internal candidate? The letter states they want to blacklist the guy from the organization not department :|

              1. Lance*

                Yeah, there’s almost no way this was an internal candidate; if it was, the ‘blackball’ comment would be rather odd, and I feel the fact that they were an internal candidate would be mentioned as a relevant point (since then they’d have a direct manager to bring this up to as well).

              2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                Some employers use the terminology “our organization” within smaller sub-groups. “The US Federal Government” is just one I can think of where someone’s applying to different organizations with one over-arching employer. For example, there are many agencies that are part of the Department of Justice: ATF, DEA, FBI, US Marshalls, Federal Prison system, etc.

                1. dunstvangeet*

                  With the Federal Government, there are at least two levels of “internal hires”. Whether someone considers these all internal hires is another matter. It may even go down further than this, as some departments within the agency may only refer to internal hires as people coming from the same department.

                  So, there’s internal to the sub-agency/department.
                  Then there’s internal to the agency.
                  Then there’s internal to the Department (e.g. an agency within the Department of Defense might consider other DoD employees before they go onto the entire Federal Government)
                  The is internal to the Federal Government (e.g. Transferring from the FBI to the Secret Service, or whatever).
                  And finally, once you get through all of those, there’s the external hire (which has no preference).

              3. Falling Diphthong*

                My feeling was that they wanted to be able to say “You are now blackballed from our entire organization FOREVER” while not actually having the authority to say this, or access to said list (assuming there is one).

                OP, I refer you back to the renter who had someone at work send her landlord a demand for money, and the universal “Oh honey” reaction. This is not going to come off the way you are picturing it in your head.

                1. Fergus*

                  Yea if i ever got one I would definitely post this on linkedIn, glassdoor, etc. so fast the ink wouldn’t even be dry.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  Frankly, a stunt like that is just begging to be the next viral sensation – remember the interns and the dress code? – as soon as the recipient posted it on social media anywhere.

                3. Rectilinear Propagation*

                  …the renter who had someone at work send her landlord a demand for money…

                  Wait, WHAT?

          2. Friday*

            Oh that Glassdoor just writes itself…

            I’m super curious to know if there were a ton of qualified applicants for the role the candidate ghosted, or if it’s been mostly crickets and tumbleweeds. Either way, the discipline form is nonsense, but in the case of the former, I’d say they need to drop the indignation and move onto the next person. And if it’s slim pickings? Time to learn how to really sell the role and the company instead of thinking of the job as a prize to be won by only the most worthy candidate.

          3. mark132*

            maybe you should have encouraged her to do it. You may have gotten a really interesting letter from this erstwhile candidate next week. ;-)

            1. nutella fitzgerald*

              And this is why I could never be an advice columnist.

              “Dear nutella, I got an email from a hiring manager with a disciplinary warning. What should I do?”

              “Ooh, sorry about that. I was about three Pinot Grigios deep when I was replying to that hiring manager’s question. My bad.”

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                HA! I have some fun for you – “Miss Behave” by Traci Highland. Light romance/mystery with the main character a journalist who’s not entirely thrilled that she’s also covering the paper’s advice&manners column. I don’t laugh out loud at a lot of books…

                1. Half-Caf Latte*

                  Thans for the rec. Love light reading for train/beach, where I can just turn off the brain.

              2. SusanIvanova*

                There’s a tumblr – thatbadadvice – where the blogger took advice column letters that were clearly begging for justification for bad behavior instead of real advice and snarkily gave them the answers they were looking for. On hiatus now, but there’s still a lot of archived fun to be had.

          4. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

            I think you should have encouraged her to send it in the hopes that the applicant would share it with the rest of us. ;)

          5. Akcipitrokulo*

            Found this… it has a sample form half way down.

            To me, I think a frank conversation and a follow up email would be better than sending a fowm with tick boxes, but hey ho. Seems odd for internal and completely bizarre for external use!

            www (dot) thebalancecareers (dot) com/progressive-discipline-warning-form-introduction-1917906

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think Greg is reframing the issue for OP to clarify that the consequence of the applicant’s no-show is a negative consequence in the same way that discipline would be a negative consequence were this an employee. I’m reading his comment to say that OP needs to understand that no shows will happen and that that’s part of the normal course (and cost) of doing business.

        1. BRR*

          That’s how I read it as well. The LW is implementing a punishment. One that is worse than a piece of paper.

      2. This Daydreamer*

        What the?

        OP1, DO NOT do this. Since this person doesn’t work for you, you have no authority over them. All you can do is simply not hire them and it sounds like even that is a moot point, unless, for some reason, your company doesn’t require an interview before hiring (which I somehow doubt Alison would argue is a good practice).

    1. This Daydreamer*

      I think something like that would be such an obvious thing that no one would write to Alison about.

      Then again, considering some of the letters that people have written to AAM…

      1. Ender Wiggin*

        I suspect OP wrote and sent the email to Alison in a fit of anger, and once they calmed down decided not to send the disciplinary email. At least I hope so.

    2. Jenn*

      I apologizing if this is derailing, but, if someone is blacklisted in your organization, do you tell them?

      We have two variations in this. We will get people who drop resumes at every posting and their resume just is never getting them hired but they keep applying. I guess if something big changed you might consider them. Then there are the people who did something disrespectful or scary, either wrote something inappropriate in a cover letter or sample or behave badly in an interview to the point this is a permanent red flag (say, yelled at the person on reception or reacted to a rejection by telling us “you’ll be sorry”). A no-show without any kind of explanation might meet this, although I might read a cover letter later to see if they addressed it. That we put a note in because they might look good enough on paper to interview again, but we would never want to hire someone who got aggressive in the past.

      My impression is that this just opens you up for a fight and particularly with someone who has been aggressive, it could go badly.

      If someone kindly asks for feedback, sure, but I don’t think I have any duty to inform applicants “you can’t just fail to show up for a mutually confirmed interview, never explain, and then reapply six months later”.

      To bring this back to OP, I tend to err the other way. The “discipline” is not getting the job and getting a note in your file. Why do I need to invest more time in someone I don’t want to hire telling them off? Writing that email takes time. They’re off the list, we’re done.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        My impression is that orgs don’t usually announce blackballings. It’s just a never-hire note for exactly the reason you give, that the blackballee will treat it as an opening move in negotiations for their right to the CEOship.

      2. Someone Else*

        To your question: if someone is on a no-hire or no rehire list, we do not generally tell them in the moment of it happening. If they apply again afterward, we may tell them their application is not under consideration because of that status. Although I guess…if someone were let go for cause and were no rehire, we might tell them that while letting them go. But otherwise, no, most people would not know they had that status with us.

        For OP, if what OP is suggesting is “I want to put the candiate on a no-hire list and tell the candidate, due to your no show you are now on our no-hire list”, to the first part, ok fine. To second, if it’s literally that simple, fine but not really necessary. But if what OP has in mind with this “disciplinary form” entails more than that? It’s overkill and unnecessary and will make the company look ridiculous.

    3. SteamedBuns*

      Yep. I track all applicants I contact, if I schedule an interview, how the interview goes, and if they receive a job offer.

      We get plenty of no shows. It’s frustrating. It makes me look bad to the hiring managers. I have been tempted to write angry emails, but I don’t.

      If it’s an entry position that was no-showed, I just put the candidate on a “do not consider” list. If it was a higher up position, I get curious…these are people who have plenty of work experience, they “should” know better and be more considerate. With those applicants I generally send an email stating something like:

      Dear Fred,
      Your interview was scheduled for 10:30am today, October 18, 2018. Since you failed to show up for the interview, I will assume you are no longer interested in the position. Please let me know if that is not the case. We wish you the best in your future career endeavors.

      Based on the reply I receive I make a decision to reschedule an interview or not. I hardly ever reschedule because the excuses I am given often don’t excuse the lack of notification. So then they also get put on the “do not hire” list.

      We had an employee no-show her start date once. Couldn’t reach her for 3 weeks. She then had the gall to call and ask if the position was still available, saying she was mugged and it left her traumatize for some time and she couldn’t bring herself to tell us. She was an amazingly qualified candidate, but I said no, the position had been filled. A few months later she applied for another open position at my company. Different department. I thought about it for a few days and then decided to bring her in. The hiring manager for the first position warned the hiring manager for this new position…I told the new hiring manager there was nothing to worry about…then the candidate no showed the interview…sent me an email 2 days later apologizing, saying she had car trouble and wanted to reschedule. It was then I decided that I was through expecting the best of people. (though, I say that whenever someone screws me over…so I guess I still give too many second chances….this candidate will never get a 3rd.)

  3. Sami*

    For OP#1– Im wondering if she’s really trying to send him some sort of invoice for her time.
    In any case, OP, you absolutely cannot do that or any other kind of discipline.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The Discipline Email Form makes it sound likes it not an invoice, though? It sounds like they’re referring to a written warning, which would also definitely be inappropriate, as you note.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        Honestly if my work sent me a Discipline Email Form I would look at it WAY sideways and I work for them. We’re adults, you don’t need to “discipline” me via emailed form. If I’ve screwed up and there are gonna be consequences, just tell me that.

        Sending a Discipline Email Form to a no-show job applicant is just going to make them glad they stood you up. And also probably go viral, it’s go-viral level ridiculously out of bounds.

        1. Ciara Amberlie*

          Yeah, no showing an interview is really rude, but if the interviewer sent me that and tried to discipline me for it, I’d think “whew, bullet dodged!” It’d be such a huge red flag that I’d be glad I hadn’t wasted my time interviewing.

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          When I took over as a manager for my company, the first thing I did was put the kibosh on the “discipline chart” that laid out the penalties for things like missed deadlines and sloppy work. It sounded totally juvenile and did not project the right image to writers who just started working with us.

          1. TootsNYC*

            The other thing a chart like this does is it just names the price for missing a deadline, so people figure they’ll just pay it.
            Sort of like the daycare places that tried to charge people extra for picking up their kids late; people just forked over the money, and the workers were still stuck there after hours.

            And the idea that a parking ticket that’s $35 just says, “it costs $35 to park here.”

      2. Fergus*

        I had a company once after I got an offer send me an email that looked exactly like I was employee and they were disciplining me. Now I was supposed to start the next day. I did a no call no show.

      3. Jennifer Thneed*

        That’s what got me. LW said that *reserving* the interview space cost them time and money. Was there actual money involved? Or are they just equating that time=money?

        And honestly, how long does it take to reserve a conference room? I am really curious about LW’s line of business.

        1. Sarabeth*

          If they are a smaller organization in some kind of shared office setup, this could make sense. Lots of those have rental packages that include a suite of offices, but you pay per hour to reserve a shared conference room. I don’t imagine it would take much time, but I can see how it would actually cost money.

        2. R*

          I’m sure they meant the reservation is what cost the money, and waiting for a candidate that didn’t show cost time.

    2. BRR*

      I didn’t get that at all. But this reminds me of the candidates who have asked if they can submit invoices to interviews. While things happen that are inredible rude, it’s just not the way things work.

  4. Peter*

    Lol recruiters are so mad that jobseekers are treating them the way they’ve been treating us for years.

    Gotta admit, it feels pretty good.

    1. Corporate Cynic*

      Right? I’ve mentally blacklisted so many employers based on their shitty behavior during the recruiting process, but it wouldn’t cross my mind to discipline them…

      1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

        +1000. Seriously. “You’re going to regret not taking this job!!” …no, I’m really not. And I never will. Next!

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Alison has received plenty of “You will regret turning down the opportunity to hire my genuis!!!!” responses. They never hit the way the writer intended.

      3. Oaktree*

        Yep! In my field, the starting wage is usually around $28-35 an hour. I saw a posting for a position that advertised a wage of… wait for it… twelve whole dollars. Which is, in fact, below minimum wage, in my province. I guess someone advised them they were breaking the law, because they reposted it later at $17/hr. Which, while legal, was incredibly insulting for a posting that requires a Master’s degree. I wanted so badly to email them and tell them, “fuck you, I didn’t spend $21,000 and two years of study to be paid like I was when I was a fast food worker.” But of course, I didn’t, because it wouldn’t have done me any good. It just really smarts to see that, since the competition in my field is so fierce and the jobs so scarce- you just know someone was desperate enough to take that job, and it devalues the whole profession.

    2. Gaia*

      I don’t know…have recruiters been not showing up to interviews for years? I mean, sure occasionally it happens, I’m sure, but that seems like it must be pretty rare on both sides.

      1. Doctor Schmoctor*

        I just remembered it happened to me twice. One time I showed up on time and was told to wait in the reception area. After about 30 minutes someone asked me who I was looking for. Then he said “Oh, Frank went home an hour ago”.
        Another time I had to go to someone’s house for an interview. I was on time, and waited an hour before his wife said he just called her and he’s in a meeting with a client, and will only be there in another two hours. Am I willing to wait. No I wasn’t.

      2. Emily*

        There’s also no reason to believe that recruiters who are “so mad” about being stood up by a candidate are the same people who have stood up candidates themselves. I don’t think anyone is getting their just desserts here since there’s no evidence that OP has ever done this to a candidate.

        No-showing is rude, whichever side of the table you’re on. OP doesn’t somehow deserve this because she represents an employer and there are shitty employers out there.

        1. Lissa*

          Yeah really, I don’t get the “someone of this category did X to me, so therefore it’s deserved when X happens to anyone in the same category” unless you know for sure that person did it.

          1. Peter*

            It may be true that this particular recruiter might not have done anything wrong and been perfectly upstanding, but the fact of the matter is that recruiters probably had one of the easiest and most forgiving jobs in the recession which is the reason that so many were able to get away with acting so horribly for close to 10 years. Now that it’s suddenly a job seekers market (or so the data says, it hasn’t helped me at all) the lack of courtesy and general lack of respect that recruiters have shown job seekers have come back to bite them in the ass.

            It’s perhaps not “fair” that some good recruiters are getting ghosted, but it wasn’t fair when I was ghosted by 5-10 different recruiters at various stages of the application process including, yes, the “sorry she left for the day please reschedule your interview.”

      3. MLB*

        Pretty sure it was an exaggeration for emphasis. Most people can probably cite an experience where an interviewer didn’t show, made them wait or wasted the job seeker’s time. I don’t think it’s all that rare.

        1. Peter*

          Also wasted time is not the same on either side of the interaction.
          When I waste an interviewers time, they get paid for that time I wasted.
          When an interviewer wastes my time, they both waste my time and (in a sense) literally take money out of my pocket.

      4. Spooky*

        There was an instance of that in this blog in the last week alone. And the candidate had spent money to fly out for it, if memory serves.

    3. RJ the Newbie*

      To me, it’s surprising that it has taken this long. Recruiters and some very bad managers have been getting away with ghosting candidates for years. I personally experienced this twice when interviewing about a year ago. Now, not only are candidates ghosting, but also employees.

      OP1, I understand your frustration and anger. I’ve spent time and money getting to an interview only to be told after waiting two hours that not only was the person I was meeting with unavailable, but that the position had been filled. Don’t send this form in as it will only negatively impact you and your company.

      1. Zillah*

        Are candidates occasionally no-showing for interviews really a thing it’s “taken this long” to see?? It’s never stood out to me as a New Thing.

    4. Ellex*

      Now I’m wondering if I can send a Disciplinary Email Form to a company at which I interviewed for a job. I showed up 5 minutes early, they made me sit around and wait for half an hour, then finally someone interviewed me who had clearly been roped into it and had to ask me what position I was interviewing for, and clearly had very little idea what they should be asking me. When I got home, I checked my email and found that their HR dept. had emailed me 15 minutes before the interview time, rescheduling the interview for half an hour before the original time (interview at 9:30, rescheduled for 9, email time-stamped at 9:15).

      It’s entirely possible the email got delayed…but I’d confirmed the time and date the previous afternoon at 2. Trying to reschedule after that, without confirmation from me, seems pretty sketchy.

      I put it down to HR incompetence and was unsurprised not to get a call back, but the temptation to call and ask what was going on was very strong.

      1. Nita*

        That’s so annoying! I had an interview like that once – none of the people who were supposed to interview me showed up (though one was calling in), the interviewers don’t seem to have read my resume, and the position wasn’t really what I’d discussed in advance (several times), but something rather different that I was specifically trying to move away from. If I’d known, I would not have come in and wasted anyone’s time, including my own. Combined with the fact that my current company later hired several people from the one I interviewed with – and they’re all very happy to be out of there – I’d say that company is on my blacklist now :)

        1. Ozma the Grouch*

          What is up with that? The non resume reading that is. My sister has been looking for a job for about 3-4 months now. She has only landed 4 interviews during that time and after each one she has come back and complained about how the person who interviewed her hasn’t looked at her resume until that very moment. At least two of them asked her which job she was applying for (she didn’t know because they were large corporations and she applied for multiple positions, she was hoping they would tell her which job they were calling about). And another interview turned out to be for a job she didn’t apply for and wasn’t in her wheelhouse at all. I feel so so bad for her right now because even when she does land an interview she feels immediately sabotaged by the interviewers!

          1. Ozma the Grouch*

            Soooooooo… timely follow-up. This discussion prompted a chat with my sis and she had another phone interview today where again the interviewer NEVER looked at her resume. They said something along the lines of how they “like to get a feel for the candidate directly from them and hear them sell themselves.” (I’m paraphrasing here.) I don’t know. Being someone who interviews people myself I always look over resumes/portfolios and familiarize myself with a candidate before talking to them. Is this what first round interviewers are doing today? I don’t do first rounds myself so I am at a loss. I’d love some insight.

            1. Nita*

              Gosh no! I don’t think good interviewers are supposed to do that. At least, that’s not how it works in my company. If someone comes in to interview, there might be someone in the room who got pulled in at the last minute, but the main interviewer(s) will have taken a good look at the resume before even deciding to invite the candidate.

              1. Ozma the Grouch*

                The only way that I can think they would be able to bypass reading resumes is if they are solely relying on the aggregate information from their online application systems. Or if yet another person is sorting through the resumes first.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            My boss does this in our meetings. He hasn’t looked at the material because he’s Mr. Busy Workaholic, rushing around all the time and not taking time to look at things. It’s so annoying!

  5. AcademiaNut*

    For #2 and references – in academia written references are standard, and submitted with the application. A newly graduating student, or postdoc applying for faculty positions, may well by applying for a dozen positions (or many more!), and not having your supervisor as a reference would be a real problem. So it’s not a duty you can really get out of, short of being unconscious (you would be expected to continue to write reference letters while on maternity leave, for example).

    So – write a template letter for your report. The general stuff about their work ethic, communication skills, learning speed, independence and so on can be the same. Your former report should be emailing you a job description with each request, so when you get it, change the name of the company, alter a few lines for the job (“Excellent skills at teapot making” vs “Superb llama groomer”), and send it off. It should be a ten minute job, not an hour.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Totally agree on this as an effective strategy! I use it for reference letters and for calls. IME, the biggest lift is the initial reference letter, but tweaking it thereafter shouldn’t take more than 15ish minutes.

    2. Startup HR*

      Also if the job seeker’s most recent employer refuses to give a reference for whatever reason, it would probably count as a red flag from the interviewer. So the template idea is a good one, especially since they’d be applying for jobs with similar skills.

      And it is possible to get to the reference stage for 12 jobs in less than 6 months without getting any of them AND without doing anything majorly wrong in the interview. I had that happen to me. Some of it was that the companies checked references for all of the finalist candidates, not just the one they made an offer to. According to the feedback I received after those interviews, the candidate they went with had more experience in X area (X was different from job to job). Yes there were things I tweaked after each interview to do better, but there were no obvious, glaring errors. It was a really rough time and if my referees had wanted to stop helping on top of all of the rejection, it would have been devastating.

      1. Julia*

        Off-topic, but you’ve just given me hope! I’m looking for a job right now and even if I make to the interview stage, there is always someone with more or more relevant experience, and I’m starting to lose hope, wondering what the heck I’m doing wrong but unable to find a reason (neither do friends and external recruiters). Glad it worked out for you, and I hope it will for me as well.

    3. Rectilinear Propagation*

      That would explain why they’ve needed so many, thank you for pointing that out.

      It might also explain why the LW was tailoring the letters so much but I agree with doing more of a template if the time commitment has become too much.

      Fingers and toes they’ll get a job soon and this will be moot.

    4. Nico M*

      give the candiate a generic reference template. They can then customise it to suit the job and you just need to check it for damnable lies and sign it.

      1. BigTenProfessor*

        If only it were this standardized! Sometimes I am expected to give it to the applicant to submit with application, sometimes I am supposed to email it directly, sometimes I am supposed to wait for the potential employer to email me with a link to upload, and sometimes I am supposed to SNAIL MAIL in 2018.

        But also, it’s well understood to be a part of academia, so I doubt that applies to this OP.

    5. Marion Ravenwood*

      Agreed. I don’t know if it’s different elsewhere, but in the UK references don’t have to be much more than ‘Marion Ravenwood worked at Company X between Date A and Date B’, although often people add details like what duties the person did, positive comments about their work ethic/attitude etc (as sometimes the bare minimum can imply they weren’t very good at the job). If I were OP #2 I’d be inclined to just do something like that and then maybe tweak it depending on what the position is their report is applying for or if the potential new employer requests specifics. Especially as pretty much all jobs here require the person’s current or most recent manager to be a reference.

      1. Washi*

        Outside of academia, in my experience, employers who ask for references by email rather than phone tend to be the ones who view references as another box to check. I’d be curious if others feel this way as well, but it may be that the OP has too high a standard for the written ones, and that as long as the references doesn’t raise any red flags, it won’t hurt the applicant if it’s just 5-7 positive sentences.

      2. Ophelia*

        I think this is one point where the UK and the US diverge – what would be a standard positive reference in the UK would likely come across as a politely coded negative reference here. But I do think coming up with an overall general reference and just tweaking the first paragraph or whatever would be a good idea!

        1. Else*

          That’s interesting – I wonder how often that causes problems for people trying to apply for jobs in the other country?

    6. Ella*

      Thanks, all, for your advice and your perspective. I’m the OP for #2, and I think I’ll just do as suggested and go with more generic letters. I do want this person to get a job, so I’ve probably put more effort into hand-crafting replies than I can sustain. But better to send out generic letters than quit serving as a reference altogether, it sounds like.

      1. Else*

        Thank you for that, just in general as someone who’s had to ask for references! It’s a pain for everyone, but it’s part of the process as it is now. Hopefully they’ll get a job soon.

      2. fposte*

        And it’s not really generic as long as it’s personalized to the jobseeker–that matters a lot more than trimming it to the job. If you’re in a field with written recommendations, it’s pretty standard for the same recommendation to turn up for different positions with just the venue/title changed, but the recommendation statement remains a valid and thoughtful reflection on the candidate.

    7. TootsNYC*

      However, this template doesn’t work if what’s going on is one of those “fill in our electronic form” things.

