should I stop wearing makeup to fit in at work, unprepared interviewers, and more

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

1. Should I stop wearing makeup to fit into my office culture?

I know you have talked about overdressing being a sign you don’t understand the work culture when starting a new position, such as wearing a suit at a tech start-up. But what is your take on makeup/hair? I recently started as a new grad in a new research position in industry. My coworkers are all at least 10 years older than me and have Ph.Ds while I have a bachelors in the same field. There are few women, but the few I do work with wear baggy dress pants and sweaters, no makeup, and no hair styling. I wear makeup everyday (subtle blush, mascara, and then a small cat-eye) and usually style my hair, but I have been feeling like it feels out of place within this workplace. I also wear dress clothes appropriate for a lab, but I worry that I appear as if I focus too much on my appearance. Or, with my obvious youth, I worry that my appearance makes people take me less seriously. I believe I feel like this way due to my general lack of confidence in the role (working on it!), but I wonder if meshing with the culture also applies to the overdoing hair/makeup. Of course, I feel more confident with my appearance as I’m comfortable.

Is there an argument for not putting as much effort into my appearance to fit with the culture?

The short version: It’s silly that this matters/sometimes it does anyway/it’s up to you whether to care.

The longer version: I want to say it doesn’t matter, but the reality is that in some work cultures it can mark you as not quite getting the culture or being out of sync with the priorities that people who thrive there usually have. As is always the case when you’re handling this kind of thing differently from the rest of your office (including clothes, too), it won’t always matter — and if you’re great at what you do, your chances of it not mattering go way up — but sometimes it matters.

But even if it does matter in your office, you might still decide you’re not going to play along, just like someone in a different office might decide they’re not going to wear lipstick and blow dry their hair. And to be clear, it’s silly that an office culture would care either way if you do or don’t wear makeup — but some do, and if you’re in one that does, the important thing is to understand the landscape so that you can make your own decisions with full knowledge of potential trade-offs.

Of course, that’s what you’re trying to figure out about your office, and I can’t tell you from here because I don’t know the culture there. But if you felt like you were being taken seriously and respected by the people you work with, I’d tell you not to worry about this at all. It sounds, though, like you do worry you’re not being taken as seriously (although this is tricky because, as you note, that could be just about youth). But if you want to experiment, you could try toning down your hair and makeup (not zero makeup and hair styling, just less of it) and seeing if you notice anything different.

But again, up to you. (This doesn’t feel like an especially helpful answer. I’m sorry!)

2. How insulted should I be when an interviewer isn’t prepared for an interview?

How insulted should I be when an interviewer isn’t prepared for an interview? I’m interviewing for a fairly senior position, and am currently in the midst of a series of (remote, video) interviews by people quite senior at the company. At one interview today, the interviewer started by explaining that he had just been on a call with the chief executive to discuss an upcoming national conference, which he then started explaining to me as he would to someone who had never heard of it or this company before. I jumped in when I had a moment to tell him that I knew all about it — because I’m on the program team for that conference, am speaking at it, and have spoken at it the past two years! If he’d glanced at my resume or cover letter, he’d have known that. I’m very involved in the nonprofit side of our field’s community, and am one of the leaders in this community — I’m interviewing at the company that manages the for-profit side of the industry. I’m even friendly with the chief executive and have been recently on calls with him myself to discuss the upcoming conference!

Am I off-base to be insulted that he didn’t even glance at my resume or have any idea who I was before speaking with me? (Not in a “do you know who I am?” way but in a “did you look at who you’re interviewing?” way.) Not to mention that a candidate for this role would have been woefully unprepared to not know about this upcoming conference. I know that not all candidates are internal to this community, but I really felt like it left me at a disadvantage in this interview because he didn’t know my experience or involvement. And to note, this was not an introductory interview – I’ve already had a couple of those. Now I’m worried that the other interviewers might be similarly unprepared, and I’ll have to spend even more time reviewing my experience with them, when it’s all on my resume and outlined again in my cover letter.

You shouldn’t be insulted because it’s not about you; it’s not as if he thought, “Jane Smith? She sounds like a real waste of my time, so I won’t bother reading her materials.” But annoyed? Sure, you can be annoyed.

But the thing is, sometimes this happens through no fault of the interviewer’s. Sometimes an interviewer is pulled in at the last minute because the person who was originally supposed to do it is out, or they realize at the last minute that they really want this particular person to weigh in, or the person had 20 minutes set aside to review your materials ahead of your interview and then got pulled away by an emergency. None of that is ideal, but it happens and it’s understandable and the best thing you can do is to just roll with it. And other times, yes, sometimes the interviewer had your materials well in advance and just didn’t bother to review them. And if that turns out to be a pattern of disorganization / inconsideration / cavalierness about hiring, you can factor that into your thinking about whether you’re interested in working there. But if it’s one person one time, I wouldn’t read anything into it.

3. What’s up with this disclaimer on our emergency contact forms?

I’m a little concerned about a statement made on our new emergency contact forms that we received at work. We all know that the point of these forms is to give permission to contact one or two people in the event of an emergency (or suspected emergency if an employee doesn’t show up). That is noted at the top of the form, but just above the signature line it says: “I understand and agree that the company will have no obligation or liability to notify such person(s) in case of an emergency.”

Now I have read many emergency contact forms over the years, and have never seen this type of statement before. I also did a Google search and of the 50 or so that I looked at, not one had any sort of disclaimer like this.

It strikes me as suspicious because they specifically decided to add it. Why? It’s almost like they’re making an advance decision not to contact them. They made it 100% mandatory to sign this, but they’re not holding themselves responsible for utilizing the information?

Of course, this is just the latest in a long string of many strange things happening around our office lately, or else I might not have even noticed it. I’ve worked for this company for several years, and since an executive management change three years ago we’ve transitioned from being widely recognized as a people-oriented company known for its flexibility to a strict policy-oriented company. No advance warning was sent out that old policies would suddenly be enforced, and anyone (customers or employees) who questions the change is immediately shut down with “It’s always been the policy.” Micromanaging has become a massive problem from the top all the way down, to the point many