    8. all the candycorn*

      I’ve been a reference for a lot of college kids, and have also done reference checks. A lot of them are in questionnaire form, be they over the phone, via e-mail, or online survey software. So writing a form letter won’t necessarily help this person, if the organization requires the reference to “Rate the candidate’s level of responsibility from 1-5, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent,” or “Candidate is applying for a physical therapy practicum in a nursing home. Please indicate, with examples, what experience the candidate has relating to the elderly and disabled.”

    9. CC*

      Yeah working in academia I would NOT bother tailoring very much at all. Have template where you might have something like “Eduardo would be great for [INSERT POSITION HERE]” and edit as necessary.

      Also, in the rare chance the applicant is in academia, there’s a website Interfolio where you write one letter and the person can send it to the 100 or so jobs they apply for.

  6. Bea*

    #4 Owners and CEOs receive the most expense reimbursements, in no way should you ever stop filing for them. Nobody should shoulder business expenses, even if you have a sizeable salary.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Totally agreed. In some states (California), failing to request reimbursement can create legal issues for your employer that are more cumbersome than if you just submitted your expense reports and mileage.

      Even nonprofit CEOs submit expense reports—they’re just reviewed by the Board of Directors or its designee. There’s no such thing as “too high” in the org chart to stop being compensated for reimbursable costs incurred in the scope of your employment.

    2. Ender Wiggin*

      Even business owners claim their expenses by putting them down as business expenses from a tax perspective.

      1. Bea*

        Yeah…business owners claim any and all expenses to reduce their tax burden. That’s the point of keeping ledgers.

        1. Reluctanct Freelancer*

          Pretty much… it’s one of the few things that gives us freelancers a break come tax season. We are our own business (well, some of us). So we get to deduct business costs from our business. I provide my own computer, business software, pay for my own business travel, business insurance, etc.

    3. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

      Right? An employee should never spend their taxable income on something their employer could deduct as a business expense. Even more so now that US taxpayers can’t deduct unreimbursed expenses on their own tax return.

    4. [insert witty username here]*

      Don’t disagree…. but years ago, I once saw someone submit an expense reimbursement for mileage…… for going 2 miles. Literally they went to a store around the corner and back to purchase something for work and submitted a mileage reimbursement for 2 miles. Yes, the business should cover all business expenses…. but honestly, I think submitting a request for that would be more hassle than it’s worth.

      1. llt*

        And on the flip side, I used to work somewhere that insisted that when you submitted mileage reports you had to first take off the miles you might have spent driving to work had you not driven to another location, or else justify why not.

        This was petty and annoying enough (and the time spent calculating it cost them more in lost wages than they saved!) that I in turn got pissed off and made sure I charged for EVERY DAMN MILE I drove for them. You better believe I’d charge for that 2 miles I drove to the store – it’s petty as hell but *they started it*.

        1. Frank Doyle*

          That’s . . . pretty standard, actually, to subtract your regular commute. Is it really that big of a burden? You calculate it once, okay, my commute is 22 miles round-trip, so anywhere I go without going to the office first, I subtract 22 miles from that. That shouldn’t take that long.

          1. dizzyrobot*

            It doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happening here. I think llt is saying they were being dinged for their regular commute regardless of whether they had driven to work or not. e.g. If they drove straight to a client site in the morning without stopping at the office first, they had to subtract the mileage of their regular commute – I guess the argument was they had to drive x amount of miles regardless

        2. Nita*

          Yeah, that’s normal. My company also reimburses for time and/or mileage only beyond what you’d normally spend getting to the office. I’m not sure, but it may be connected to tax regulations – expenses for a regular office commute and for additional travel are handled differently when it comes to tax filing. Over here, the regular commute expenses are not reimbursable, but they can come out of a pre-tax flex spending account.

          1. LurkieLoop*

            Yeah this is totally from IRS regulations. Technically, if they didn’t request you deduct your normal commute they would have to put the reimbursement as wages on your W-2 and withhold accordingly.

            1. Someone Else*

              But that only applies if you went somewhere else instead of the office, I think? For example, if I drive to my office, then to a client site, then back to the office, then home, I’d put in for reimbursement of the mileage to and from the client site. If I go directly to the client site instead of the office, thenit’s the difference between normal commmute.

      2. Bea*

        As an accountant, I’m fine processing a $0.95 reimbursement. It’s easy. The costs add up quick if you just throw 2 miles here and 2 miles there into the mix.

        I’m constantly reminding people to do reimbursements for all these things.

        I have people go buy a screw here and there, cost averages about 30c. I always give them that.

      3. Pop*

        I submit my reports monthly, and I include everything, even two miles (sometimes less). I have a pretty tight budget, and those miles add up. Two miles = $1.08 = dinner.

      4. TAD*

        I once had an employee ask for mileage reimbursement when I asked her to go to Office Depot three miles away to get a new toner cartridge for our laser printer to replace the brand new toner cartridge she messed up by using labels that said Inkjet Only. The labels melted to the toner fuser and we needed the labels on stuff for a meeting the next day. I normally would run an errand like that, but was going to be tied up all afternoon in a meeting.

    5. LarsTheRealGirl*

      I think there are actually levels to this based on the organization.

      For example, my company covers meals and incidentals while traveling, but on a reimbursement – not per diem – basis.

      The lower paid staff will expense everything from the donut they bought at the airport, to the extra 2 miles between sites.

      Upper management usually won’t send an expense report for a coffee they got while in a different city (presumably because three would have had that Starbucks expense anyways), and because it just becomes too cumbersome/tedious for them to manage the receipts. They’ll definitely submit an expense report for the $500 client dinner.

      They definitely CAN claim the little stuff. At some point I think they just choose not to because of time spend/money gained.

      1. Bea*

        The highest paid people in each company I’ve worked at all had company cards for travel. You betcha they charged their coffees and kept the receipts.

        I just reimbursed the top exec $7 for parking he needed while on a business trip.

        1. Ozma the Grouch*

          This has been my experience as well. Higher ups have company cards which makes keeping track of expenses much much easier. Receipts are more about timestamps and itemization so that you can easily track and sort those expenses. It makes auditing, balancing books, etc. much cleaner. It’s also why small business owners worth their salt keep their business and personal accounts separate. It makes accounting all around much more manageable. Tracking that 25¢ parking meter purchase or that $1.00 coffee you regretted buying can become effortless if you setup your accounts right.

      2. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

        When I worked in accounts payable and processed expense reports, I found that the higher-level staff expensed every bit they could, while mid-level staff tended to only include larger items (e.g., CEO would call a bag of chips and soda purchased to nosh on before boarding as “lunch” while others only expensed meals if they were actual meals.) One woman even declined to expense her lunch while at trainings/meetings that did not provide food with the explanation that she didn’t pack a lunch normally, so she would have been paying for her own lunch without reimbursement had she been working a normal day.

        1. Nita*

          In my department, the lower-level staff and the higher-level staff have the most expenses, and the mid-level staff have smaller ones. That’s because the lower-level staff are dealing with the most travel/equipment/supply-related purchases, and the higher-level staff are dealing with the most travel for meetings and business development expenses (travel, meals with clients, etc.) The latter expenses usually just go on the company credit card, not on an expense report.

          1. Anon 1*

            I work at a non-profit and have never submitted my mileage. I’ll submit if I have to purchase something but it seems so petty to request mileage. I don’t think anyone else in my department submits for it either, though I could be wrong.

            1. Chinookwind*

              Keep in mind that mileage doesn’t just cover gas but also the wear and tear on your car and the increased insurance rate because you declared to your insurer that you drive your vehicle to/from work or for work.

              It seems petty to take in such small amounts but it does add up over time. I remember pricing out renting a vehicle for work with unlimited mileage vs. getting a mileage rate for one business trip and I was shocked at how much cheaper renting was (plus the added bonus of someone to call if there were mechanical issues).

          2. TardyTardis*

            I saw my CEO’s expense report once (normally handled by a higher up) and it was…spectacular. I could tell my friend was waiting for a comment one way or the other, so I said, “Well, if he can get someone like Steve Wynn to buy our doors and windows, I’ll kick in a couple of bottles from home”. This was received very positively.

        2. LurkieLoop*

          I’ve seen this and always attributed it to the fact that younger employees can be more timid in some ways when it comes to expensing things. CEOs know they won’t get in trouble so they expense whatever the hell they want.

      3. Katelyn*

        Many companies I’ve worked at don’t even require receipts if the amount is below $75 (something to do with IRS requirements I think). So I know a few less scrupulous folk who “estimate” on what they spent so that they’re at the top of the per diem limit every day no matter what they actually spent… :(

        I did have a boss who forgot to get a receipt in a different country and caught heck from the Accounts Payable team because he couldn’t just go back to the restaraunt and have them re-print the receipt for 40 UK pounds (or whatever it was) because the exchange rate they applied had it equivalent to $76.25… that buck twenty five was a real sticking point for them and eventually needed an EVP override iirc! (it was on the corporate card, so he was stuck with both the amount and the currency conversion that AP did)

        1. TardyTardis*

          I had to speak gently to one of our corporate attorneys who liked to put in per diem *and* his receipts, even if the per diem covered the meals he claimed on top. Oops. Now they’re all on Concur and someone else’s problem, thank God.

    6. AnotherArtist*

      I agree. In Australia, we’ve just had news of a politician who’s filed for $38,000 of internet expenses.

    7. Lil Fidget*

      In my sector (nonprofit) I have seen this not infrequently. The senior people just can’t be bothered/ can’t justify the time to submit smaller receipts and maybe there’s a “noblesse oblige” element at play as well. It’s not a great practice though, because it means the organization is likely underestimating the costs of running their programs!

    8. Tara S.*

      For things like mileage and travel, that’s totally fine. But I have worked at places where higher-ups got sideways looks for reimbursing certain things. Like, our associate director went to Costco to buy the admin staff holiday gifts, but then gave us the receipt to reimburse. We are a public institution, that kind of stuff is not really supposed to come out of department funds. It would have been fine if she hadn’t bought anything for us, but buying gifts and then charging them to the department raised some eyebrows. Was a learning moment for me that asking for reimbursement for things like that when you make over six figures will make people judge you, at least in the public realm.

    9. TootsNYC*

      someone who makes a higher salary might decide to not expense something that they felt was a bit of a splurge: “I could have gotten a regular coffee at Dunkin Donuts, but I like the lattes at Starbucks, so I’ll cover that more expensive cost.” That sort of thing.

      1. TootsNYC*

        but that’s because they might feel uncomfortable making the employer pay for the whole thing, and there’s no way to divide up the bill.

    10. Elle*

      Honestly for me it works the opposite – the higher you go the more you expense.
      I’m at the bottom end of the totem poll and I just don’t really submit expense reports unless its a big expense, neither do my coworkers. But the higher ups do. We occasionally have to do vendor visits which is an extra hour or two of driving compared to a regular commute day. Its a huge, huge pain to submit reports and get it approved and everyone kind of looks at you weird for being ‘nit picky’ or ‘cheap’ about a few hours of driving that requires a bunch of people to spend time reimbursing you for.
      But once you get to a certain level you get a credit card and just throw your receipts at the secretary to handle. So they expense EVERYTHING.

      1. Le Sigh*

        An extra hour or two of driving is a lot! They should not look at you sideways. I used to be in job that required a lot of mileage on my car and didn’t pay a lot. Your darn right I charged them every mile — that’s gas and wear on my car. That’s more frequent oil changes. I was on a tight budget.

        Granted, I realize you’re saying it’s occasional, so I could see not wanting to bother. But they should not hassle you. If anything, those nickle-dime expenses are even harder on those making the least.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        Except the higher ups make more, and can handle not submitting the little stuff. I guarantee you if we worked together, and you looked at -me- as nitpicky or cheap for submitting little expenses, if you were my boss, the first time you’d know this was an issue was when you got my two-week notice.

        I don’t spend my taxable income on the business, unless I own the business. That’s not negotiable, and if you look cross-eyed at me for it, that says a lot more about you than it does about me.

    11. Erin W*

      My boss is independently wealthy (or perhaps I should say dependently wealthy–the money is her husband’s) and she told me that the higher-ups have floated the idea to her that she should not bother reporting her travel expenses “since she can afford them” and then the institution can save money. She was like, “So because we’re well-off I don’t deserve to get compensated for my work?” I don’t know the legality in my state of them trying to do this, but she did not let it happen.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Ew, that’s grossly similar to how some bosses used to justify paying women less or laying them off because they weren’t the breadwinners.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Well you know all those females are just working for pin money anyway. Just waiting to snag a man to support them or earning a little extra for all the frivolous things their sensible husbands refuse to pay for. Amirite?

    12. Amber T*

      Fully agree that all business expenses should be reimbursed by the company, full stop. Doesn’t matter what your role is or what your salary is.

      What’s funny (in a less comical way) is that it’s typically the higher earners that try to nickel and dime the system (was that reeeeally a business expense? Like, sometimes they’ll bend over backwards to call something a business expense), while newer/less experienced (therefore, lesser paid) have the tendency to go “oh, I probably would have just ordered out dinner anyway, I don’t need to expense this.” So it’s a push to get the less experienced employees to expense everything they’re entitled to (because they are entitled to it! The company will pay for it!) versus not letting some employees abuse the system.

    13. Chinookwind*

      I agree, and not just because they are shouldering an extra burden.

      Those business expenses are a cost of doing business that, if not reimbursed, never show up as a cost. Thus the company thinks it is doing better than it does or that a person in position X costs less than they do. This will come to light when they eventually hire that person’s replacement who, when they go to be reimbursed for those same costs, will be taken to cost for being more expensive than the last guy.

      How serious is this? I worked for a Big 5 accounting firm where one of the senior partners had not filed business expenses for 4 years because he didn’t feel like he needed the money. He didn’t have many and they were mainly professional fees, but by doing that, he was throwing off their budgets and average costs per person. As a result, he was tasked by the other partners to find those receipts and submit them for reimbursement. Since I was the lucky one who got to type the report, I can attest that it was in the thousands. As for him feeling guilty about taking this extra money (he really was a nice guy to work for and stayed on top of submitting me receipts monthly after that), he decided to just donate it to charity because it felt like found money to him.

    14. Nonprofit Mike*

      A little late to this discussion, but I think the reason this is even a question is that the LW works for a nonprofit. For most of my career I submitted all of my expenses (lots of mileage since I was often traveling to do fundraising) and didn’t think about it. I’m now at a high enough level where I will admit I don’t expense everything. Big things are still submitted but I don’t submit for mileage when I am just driving in town or if I am picking up a small thank you gift. I know that no one would mind if I submitted for everything, but it sort of feels like I am donating money to a cause I care deeply about without having to directly give them money.

    15. OP#4 Author*

      Wow! Thank you, Alison, for posting this and to everyone else for the thoughtful and thorough commentary. The chorus of unanimous voices on this provides tons of clarity. You’ve really enriched my perspective on this, not to mention on some related topics as well. Thanks!

  7. Greg NY*

    #4: I’ve never heard of anyone (and I know quite a few at higher levels in their organizations) who was supposed to not submit all business expenses for reimbursement. Your salary pays you for completing a set of duties and is pay for your time (at a higher level, you are paid for those duties rather than per hour), but isn’t supposed to cover your business expenses. If you incur expenses in performing business for the company, you are entitled to reimbursement for those expenses. It is legal, although very crappy, not to reimburse for business expenses, but that would apply to all levels of the organization. It would be safe for you to assume, no matter your level, that you will be reimbursed unless the organization doesn’t reimburse at all.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Not to be annoying, but failing to reimburse is not legal in all states. For example, it is unlawful in California for an employer to fail to reimburse an employee’s “necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer.” That framing has included things like the cost of your cell phone service if there’s a BYOD policy, work uniforms and tools, etc.

      1. KC without the sunshine band*

        Are businesses required to reimburse mileage at the IRS rate? My company reimburses at a little more than half the IRS rate. Thanks to anyone who knows the answer.

    2. Jenn*

      My husband travels internationally for work a lot, and for him, not getting reimbursed would result in a significant pay cut. If an organization even tried this, I would recommend going somewhere else. As stated above the extra money is supposed to pay for increased experience and performance (and to keep you from going elsewhere). Reimbursements should always be separate.

    3. Lexi Kate*

      You should submit all business expenses but be sure you can justify them to your financial manager, just because everyone does it doesn’t mean it isn’t at least side eyed and remember if your area is audited you will have to explain it so keep records.

      I manage a region’s finances and our upper level management submit all regular reimbursements (car rental, mileage, lodging, food, etc). However with another region being audited the higher level management have since been most likely picking up small charges that would normally be accepted but side eyed on their on card. These charges have been inflight wifi, baggage fees(more than 1 bag for a overnight), Dry cleaning(on less than a week stay), room service (when you have hit your daily food max), multiple coffee runs, small uber bills, etc. While their mileage is still being charged I do think they are being more cautious with what they are charging, I have seen the mileage go down and nothing in their territories have changed. They are charging for all of the true business stuff but it looks like anything that would be questionable they are leaving off.

      1. Tara S.*

        Yeah, we do a lot of “tap dancing”, as my boss puts it, for those extra charges like wifi. In the end they almost always get reimbursed, but we have to be really thorough about making the traveler give us a business justification for the charges. (And by give us, I mean we usually write it and they approve.)

        1. Chinookwind*

          I had one boss tell me about his tap dancing routine to get business class seats for his trip from Ottawa to California. the guy was 6’6″, so the main reason for doing this was so that he could be fit to work when he arrived. But, he also pointed out that the alternative was him being unable to work for 8 hours on confidential company work on his computer if he was crammed into economy with all those eyes looking over his shoulder.

          It was the most logical business explanation I ever heard and it actually worked on a tight-fisted company.

    4. Emily*

      The only thing I would say is maybe a gray area around this, is that in most places I’ve worked, the highest-paid staff tend to be more likely to spend their own money, without reimbursement, on some sort of appreciation gift for their staff. So in a sense it is a work expense that they don’t submit for reimbursement, but that’s because it’s not a mandatory/business-critical expense the company is asking them to incur. It’s an expense they choose to shoulder, and no doubt that’s an easier choice to make the more well-paid you are.

      But your salary is always YOURS, OP, not your company’s. You choose how to spend it.

      1. Tara S.*

        ^^^ They are totally allowable charges, but when you make more than three times the rest of us, we can get real judgy about tiny charges like that.

        1. Emily*

          Yeah, I don’t even make that much, but I only expense charges under $5 when they’re part of a larger expense report, say for multi-day trip out of town that includes registration fees, rental car, airfare, hotel, meals, and I’m just adding new lines at the time cost of a few seconds per line I clone for each time I parked at a meter on a business trip, each time I stopped for coffee, etc. But if I’m just driving to a one-day off-site meeting and I pay $3.50 to park in the host office’s parking lot but had no other expenses, it’s really unlikely I’m going to spend the time to create an entire expense report for that one $3.5o line item. I have more interesting work I could spend my time on than filling out an expense report for a cost that is not a hardship for me to absorb.

        2. Amber T*

          Our company tried to implement a policy where you could not expense anything over $5, so your morning coffee, or a newspaper, or very small incidentals that you would have bought anyway, would not be covered. So people started buying their coffee AND a water AND a snack AND a pack of gum just so they would spend $6. Again, totally allowable… but come on. (These too are people who are pulling six to seven figures.)

  8. KarenT*

    #5 If you’re up for it you can always go minimalist. I work in a weirdly celebratory place and have been ragged on for not wearing a costume (in a gentle teasing, not mean way). I now own a headband with cat ears and a witch hat which I wear in alternating years. Seems to be enough for people to think I’m participating!

    1. Artemesia*

      This. It is easier to put on a hat, or animal ears or an arrow through the head headpiece or whatever than to explain you aren’t participating. Lots of people do minimalist ‘costumes’ when businesses are doing dress up and no one thinks anything of it.

      1. Jasnah*

        There are plenty of lines you can say when asked why you’re not wearing a costume.
        “I’m a serial killer. They look like everyone else.”
        “What do you mean? I am most definitely a human [fe]male and not an alien/android.”
        “You can see me?? Finally, someone who can talk to ghosts!”
        “I’m my evil twin”
        “I’m an office worker/I’m a [your job title here]”
        “I’m a time traveler from 1876/3549”
        “Oh, I’m just mild-mannered [your name]/I’m an off-duty superhero” etc. etc.

        1. AK*

          Evil twin is a good one, just part your hair on the other side or wear a shirt that you wouldn’t normally wear. That’s my go to!

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I know an elementary school teacher who did that – she straightened her normally curly hair and wore a name tag with a “twinny” name.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              My sixth grade teacher claimed to be her own twin on Halloween. She didn’t dress differently that I recall, but she pretended not to know any of the student’s names. The next day she was back to normal. I’m *pretty sure* she was the same person, but she was a really good actress and a lot of us had questions!

          2. Doe-Eyed*

            I did the evil twin one year by sticking on a 25c costume mustache. My Indian coworker, who was unfamiliar with Halloween, pulled me into a meeting with some vendors without warning and then proceeded to explain that for Halloween I had dressed up “as a man”. (I was wearing my normal, feminine clothing.)

          3. Queen Anon*

            You can also just rim your eyes with heavy black liner to go as your evil twin, a la Captain Kirk in “The Enemy Within”. (Or paste on a beard, a la Spock in “Mirror, Mirror” and you’re alternate universe you.)

        2. Prince Humperdinck*

          Get a “My Name Is” name tag and add ” Inigo Montoya…you killed my father. Prepare to die”

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I really like this one.

            And agree with Artemisia’s general sentiment that it may be easier to just wear a low effort costume (hat, nametag) rather than to keep explaining why you’re not wearing one.

        3. Harper the Other One*

          When I was working in a retail cash office, I printed a bunch of (obviously fake) money and stuffed it in my pockets.
          When my manager commented on me not being dressed up for Halloween, I said “Yes, I am! I’m a dishonest employee!” And started throwing fake bills around. I got a good laugh for that one :-)

        4. SigneL*

          “I’m an insurance salesman! Can we talk about your insurance needs?” or
          “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you!”
          both of these, while you are wearing your typical work clothes.

      2. The Last Straw*

        I once had to put together a Halloween costume on very short notice. I put on a suit, put a straw in the front pocket, and told people I was dressed up as “the last straw.” Got a few laughs out of it, too.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          One of my favorite minimal costumes is the ‘Clark Kent changing into superman’ which only requires a shirt that looks like the Superman costume, worn under a normal suit which is slightly unbuttoned enough to see the S.

          1. Liane*

            You can also buy tees printed with the half-opened dress shirt, undone necktie, and partially revealed emblem.

      3. Doctor Schmoctor*

        I don’t agree. I think it’s easier to just say “Not this year.” People shouldn’t be pressured into playing along if they don’t want to.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I’d agree with you if the OP was actually opposed to wearing a costume, but she was actually looking forward to it. In that case, a super simple costume (i.e. the cat ears headband) lets her play along without having to put any effort into it, and without engaging in discussions about why she’s not dressed up, which I believe she wanted to avoid.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            This exactly–it’s five minutes to put together one of the minimal costume ideas here, to avoid a whole series of longer conversations about why she doesn’t have a costume this year.

            If no one would notice, care, or ask her about it, it’d be different–but it seems likely all three of those are true.

          2. Psyche*

            Yeah, if they actively don’t want to dress up then they can say that. But if they don’t want to get into why they suddenly no longer want to participate, a quick hat or headband might be easier. They have no obligation to do even a minimalist costume, but the issue seems less the constume and more that they don’t have the energy/emotional bandwidth to deal with it right now.

        2. Alton*

          They definitely shouldn’t feel pressured, but if the OP normally gets into the spirit and is worried about the change being noticeable, I think it’s worth thinking about. And sometimes when you don’t feel up to participating in something you usually do, having to explain that to people and watch while they participate can be a reminder that your stressful or tiring circumstances are keeping you from doing stuff. So you have to handle situations like that however you’re most comfortable with.

          If the OP doesn’t want to participate at all, they definitely shouldn’t feel bad about that. But there’s also nothing wrong with participating at a lower level of commitment.

          1. Em*

            I’m appreciating these ideas as easy costumes because I DON’T like doing a costume but sometimes I have to or it would be awkward not to.

            This isn’t as easy as the other suggestions, but one year I safety pinned some kid clothing (mostly socks, I think a pair of underwear) to my shirt and taped a “static cling” sign to my shirt.


            1. Lissa*

              I also appreciate these ideas because I like Halloween but I’m extremely uncreative and not crafty at all!

    2. Wendy Darling*

      I was going to suggest a tacky pumpkin sweater, ugly Christmas jumper style. Or perhaps a brooch. My local craft store is JAMPACKED with that kind of thing at the moment.

      But yeah, #5, you definitely do not have to dress up. I don’t have anyone in or adjacent to my life who gets excited about halloween so half the time I just legitimately forget about it on the day.

    3. Edith*

      Another minimalist approach would be the Jim Halpert– tape three circles to your shirt and say you’re a sheet of notebook paper, or wear a nametag that says “Dave,” and whenever someone asks you what your costume is you point to the nametag and say you’re Dave.

      Or if part of your reticence is the mental, monetary, and time costs of having to come up with a new costume, don’t. Do the Ron Swanson and just wear what you wore last year. Start wearing it every year.

      1. Erin W*

        Ron Swanson: I’m a pirate.
        Ann maybe? I don’t remember: Weren’t you a pirate last year?
        Ron Swanson: Yes. This is my Halloween costume.

      2. JessicaTate*

        Ditto. I was totally going to suggest a Jim Halpert costume! Three-hole paper was what came to mind, but “Dave” was also genius. And then you can use Allison’s scripts if people give you flack about it. You’re participating, but not putting energy into it. Hang in there!

    4. HA2*

      This is an excellent approach, and I think has been used in at least one past AAM post. A witch hat or cat ears are perfect for an ultra-low-effort costume that still communicates that you’re part of the celebration. (For men, a wizard hat.)

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        No shade to HA2, but please rock those kitty ear head bands, dudes. I bet you look real cute!

    5. Gen*

      If OP doesn’t want to make a big deal out of not dressing up there’s a lot of closet cosplays that don’t take much effort. In an office where most of us wore black suits and had to look professional for clients we just carried sunglasses, instant Men In Black costume. Or grab some fake fangs and wear with your normal clothes, if asked well not every vampire is a stereotype ;) I totally understand the feeling of being too overwhelmed though and it might be worth telling the organiser you’re going to need to be lowkey and just see how you feel on the day

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I did last year (Belle). It was a huge success and lots of fun. My students all got what I was doing but I didn’t have that slightly uncomfortable feeling of going out in public with a full on costume.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          If I find blue overalls at Goodwill, I’m pulling a yellow long-sleeved shirt on underneath because at my office we’re all Minions anyway.

          1. Someone Else*

            Blue (or denim) overalls + yellow shirt = minion
            Blue (or denim) overalls + red shirt shirt = Mario
            Blue (or denim) overalls + green shirt = Luigi
            White overalls + red shirt shirt = Fire Flower Mario

            Basically, overalls + specific color shirt is a shortcut to a LOT of costumes.

    6. Socks*

      If you wear makeup, it might be easy to just be a little gothier than usual- I think that also signals “halloween spirit” without necessarily being a costume. Alternately, maybe a black/orange outfit or makeup theme? Drugstores sell tons of cheap black lipstick and other costumey makeup around this time of year, so if you don’t have any already, it should be pretty easy to pick up.

    7. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

      I was “Girl with the Flu” one year – especially convincing since I ended up being out of work for the whole next week.

      1. Not a Blossom*

        I was a frazzled college student one year. College t-shirt and hoodie, sweatpants, messy hair, and done. It was the most comfortable I’d ever been at work.

        1. AC*

          I did this one at my first job out of college. Jeans, [College Name] U t-shirt, and carried a backpack. It got a few smiles, I got to wear jeans to work, all good.

        2. aebhel*

          That’s an amazing idea, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it. You don’t even need to get dressed! Just roll out of bed and pull on a pair of Crocs.

        3. Aphrodite*

          Exactly! You can call yourself your mother’s (or grandmother’s) worst nightmare: an unmade bed.

        4. AMA Long-time Lurker*

          Related: my mom and dad went to Halloween as “sick” and “tired” one year, and it was hilarious. Sick had a thermometer in the mouth and tired just wore pajamas. Clever always wins! (But this only works if you have two people)

      2. Erin W*

        I was Lady Who Just Woke Up once. Bathrobe over sweats, slippers, hair in a messy bun. I carried a coffee mug with candy in it. I put night cream on my face but it hardened very quickly at an overheated house party so I had to wash it off.

        Nearly everyone said the same thing to me: Oh you look like me an hour ago [i.e. before getting ready and coming to the party].

    8. Marion Ravenwood*

      Agreed. I’ve seen quite a few places online selling T-shirts/sweatshirts with a slogan saying ‘this is my Halloween costume’. (Etsy and Lookhuman have some particularly good ones, depending how plain – or not – you want it to be.) Personally I’d be inclined to go with something like that and jeans/a skirt as a halfway house between a full-on costume and ‘regular’ work clothes.

      1. Doug Judy*

        My husband and I bought “I met Lil’ Sebastian at the Pawnee Harvest Festival” shirts and that is our costume this year. If only I could rent a mini horse…

        1. Not a Blossom*

          That is amazing. (Also, now I am picturing Doug Judy meeting Lil Sebastian. I bet he would be DELIGHTED.)

          1. Doug Judy*

            He totally would! I’m imagining a scenario where he and Jake have to rescue a mini horse. Make it happen Nine-Nine writers!

          2. Damn it, Hardison!*

            Now I’ve got Pony by Gnuwine in my head (could be worse!). I would love a B99 story line with Doug Judy, Jake and a mini horse.

    9. Madeleine Matilda*

      This just makes me so glad I have never worked in an office where we had to dress up. We did have a day care in one office building and the kids would come in costume and parade through the building collecting candy – that was fun.

    10. Sara without an H*

      Yeah, nobody should feel coerced into dressing up — “mandatory fun” is an oxymoron.

      That said, there are some good suggestions down this thread that would be easy and low stress. I have a pair of earrings shaped like little black bats. Instant Halloween, no fuss.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      At one point I wound up with a Star Trek communicator badge in my possession. When I found out my new office was doing costumes, I pinned it onto my regular clothing. I’ve also done that with a toy sheriff’s badge. Another year I simply dressed differently than I usually do to the office — we’re a casual office and I wore a blue suit to be “the CEO”. Not everyone got it — I had someone ask me if I had an interview.

      1. Czhorat*

        Note to self: plan job interviews on Halloween, so if anyone asks why I’m in a suit, I can claim to be in-costume as “The CEO”.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I once was at a Halloween party where someone dressed like Captain Planet, and brought the full set of Planeteer rings to hand out to everyone without costumes. If anyone asked them they could show off their rings. Of course this requires a very specific age bracket.

    12. Lexi Kate*

      My husband wears jeans and a tee shirt and takes our sons play hard hat (that will not fit my husband) and goes in on halloween as a construction worker. He is always excited that he is not having to wear slacks.

    13. Femme D'Afrique*

      I don’t much care for Halloween (not having grown up celebrating it). The one time I was pressured to participate (in a US college) I wore jeans and a t-shirt and said I was going as an American college student.

    14. No Mas Pantalones*

      I was thing more subversive. Dress as you normally would. Wear a name tag reading: “[Name] – November 1, 2018.” Bam, you’re you in the future.

      1. Em*

        I’m saving this idea for if I ever need it, but I’d tape a sign on my shirt with 4 $1 bills, “$5” on one line and “October 30, 2018” on the next. The costume would be “a day late and a dollar short”

    15. Dr. Pepper*

      Adding my voice, this is exactly what I would suggest. Or wear a festive Halloween t-shirt or earrings. Whatever is the easiest grab-and-go option. I have a set of cat ears on a headband that I’ve had for ages, and nothing is easier than putting on a black shirt, plopping the ears on my head and calling it done. It might be easier to just be casual and minimalist than go through explanations as to why you haven’t dressed up at all. When things are tough for me, I find that it’s easier to go along with certain things my heart might not be fully in rather than repeatedly answer questions about why I’m not doing the thing. But that’s me.

    16. Spooky*

      T-shirt costumes (or makeup-only costumes, if you’re so inclined) were made for exactly this situation. There are a ton of really easy ones at places like Target.

    17. Ophelia*

      A friend of mine for years threw a half-assed Halloween party (rules were that she’d send around a very broad theme day-of, and you couldn’t spend more than $5), and my best ever costume was a rectangle of cardboard painted yellow. I just held it up around my face and told people I was National Geographic.

    18. Silence Will Fall*

      I’ve been going as game show contestants for years. It takes about 10 minutes and watching people’s faces as they figure it out makes my day.

      Yellow cardstock + wide tip Sharpie = The Price Is Right
      Blue cardstock + chalk pen = Jeopardy
      Red cardstock + whiteout = Wheel of Fortune

    19. Minocho*

      I was going to make this suggestion. as well. A funny headband or glasses is a great way to be minimally participating. It also allows you to take it off easily and be totally professional as needed. Coming into the office in full scuba gear makes that more difficult (actually happened)

    20. LDP*

      Yes to a minimalist costume with items you already own! I went as Leslie Knope one year! I just wore a navy blouse, a red cardigan, and had a mini American flag. I also made some Knope campaign buttons, but you could easily get away with not having those.

    21. calonkat*

      I have a sims plumbob (google sims plumbob papercraft) on a headband that I wear. That way whatever I’m wearing on the day is my sims outfit. Unfortunately I don’t work in IT, or with young people, so a video game reference is not something that is understood…

    22. Lauren*

      Where’s Waldo comes to mind. Jeans and a striped t-shirt, hat and fake glasses. You are participating, but at a superficial level since they are just normal clothes – a classic where you can even hide away in a conference room and let people wonder where is waldo during the festivities. I bought a real striped shirt as the costume one was kind of thin and only paid for the hat as I wear glasses.

      Also, a witches hat with feather boa works every time – easy, but cheap ones can dye your shirt if you sweat.

    23. Kramerica Industries*

      I made two signs using cardboard and popsicle sticks. One said “GO CELINGS!!” and the other said “I <3 CELINGS".

      I was a ceiling fan. So easy to whip out those signs when people accuse me of not being festive. And the look on their face of "I see what you did there" is classic.

    24. theletter*

      Yoga instructor: just wear your favorite workout clothes!

      Stylish Witch: black outfit and evening makeup!

      long skirt and sweatshirt: Granny Two Cents!

      Stick your arms in your top: Farewell to Arms!

    25. all the candycorn*

      Dollar Tree and Target’s Dollar Spot are key for this. I periodically pick up cute hats/headbands, cute holiday t-shirts, etc., and put them away so I have something for when work announces some holiday-themed spirit event at the last minute, or I get invited to a theme party, or something along those lines.

    26. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I’m a little curious from their wording as to whether they specifically don’t want to wear a costume anymore or if they just no longer feel like putting in effort. Because there are tons of low-to-no effort costumes that one could throw together in two minutes if that’s the only issue. I mean you could probably make some decent cat ears with printer paper and paper clips right at your desk.

    27. pony tailed wonder*

      If you google blood necklace choker, you can find a cheap plastic necklace that will make you look like someone has slit your throat for scary cheap costume.

    28. Sara*

      I was going to suggest this as well. Or, consider that every drug/dollar/department store will have Halloween jewelry and other (sometimes very cute!) accessories-you could just wear black and find a fun scarf or earrings and call it good!

      Otherwise, Rosie the Riveter is my favorite because it’s easy and inspiring!

  9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, Alison is right that this varies by region, but it also varies by employer. In many major cities in the Southwest (Tucson, El Paso, Austin, Vegas), I would not blink twice at a female candidate with a buzzcut. But in other cities and depending on whether you’re appearing in court, it could affect how you’re perceived.

    But there are certainly regions that expect women to present as more femme. Do you plan to go into a local law firm? BigLaw? State/federal government? A nonprofit or legal aid? All of those factors, combined with geography, contribute to whether there’s more/less leeway on hairstyles. So if you later decide to partially grow your hair out, you can easily look professional with nearly any haircut that’s pixie length, including the femullet. Also note that shorter hair styles (although not quite a buzzcut) are very common for women lawyers who are 30+, so hiring folks may perceive your hairstyle differently than your law school peers.

    1. Jasnah*

      I agree that very short hair that laid flat, as opposed to standing up like a buzz cut, would be perfectly professional in most industries (I’m thinking length like Rosemary’s Baby or Cersei on Game of Thrones). So I imagine a buzz cut would not be very jarring, but if you feel it’s impeding you, you can still get away with very short hair.

      1. Jasnah*

        Edited to add, I think the edginess of the buzz cut would definitely be counterbalanced by dressing conservatively/femininely. I often see women with shorter hair/androgynous fashion wearing jewelry or heels and it looks super stylish. Worst case scenario you confuse people, like, should I invite this person to tea or roller derby?

        1. Jolie*

          That’s what I was thinking:classic strand of pearls, matching pearl earrings and Audrey Hepburn makeup (bold lipstick, long lashes, a bit of blush) could look very stylish with very short hair.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I think it varies both by region and by company.

      If you’re working for a place with a dress code that would bar men from wearing long hair I suspect that a woman with a buzz cut would run into problems, if not officially then perceptually. Similarly, if a job required women to wear skirts (not pantsuits), a buzz cut would not be feminine enough.

      1. PBH*

        My thought was not so much about being hired but obtaining clients later on. I really don’t care how anyone dresses or does their hair but I would not want to hire someone as my attorney with this look. I just would worry a conservative judge could be very put off by this and i don’t need that when I am paying to win a case of some sort. It isn’t an ideal answer but when It comes to my well being I wouldn’t be risking anything frankly. I fired an attorney I hired because he came to court each time looking like he slept in a clothes pile, stains all over his clothes, always late, crumbled and wrinkled. I just didn’t feel it represented ME well, which is what an attorneys job is.

        1. Buzzcut OP*

          I appreciate your point of view! That is something I’m concerned about. Law is a very looks-heavy field. Judges and clients alike want you to fit a certain image, and differing from the norms can be disruptive. I don’t want to be judged (no pun intended) on my looks over my abilities.

    3. TL -*

      Oh, interesting – I probably wouldn’t put El Paso in the Southwest and I definitely wouldn’t include Austin.

      But either way, I agree that specific locality and field would probably matter more than broad regional area – even in Austin, there are fields where you’d want to do a pixie instead of a buzz cut. And also plenty of fields where a buzzcut might get you a “rock on!” response.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I always lump Texas into southern and southwestern, although the eastern side (Houston, Dallas, Austin) are more southern, imo. El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley always strike me as more southwestern.

        1. TL -*

          I’m from the Rio Grande Valley and I would never classify myself/it as southwestern. Or southern, honestly. Texas is its own beast, culturally.

          But the Valley is a good example of a place where a buzz cut would definitely not be in your favor in general, though I doubt anyone would be rude enough to say so to a stranger.

          1. Zip Silver*

            Even in Austin, a buzzcut would be out of place for a woman. Although I do remember, a few years back, that there was a white traffic ticket lawyer who had dreadlocks. There were billboards all over the place. Not the guy I’d call if I needed legal representation, plenty of other lawyers in Austin.

            1. TL -*

              I lived in Austin for two years and though I never had to hire a lawyer, I saw several gainfully employed women with buzzcuts. I wouldn’t take it as a given that every employer in Austin is on the “Keep Austin Weird” train but a lot of places really don’t care.

            2. Czhorat*

              This has been stated before, but OP is not a woman. They are a non-binary person with a feminine presentation.

              We should be respectful in how we identify them.

                1. Czhorat*

                  Nor are they a tuber.

                  Words matter. Words have impact. Using the correct language is the very, very least we can do. Shrugging it off as a regional pronunciation is dismissive and, in my view, disrespectful.

                2. Aleta*

                  I am a feminine nonbinary person who is very pragmatic about how I’m perceived as a woman in the world. I still make the “perceived as women” distinction would absolutely not appreciate people who knew I am not a woman not making that distinction.

                3. discarvard*

                  A non-binary person in heels is a non-binary person in heels. A guy in heels is also just a guy in heels, and a woman in sneakers is a woman in sneakers.

              1. Mary*

                Thank you for saying this. This may not be your experience, but this may not be a “potato/potato” situation at all for the LW.

            3. LawP*

              I work as an attorney in Austin and have worked with a BigLaw litigator who has a buzz cut. I think it’s like any other unusual style, if you’re a rock star, it won’t be an issue, if you’re not great, it might.

          2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            Interesting. I am from the region and used to live in Las Cruces, and I would definitely include southern Colorado, all of New Mexico, and El Paso in the “southwest”, but not Austin. Perhaps it’s more to do with archaeological classifications for me?

        2. Liet-Kinda*

          El Paso is definitely Southwest. That’s about it for Texas, though – Texas is Texas, not the South or the Southwest. It is, I think, part of “the West,” but not the Southwest.

          1. Liet-Kinda*

            In general, I think of the cultural Southwest as being Arizona, New Mexico (though the very eastern bit tends to feel more like the southern Great Plains states), Texas west of about Van Horn, Utah south of the Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Colorado south of US 24 and west of I-25.

    4. Fellow Enby Profesh*

      Hey, so as a fellow person who identifies as non-binary, please make a personal note that referring to LW #3/LW #3’s situation using the word choice “a female candidate with a buzzcut” is inaccurate and harmful. They’re not a female with a buzzcut – they’re a nb person with a buzzcut. I understand the impulse to generally categorize the situation (which, to be clear, is still a form of erasure), but this situation is *specifically* about a non-binary person, not just ~women, generally, with perhaps nontraditional haircuts~. Perhaps this seems nitpicky to the more callous and ignorant among us, but I assure you, it’s a very easy thing to change about your mindset, and does a world of hurt to overlook it. Thanks for your understanding!

      1. Czhorat*

        I think Alison should perhaps sticky this to the top; I see LOTS of commenters using female pronouns and otherwise assuming that the OP is a woman when the post made it very clear that they aren’t.

        I do think this changes some of how we look at it; discrimination against nonbinary people might be another issue they face. At the VERY least we can be respectful of OP’s gender identity.

      2. behindbj*

        But…that is actually the question being asked. The nb letter-writer is asking about that very issue, and how they would be received with their current dress and presentation. And that is the question people are answering.

        The only ignorance I see is in your assumptions that everyone is callous and ignoring the letter writer’s stated identity. No one has said that they must conform to ALL THE THINGS CIS AND BINARY. They are answering the question of a nb, fairly-feminine presenting, moderately gender-dress conforming (due to the conservative nature of the career choice or – really – their choice in professional presentation) with a buzzcut – as described by the letter writer. And that question – is a female-presenting person with a buzzcut likely to get side-eye in a conservative-tending industry – is the same regardless of how the letter writer identifies.

        And that is from a 6’1″, 200 pound large-framed woman with really short hair, that is often bright blue or glittering purple. It doesn’t matter how I identify – the perception is all over the place. And that’s that I need to manage – and what the letter writer is asking about.

        1. Czhorat*

          People are commenting here using “she/her” pronouns and making statements about how “a woman with a buzzcut” would be viewed.

          The comments do not, to my reading, feel respectful of OP’s nb identity. I don’t think it’s intentional, but it’s very easy to fall into a pattern of speaking as one is accustomed to, even in situations where it is not appropriate.

          OP is not a woman. Let’s be clear on that and move on.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            People are commenting here using “she/her” pronouns and making statements about how “a woman with a buzzcut” would be viewed.

            I thought that was because potential employers will perceive her as a woman with a buzzcut.

            1. Anon for a doxy post*

              This is true.

              My comments are because OP will be perceived as a woman and not because I think OP is a woman.

              Also, the she/her pronouns are what I go to because that is the site default.

              If someone missed the gender NB in the letter, it’s understandable. We all skip details.

              Now that it has been pointed out, we should be aware of it. We should be using “they” unless OP comes in and specifies what OP wants, even though I don’t think anyone was intentionally erasing OP.

              We can all make an effort to switch now and not derail on this in a fight about intentions.

              But we do need to be discussing how women are perceived because that is OPs question. OP is not asking about dressing in a gender neutral way. OP is asking about dressing in a feminine way.

              1. Czhorat*

                Very well stated. I don’t use it myself (I default to “they”), but I love the custom of using “she/her” for unknown genders here; it’s just subversive enough to make a point about the ubiquity of default “he”. This is different.

                Analogy: I usually say “Actor” regardless of gender. Meg Ryan is an actor. Jodie Foster is an actor. If in talking about Laverne Cox, I usually say “actress” to avoid the perception of misgendering.

              2. Alton*

                I’ve never seen people use female pronouns for an OP who said they were a man in their letter.

                Also, most of the letter writers who are discussed here aren’t trans, and having the wrong pronouns used for you when you’re trans can carry a lot more baggage. Most cis people aren’t routinely misgendered as much.

                I think it’s worth acknowledging that the OP being perceived as a woman will affect how they’re treated, but it’s not safe to assume that non-binary people will be comfortable with binary pronouns. There’s a tendency for people to subconsciously see all non-binary people as essentially just being gender-nonconforming men or women, but being non-binary is more complex than that.

                1. Aleta*

                  Exactly. Me being pragmatic about people I’m not out to roping me in with women is one thing, but people I’m explicitly out to? That sort of misgendering is especially painful, on top of the many small cuts I already deal with. Making the distinction of “perceived as” does me and other nonbinary people way more good than the added effort to use.

              3. DreamingInPurple*

                Starting with the 5th line, this is a really good comment. The first bit is just defensiveness over being called out. The important bit is that we fix how we are referring to them, not that we spend time justifying why it was done wrong in the first place – that only leads down the wrong road.

                I’m not trying to clap back at you here – I have this on the mind because a group I’m involved with has just dealt with this same issue, and one of the things that was the most hurtful to the NB person was the way that the person who was misgendering them continued to explain why they had done it. The impulse comes from a good place – wanting someone to understand that hurting them wasn’t intentional – but all it does is dig the hole deeper by making the misgendering look Totally Reasonable.

              4. Buzzcut OP*

                :) I appreciate the consideration most everyone has shown about this, and while I’m a bit late to the party, I do prefer they/them pronouns!

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              This, and New Job’s point.

              Assuming OP doesn’t open with “Hi I’m non-binary” then feminine presenting, feminine dressing, means most observers default into “woman with very short hair.” Not “man with very short hair, in a pencil skirt and bright heels” or “non-binary person.”

              1. Aleta*

                Sure, but we all know that OP is not a woman, so we can make the distinction of “perceived as women.” OP may or may not be out at work, but they’re out to us, and it’s disrespectful to frame advice as if they were a woman when we all know they’re not and the issue IS that they’re perceived as one, not that they are one.

                1. Buzzcut OP*

                  Thank you! For all of your comments, though I can’t reply to most of them. They are wonderfully put, and it’s great to know that there are other people out there in the same/similar boat. I appreciate you! I also often use the distinction of “perceived as a woman” because it’s easier than trying to explain everything all the time, especially to people who aren’t super into progressive change and roll their eyes at “the youths and their fads” and have a serious impact on my future career. But, you are correct. I am not a woman. I am perceived as a woman, and out of stigma/exhaustion/safety/apathy, I am not out to most people who I know in a professional context, though I am “out” to my friends and family. It’s hard to navigate the legal profession being perceived as female, and it’s even harder when you are perceived as female but aren’t. There is a whole different layer to the respectability politics at work here.

          2. New Job So Much Better*

            Don’t comments defer to “she” on this blog regularly, without actually meaning OP is a woman?

            1. Phoenix*

              Yes, when the gender of the person in question is not known. In this case, as the OP has stated they are non-binary, it is best to go with “they” pronouns unless OP corrects us. The default to “she” does not extend to knowingly misgendering someone.

            2. Dragoning*

              Yes, but when OP has specifically mentioned being an AFAB nonbinary person, being called “She” hurts.

              A lot.

              Coming from another AFAB nonbinary person.

        2. sfigato*

          “It doesn’t matter how I identify – the perception is all over the place. And that’s that I need to manage – and what the letter writer is asking about”

          I’ve been feeling lately that this framework of people talking about how they identify misses the fact that the world is gonna see you how they see you, and you don’t always have much control over it (not to mention that our own self-perceptions are often inaccurate). There is also only so much, imho, that you can ask other people to invest in your self-perception.

          1. Phoenix*

            I assure you, no one with a marginalized identity “misses the fact that the world is gonna see you how they see you, and you don’t always have much control over it”.

          2. Suspectclass*

            Trans and enby people talk about how we identify because we KNOW the world doesn’t see us as we are. This is patronizing as hell.

            1. Czhorat*

              Official representative of “The World” here. We might not get it right when we first see you, but we’re capable of learning.

              I’m sorry for all of the times people do NOT try to get it right. There’s no excuse these days.

              So long as it is your honest self-expression we should be here for you.

            2. sfigato*

              Probably was condescending as hell. FWIW, I wasn’t thinking of trans/non gender conforming identities. I was thinking about how that language has morphed into other identities/personality traits to the point where I think it has jumped the shark. One extreme example – a bartender at a bar with a “no nazis” sticker behind the bar told me about a nazi catching feelings about it and saying “Just because I identify as a white nationalist I can’t drink at your bar???” In less ridiculous examples, I’ve been at meetings with folks working on social justice and the “I identify as…” thing has started to encompass things that a, other people probably shouldn’t have to care about and b, might not be accurate, or c, are situations where how I feel about myself might mean less than how others perceive me. I might identify as not racist, but my actions might tell a whole nother story. Whether or not I choose to identify as a white cismale heterosexual, I will be perceived as a white cismale heterosexual. And there seems to be some bandwagoning in some cases, with people who are probably just pretty mainstream (which is fine!) wanting to claim some form of marginalized identity so they can be part of the group of people who are genuinely crapped on by society. I just feel like there can be too much focus on how individuals perceive themselves.

              1. suspectclass*

                Welp. Trans and enby people have to start from a place of self-perception because we are lied to our entire lives about who and what we are. The fact that literal actual Nazis have coopted language that started in oppressed communities doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about who we are, it means we need to stop the Nazis.

      3. Atlanta*

        This is certainly the truth of the situation but in a field like law it is the perception not the actuality that matters. While it should eventually change, one of the historically most conservative professions isn’t going to embrace that mindset overnight. The OP will appear to be a woman with a buzz cut.

        I’m a Big Law litigation partner in New York. Very junior people don’t get to go to court or see clients much in their first few years, and certainly not unaccompanied by someone more senior so I don’t see it being a problem right now.

        For someone more senior, while I wouldn’t care about a buzz cut on anyone in the office, with clients or in general, outside of a few places like NYC or much of CA, I’d be wary of sending that person to represent the client in court. Not because I or the Firm would have a problem with the look, but if a random judge (there are a few still) or their law clerk cared or disapproved the cost would be to the client, not to the person with the buzz cut. They might be marginally less inclined to grant an adjournment, give us a date we want for something, etc. It’s wrong for the judge to do that, sure, but that could be the reality. We’re supposed to be advancing the client’s cause, not our own, so if it is a risk at all, it’s not our risk to take.

        That said, all else being equal, I’d still hire the person, I’d just be cautious about sending them to court if I was afraid that the judge could be unfair.

        1. Anon for a doxy post*

          Well, even in NYC or LA, one could still get a random conservative judge.

          Here in rural KY, it would be perfectly ok.

          Where I live, they’d just assume OP was ex military or had a father who was a Marine or something.

          Ironically, I think in some more rural areas it’s likeky to be more ok than some urban ones. People would not rush to gender non conformity. They’d assume practicality or military.

          I know of several professional women who have either buzzcuts or other similar cuts. Not a problem at all.

          That being said, you are correct about the potential cost to the client.

          However, we have no idea what type of lawyer OP will become. If OP is at the ACLU doing support work, it’s different than at BigLaw anywhere in the US. If OP is transactional and not a litigator…..if OP is back if house v client facing.

          There are so many types of legal careers. Too many to say for certain whether it would be a problem.

          I’d also say this will sort itself out in law school. OP will see how peers and profs respond. Also, OP should use the summer of 1L to try and get an internship. If OP has stellar grades and can’t get one, it might be the hair. OP can use that time to test this out.

          1. JennyFair*

            That is a very interesting point about more conservative people/people in more conservative areas assuming practicality or military background. I cut my hair very short last week, quite intentionally to look more queer, and the reactions have been quite varied and enjoyable (I also dyed it purple, but that’s normal for me). Anyway, the one person whose comment revolved around how practical and easy to manage my new haircut will be is also the most conservative person to make a remark on it.

            For what it’s worth, I’m in a conservative area of the PNW, and regularly see women and enby folks with buzzcuts. It reads as queer to me, but straight people are largely clueless, so.

            1. Buzzcut OP*

              Ha! So true. I very, very rarely date cis-men. And yet, sometimes, at a Lesbian bar, with buzzed hair, and oversized flannel, and just about every-other lesbian stereotypical marker, I’ll still get cis-men who hit on me. The only way I could look gay-er is to strip down and paint myself into a rainbow flag.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s wrong for the judge to do that, sure, but that could be the reality.

          I think one of the benefits of this blog is approaching things from the perspective that employees and employers have to deal with the world as it is, not as it might be. See the many variations on “No, X is not illegal.”

          For a non-personal business example, Netflix’s brief attempt to dump their dvd business and proceed as though everyone has high-speed internet and all content you might want is available that way. Nice vision, not their customers’ reality.

        3. blackcat*

          Yeah, some judges can be assholes.

          Story time: Only two years ago *in LA* my dad witnessed a judge encouraging the plaintiff’s counsel–a woman–to “dress up properly” for court at the next hearing. The woman was in an entirely appropriate suit with pants. My father then asked the judge if he was “properly dressed.” The entirely un-self aware judge expressed his puzzlement. My father followed up with “The court has expressed opinions about the other counselor’s attire, and I am similarly dressed.” My father can pull this kind of stunt as a well-known older male lawyer.

            1. blackcat*

              Yep, he was the defending counsel (he does corporate defense, mostly). My mom was basically forced out of her firm for having kids, and my dad has basically made it a mission since to make BigLaw better for women.

        4. Buzzcut OP*

          Thank you. This is something I’ve known for a long time, and something I’m aware won’t change for another 2-3 decades probably. The legal field relies heavily on looks. That’s just a part of it. And while the young, optimistic part of me wants to believe that I can work hard and prove myself regardless of my gender and presentation, I understand that that isn’t the reality. So I’m trying to find a way to still feel like myself, not someone putting on a costume, while existing within the potentially conservative framework I find myself.

      4. Alton*

        As another non-binary person, thanks for pointing this out.

        Also, while I think a lot of the issue is tied to being perceived as a woman with a buzz cut (even though the OP isn’t a woman), I think there can be different baggage when you’re trans/non-binary. Or even for some cis butch women. Maybe the OP is genuinely cool with wearing feminine clothes or making a point to feminize their style, but it’s possible they aren’t, or that they won’t be forever. I think a lot of advice given to women about things like haircuts and wearing makeup assumes that you’re essentially comfortable with being perceived as female or that your choices are neutral preferences more than an expression of your gender identity. But a non-binary person might not be comfortable with this. My style isn’t super masculine, but wearing visible makeup and wearing clothes that show off my figure too much triggers dysphoria for me.

        I can’t speak for the OP, but for me, it can also feel weird when people assign gender roles to you based on a mistaken impression of your gender. That can trigger dysphoria, too. It can be a double whammy–you may recognize that policing the length of women’s hair is ridiculous in general, but it can also feel weird that these standards are being applied to you for some reason.

        1. Buzzcut OP*

          I’m okay with feminine-presenting clothing (most of the time. Some days are better than others.) If I had my way with the world, we’d all wear comfy shoes, comfy flannels, and comfy jeans and be on our merry ways. But, alas, they frown upon lawyers strolling into court in muddy jeans and their grandfather’s old flannel.

          Mostly, it’s just easier. My voice, size, and body read as very feminine. That’s okay. I don’t feel the need to change that. But I also don’t want to have to spend my days constantly explaining myself, my presentation, and my identity. So, for now, until I’m the Big Boss In Charge, I’ll present as feminine/a woman. Power suits are pretty badass.

        2. Buzzcut OP*

          Yeah, I’m okay with feminine-perceived clothing, because it’s easier, and I can take them off the minute I get home. (In my ideal world, we’d all wear comfy shoes and comfy flannels and comfy jeans and go on our merry NB ways.)

          But my body presents as feminine, my voice sounds feminine, and I don’t particularly want to have to explain myself over and over again.

          I chose a conservative field. I knew what I was getting into. I choose not to correct people who perceive me as a woman, in professional spaces.

          And once I’m the Big Boss In Charge, I can make changes. But until then, I’ll play by the rules.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I am absolutely mortified—thank you for this correction. I completely missed the part where OP said that they identify as non-binary.

        I don’t think of gender as binary and don’t subscribe to socially constructed cis-M/F boxes that deny the experiences of folks who do not identify as cis. And I definitely did not intend to misgender or invisibilize OP’s identity. Nonetheless, I know I’ve caused others pain by my mistake, and I am extraordinarily sorry to OP and the commentariat for my callous carelessness.

        1. Suspectclass*

          This is a good apology. I hope other folks in the commentariat who made this mistake will take note of it. I rarely comment but I read every day, so it matters to me when regular commenters are able to be accountable like this.

        2. Close Bracket*

          “I don’t think of gender as binary and don’t subscribe to socially constructed cis-M/F boxes that deny the experiences of folks who do not identify as cis.”

          It’s sobering when even though you think this way, you still fall into traditional speech patterns based on binary constructs. It was a reminder to me to be constantly vigilant.

        3. Fellow Enby Profesh*

          I really appreciate your understanding! (I’m also a fairly frequent AAM reader and know your comments are invariably more kind and insightful than not – it made speaking up in the first place easier, knowing you were likely to take it graciously and hadn’t actually intended harm. Thank you for that. <3)

        4. Jasnah*

          I also missed the NB part and misgendered OP (in my head, if not in my posts). I’m so sorry, OP!

      6. Buzzcut OP*

        Thank you! I do prefer they/them pronouns, and use them in most contexts, though I don’t make a big deal about people using she/her. It is easier to present in a way that is more feminine, because that is how my body tends to be interpreted, especially in a more conservative field like law. Ideally, the world would reach a place where my gender wouldn’t matter at all, but until then, here I am.

        1. Fellow Enby Profesh*

          I feel you on this. I’m the same – they/them pronouns. She/her grates, but it’s not acutely dysphoric, and it takes so much less exhaustive energy (and is much less of a safety risk) just letting it go when someone misgenders me with it. Sigh. But! One day it won’t be like this! I’m actually really feelin’ the hope reading a lot of these comments supporting you/nb peeps in general. Thank you for posting, and much love to you. <3

    5. Memily*

      As odd as it’s going to sound, I think this varies by race too. I know quite a few Black women with buzzcuts or very short hair, and it doesn’t detract at all from their professionalism. (Most pair with great jewelry and makeup, so that makes a difference.) I don’t see nearly the number of white women (or other POC) with buzzcuts. So as dumb as it is, I do think that might make a difference. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep it buzzed though!

      1. Anon for a doxy post*


        Would be a plus for a black woman.

        For a white woman, might be deemed too far.

      2. Alton*

        Yeah, there are definitely multiple factors involved. And for black women, there can be a flipside where their natural hair is often seen as unprofessional if they let it grow and don’t straighten it.

      3. aebhel*

        Yeah, it seems like it’s a bit more common for black women to wear their hair buzzed. Buzzed hair on an otherwise feminine-presenting white person would definitely read as nonbinary/queer to me, which would be a non-issue in my line of work but in a more conservative industry might be an issue, even where I am (NY).

        1. Buzzcut OP*

          I think I tend to read as pretty NB/queer, which is also part of my concern I suppose. I don’t want perceptions to impact my career or my ability to help people.

      4. Buzzcut OP*

        This is very true! I am very, very white however. I wish I could rock the Lupita Nyong’o look.

    6. Anon for a doxy post*

      It does vary by region, though not as much as people think. And not necessarily in the ways people think.

      I live in a small county in Kentucky. Our assistant prosecutor is a gender ambivalent lesbian who dresses very gender neutral to masculine. No one cares. No one. In rural Kentucky.

      Was at a state bar event yesterday. There were women with similar haircuts, purple hair, and a few younglings w silver hair.

      Here’s the unfortunate truth: white women get a lot more leeway in this than men and WOC. So if you are white and otherwise dressing feminine, most people won’t care.

      Women where I live face more tone policing than they do appearance judgments.

      Conversely, a friend in California had a male employee who wanted to wear skirts. She was ok with it, but her clients complained.

      Even in Los Angeles, a man with makeup or in a skirt would be verboten.

      Even my gay male attorney friends in San Fran tend to dress very traditionally masculine.

      My WOC lawyer friends have a lot less leeway as well. Black women with a buzz cut are preferred to lung braids or locks. (OMG, does black hair make people reach for the smelling salts). First Narions women can’t wesr some of their traditional hairstyles without seeming provocative.

      IMHO, if you are a woman, race matters more in any state in the US than gender conformity in any region.

      1. Anon for a doxy post*

        Edited to add: gender conformity for binary people.

        Since OP is non binary, I’d say that will be the difficulty for OP than the hairstyle.

        That being said, OP’s wardrobe as is does seem ok. The haircut seems ok.

        Part of the point of law school is to learn to be a lawyer. Including norms in the region in which the school is located.

        Where I went to school, no one wore suits to class or even to their internships.

        Suits for women and feminine presenting NBs are reserved for court and important clients. Most of the time I’m in court, I’m not in a suit. I’m in boots, pencil skirt, and sweater today. For court.


        I hope OP comes in and let’s us know what pronouns they prefer. I’m sure most here don’t want to be offensive and erasing.

        Also, OP, your assumptions about what middle aged women lawyers wear are somewhat dated and off. I’m in that age group and my daily wardrobe is more akin to what you describe as a 20 something in than one for an older attorney. Maybe it is accurate for where you live. It’s not where I live.

        I’m sitting with a few women lawyers in that demographic right now. One is wearing a purple suit. One has on a fuchsia pink silk skirt and matching wrap sweater. One has on a red pencil skirt and figure hugging black sweater.

        1. Buzzcut OP*

          Thank you.

          I prefer they/them, but most people at work use she/her. I don’t mind. It’s exhausting to have to explain it, and tends to get eye-rolls and mutters about “kids these days.”

          When I think about it further, younger women do tend to dress the most “traditional”, while the most established ones have more leeway in their appearance. So I guess that gives me something to look forward to.

          1. J.B.*

            Thanks for putting up with it on this thread, I’m learning something. I think sticking more conservative at first will give you more options, but potentially those exhausting options. Depending on your interests you could try to target specifically friendly employers (or try to move to them after a few years), and be less conservative in the interview.

    7. EPLawyer*

      Most female attorneys have shorter hair, if not an actual buzz cut. It’s because we are so busy lawyering, we don’t have time for an elaborate hair style. Wash and go is very encouraged.

      Honestly, outside of some very conservative firms, it probably would not be noticed at all.

      1. Anon for a doxy post*

        Meh, not my experience. Nationwide, most female and female presenting attorneys I know have long hair.

        But short hair is not unusual. Particularly in older women.

        The prevalence of short hair, however, is not determinative. I think a buzz cut would not raise alarms anywhere I’ve worked or had friends in the legal profession. Except for BigLaw. That would not fly in BigLaw. There is a dress code.

        1. T. Boone Pickens*


          I do legal recruiting and honestly, outside of BigLaw which has others have mentioned is extremely buttoned up I rarely see push back on candidates’ hairstyle as long as they keep up with the maintenance required for their chosen hairstyle. It might just be a small sample size on my end with the clients I work with but we’re all huge fans of the show “Billions” which has Asia Kate Dillion as a cast member and possesses a kick butt buzzcut.

          1. Yay*

            Not to say you represent every lawyer, but you should post your own comment, since your perspective is good!

          2. Buzzcut OP*

            Thanks! It’s good to hear from people in a variety of law areas. I’m not planning on going into BigLaw, but I guess I also don’t want to shut that door before I’ve had a chance to explore further.

    8. Trout 'Waver*

      I think OP3 will be perfectly fine in law school presenting as they describe. After that, who knows? Clients are usually the most judgmental of their attorney’s appearance. So it may cost OP3 some clients if they go into solo-practice or a boutique law firm. Or maybe not, depending on the location.

      Also, some judges may feel strongly about appearances. But professional behavior and conduct trump appearance, so I think you’ll be fine in court.

      1. AnonAtty*

        I used to clerk and judges care about professional dress over gender expression (some judges are jerks though and part of being a litigator is learning your judge’s quirks).

        Juries are another bag altogether, unfortunately. They can be arbitrary and difficult.

      2. JennyFair*

        We’ve seen several commenters here who have said they wouldn’t hire a lawyer with the OP’s style, so I think you’re right about clients being the sticky issue as opposed to legal professionals. I wonder if the clients are truly making this decision based on their fear of those in the legal profession (and they’re just ignorant as to the facts) or if it’s an outgrowth of their own bigotry?

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Blame Hollywood. Clients want the movie depiction of an attorney.

          My friend is an attorney at a small law firm (3 attorneys) and she definitely noticed an effect on clients after she bought a BMW to replace her Mazda. It’s silly, but a certain subset of clients want their attorney to pull up to the courthouse in a nice car, wearing a nice suit.

          1. Jasnah*

            I wonder if it’s because people know law is a lucrative career, so a good lawyer = financial success = money to blow on a BMW.

            I think it’s the same reason people think good chefs are fat (always eating their own good food, or knows what good food tastes like). Even if it doesn’t make sense to assume it works the other way around, ie rich = talented or fat = talented.

    9. AnonAtty*

      It depends on the legal field. I am an attorney but I work in a niche field and don’t go to court. I wear jeans to work a lot (I have a suit for the rare hearing) and people have all sorts of hair colors, including my boss who had purple hair for a while. If you went to a big firm in my city, the rules would be totally different (as long as younger dressed professionally, though, a judge wouldn’t care).

      My sister is in court all the time though and does have to be more feminine for juries. She even has a fake wedding ring she wears during jury trials. She loves her job but sees these as necessary annoyances. If OP wants a litigation career, the answer may be different.

      1. Buzzcut OP*

        Thank you for this perspective. I’m not fully sure what I want to practice, and I don’t want to have doors closed on me before I can explore a bit further. I know my ideal career, but I also know that my ideals likely won’t pay the bills. I also know that I’m choosing a generally more conservative field, and that comes with compromises.

        1. Enby Atty*

          Hey Buzzcut. I’m also an enby lawyer. I have practiced in NM and CA. My hair is a traditionally male cut as are my clothes most of the time, so I don’t experience a lot of the misogyny you will, though I do get misgendered in all sorts of fun ways all the time. I’m a litigator and haven’t found my presentation to be a limiting factor for me or my clients. I’ve always worked for NPOs, but being yourself to the extent possible will make you a better advocate and that’s what will matter. NM is a great place to practice if you happen to be there.

    10. JD*

      +1 varies by employer. My understanding is judges and law firms tend to have more conservative expectations, but even there it depends a lot on the individual/organizational culture. How strongly do you feel about your hair? If you want to broaden your options and don’t feel strongly about the buzz cut, you could grow your hair a bit and cut it later. If you feel strongly about keeping the buzz cut, you could focus on opportunities where employers wouldn’t be concerned about it.

    11. attornaut*

      Yeah, I don’t think this would be an issue at all in my non-law firm office. No one has “unnatural” color hair (not sure if this is a rule or just a coincidence) but other than that most style choices, hair, clothing choices, tattoos, piercings etc are fine (except crocs. If you wear crocs you will be mocked). You are expected to show up in court wearing a conservative suit with anything non-conservative (like tattoos or piercings) non-visible, but I don’t think any level of haircut would be much of a problem. There are attorneys here that never go to court, also, due to the nature of their practice.

      But I can see an edgier haircut being much more difficult in a private practice or biglaw firm. I’m not sure if a buzz cut is necessarily edgy; an undercut might be but just very short probably isn’t.

    12. Buzzcut OP*

      Thanks! I didn’t think about that, but many of the senior women I know in the legal field have very short hair, not a buzz cut, but pretty close. While younger women tend to have longer hair, I do think it wouldn’t be a huge deal to have it really short.

    13. TardyTardis*

      A floofy headband with some kind of ribbon arrangement (like the kind some babies wear) would also be awesomely cute with a buzzcut.

        1. Copier Admin Girl*

          Irene- first, your username is amazing. The Sherlock episode with her in it is quite possibly my favorite episode of any TV show ever. Second, I’m actually giggling in my office at your response. Thank you lmao

  10. Not me*

    #5, I work in a field with a lot of spirit days (education) but I’m not big on dressing up so I’ve found the path of least resistance is to give a nod to the occasion without going out of my way. For example my Halloween “costume” is usually a black dress I would normally wear and a Harry Potter scarf. No glasses, no wand, no scar. This keeps me safe from the “why didn’t you dress up?!?” interactions but requires minimal effort on my part. A win all around for me!

    1. Dr. Pepper*

      I do a black shirt and cat ears on a headband. It’s simple and easy and is “on theme” without being any more effort than my usual style.

      1. Anon for this*

        I like dressing up, but I often do cat ears for semi-professional Halloween situations. My last name is Katz, so it’s a hit.

    2. Lisa Babs*

      I also agree there is a middle ground to fully dressing up and getting into it and not doing anything and risk drama and not looking like a team player. And that is do a minimal costume. Witch hat or cats ear or something that is super easy and cheap.
      Also in case the OP thinks that EVERYONE is super pumped to wear their costume. I just want to say that although that might be the case, in my experience it’s more likely there are a few people just going with the flow to avoid the drama.

    3. MtnLaurel*

      I’ve been known to wear my regular clothes and say ” I dressed as a normal person. I”m surprised you recognized me!” It works.

  11. Where’s my coffee?*

    LW3…no one in the West would be bothered, outside of maybe the most conservative offices imaginable. Can’t speak for the south, though.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. For the 75%+ of the West that’s rural, a buzzcut would definitely make people look strangely at a female candidate (but not because they’re “unprofessional”), even in cities in those regions.

      I still appear before a handful of judges that require all “women lawyers” or “lady attorneys” to wear dress or skirt suits in court, even though those requirements violate the judicial Code of Conduct.

      1. Bea*

        Yeah…I can pop off a long list of cities out here that aren’t down with the “San Francisco. Portland and Seattle” acceptance of “being weird”.

        We also all fail to remember the west coast all passed bans on same sex marriage prior to the SCOUS overturning them. There is still a lot of phobias and bias out there trolling around in that regard.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          What I remember is that the Mormon church pumped a LOT of money into California to defeat our marriage equality bills. (That got me so mad. I think that states being different from each other is a *good* thing. I was very proud to be one of the approximately 36,000 married gay people in California who caused trouble to the IRS before SCOTUS sorted things out. It made our taxes trickier for about 3 years, but it was worth it to know that we couldn’t be pretended away.)

      2. Hair She Blows*

        I am from the West and would respectfully disagree when it comes “cities in those regions.” A buzz cut will be OK in Tucson or Denver or Albuquerque.

        1. TL -*

          Tucson, Denver, and Albuquerque are all the Southwest, though. The West would be north of CO/Utah. (well, Colorado might not be considered Southwest by everybody, but I’d put it in there.)

          That being said, it’s probably more of an urban/rural-small-town divide. I know parts of New Mexico and Utah that are *incredibly* conservative, so I wouldn’t automatically default to thinking of it a as “not conservative not liberal” are.

          So, yeah, it would probably depend more on where you want to work – if you want to be in a big city, what kind of agency you want to work for, ect…

          1. Where’s my coffee?*

            From 20 years of regional HR leadership covering and living in cities like Boise, Salt Lake City, Reno, Phoenix, etc. and not even counting Portland/Seattle so on…I’d say it just isn’t a big deal, other than maybe in a very rural area. Of course, as you note, the legal profession is its own terrible monster of what constitutes professional norms.

          2. Liet-Kinda*

            This is a thing I nerd over, but I think the Southwest starts in southern Colorado – there’s a pretty significant cultural shift from historically Hispanic/Latinx to historically Anglo around, say, the Arkansas River or Colorado Springs.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t mean major metro areas like Albuquerque, Tucson and Denver. I don’t think anyone would consider Denver or Tucson to be a “major city in a rural area” of their respective states because the MSAs for those cities are so large.

          I’m referring to cities that are big enough for a courthouse, surrounded by “rural” land, and generally “rural” in character. Places like Durango, Provo, Elko, Las Cruces, Gallup, Flagstaff, Fresno, Bakersfield, Redding, Durango, Eureka, Crescent City, El Centro, San Bernardino, Richland, Walla Walla, etc.

          1. Liet-Kinda*

            But even then, Durango, Flagstaff, and Las Cruces have a different vibe than Gallup or Bakersfield.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              They def have different vibes, but in my (very limited) experience, their legal communities are similarly conservative about how people present. That doesn’t mean OP can’t have a buzzcut—I think it’s more of a “know your local bar, know your employer” situation.

          2. TardyTardis*

            In our small town, you’d get some weird looks and the comment, ‘isn’t that *cold*’ (we have fairly ferocious winters). Though we have a few women in town who wear hijabs, who get not a few looks of envy during cold snaps.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Unfortunately not. In federal court, everyone knows which judge makes these demands, and no one has disciplined him or sent a note to the Judicial Council. In state court, the only real complaint avenue is the CJP, and the complainants identity is almost always disclosed. I don’t know if this will change with the new federal provisions around sexual harassment (they’re not really directed toward attorneys and litigants, but rather, clerks and court staff).

      3. Drop Bear*

        See, if you hadn’t abandoned wigs in court you could have your hair any way you wanted even in front of the most conservative judges. :) Not that it helps with the clothes of course.

          1. Drop Bear*

            True, but the judge can still see your legs so the ‘skirts only’ judges can still run amok.

        1. Temperance*

          Yes and no. They can’t, but as an attorney, you don’t need to piss off the judge and unfairly bias him against your client.

          I purposely used male pronouns because no women judges require skirt suits.

              1. Julia*

                Thank you, everyone! That’s awful and blatanly sexist. But hey, in my job hunt, I am forced to wear “appropriate” heels and highly recommended to wear a skirt instead of pants, who I knew this as a thing at least in some countries.

              1. blackcat*

                Including in “liberal” areas. My dad mostly does trials in west coast cities and sees this with some frequency.

                1. Liet-Kinda*

                  Justice Gorsuch is, I am not fond of pointing out, from Boulder. Judges can be super conservative, even in liberal areas.

          1. TardyTardis*

            We have a majority of women judges in our small town, and they would be not so quietly amused if any of the other judges pulled that one.

      4. Liet-Kinda*

        In my experience as a lifelong Westerner (but not a female-presenting person, of course) there’s a generally prevalent attiude of “you do you” that still prevails.

        1. Buzzcut OP*

          This has been largely my experience. Not necessarily that people like/agree with you, but that they want to be left in peace, and will leave you alone too. It’s part of that residual cowboy/pioneer kind of mentality, I think.

      5. mrs__peel*

        “I still appear before a handful of judges that require all “women lawyers” or “lady attorneys” to wear dress or skirt suits in court”

        Ughhhhhhhhhh…. I’m so glad I do all my lawyering over the phone now! (My legal hearings are done via conference call, so I could be wearing pajamas for all anyone knows).

    2. Rat in the Sugar*

      I live in the south and actually just shaved my head last Friday. I’m femme-presenting and work in a conservative company in a conservative field–I’m an accountant, most of my coworkers are former military, and we perform work for the government.

      Pretty much all the comments I’ve gotten are positive or at worst neutral. It helps that I’ve been working here for about four years now, so I have an established reputation as someone who gets a lot of work out the door but can also be quirky (lot of unicorn stuff on my desk). A lot of people were surprised, some said things like “Got tired of it, huh?”, some mentioned that I have a good head for it (no funny bumps), some called me brave, and some just said it looked good.

      As a few other people have mentioned, I think it can vary wildly depending on the area and the company. A lot of areas that are considered more “country” are more conservative when it comes to dress standards, but a lot of them also have a prominent attitude of “what you do isn’t my business”, or would approve of the practicality of a no-nonsense buzzcut. Your attitude and presentation can matter a lot too–“I can’t be bothered with a blowdryer, I’ve got too much to do already in the morning” would be more likely to gain approval than “I want my gender presentation to be less traditionally femme”.

      1. Buzzcut OP*

        Thank you for sharing! I think a big thing is that you have been around for a while and have proven yourself. I think this is probably the route I’m going to take. I’ll keep it more “traditional” for a while, and once I’ve shown my abilities, I’ll go closer to how I’d like to be seen.

  12. Naomi*

    OP#5: Would you be comfortable wearing a low-key costume, something that’s pretty similar to normal clothes? (I remember a previous letter about Halloween at work where the OP just wore black and put a witch hat on her desk.) Obviously you don’t have to dress up if you really don’t want to, but if you think not dressing up will make you stick out or force you to field awkward questions about why you changed your mind, a token costume might let you slip under the radar with minimal effort.

  13. pumpkinspicefrap*

    Is LW #1 referring to some kind of state-specific requirement for unemployment benefits recipients or other government program through which they received the candidate? Like no-show for your interview and they cut benefits? Is that the “discipline”?

    1. NightShifter*

      Nah, she’s just power tripping. She’s almost certainly used to being able to punish people that wrong her in her work environment and is upset she can’t do the same to this person.

  14. JerryLarryTerryGarry*

    You absolutely don’t have to do a cosume. But you can also give yourself permission to half-ass it. Wear a clown nose or a witch hat, walk into a drug store and grab the first costume you see. You don’t have to be clever, or funny, or make a personal statement- just blend in (if you want).

  15. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I once got a crazy letter – a “rejection” – but, I interviewed, and then after the interview ended, I was candid. I remarked that , “I’m sorry, but you really aren’t presenting any incentive for me to leave my current situation. But thank you for your time.”

    They sent a letter – saying “well we rejected YOU” and don’t apply here again.

    1. Bea*

      I’m sure you were totally gearing up to reapply to their sub par wilted company. Looks like they sure told you!!

    2. LKW*

      You don’t want us? Well we don’t want you either! Yeah, you can’t work here where you don’t want to work. Nyah!

    3. Où est la bibliothèque*

      Their email was definitely childish, but why not just leave it at “thank you for your time” at the actual interview? And then in a thank-you email (which I do kinda feel like should always be sent, even if you’re not interested in the position) politely say that you’ve given it some thought and you’re going to withdraw from consideration, best wishes, etc. This seems like ending a date and saying “thanks for asking me out, but you’re not good enough and I don’t want to see you again.”

      1. Bea*

        Because why waste their time by dragging it out?

        I’ve excused myself from interviews when I’ve noticed it wasn’t going to be a good fit. Their time is valuable and when it’s no question I won’t work there, it’s no longer okay to keep spending their time.

        1. CM*

          Right, but you would say, “Thanks for your time, but I can see this isn’t going to be a good fit so I’m going to withdraw from the interview process.” Not, “Thanks, but no thanks. My current job is better than this.” I’d be annoyed if somebody said the latter to me — it’s unnecessarily impolite. I wouldn’t send them a Disciplinary Email writeup about it or anything, but I’d be annoyed.

    4. RUKiddingMe*

      You: “I don’t like you.”

      Email from them: “Yeah well I don’t like you first/more!“

  16. mark132*

    #4, I think Alison is correct about the trend for higher reimbursements and for more stuff for senior staff. The only exception I could think of would be a very wealthy celebrity spokesperson for a non profit might do it all on their own dime for a cause they fully believed in.

    1. Mazzy*

      My concern with the OP’s idea is that you don’t know the socio-economic status of the person or how long they will be at the top. They may only be making those top dollars for a few years and may be using it to pay off old debt, finally. I wouldn’t assume they are rolling in money. Look at Nikki Haley resigning from the UN. Her financial information came out, and it was much worse than one would expect from someone in such a position of power.

      1. Tara S.*

        You are right that we don’t know people’s whole financial picture even when we know their salary. But that doesn’t stop there from being judgement about the perception of things. Mileage and cabs to meetings are totally ok at any level I think. But when it comes to optional things, like gifts for your staff, or tiny reimbursements (like a few quarters for parking meter, as mentioned above) can seem petty to ask for reimbursement when you are making so much more that the people who are probably processing your reimbursement.

      2. Bea*

        Also a person at the top tends to have a higher amount of expenses. Their mortgage probably isn’t on the cheapest block and their standard of living costs more. The way you keep money is to expense everything possible.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think for small volunteer gigs (not full-time non-profit work) it is pretty usual for people above a certain income level to wave off expenses (like paper, printer ink) that they could get reimbursed, and view it as a donation to the org. So that might be where OP’s idea is coming from.

      For work, there is probably a point where the time required to get reimbursed for small things isn’t worth the bother.

      1. Chinookwind*

        I had the suggestion made that I forgo reimbursement for the hotel and registration fees for a convention I was required to attend when I was president of my org. I countered that, while I could afford to do that, it would set an unfair precedent for future presidents who may not be able to afford the cost and may even discourage others from even taking the position. I was fine on forgoing to fee if we had more than our budgeted number of people going (i.e. we budget for 3 participants and 4 choose to go) and even sharing a hotel room (with someone of my choice), but making people think that you are obligated to pay the bill when you are volunteering can definitely drive away participants who don’t have the funds.

  17. AudreyParker*

    #2 is my big fear – I’m so uncomfortable asking people to be references, partly because I really only have a couple of recent former managers that I can ask. I’m stuck in a protracted job search and considering trying to work with temp agencies, but I know they’ll all want references and I don’t want to burn through them just to try to get a temp job so have been putting off applying with them for months so I can “save” my references for any full time opportunities. I’ve also seen job posts that require you submit references with your application (which I avoid for the same reason), maybe that’s what this person is facing as well?

    1. SpiderLadyCEO*

      Me too. Putting down my references is my least favorite part of job hunting, I hate knowing that I’m interrupting someone else’s schedule. Since I’m in a field that requires job hunting essentially every year, I feel like my references get annoyed with me, but I don’t yet have all that many.

      I have at least once applied to a job, put down my references, and withheld their contact information with the not I would happily share it upon interview. I have no clue how that reads to the hiring managers, but I do know some places call references early and I want to discourage that.

      1. Ella*

        As a hiring manager, I actually appreciate that – it shows thoughtfulness on behalf of your references.

    2. Red Lines with Wine*

      In my (recent) experience, I only had to provide one reference to a recruiter, and that was after I got the job. Of course not all are like this, but it doesn’t hurt to reserve the naming of references until you’re fairly confident the job is a sure thing. I personally reject jobs that ask for references up front, and tell outside recruiters why.

    3. Gregor*

      I have the same issue. But I’m so terrible at job interviews for regular full-time positions, temp agencies are a life line for me (unfortunately) so I have to suck it up and give them my references even if I have to sign up/register at a bunch of them (because you have to diversify to mitigate having long periods of unemployment between assignments).

    4. CleverName*

      I am also in this situation and it causes me so much stress. I am so concerned that my references are going to get tired of my never-ending job search. There’s also shame that I haven’t been able to find a job and still have to use them. I’m considering grad school….but 3 letters of recommendation seems unattainable. Anyway, good to know that other people worry about this as well!

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Or a long black coat and stripey scarf, then say you are a Hogwarts Mature Student.

      Not for Halloween (it wasn’t such a thing in the Uk growing up), but I once dressed up as Paddington Bear. (Duffle coat, floppy hat and a label with Please look after this Bear on it)

      1. LadyPhoenix*

        Last year, I did The Crow. Black clothes, black trenchcoat, black lipstick & eyeliner to make the harlequin makeup (I forged the white facepaint).

    1. Story Nurse*

      I didn’t buzz my hair for years because my mother said it would remind her of my grandmother going through chemo. Then I finally did it, and it turns out a healthy person with buzzed hair looks quite different from the popular conception of someone who’s dealing with cancer and chemo. (Not everyone with cancer looks ill, of course.) In several years with buzzed hair I’ve never once had anyone express concern over whether I’d been ill, and my mother got used to it very quickly. So I don’t know that this is such a common assumption these days, even among older folks.

      I do think I’d be more likely to get those concerned questions if I went out in public wearing the close-fitting cotton cap I have to keep my head warm at night—I got it from a site for people who have short or no hair for medical reasons (headcovers dot com, they’re great), and it’s a distinctive look if you’re in or adjacent to that community. But it’s clear that my hair is a deliberate style and my hair and I look healthy, so the hair qua hair goes unremarked.

      That said, OP #3, you can always start wearing hats. They’re very much in style at the moment. In places with conservative dress codes, it’s acceptable for a woman to wear a hat indoors, and in places with a lot of sun, hats tend to be common in general. It sounds like a fedora or cloche might go well with some of your outfits. Find a hat shop and see whether anything there suits you.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I’ve totally shaved my head as a woman a few times and never gotten any comments about being ill, so i my personal experience, it wasn’t a problem.

        I did avoid head accessories associated with sick folks – like TV’s popular “bandana on a bald woman with cancer”, but enjoyed my beanies, winter hats, and ball caps.

      2. Buzzcut OP*

        Oh! This is an interesting idea. I’m not sure hats would be acceptable in a courthouse, but it is definitely something to keep in mind.

    2. Double-takes are compliments*

      Another female-presenting enby here. I buzzed my hair a few years ago – best decision I ever made – and my mum’s first reaction was to tell me it looked like I’d had chemo. Since then it’s varied between buzzed and long enough to lay flat on top, and I’ve not had any problems getting jobs or interacting with clients (I’m in tech consulting though, not law). I also happen to be six feet tall with a work wardrobe mostly made up of men’s clothing. If OP3 is dressing more or less traditionally femme (they mentioned skirt suits) apart from the hair, most people will probably be fine.

      1. Buzzcut OP*

        Thanks for sharing! This is good to note. Tech does tend to care a lot less, but it’s nice to know that enbys are taken seriously in a variety of fields.

    3. Gigi*

      I’ve had buzzed hair for 18 years. I went from waist length blond to buzzed brown (my natural color). I’ve never been told I look like a chemo patient. I can’t believe this is a thing. Ive been unfortunate enough to have family members who’ve been through chemo and they are obviously ill – gaunt, grey complexion, the works. Also I work in a conservative financial services company and no ones ever commented on my hair.

    4. jd*

      I shave my head and it was only while I was living in the Canadian equivalent of the midwest that I got some comments that I think were coming from a place of trying to show kindness to someone recovering from cancer, and also once got approached by a cancer survivor who thought I also was. That hasn’t happened to me in the east or on the west coast. (Out east everyone assumed I was a lesbian, which is close enough, and out west I just seem normal.)

      OP #3, I’m pretty much in the same situation as you (though not in law, which is admittedly an especially formal and conservative environment), and I’ve never had trouble dressing up and looking sufficiently “presentable” by conventional standards even with the buzzcut. I don’t wear make-up either (or pumps!), but I wear nice jewellery and that seems to help.

      1. Buzzcut OP*

        Thank you! I’m not huge into makeup or heels or any of that, but I can deal with it when it’s expected of me. I’ll keep jewelry in mind. It’s not as weird for me to wear, and it definitely helps with coming across as more feminine and traditional.

  18. Angry Spork*

    Halloween is a nonstarter for people of many religions. How many of us handle it is by simply not dressing up and then not apologizing. If anyone asks, say “I don’t do Halloween.”. That should work for anyone.

    1. MLB*

      But she normally does do Halloween. I agree with Alison. Just don’t dress up and don’t mention it. If someone asks ahead of time, just say “I changed my mind”. Same reply if questioned on the day. She doesn’t need to elaborate.

  19. Myrin*

    #1, I’m wondering what your desired outcome is for this?
    It sounds like this would be a Scolding Letter, not a Discipline Form (since, well, as everyone’s already said, you have zero power over this guy – how exactly are you going to discipline hime?), and that the sole purpose of that would be to make him feel bad. Which seems strangely vindictive, especially for something that, in the grand scheme of things, is annoying and frustrating but not a huge deal.
    (And also there’s a worst-case scenario where there was an understandable reason for his no-show, like he had a heart attack and needed to be rushed to the hospital or his entire family died in a car wreck or something, and such an email would just add a bad cherry on top of his shitty cake of life. You don’t want to be the bad cherry, even if it’s hypothetical and less likely than that he’s simply a flake.)

    1. Drop Bear*

      I think we should teach ‘Don’t be the bad cherry on someone’s shitty cake of life’, in schools!

    2. Cosette*

      It could happen. My nephew was a candidate for a job but then he passed away. Had they scheduled the interviews before he passed, he would have been a no show. (I worked in a different division of the same company so was able to let them know.) Wonder how OP would feel if they sent that Discipline Form and then found out the candidate had died?! (#1 letter truly had me shaking my head… I hope I don’t work with that person!)

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I was once dealing with a very frustrating insurance matter, and it turned out the reason the guy who finally figured out the problem then didn’t call me back was that he’d had a heart attack.

    4. Observer*

      Yeah, I just had a tech no show on an appointment a couple of days ago. I had sent him a separate email that I had cc’d someone else on, and that person emailed me back to say “Harry is out f the office. He lost his father yesterday.”

      This stuff doesn’t happen a LOT, but it DOES happen. It’s worth keeping in mind in situations where you really don’t have anything to gain, other than making yourself feel good or the other guy feel bad perhaps.

  20. Be Positive*

    #1 – I’d just blacklist with a note stating why. If the candidate ever applies that person will find out the karma then

    1. Jenn*

      I’ve blacklisted candidates (rudeness to our staff, aggressive behavior, etc.) but we didn’t explicitly inform them of the fact. The concern being that a communication could set someone off and lead to harassing behavior.

    2. CleverGirl*

      Is blacklisting really a reasonable response for not showing up for one interview? Making the person ineligible to ever be hired at the company again seems a little bit much.

      1. Jenn*

        It depends on the circumstances. In my job, interviews are mutually confirmed by email. If we got ghosted and there was zero follow up, I would note that. If they then applied later and just ignored the issue, they wouldn’t get another opportunity. If they explained it in the cover letter, I might consider them.

      2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        A no call/no show for an interview. Yes, blacklisting is reasonable and in my opinion the correct thing to do.

        I get it, things happen, emergencies happen, and people screw up. But if there isn’t an apology or explanation from the candidate who missed the interview, why would I even consider talking to them? I’ve got other candidates who managed to make it to the interview, I’ll have other candidates for future jobs that manage to make it to the interview.

        It’s a pretty low bar of admission. Show up when we’ve mutually agreed to meet and talk.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          YUP. If you no call/no show to an interview, when you’re likely on your best behavior, that sure doesn’t give me as a hiring manager confidence that you’d be at work when you’re supposed to be.

          If you no show and you send me an email later apologizing and letting me know there was an emergency that was serious enough not only to keep you from showing up, but ALSO to keep you from sending an email or calling the recruiter who scheduled you to come in, then we can start with a clean slate and I won’t make assumptions about your reliability.

      3. Observer*

        I think it is. Yes, there are reasons why this can happen which are NOT “this person is a rude flake.” And that’s why you keep your response to yourself. But the reality is that this IS the most likely reason, and that’s a good reason to blacklist someone for most jobs.

        Of course, if someone actually reached out afterwards and provided a reasonable explanation, that would be different. And, I agree with Jenn that if the person applied at a later date and addressed it then, I would possibly consider it. But otherwise, a no-call no-show gives you some very important information about a person.

      4. Jen S. 2.0*

        For a no-show / no-call, where there’s zero indication before or after that there’s some major mitigating factor?


        If it was a garden-variety oops-I-can’t-make-it, you, the candidate, should have at least sent an email ahead of time and said, “I apologize, but I have an emergency and will not be available for our interview.” A one-sentence message is the absolute bare minimum not to get blacklisted. Who wants an employee that can’t accomplish that?

        If you were too sick to do that, or had a major family emergency, then do it when you can. I agree you shouldn’t get blacklisted because your child got hit by a car or your house got flooded, but absent any communication, all your interviewer knows is that you didn’t show up.

  21. TL -*

    Honestly, I think every year I say I’m going to dress up for Halloween and every year I don’t and it’s never been a big deal.
    them: You didn’t dress up?
    Me: Nah, I ended up being too tired this morning/didn’t have time to put something together last night.
    Them: Ah, okay. How’d the experiment go?

    It probably feels like a bigger deal than it is because of why it’s not happening – but people are honestly going to be just okay with “I was tired” as they would be with “I’ve got some personal stress”

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I wish this could go to the top of the heap. It’s perfect….and yes, better than any of the thoughts I had uplist. I can put down the coffee now and get to work because you answered it.

    2. Elle*

      Yes – honestly, no one will (or should) care. No one is thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are.
      But at this point you’re giving yourself so much stress about it, it almost seems like if you had just dressed up it would have been less draining than all of this worrying over not dressing up.

    3. CM*

      I think this is different because somebody was planning it and OP already agreed. If the person who was planning it will be disappointed or others will question why OP isn’t dressed up, I think it’s way better to go with one of the low-key costume ideas mentioned here. I mean, OP doesn’t have to do anything and nobody should be super upset about her not dressing up, but I also think she made a commitment and it’s easy to follow through with it.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I suppose it’s possible that the coordinator at OP’s company is relying on OP to be one of the people who dresses up, if maybe lots of people don’t, and so the OP feels she’s not following through on a commitment.

      but then it’s still not that big of a deal; email and say, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to dress up after all. Sorry!”

  22. Rez123*

    #2 you should use the same letter to several different companies. You can add a small section that is specific to that position. Just a line or two. You could probably use the same template for everyone asking for a reference and only make small changes. This would save you a lot of time.

  23. Bea*

    I once missed an interview because I wrote the information wrong. I got a scolding voicemail that essentially said I was terrible and would never find a job. Which was hilarious because this isn’t a small area, it was a tiny firm and I was fully employed (looking to find something different but not hurrying to leave).

    I had forgotten about that until now.

    Getting mad and boiling over only harms your reputation in the end. It’s highly unlikely he’ll ever reapply unless you’re a huge employer in the area. And then will your blacklisting even work? You’ll forget his name over time. It’s not worth the axe grinding to be so interested in punishing a no show.

    1. Doctor Schmoctor*

      I once missed an interview because the recruitment agent gave me the wrong address. And then she blamed me for it. Another time, the same recruiter sent me the wrong date. (e.g. Wednesday instead of Tuesday) And again she blamed me. I contacted her boss to complain but nothing happened. About 2 years later I applied for another job in the same area, but with a completely different agency, and was told I wouldn’t be considered for the job, because I have a reputation for not showing up for interviews.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        o_O What? I’m sorry to say that I absolutely believe this, but wow. Hope you have a great job now and don’t have to deal with recruitment agencies ever again.

        1. Doctor Schmoctor*

          I know. It sounds like something from a sitcom. If it didn’t happen to me, I wouldn’t believe it.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        So now that I know this is a possibility… if I’m given information about an interview by a third party, is there an acceptable way to confirm time & location with the employer directly?

        25 years ago, I might have called the employer’s admin line to say “I’m scheduled to meet with Tony Baloney on Monday at 8am …do you have suggestions for best ways to deal wtih traffic issues at that time?” In the thought that it would at least give someone a chance to say “She’s out until Tuesday are you sure you have that date right?” But now that would just look like I don’t know how to use Google.

        I don’t want to *assume* the recruiter’s going to mess up — but what the good doctor reports is rather staggering.

        1. MLB*

          Probably not, because if you go around the recruiter, that will make you look bad as well. I just confirm via email with the recruiter, then if they try to say it was my fault, at least I have documentation that it was on them.

      3. Mr. Destructicity*

        My city has both numbered streets (running north/south) and numbered avenues (running east/west). Once I missed a meeting with a recruiter because she was at the Starbucks on 7th Street and I was at the Starbucks on 7th Avenue. And then afterwards when we realized our mistake we had a good laugh and met somewhere less ambiguous.

          1. Becky*

            That reminds me of the time my friend ordered take out pizza–she was using a phone book and it had address followed by number for a location–but she gave me the address UNDER the number she had called–meaning the wrong location. I arrived at the location and they had no idea which pizza order I was talking about. It was to late to get to the one we actually ordered from before it closed so I just grabbed what was available at the one I was at.
            And still tease my friend about her giving me the wrong address to this day.

      4. Bea*

        Oh my goodness!

        It makes sense for recruiters to have these records at least. We just file the resume away and don’t look at it again until records are purged later.

        We did have a guy come in, do the whole interview, get hired and told we’d see him tomorrow at 8am etc. All the paperwork in line.

        …No show day 1.

        My boss was like “why is he familiar? Has he worked here before?!”

        He had been hired the summer before and shocker…he didn’t show up then either. I’m still not sure what his deal was. But it was a delightful find, we laughed so much.

    2. k8*

      I once got a scolding voicemail for missing a phone interview….but *she* was the one who had gotten the time wrong, missed the call, and then called me hours later when I was unable to talk. I was going to send an email following up, but figured I probably didn’t want to work for her anyway….

  24. zipzap*

    OP#1 – I get that you’re upset at being treated rudely, but as everyone has said, you can’t discipline someone who doesn’t work for you! It’s just bizarre, and it’s absolutely the kind of thing that gets posted on Facebook or Twitter under the #WTF hash tag and goes viral. At MOST, you could write a brief e-mail saying that you don’t appreciate their wasting your time, but if you don’t trust yourself to be calm and professional when you do this, don’t do it.

    1. CastIrony*

      This might help, but OP#1 can write an e-mail to let them know they missed the interview. “Hello, this e-mail is to let you know that you missed your interview. [Put consequence or offer to reschedule (or something else) here.] [OP]”

      Then again, I got this idea when I was e-mailing customer support for a site I was getting into, and I forgot to answer the e-mail they sent for a few days. After that, they sent me an e-mail to let my know my ticket was closed, but gave me an offer to reopen it.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        That’s a really good idea. OP gets closure, the candidate gets a chance to explain themselves. If the candidate is a jerk, bullet dodged. If the candidate had a genuine problem, they can explain. If OP sends a nasty letter and it turns out the guy was in a car accident, for example, that’s definitely ending up on the internet.

      2. LJay*

        Yeah, this is the way I would go. Close the loop, so to speak.

        We actually do this in my company so we have “proof” of the interview no-show, since we have to provide a disposition for all the candidates that apply to a given job posting.

        It’s just something like.

        “As you missed your scheduled interview on [date] [time], we are assuming you are withdrawing your candidacy for the [job posted].

        Please contact us at [contact info] if you would still like to be considered, or have any questions or concerns.”

        This way we’re not requiring or expecting any response, but it gives the job seeker the opportunity to respond with something like, “I was in a car accident on the way the, is it still possible to reschedule?” or whatever.

        And otherwise it gets filed with the job application as a record that the candidate did no-show to the interview.

        Honestly, most candidates who no-show are doing it because they have decided that they want to withdraw from the process for whatever reason, so we don’t generally get a response to it.

        1. Clisby Williams*

          “Honestly, most candidates who no-show are doing it because they have decided that they want to withdraw from the process for whatever reason, so we don’t generally get a response to it.”

          Yeah, it’s always possible some emergency happened, but my first thought was that the applicant got another job before the interview, and just blew off contacting the interviewer. That’s inconsiderate, but I’d be surprised if it’s rare.

  25. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    OP1 – what kind of discipline are you planning to issue someone who doesn’t work for you, and have no authority over whatsoever?

    I can’t help wondering how you treat the people who DO work for you, if that’s how you’d treat non-employees?

    1. Sylvan*

      I so want to know what the punishment for a non-employee is. Besides putting the person on some kind of “do not hire” list and writing a sharply-worded email, what can you do?

      1. irene adler*

        I can see it now:
        “Submit documentation that you have shown up-on time- for every interview scheduled over the next 6 months. “

    2. Gingerblue*

      I’m honestly wondering if the candidate heard something alarming enough about what this person is like to work for that they decided to skip the interview. Not the way to handle it, of course, but…

      1. Rebecca*

        I thought the same thing. Perhaps the candidate got the interview, started telling family, friends…and someone said, OMG NO you DON’T want to work for them! And proceeded to tell them about the interviewer or company’s “discipline” practices, and decided nope, not even going to go. Although, I’d feel a bit better if the candidate had called to cancel. And really, we don’t know they didn’t. All sorts of things happen randomly – the candidate could have sent an email back to cancel, and it could have been snagged in quarantine or spam.

        I seriously think the candidate dodged a serious bullet. I can’t imagine what it’s like to work for this person.

      2. Not All*

        My exact thought. If I heard that a potential employer had even considered doing something like this (such as mentioned it to coworkers), I’d be running for the hills. I can’t even imagine the degree of wild overreaction to petty mistakes or misunderstandings LW#1’s poor staff must live with on a daily basis.

      3. Acolyte of Artemis*

        Something like that happened to me interviewing for my first job out of college – the hiring manager’s behavior had my “bully radar” pinging like mad, and I knew I couldn’t work for him. I was young and easily intimidated, and was afraid to talk to him live, so I woke up at 5 AM and left him a message on his voice mail with a very polite refusal.

    3. Aphrodite*

      Exactly. I suspect that OP #1 works at a toxic company and that the OP is a valued contributor to that toxicity. And if that’s the case, then the interviewee didn’t just dodge a bullet, she dodged a machine gun!

    4. Parenthetically*

      This was precisely my thought. If you fly immediately to “MUST PUNISH!!” when dealing with something as ordinary as a no-show for an interview, your workplace has got to be a special kind of dysfunctional. The candidate was impolite not to cancel the interview, sure, but that’s the kind of bland, quotidian rudeness adults have to learn to let slide so we don’t go through life in a state of constant outrage.

      OP1 needs to get a grip on their desire for vengeance, STAT.

  26. Doctor Schmoctor*

    I get the feeling the person is not very fluent in English, so maybe when they say “discipline”, they mean something else. Like sending an some kind of official/standard email telling the candidate they will not be considered for any future positions because they didn’t show up for the interview.

    Because I can’t imagine how anybody would think they can discipline some random person they never met.

    1. JamieS*

      IDK, the letter was a bit outrageous but sounded like it was written by a fluent English speaker to me. Since Discipline Email Form was capitalized I think it’s the name of something at OP’s company so OP really did want to discipline the candidate.

      1. boo bot*

        I thought she had something specific in mind, too. The only thing I could think of was that it was an internal candidate, so there was theoretically someone within the OP’s company to whom she could send a Discipline Email Form, who would actually have the authority to discipline the candidate.

        Still outrageous, still wildly inappropriate.

    2. Julia*

      I came here to say the exact same thing. As another non-native speaker (who just received some praise for her English today <3), I know how easy it is to use the wrong word, especially if it happens to be a false friend to a word in your own language. And if this is someone who reads this blog and maybe even learns English through it, discipline might come up fairly often, but in ways that don't make it clear enough from context who can be disciplined and who can't.

  27. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Ugh. I’m in the UK and Halloween seems to have become A Thing in the last few years. My local supermarket currently has ‘police tape’ across the doors and windows and every piece of chocolate for sale is pumpkin themed or ‘spooky’. On the plus side, they are selling headbands with little witches hats on them for £2.99, so that’s my ‘costume’ sorted!

    1. Doctor Schmoctor*

      Same here in South Africa.
      Last year a friend of mine posted a picture of his son dressed as a pirate or something, with the caption “Mikey’s first trick or treat.” And I thought “Well, no shit.” It’s never been a tradition here.

      Thank the gods people at my office don’t care about this stuff. I don’t do dress-up.

      1. Vicky Austin*

        For my first Halloween, my mom got me a tiara and made a banner that said, “Miss Baby America” and the year.

    2. Cat wrangler*

      I actually have a witch costume which I’ve had for years plus a hat but thankfully as I work in a place where PPE is required for most of the site, I think costumes aren’t going to be a thing. Although we have been asked to wear pink tomorrow to support breast cancer research! Probably only admin staff though.

    3. Essess*

      I must confess that I find using ‘police tape’ as decoration to be very annoying. There are enough incidents out there of customers ignoring real police and disaster signs in retail or business settings and demanding service anyway that we shouldn’t continue to encourage them to think that safety equipment/signage is just a suggestion or joke.

  28. Drop Bear*

    Perhaps LW1 you can try to see this as an interview result, which might make it less aggravating. Yes, you booked a venue, gave it time etc, but if he had turned up you would have incurred those costs too – so in reality you have been provided with the information you need about whether you should hire this person – which is the outcome you would have wanted from the interview. And this outcome potentially came at a lower cost than an actual interview would have, as you didn’t need time to think about your decision/discuss him with others/check referees – so reduced indirect cost.

  29. short haired lady*

    #3 based on the comments from those who know the area (I’m in the UK!) I would think carefully about where you want to work. As a queer person it’s not just about how you present to others (haircut, dress etc) but about your ability to be out and to be you at work. It sounds to me like places that have a problem with men with long hair and women wearing trousers aren’t going to be particularly lgbt+ friendly…

    I’ve been in my current job for 18 years – started when I had a buzz cut although it’s a standard, men’s barber short back and sides now (I’m a cis lesbian). Over the years I’ve had some looks and comments but I’ve always dressed professionally and it hasn’t been a huge issue… prior to this job though, I lived and worked in a conservative city in Australia where my ex (a local) advised me to grow my hair into a longer, “feminine” cut for work. I got work but looked and felt uncomfortable and was very glad to leave…

    1. Buzzcut OP*

      My area tends to have a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” mentality about queerness. No one is going to gawk at you on the street, but they probably won’t cheer either. It’s okay. Outside of the legal field, I see plenty of long haired men and short haired women, and they don’t seem to have any issues. But law is always different, and about 2 decades behind.

  30. Calmeye*

    LW1: Boy, do I feel for you. Applicants who don’t turn up to interviews are the worst and I wish bad things upon them.

    It’s helpful to remember, though, by not turning up they actually saved you a lot of time and trouble. You essentially dodged a bullet by not hiring a person who is inconsiderate, flaky, and lacking basic common sense.

    No-shows are just a part of the recruitment process. Much like salespeople spend a lot of time pitching to potential clients who don’t all end up buying from them. You don’t hire everyone you interview; so if someone is a no-show it helps to frame it as “I saved an hour of my time not interviewing an idiot.”

  31. Right Hand Cat*

    A “Discipline Email Form”!!!!!

    I’m DYING of laughter. I can’t even. What the actual hell?

    I kinda really want to see this form now. The things I am imagining would surely pale before it’s magnificence!

    1. Fergus*

      Yea you are going to be disciplined. We have hired a lady who is into S&M and she will be at your house at a certain date and time. Enjoy your discipline LMAO

  32. SouthwestAttorney*

    OP #3, I am a woman attorney in the Southwest. I think Alison’s advice is spot on. I do understand your concerns since the legal profession is fairly conservative. When I started out, I tried to present as “traditionally” as possible — straightening my curly hair, wearing skirt suits to interview, etc. However, the Southwest, to me, is a bit more lax than other geographic areas like, for example, New York (where I went to law school). So I scrapped the pantyhose and flat irons, and I haven’t had any issue securing employment or receiving respect from those in the profession based on my physical presentation, even down to my unconventional cartilage piercings. Your attire sounds similar to mine, so I think you’ll be okay. Best of luck in law school!

  33. Ms Cappuccino*

    3 If buzz hair is acceptable for men, it is acceptable for women too. If someone ever tells you your hairstyle isn’t appropriate, ask them if they would say the same thing to a man.
    Same scenario for men with long hair.

    1. TL -*

      While I think the principle is right, the reality is that the OP will need a job after she graduates and she’ll need her clients/other lawyers to be willing to work with her.

      If she was well-established or in a position of power, telling people that would be awesome and have a heck of an impact. But if she’s just breaking into an industry, that isn’t going to do her much good.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah. I think others will work with her, but the truth is that your appearance does affect how people perceive your judgment, abilities, acumen, etc. That may not be fair, but I generally prefer advice that deals with the practical challenges someone may face. OP’s fears are reasonable, although perhaps not as widely applicable as OP may worry about.

    2. Czhorat*

      OP#3 is not a woman; they are non-binary with a somewhat feminine appearance.

      If there were decent workplace protections in hiring for those not neatly fitting on the gender binary they’d be fine here. As things stand, I think the buzzcut SHOULD be fine; it’s not odd or unprofessional like, say, bright pink. It might – to some in very conservative areas – pair oddly with an overall feminine look. That doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be accepted if they aren’t a strong candidate.

      I’ll aside that, while OP didn’t tell us which pronouns to use, many non-binary people don’t prefer “he” or “she”. I’d stick with “they” unless/until OP tells us otherwise.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m still hoping we’ll magically adopt a new gender-neutral singular pronoun. Intellectually I know that “they” for gender-unknown singular was used by Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen…. but emotionally I remember being drilled by a series of strict grammarians who didn’t acknowledge it as a option.

        None of the other options I’ve seen other use are any better, and “it” for a genderless human is much more offensive in my book. I just have to force myself around it. ( )

        In my casual webposts I’ve occasionally messed around with heorshe for “a human for whom I do not need to specify gender” but it seems unnatural.

        Here’s hoping it’ll be sorted out by our kids & nieblings.

        1. Czhorat*

          I’ve trained myself to use singular they if I don’t know the gender. It gets easy once you do it for a while.

          Xie/xer don’t seem to have caught on to broad usage; I only use those of someone states it as a preference.

          1. Jasnah*

            I would love a gender-neutral singular pronoun and default to “they” whenever possible. Personally I’m not a fan of xe/ze and other made-up words, as they sound alien to me (like actual UFO-flying aliens). If someone has a preference for those of course I would defer, but I wish we could agree on “they” or come up with a more natural-sounding English word that sounds like we’re describing humans.

        2. Courageous cat*

          A gentle reminder, though, to avoid making conversations like these about you and/or your hang-ups with language. It’s about being respectful of something a lot of people get really, really wrong (misgendering, especially purposely) – I think it’s good to use conversations like these as an opportunity to sit back and listen, rather than to unload any feelings you may have about the pronoun itself, which is ultimately a very small thing.

          Don’t get me wrong, I understand your point for sure. But as a cisgender person, I think these are good things to work through in personal family/friend spaces but maybe not in a space where an NB person is already clearly being misgendered in numerous places.

    3. RoadsLady*

      Indeed. I’ve seen enough buzz-cut women I didn’t realize it wasn’t a thing (and I live in a conservative area).

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It could! It really depends on the judge. Of the 60ish federal judges I’ve observed, a buzz cut on someone who presents as feminine would be unusual but not prejudicial.

    4. Buzzcut OP*

      I wish that were true. In many fields, it is, but my experience with law so far has shown me that appearance very much does matter, and how you fit into preconceived notions of what your perceived gender is important.

  34. LabraBOOdle Daddy*

    Sounds to me like the applicant in #1 dodged a major bullet. OP1, do not do this. It will make you seem unhinged. And maybe examine why you felt strongly enough about this to write into an advice column.

  35. Excel Slayer*

    #5 – as the person at my work who would end up organising something like this (unfortunately we do not do Halloween), people drop out of this stuff for various reasons all of the time. Unless your friend is overly invested (you know her better than me), an “I’m really sorry, I’m just not going to have the time to put together a costume this year” will be absolutely fine and understandable. You’re not letting anyone down because you can’t do a costume anymore.

    (The witch hat/cat eats and wearing black as above also seems like a good option if that’s the path of least energy expenditure for you)

    1. MLB*

      Agree, except I would rephrase to say “I’m just not into it this year” or “I’m not in the mood to participate”. When you provide a reason that isn’t entirely truthful, it gives the other person a chance to counter with “I can put something together for you”. Since she’s not in the mood to participate, she needs to keep the reason truthful, without going into detail.

    2. Essess*

      It would be nice to give the friend an early heads-up that you’ve changed your mind. I had been burned 2 years in a row at an OldJob because I’d been the ONLY person in the 150-person office that dressed up even though they had advertised a costume contest and said there would be Halloween celebrations. The third year I went around and verified that people planned to dress up. I had 10 different people swear up and down that they really planned to dress up that year. I was very vocal that if I was the only person to dress up again this year that I wasn’t going to ever do it again. I tend to spend a full month sewing a costume from scratch and I told them that I did not want to invest that much time and energy into a costume and then get laughed at again for being the only costumed person. I verified several times over the month that people were still planning to dress up and people were very enthusiastic about wanting to do costumes.
      Sure enough… on Halloween I get to the office and all of them were in street clothes because they’d each decided “it was too much work to dress up” that morning. I was livid. That was the last time I’ve ever worn a costume to the office. I was hounded for several years after that about why didn’t I dress up and I told them that I didn’t appreciate being lied to and wasn’t going to do it again. A few people made half-hearted attempts in the next couple years (such as cat ear headbands or sheriff badge on regular clothing) but that really ruined the holiday for me because of the feeling of being tricked and lied to. If people had said they didn’t feel like dressing up, I would have been okay with that. It was being led on and lied to that caused my hard feelings.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Oh, that’s awful. I’ve had similar experiences with things like showing up for get-together or bringing something special in. I’d be all excited for the thing we were all doing, then no one did it. Like you, I got laughed at, which made no sense because I’d only done what we were supposed to do? Anyway, I sympathise and don’t blame you in the slightest. These people don’t deserve your awesome costumes!

  36. Juli G.*

    OP1: I completely agree with Allison that you can’t discipline a candidate but can I also give the advice…

    Your letter doesn’t indicate you talked to the candidate. One thing I always tell people in my organization is to not issue discipline without first finding out their side of the story first. This is a good idea for a whole slew of reasons – you can find out their motivation for the wrong behavior (lack of understanding of policy/process v. purposeful misbehavior), you could find out there’s a totally reasonable explanation for the behavior (“I missed the important meeting because school called to say my son broke his leg and I rushed out without thinking to tell anyone!”) etc.

    Talking to a person before discipline also helps you determine the right level of discipline. Someone who takes full responsibility for their actions may deserve some slack compared to a person who lacks accountability. People want to feel heard and giving them that opportunity allows you to discipline without completely destroying morale, engagement, and credibility.

    1. Rebecca*

      This is an excellent way of handling things. There’s a huge difference between someone who is unaware of a policy, and breaks it vs someone who is aware and just does what they want to do anyway.

    2. Bea*

      I’m also taught that all discipline is done verbally with a written follow up where necessary. You should never just initiate this in writing, it strips your ability to use tone properly.

  37. CTT*

    OP 3, for what it’s worth, I also work in the legal field and one of the attorneys I work with has had very short hair the entire time I’ve worked with her, ranging from a buzz cut to about half an inch. She does dress in line with the rest of the office, but more importantly she does really good work and clients like her, which is what most firms will care about.

    That said, your law school career center may give you shit about it; but if they’re anything like mine, they also gave a guy shit about wearing a bow tie to an interview, so take it all with a grain of salt (and ask a professor you like/trust if your hair really will impact your career in your region).

    1. Buzzcut OP*

      Thank you! I hope to be enough of a rockstar that people won’t give a hoot how I look, but we’ll have to wait a few more years for that.

  38. Bookworm*

    As a recent job searcher, I get it. You set aside that time, prepare for the interview and they don’t show. Sometimes something may have happened to prevent that person from getting to the interview, though, and quite frankly based on your letter the candidate may have realized you’re not a very good organization.

    If your FIRST reaction is to “discipline” someone who doesn’t work for you for not showing instead of reaching out to ask what happened or if they need to reschedule, this is absolutely not an organization I’d want to work for. I had a vaguely similar experience years ago when I didn’t pick up and the potential hiring org wrote a cranky email because I hadn’t answered my phone. The phone message was mostly fine but the email was a put-off and as my only exposure to this org, I was not at all inclined to bend over backwards for them because I hadn’t immediately picked up my phone.

    Job interviews are a two way street. Yes this is annoying but it sounds like you’re an organization to avoid.

  39. Schadenfreude*

    LW1: It’s concerning that you want to punish… I mean “discipline” someone before you even know what happened.
    Maybe they made an honest mistake and thought the interview was supposed to be the following week. And will be mortified when they realize it.
    Maybe something happened to them, like an accident or a heart attack.

    Not to mention that they don’t even work for you, so you don’t have the power to discipline them.

  40. Anon for this*

    OP 2 – talk to her and find out what went wrong with the other 12 (?!) jobs. Could there be something in your reference that’s putting off those employers?

    1. Ella*

      Thank you. I think I will suggest that they ask their interviewers, for professional development purposes, if there’s anything about the interview that could have been improved. I did this when first jobs hunting long ago and it was very helpful. I don’t think it’s my reference that’s putting them off, since it’s quite positive. The candidate and I discussed what I would say when asked for a reference, so they should know the kind of thing I’m likely to say. I’ve just never had a former employee get to the final stage of this many interviews, and not be hired!

  41. JS*

    OP#1, Are you 100% sure it was a no-show and not a communication/scheduling issue?

    I recently interviewed for a position where the recruiter and I had a phone conversation as well as an email conversation about a interview scheduled for “this coming Wednesday”. She sent through an invite but it was actually for the following Wednesday, a week later. Neither I nor her noticed until morning of the coming Wednesday, she apologized for the mistake and asked if I could still go. I went and turns out VP I was supposed to be meeting with was out of town because of the scheduling error, he was a no show. But I easily could have also been the no-show in that situation due to calendar error as well.

    I would reach out and ask for clarification on why they did not show before jumping to conclusions.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      I didn’t think of that when I responded to someone else above, but yes that could have happened, I’m sure I’ve seen comments on here before now about things like miscommunications over what “next Wednesday” means, and I even know someone who was given a frosty reception at an interview because they thought she was late – what actually happened was they had given her one time in her letter, but had a different time in their calendar, so it was their error.

      If you send the discipline email, and then it turns out HR sent an invitation for the following week or something, that again will open you up to ridicule.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I’ve gotten mixed up in that confusion so many times, in work and personal settings, due to my mistake or other peoples’, that I now default to including the date in casual communications. “Great, let’s meet on Weds (10/24) at 10am”.

        1. londonedit*

          I did that recently and the person I was meeting STILL got it wrong! She’d asked if I was available ‘next Tuesday’, I said no but I could do the following Tuesday – and I had a feeling there might be confusion, so I made a point of saying ‘I could do Tuesday 2nd, though’. Sure enough, Tuesday 25th rolls around, and she sends me an email saying ‘Really looking forward to our lunch today, is 12:45 still OK with you?’ It was all fine, I said I thought we’d agreed on the following week, and she was full of apologies, but people do get very confused with dates and times!

  42. Laini*

    Good rule of thumb, re: OP 1. If you can picture George Costanza doing it, don’t do it. (You just KNOW it turn out the candidate canceled due to emergency.)

  43. TheNotoriousMCG*

    PATRON SAINT of out-of-touch employers!!! I’m dead.

    I mean, I guess everyone needs a Saint.

    1. strawberries and raspberries*

      I used to have a coworker who everyone called “Superman” because he was a very tall and athletic guy who always wore nice-looking suits and thick glasses. On Halloween he would wear his normal suit but with the top few buttons undone and tie loosened to show a Superman T-shirt underneath. People loved it.

    2. But you don't have an accent...*

      My work group did literal super heroes one year – iron man with an iron, super man with Campbell’s labels stuck all over his shirt, cat woman with a cat shirt/ears, wonder woman had a wonder bread shirt, etc.

  44. Frozen Ginger*

    LW3 – How would you feel about a wig? My sibling does that as they work in ministry, though not because of cut but rather color (they have some crazily-dyed hair).
    Place it with your super-conservative work outfits. On normal days, rock your buzzcut. When you have to meet with a client or such, throw on a wig. (Though I’d give a heads up to your coworkers so they’re not super confused.)

  45. Blue Eagle*

    #5 How about going to your local Target and buying either a t-shirt with a Halloween theme on the front (e.g. a jack-o-lantern) or a Halloween themed scarf. The cost is minimal, the effort is minimal and it is an easy way to be part of the event without much time, effort or emotional involvement. Unless if you are totally not into it this year, then please ignore this idea.

    #2 While it is nice of you to spend 45 minutes to an hour on a recommendation, that is way too much time to spend. Rather than telling the person that you don’t want to do recommendations for them anymore, it is fine to stop personalizing each one. Like Alison says, do a generic one based on what the person did for you rather than what they can do for the potential employer, which can be used for each recommendation you are asked to provide.

  46. SigneL*

    A thought about nonprofits: If you are not reimbursed for a typical business expense, the nonprofit does not have an accurate idea of their expenses. I used to volunteer for a nonprofit that was very short of money, so much so that if I sent a letter, I provided the stamp. But when we applied for grants, we always asked for less money than we needed, because so many people would pitch in – stamps, provide stationary, whatever. The actual cost of running the nonprofit was higher than we knew because people weren’t reimbursed for things (even simple things, like office supplies).

  47. LizB*

    #1: I once had to email a new employee of mine who no-showed for their second scheduled shift, which caused me a ton of stress and prevented me from getting higher-priority stuff done. Fortunately I contacted my HR person, who had more emotional distance from the situation and gave me some language to use in the email that was a lot more calm than what I was coming up with — because I then found out that my employee had, in fact, been unexpectedly hospitalized! But honestly, even if she had just overslept or decided to ghost me, it wouldn’t have been okay to send a snarky or harsh email. That’s not who I want to be as a manager, and not how I want to represent my organization. I fully sympathize with the aggravation that a no-show can cause, but you can’t jump down someone’s throat for it, especially someone who doesn’t even work for your company. It’s not a reasonable or responsible thing to do and it’s not going to help you attract quality candidates. Listen to Alison on this one, and best of luck in your hiring process.

  48. Number Five*

    Hello, this is letter writer #5. Thanks for all the kind responses! This is one of the best comments sections I’ve ever seen.

    After some thought yesterday, I think I’m going to do a lower-key version of my previous idea. I’m going as the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, and I figure instead of hunting down his fancy dinnertime duds, I’ll just wear his regular clothes, which really amounts to a white shirt and black pants (which I already have), and a couple of relatively easy-to-obtain items.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Good for you!

      And because Halloween had roots in the Celtic year-end festival… May the new year bring good things to your life!

      (*I’m an equal opportunity celebrator… I’ve also celebrated Lunar New Year since sharing a house with a group of Asian friends many years ago.)

  49. Lynn Marie*

    #5: yes, just show up in normal dress and make a very big deal of admiring and enjoying others’ costumes – that’s all they’ll remember regardless of how you’re dressed.

  50. Hanna*

    Does OP1 work in retail or a call center or something? Those are the only jobs I’ve heard of having actual standardized discipline forms, and if that’s the case, OP absolutely needs to understand that no-shows at both the interview and first-day stages are common in those fields.

    1. Czhorat*

      It’s sometimes a Big Corporate thing, especially in a union environment; I worked for the phone company in a past life (NYNEX/Bell Atlantic/ Verizon) and discipline, attendance and the like were very formalized and regimented. Other big firms for which I’ve worked (500 to 1000 employees across multiple locations) there were forms for annual reviews and the like but I’d never seen a discipline form.

    2. Where’s my coffee?*

      Really? Nearly every company I’ve worked for has had them, although generally they aren’t called disciplinary forms. Interesting.

  51. AdminX2*

    OP5 a quick cat ears headband or old fashioned halloween hat or pin will go miles to say “I’m here, I’m involved” without any real effort on your part. That being said, it’s fine to take the advice and just not do anything!

  52. Rayne*

    LW #3 – I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if this has been said, but have you thought about investing in a good wig? I dress/have hair that is very alternative (Think one half of my head is blonde/multi-coloured and the other half is black) and for work I literally wear a wig so that I don’t have to adjust my appearance for my job. I know it’s a thing that some people with unusual hair decide to do.

  53. Dorothy Zbornak*

    #5 where I used to work the entire company was obsessed with Halloween to the point where we basically didn’t work for that day and had decorating and costume contests. To get out of it one year I said I was traveling (I was) later that day so needed to wear normal clothes

  54. Legal Rugby*

    #3 – I started to law school about 6 years ago, and while I do identify as female, I am rather butch. I was rocking a serious undercut (Think Alex on Supergirl) and wore men’s professional wear. I did find that folks were more likely to notice if I didn’t do something – for instance, more than one person had to fix my tie for me. It was never directly commented on, and I DID get interviews for big firms and government jobs that resulted in offers. I found the issue had more to do with industry than location. I’m in a much more conservative area of the country (rural PA) than I went to law school, (CO) and it mostly goes unremarked – but I work in education now, and during my judicial clerkship, folks would openly stare at me. I worked for a prosecution office in law school, and no one ever batted an eye during plea bargains, hearings or trials. When I interned with a lobbyist’s firm, I definately got more pushback.

    You will probably have to balance the realities of where you are going to law school, and what type of law you want to do, but if it helps, one of my favorite folks in the class behind me was a nonbinary twink with a large neck and chest tattoo who dressed ever so slightly like a steampunk undertaker with a ton of v-necks, and they work for the Attorney General of our state now.

    1. Buzzcut OP*

      Thank you for commenting! I am strongly considering law school in CO, so this is good to hear. I also wouldn’t have expected lobbying to have more pushback than prosecution, but law is strange like that. Or my perceptions of law are strange like that.

      And yes, it does help :)

  55. Matt*

    OP1- what a vindictive attitude to take! For all you know, the candidate may have had a legitimate emergency that prevented them from making the interviewing. Glad I don’t work for you.

  56. Jaybeetee*

    #1: A “Discipline Form” is waaaay out of touch. BUT you can still send an email noting that the person missed the interview, and that barring some exceptional situation leading to that, they have been removed from hiring consideration/blackballed. If you have HR, you’ll want to run all this by them – they may have some kind of template or wording for you to use. Assuming you don’t know why the person no-showed, there may have been extenuating circumstances, so you want to stop short of taking the guy’s head off via email.

    #2: I encountered a version of this problem too. I temped for a few years, which meant a) frequent reference checks, and b) an eventual drought on references because it didn’t feel suitable to ask for them from my short-term jobs, and I only had a couple available from previous longer-term jobs (it can also be a bit weird listing ancient references from years back, assuming you even have their current contact info, so I was shying away from going too far back in my history as well). To make matters worse, a lot of temp agencies do reference checks when they create your profile, leading to your references getting a slew of calls from places that may not even find you anything. Anyway, one poor woman took at least 5-6 reference checks for me over a year or so, including one fairly involved government form (which at least finally lead to a permanent job). That wasn’t even a particularly long-term job (less than a year) and that woman in particular was only my supervisor for the last couple of months I was there (I and many others were laid off from there after a project ended, and the org also wrote a truly awful letter of reference for each of us that basically just confirmed dates and said our “services were no longer required”. A colleague commented we never could have actually used that letter in a job hunt because it sounded for all the world like we’d been fired).

    I am a couple years out from that situation and have quietly retired that poor woman from my reference list. I sent her a couple of apologetic/grateful emails, and joked that I needed to get her a fruit basket. I dusted that reference back off once about a year ago because that job had experience that was particularly connected to my present job. I emailed and asked if I could lean on her one more time, and she agreed. OP, if I had to guess, I’d surmise that your former report may have been signing up for a lot of temp/placement agencies in recent months, and they tend to do reference checks up front, which is a pain (especially if they don’t find you anything, which happened to me with some agencies that did this). That said, agencies like that usually just do quick phone calls, and aren’t looking for long letters or sending forms to fill out. If you’re getting tons of THOSE, I have no idea what that could be about. But maybe it’s possible to just use a “stock reference” for future requests to do with her, instead of re-doing it all from scratch every time? Lots of places just confirm dates and such, you don’t necessarily need to provide tons of individual detail every time.

    Ugh, I could say so much about references, problems with references, reference-checking, who you can use and who you can’t… I feel like AAM might be able to get a productive article out of this subject sometime!

  57. Here for the Boo’s*

    LW #4, I process expense reports for my company’s directors and VPs. I don’t see them expensing mileage ever but they do everything else: food, parking, Uber, airplane WiFi, dry cleaning, and the like. Mileage is just the one thing I never see, oddly enough, though I know they do a lot of driving from meeting to meeting, even locally.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      Is it possible they have a company car or stipend? Our sales team and some of the top leadership has that setup and they are processed completely different from a typical expense report.

    2. AdminX2*

      It doesn’t show up on a credit statement, so it’s not something you tend to remember. Plus TECHNICALLY mileage means “miles beyond your normal commute” so might not be worth the hassle of calculating.

  58. loslothluin*

    As someone who works in legal, yes, the buzz cut might an issue. We had a female judge yell at an associate for not being professional enough when the associate was dresssed in a maternity dress. They have dress codes for Court, the Court expects them to be followed just like anything else.

    1. Not All*

      Not for me.

      Actually, if it was an internal candidate I’m guessing the answer is even more likely to be that the candidate asked around and found out how nuts this manager is and ran for the hills. Sure, they should have sent an email withdrawing, but I’d put it at the same level as someone no-showing for any other internal meeting…a little rude but not warranting more than an internal eye roll and back to work.

    2. Coldfeet*

      Ahh, this is what I was thinking!

      I understand the “discipline form” idea more if it’s an internal candidate, but it doesn’t mean the discipline would be appropriate.

    3. Jenn*

      If they’re internal, Inwould prbably be more likely tondrop a lone and say “hey, what happened?” But more a courtesy than a punishment.

  59. CupcakeCounter*

    #1 – nope nope nope nope nope
    Only thing you can do is if the candidate calls to ask to reschedule and doesn’t immediately apologize and say something along the lines of “I was knocked unconscious by a falling piano and in a coma for 2 weeks and couldn’t call”, clearly explain that you will not be moving forward with their candidacy at this time or in the future as a no call/no show is not acceptable.

    #3 – I’m in a traditional conservative field and area and I wouldn’t look askance at a buzz cut on someone who outwardly appeared female and I’m approaching 40. However I am having a harder time wrapping my head around a buzz cut with very conservative clothing – something about the combo actually makes me think it would stand out more. I guess it would come down to whatever you are more comfortable in. Personally I think a black/navy wide leg suit pant with the button down and some funky, colorful heels would look very professional and still quite cool to match your age and personal style (one of my favorite looks ever was head to toe black suit with leopard pumps). The more out of place you feel the more out of place you will look to others. I really like your idea of mixing the traditional with a pop of you – unless a boss says something about you not complying with dress code keep putting more of what you like/feel best in into your wardrobe.

    #5 if you don’t want to dress up don’t dress up. However if you think there will be a stink if you don’t you can A) reuse something you already have B) go to a thrift store and get a pair of scrubs and be a nurse/doctor/etc… C) use this as an excuse to wear pj’s to work and get one of those animal onsies or stick your hair in pigtails and bring along a stiffed animal and be a little kid

    1. Buzzcut OP*

      Thanks! I do like leopard print…and I think with a black suit with long pants, I could probably get away with it most days!

  60. Dr. Pepper*

    #3: When your hair is extremely short, the focus centers on your face. Many people use longer hair as part of their overall style as well as something to “hide” behind as a sort of security blanket. Since your hair is so short, your style will be conveyed by your clothing and accessory choices, as well as any make up. Make sure these are on point and convey the vibe that you want them to. Just like shoes can alter a whole outfit, so can hairstyle, and if your hair is buzzed, it’s basically not contributing to your look at all and your sartorial choices have to carry all the weight of the style you’re going for. Does that make sense? The buzzed hair is basically a neutral, so your style will be shown in your clothes and any make up you use. Perhaps if you’re not completely comfortable starting out with buzzed hair, let it grow a tad into a short pixie so you can comb it down and shape it a little. That is not at all an uncommon look for feminine people and it might help you get a feeling for how much anyone really cares about how short your hair is. I suspect that if you dress in the industry appropriate fashion and do good work, your hair will not be an issue. Some people just like having really short hair. It’s easy and low maintenance. If the rest of you is saying “I am an awesome lawyer” and you back that up with your work, I doubt very much that most people will care.

    1. Buzzcut OP*

      Thank you! I appreciate this advice very much. I think if I can channel “awesome lawyer here to kick butt” everywhere else, hopefully my hair won’t matter.

  61. Jobina*

    #5 the only caveat I would place on Alison’s advice is if your workplace has a uniform. Having worked in a lot of pediatric offices where the uniform for Halloween is to wear costumes so the kids have a positive experience at the dentist, compliance would be more obligatory.

    I imagine that would hold true for any workplace with a uniform; if the workplace dictates that the uniform for Halloween is a costume, then the uniform for Halloween is a costume.

    Though again this would only be the case for a very small subset of jobs, and not your typical office job.

      1. Jobina*

        In the event of a workplace with a strict uniform policy, not just a dress code, I don’t see why not.

        Example, if the company already dictates you must wear unpatterned red scrubs on Monday, unpatterned blue scrubs on Tuesday, unpatterned green scrubs on Wednesday, and so forth, then it seems acceptable to dictate a costume as the required uniform for Halloween.

        This of course doesn’t give the company license to be a jerk about it, if the company is making a change to the uniform policy it seems they should give reasonable advance notice. And all of this is assuming you mean the UK definition of Fancy Dress.

        1. Adjuncts Anonymous*

          A nurse could wear a nursing uniform and and be in costume! Nurse is actually very popular.

  62. What’s with Today, today?*

    OP 1, in addition to Alisin’s Correct response that this would be a story the candidate told for years, I think you’d run the risk of becoming a viral internet story. Just let it go.

  63. caryatis*

    LW#3: I would not take advice from random people on the internet about this. They may not know anything about law–even if they’re lawyers, it varies widely by field (witness the number of commenters who just assume you won’t want to work for a law firm!). If you do work for a firm, or do criminal work, a conservative appearance will be important.

    I would start growing the hair out now. When you start law school, you can consult people who are successful in the field you hope to go into. And remember that law school (and specifically the first year) is probably *the* most crucial time in your career. There will be plenty of time to express your style and gender identity later. One or two years of having a hairstyle you don’t love is a very reasonable price to pay for a lifetime of career success.

    1. Legal Rugby*

      This is incredibly disconnected from reality – and incredibly unfair. Why should someone have to hide their gender identity. I know plenty of attorneys across many field of law and locations who are out and proud about things that make themselves “different.” I rocked a similar hair cut and style in law school, and now as an attorney, and for the most part, the only negative opinions I’ve heard are people expressing them about people who find it necessary to say things like this. I think you should check your assumptions about how representation of “style and gender identity” in workplaces helps folks, and more importantly, changes minds like yours.

    2. Phoenix*

      You, yourself, are a random person on the internet, so I’m sure your advice can be similarly discounted – especially as egregiously harmful as it is.

    3. Psyche*

      This sounds like you are saying don’t take advice unless it’s mine. I agree that norms in law can vary widely. Therefore, they would be better off talking to their professors or someone at the law firm they are working at. That is the best way to get a feel for how their haircut is perceived in their region and their specialty.

    4. Dee*

      Are you seriously advising someone to just table their gender identity for two years? And lumping gender identity in with “style”?

    5. Turanga Leela*

      Just here to say that I practice criminal law (in the Southwest, no less!), and a conservative appearance is not essential in this job. There are certainly criminal lawyers, on both sides, who present a very conservative appearance, but it’s not required. If OP practices in federal court, they need to dress formally, but it sounds like they’ve got that part covered.

    6. MCR*

      Lawyer here. Biglaw veteran. You’re wrong.

      First of all, the only thing that matters during 1L is your grades and not making a total ass of yourself to your classmates/profs. Your appearance does not matter. (In fact, being overly conservative in your dress makes you fall into the “making an ass of yourself” category – I feel like every law school class has that one person that shows up in suits for class everyday and gets laughed at.)

      Second of all, the vast majority of Biglaw firms will not care about the fact that you have a buzzcut. This is for two reasons. First, most are trying to seem like a more welcoming place for LGBT folks. It’s good for their image. They’re not going to question your gender identity. Second, they don’t even know WHY you have a buzzcut. What if you had cancer and this is how you’re trying to keep your hair neat while it’s growing out? They are not going to invite a lawsuit by judging you over this.

      Now, I do see some very old conservative judges or regional, conservative law firms not going for this look. But I’m not sure you’d be comfortable being non-binary in those spaces any way.

      1. Buzzcut OP*

        Thank you for this input! I do certainly read as queer, because, well, I am! So maybe it’ll actually be an advantage in the long run.

    7. Buzzcut OP*

      Hmmm…while I’m not a lawyer yet, I don’t think most of your advice matches reality. I know law is conservative, but I don’t believe that 1L is the most important year, and I don’t think that my gender identity is something I can choose to not express.

  64. bopper*

    Re: Halloween
    You could also wear the most minimal costume…
    Like wear jeans and a polo and say you are going as Casual Friday.
    Or your normal outfit and a funny hat or glasses .

  65. Vicky Austin*

    Letter #1 “you’d be the patron saint of out-of-touch, deranged employers.”
    More like the patron demon!

    Letter #5 If you don’t have the energy to come up with a costume, why not just wear a simple witch’s or wizard’s hat or something else you have around the house? Other quick, easy ideas:
    1. Wear a cap and/or T-shirt of your favorite sports team, and say, “My costume is a (name of team) fan.”
    2. Write “GO CEILINGS” on a piece of paper, pin it to your shirt, and say, “I’m a ceiling fan.”
    3. Make mouse ears out of paper, tape them to a headband, put it on your head and carry a backpack. Say, “I’m a pack rat.”
    4. Wear all black and say, “I’m a stage crew member.”

    1. Noobtastic*

      I have gone as a Ceiling Fan, but I got way into it. I painted my face, painted my shirt, and did random ceiling cheers. It was a blast! My only regret is that I did not have one of those giant foam fingers.

  66. Help Needed*

    Removed. Comments here need to be on-topic. If I allowed people to post random requests for help, the threads would quickly be overtaken by that. (Regulars who know these rules, please do not respond to these posts, as it makes more work for me to clean up, and also encourages others to do it.) – Alison

    1. Help Needed*

      The problem with the bathroom is that because it’s an open floor everyone can see if I’m going there or if I’m leaving the floor (and I think that they would be able to hear me having a conversation in the bathroom if I took the call there, which I considered briefly).

      Coffee works, thanks! I was panicking for a bit there.

    2. Reba*

      Yeah, I think there are many kinds of calls one would want to have away from the open floor. It wouldn’t scream “job-seeker” to me! This wouldn’t apply if you need permission to leave your desk (?????) but likely people are leaving the floor now and again all the time, without announcing their reasons, right? Good luck with the call, Help Needed!

  67. Candygrammar*

    LW #3, this may veer too far into my personal opinion territory, but…I think there there is something slightly less professional (formal?) about buzzcuts for both feminine- and masculine-presenting individuals. If you’re in a field where your clothing is supposed to be tailored, then I think there is at least an unspoken assumption that you will put at least some effort into styling your hair. That means instead of a buzzcut, you go for a high fade or very short textured layers on top. It’s not a matter of conforming to a gender presentation as much as it is looking put together, the same way you would tame frizz or keep your hair out of your eyes under the same circumstances.

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I think this a reasonable point. I know my brother will let his buzzcut grow out a little for job interviews if he can.

    2. Buzzcut OP*

      This is an interesting perspective, thank you! I hadn’t thought about that, but it is something I’m going to consider. It’s true that buzzcuts require zero effort. That’s partially why I love it so much.

  68. Coldfeet*


    Is this perhaps an internal candidate? For instance, someone from Teapot Painting applying to Teapot Sales, who then ghosted on the interview? Still internal to the company, so there would be some form of discipline possible, presumably , if it were called for once all details were known.

  69. But you don't have an accent...*

    #5 – I work in the court system and can’t dress up if I might need to be a in a court room that day, but a lot of the other staff do. I’m blonde, so I just tell everyone I’m courtroom Barbie if they ask. I don’t dress any differently, but people buy it. If you’re a guy you could go as “[Job Title] Ken” or something! Very minimalist, and requires no effort.

  70. Frankie*

    Imagining the subreddit threads a “Discipline Email Form” could spawn…wtf…this would live forever on the internet.

    This is seriously so out of touch. OP 1, this impulse of yours is really confusing. Not being annoyed at a no show–that’s normal–but the idea that you can do anything beyond removing them from your candidate list is pretty strange. I mean, yeah, they wasted your time and that’s not great, but in general we don’t get to “discipline” strangers for being rude to us.

  71. RoadsLady*

    Speaking for the southwest, I’d say a buzzcut is fine. My husband is quite conservative and has been wearing his hair in a fairly trendy but fairly extreme style for the better part of the year just to see if his office (which is swishy washy on enforcing dress code) will do anything.

    Most places, if the rest of your appearance is pretty clean-cut, will shrug it off as a personal style.

  72. RUKiddingMe*

    OP3: As someone whois55 I feel the need to say that one can be professional and “fun” (colors, polka dots …which apparently I like a lot… floral, etc) both at once even even when we have reached our dotage.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Thank you, R. I still take pleasure in mixing patterns. I wear purples and greens together by choice. If my style is odd, it’s not because of my age: my style was odd in my 20’s too.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Right? Of course I tend to simply be odd in general… :)

        I think a lot of these younger people think that once you hit…oh say 40, you turn into some kind of ‘spinster aunt’ or something. I myself used to think 60 was old. Imagine my surprise as I edge ever closer to realize it’s not as old and decrepit as I once thought!

    2. Buzzcut OP*

      Sorry for any offense! Law tends to be more conservative, as a whole, and the old guard tend to be extra-so in my (limited) experience. My mother is the same age, and now that she’s proven her professional ability in the financial sector, she certainly dresses more “fun”– lots of mixed patterns and bright colors. But, she’s also had her career for over 30 years. I think it’s different when I’m trying to break into a field.

  73. RUKiddingMe*

    OP5: How about one of those cat ear head band things and some whiskers drawn on with eyeliner pencil? I mean if even that’s more than you want to do I get (and support!) that, but if you don’t want to feel like “odd woman out” this is like a very minimal “dress up for Halloween” thing.

  74. Kimberly*

    Buzz cuts and professional dress
    I’m in Houston. On jury duty a couple of years ago – I saw several women I assumed were lawyers from their dress with buzz cuts. No-one seemed to blink an eye at their hairstyles.

  75. esqueer*

    Op#3 — it’s also really going to depend on where you want to work, I think! I work in a non profit legal services organization (in NYC) and no one would bat an eye at a buzzcut, and if you’re not a litigator it’s going to matter even less, but in the biglaw sphere, where things are so much more conservative, it might be tougher. If you want to gauge employer tolerance for that sort of thing I recommend checking out your local bar association and seeing if they have an LGBTQ* committee, they tend to have lawyers from a wide range of fields and working environments and can give you a better sense of things, as well as offer a lot of support/networking opportunities in the legal community. Good luck with law school!

  76. Turanga Leela*

    For OP #3: lawyer in the Southwest here. Your hair may get you some looks from older lawyers and judges, but anyone who is bothered by the hair will also have trouble with non-binary pronouns and honorifics, so it might wind up being a good screening mechanism.

    “The legal field” is not really a monolithic thing. If you are doing client-facing oil and gas law for a conservative firm, buzz cuts might be a problem. If you’re going to be a public defender, especially in a metro area, you will be completely fine.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      One more thing: if the haircut is part of who you are, and you wouldn’t feel right changing it, then don’t change it. Even if it makes finding a job harder, that may be worth it for you. Work hard in law school, do internships, and get good at what you do; the better you are, the more options you will have.

        1. suspectclass*

          I agree with the above. I’m a transmasculine lawyer (he/him) in the PNW. I stand out here, but at least in my field what matters is that I clerked for a respected trial court judge, I know my shit, and I am a zealous advocate for my clients. Have I missed out on opportunities because i’m trans? Yes, and that happened when I was trying as hard as possible to conform. So, fuck it.

          In terms of all the other questions like this you’re likely to have, some unsolicited advice that I hope you won’t mind. You might be interested in reaching out to the National Trans Bar Association (it’s not quite off hte ground yet in terms of membership, but you can get on the email list for when it is), and the the Facebook group “Transgender Bar Association” (it’s a closed, but not secret group, if that matters). I’d also suggest planning to attend Lavender Law, the national conference put on by the LGBT Bar Association every August. In my experience, community with trans and enby attorneys has been crucial to my career.

  77. Phoenix Programmer*

    Hopefully this is not too off topic but this seems like a great community to ask. What is non binary? Has it replaced gender non conformist? Is it the same as gender fluid?

    Every time I try to research and understand this better I get conflicting information.

    Like today’s OP. I have many friends who dress and wear hair similar to OP and they identify as female. If I ran into OP based on looks I would assume female. Just a non conforming female like me who has masculine traits and behaviors but is not transgender.

    So is it less an external presentation/and more internalization? Like nb can present female but they don’t always identify in themselves as female?

    I’d like to understand so I can relate and emphasize better.

    1. Binary Override*

      In my own experience:

      Non-binary is usually used to mean someone who does not identify as either male or female. They may present as either or both at different times, but do not feel either label accurately describes them.

      Genderfluid is a kind of subset of that, describing people whose gender identity changes fluidly between male, female and/or non-binary. They will identify differently at different times.

      Gender nonconforming means that the way you present yourself in behaviour/appearance does not fit traditional views of what is masculine or feminine. You can be any gender identity and also be gender nonconforming, as it describes behaviour and appearance rather than identity.

    2. Book Badger*

      Prefacing with the statement that I’m not nonbinary myself, but have many friends and at least one ex who are: “nonbinary” is an umbrella term meaning “someone who identifies as something other than binary male/female.” So it includes genderfluid/genderqueer/bigender/etc. people, but also people who are, say, masculine-of-center but don’t consider themselves “male.”

      While there are many schools of thought and Discourse™ about it, I’d say that it’s based on internal identity rather than external presentation. Nonbinary people can present in a lot of different ways (my ex will wear any clothes and is okay with literally any pronoun; a friend of mine wears almost exclusively masculine clothes and only wants to be called “they”), and honestly, because of how clothes are gendered in society (“masculine” clothes like pants are considered “androgynous” while dresses aren’t), it’s pretty much impossible to tell without being told specifically. Someone who’s dressed in a pretty masculine way might be nonbinary… or they could be a trans man… or they could be a cis woman who happens to like dressing more butch.

  78. Garland not Andrews*

    OP #3 I’m in Albuquerque and to be honest most people would not even notice your haircut. We tend to be a bit laid back, for the most part. There is always going to be someone who just has to be offended, but for the most part the Western Independent Mindset rules and we let folks be how they are.

    OP #5 If someone is very pushy, just say you are cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      Yeah, Albuquerque is special. You could have a face tattoo and be fine as a lawyer in Albuquerque.

      Not in every firm… but many places.

  79. Observer*

    #1 The bottom line is that you dodged a bullet. But, your employee ALSO dodged a bullet. Because your response is just sooo out of touch and out of line that I can’t imagine what working for you would be like.

    If your organization is functional, this is the kind of thing will harm your career. If it isn’t, you’ll be ok in that respect. But you are going to have a REALLY hard time with getting and retaining good people. Anyone with options is going to go elsewhere.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      Also OP has no idea why they didn’t show.

      I had an appointment with someone on a Monday. No show, no call, color me irritated but I shrugged it off. Turned out that she had died that Sunday.

      Reeeaaalllyyy glad I didn’t think I had some kind of standing to send her a “discipline” email for no call/no show or really for any reason at all. Because you know she didn’t work for me.

  80. Michaela Westen*

    OP#2, I was laid off from a job and my boss gave me a reference letter that mentioned my strengths, on company letterhead with her signature. I made copies and submitted them with my applications, and it seemed to help me get interviews and a good job.
    Is this an option for you? You would only have to write it once, sign and put on letterhead, and give it to your former employee.
    I gather from other comments you might be expected to specifically write to each employer – in that case maybe save a draft with everything you want to say and just fill in the company name, etc. Maybe even have your assistant do that and then you could just tweak and send.

  81. Secretary*

    #1: Some people are unaccountable. This isn’t all that different from sitting down with a candidate who is obviously not what you’re looking for. When you reserved the room you knew there was a chance this person wouldn’t be the right fit, you’re just finding out with a no show.
    When I interview, I find that when I’m upset a candidate no showed, it’s usually because I’m not meeting with enough candidates and I’m relying on a few that I think will be good. Interview more people in person, and you’ll be less stressed out about 1 person who no shows.

    #5: Halloween is such a bother for me too. I suggest owning ONE item that you can use like a costume. Examples are a shirt that says “404 Costume Not Found”, a headband cat ears, a witch’s hat, a Hogwarts scarf, etc.
    Make sure it’s low maintenance and that you like how it looks. This ONE item will be enough that someone will immediately notice it, and it’s kind of like “THERE I dressed up. Are you HAPPY?” but without being rude. You also don’t have to stress out about interactions that day.

  82. Book Badger*

    #3 – I just graduated from law school (one in the Mid-Atlantic, so not regionally the same), so I can tell you that law school is functionally a lot like going back to college. Outside of times when you’re required to dress business professional (giving a presentation, for example), people dress however they want. One of my classmates had purple hair her first year. A lot of people walked around in sweats and T-shirts. I got complimented on my skirts with poofy petticoats a couple of times.

    Getting a job or an internship might be harder (my purple-haired classmate dyed her hair brown prior to interview season our first year), but honestly, I think most people would be fine with it. The exception would be Big Law, but honestly, so many aspects of Big Law are hilariously outdated and conservative. If you’re really concerned, I’ve never seen people go wrong with a men’s haircut (i.e. one that’s still short but long enough to comb and style). To be honest, my hairstyle (waist-length and usually left down) is more objectionable to the fussypants people than a short haircut would be.

    1. Temperance*

      Actually, big law is pretty accepting of diverse candidates. It’s not as stuffy as you might believe.

  83. Purple Jello*

    #3: I just want to put out there that the “judgmental look from older people” might just be “older people” doing a double take or longer look to ensure they address you with the proper pronoun.

    1. Buzzcut OP*

      That is very true. I think I’m slightly defensive–I was raised in a very, very small, very, very, very conservative town. My parents are quite liberal, but my surroundings were not. So when you grow up being constantly side-eyed, I think it made me judgemental of people I perceive as conservative/traditional–which is not a fair assumption to make! Thank you for calling me out on this.

  84. SometimesALurker*

    I’m reading the comments about OP #1’s letter with virtual popcorn in hand, and I agree with Alison and the many commenters, but I do want to say one thing I agree with OP on: instead of (or maybe in addition to) sending that discipline email they wanted to send, OP wondered whether it was a good idea to send it, and wrote in to AAM about it. Honestly, that shows more self-awareness than many.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      True. Of course the OP that wouldn’t let her best employee have two hours off to go to her own college graduation wrote in asking whether she should send a mentoring email to the former employee. I guess she was self-aware too?

      On a side note I wish we had an update on that. What did the manager decide to do? Better yet, the former employee’s take in things…ah well.

      1. Observer*

        I’d love a response, too. But Allison was less than sympathetic, and the commenteriate gave them a MAJOR scolding. So, I doubt they’d ever come back.

  85. Brett*

    Did anyone else start out reading the title of #3 thinking it was about a cis-male instead of a non-binary person?

    As a cis-male who had a buzzcut (specifically a flattop) for decades, I was told many times it was not a proper haircut for a professional workplace (especially for younger men), and that if I wanted to go that short, I needed to shave bald instead.

  86. Elizabeth W.*

    Just a rant, I guess, but I’m sick unto death of the whole side-eye thing toward hair that isn’t even that weird. I’m tired of people being so judgmental. I want to slap them in the face with a big wet dead mackerel. If a man wants to wear a buzz cut, let him. If he can wear a buzz cut, so can a woman. If a woman can wear her hair long, so can a man. If a woman wants to shave her head entirely, good for her. If I want to put a carefully placed purple streak in my hair, or go complete mermaid, it shouldn’t be a thing. Don’t even get me started on the flak natural hair or braids, locs, etc. gets. As long as your workplace hair is clean and critter-free, WHO CARES?????


    /rant over

  87. Oaktree*

    Gender identity or presentation aside, a good rule of thumb when you have some aspect of your aesthetic that is a) not changeable or not immediately changeable and b) non-traditional or not conservative in some way, is to simply up the conservativeness of your appearance otherwise.

    Since OP #3 appears to be ok with being perceived as a woman at work, the things I would recommend are:
    – Wearing more jewelry and having it be feminine and conservative jewelry. I have multiple piercings, including some that can’t be permanently removed without them closing up, so when I go on interview for conservative jobs (like in corporate law), I switch the jewelry from captive bead rings to pearls and use a stud instead of a ring in my nose.

    – Letting your hair grow just enough that you can part it and smooth it with gel or comb it into style while wet. It doesn’t have to be a feminine pixie cut, but if it’s just long enough to style a bit, that makes you look a bit more put together, which when taken with your clothing (which sounds fine) is a signal of professionalism and maturity. Something like this: OR

  88. ThatLibTech*


    What’s funny is that the people who work for the law society in your region can often dress in interesting and definitely not traditionally conservative ways! I sported rose gold-pink hair for half of my time working for a library connected to the law society; there was also a woman who worked there that was almost full-on Elvira (and also, a hoot!) when it came to her hair and make-up.

    I say: keep with the buzz cut if it helps you feel more secure in your identity. They’re becoming much more expected in many kinds of fields that you think would lean towards conservative dress when it comes to women and non-binary folk.

  89. Database Developer Dude*

    OP #1, are you sure you’re not from RGS Associates, Inc, in Arlington, VA?? *rotflmao*.

    You sure sound like them. That was the company who, after my interview, called me as I was walking back to the Metro to verbally offer me the job, and balked at giving me *any* time to consider it. I’d said “COB tomorrow”, then “COB today”, then “one hour”…and the guy kept pushing back on it…so I declined the offer, citing that, only to be told “the offer is withdrawn, your demands are unreasonable”. I had written Alison about this, and she pretty much confirmed for me that I dodged a bullet. I could see them doing something like this.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Oops! A quick search tells me they’ve been bought out by US Falcon. I wonder if the falcon is blue?

  90. Shay*

    #3: OP needs to worry more about thoughts that lead to “…someone dressing like they’re 55” than a buzz cut.

  91. Where’s my coffee?*

    My company is pretty conservative and I’ve certainly had to address dress code and professionalism with people, but I think sometimes online advice is a little extreme (I’m thinking of another site that once had a debate on whether or not bandaids were unprofessional, and if it was ok to have curly hair. I mean, come on.)

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Whether or not it was okay to have curly hair? Did they know it’s not up to the person???????? Does no one understand genetics?

      1. JennyFair*

        Tell that to all the Black women who have spent decades straightening their hair because they were told their naturally curly hair was unprofessional. There are still schools kicking girls out for natural hair.

  92. NewBee*

    OP1 “which cost me time and money for reserving the location” Unless you’re self employed, you mean it cost your company time and money. Either which way, this can be chalked up to “the price of doing business”

  93. DataQueen*

    #4 There’s definately a standard of “you can afford this” that goes with senior levels…i’ve reached the point in my career where i feel silly expensing coffee and donuts at the airport, but i’ll still request parking or airfare. Mileage i’m 50/50 on – it depends how far a trip it is. If the reimbursement of mileage is less than the tank of gas, i probably won’t do it. But on the NGO side – I’m on a nonprofit board, and I have a give-get requirement that I have each year. I valued the items I purchase and the services I provide as part of my annual gift – not asking for reimbursement. I could submit an expense report for the event software I bought, but instead I just count it as part of my contribution.

  94. Shawn*

    To OP#1….I agree that it was rude for your candidate to no-show however, I also agree that the candidate dodged a huge bullet by not going to work for your organization!

  95. SusanIvanova*

    I googled “Discipline Email Form” and the third hit down was “Never Use Email to Discipline Someone”!

  96. Adjuncts Anonymous*

    Number Five, I 100% understand about not wanting to dress for Halloween. My father died October 31, 2012, so I will probably never wear a standard Halloween costume again even though teachers are allowed to wear costumes. It feels disrespectful to me. I will probably wear the black suit I wore to his funeral instead. (Not the shoes, though; I had to take them off after standing for half an hour!)

    Your solution of going as Beast sounds like a great compromise.

  97. Meagain*

    OP #2 sounds like it’s an academic position. These stupid jobs want letters of rec with the application, with the whole package of application, teaching and research statements.

  98. Dave Owens*

    In response to the question regarding the woman with the buzz cut, I live in Southern California. If someone is in a professional setting, and they’re dressing professionally, a buzz cut on a woman, while maybe unusual, is not weird. There are a couple of local women business leaders in my community who wear their hair very short. They’re pretty much part of the landscape.

  99. AzEsq*

    LW #2, I practice as an attorney in Arizona and unless you’re trying to go for Big firms, no one will bat an eye at the buzz cut if you’re looking otherwise professional and you’re not seeking employment with traditional firms.

    I’ve seen a little of everything in court here!

  100. A Nonny Mouse*

    Regarding 2, the multiple reference issue – job seeker here. This might be different in OPs situation, especially if the candidate is applying to similar jobs in the same field, but when I apply to jobs over some months, I often apply to a range in part because I’m looking for entry level positions. So, I apply to full time positions where I would expect they ask for professional references, and for some part time and temp where I would expect they would only ask for an employment history. Unfortunately, I’ve not only had an increasing number of these part time job applications ask for professional references right on the application, but I have no idea when or if those references are contacted. It’s always bothered me – do I give a head’s up for every single job application? Or do I wait until it appears they will be contacted? Interestingly, the more full time positions that have a more intense application process tend to be the ones that actually communicate when and how they will use those references.

  101. Noobtastic*

    You could say, “I’m going as myself in five years.” And wear the exact same thing as usual, because you have no reason to change. Maybe make yourself a name tag, to go with it. “Hi! My name is OP (in five years).”

    Or, if you’re hoping for a promotion within five years, dress the way you intend to dress, once you land that job. Maybe wear a suit, if you don’t usually. Or “retire early,” and dress like you do on your day off. Be you, but a different you, so it’s still a costume, but it requires absolutely no effort, at all, except embracing a bit of attitude.

    Good luck, and I hope your coworkers don’t give you a hard time, on top of the hard time you’ve already been having.

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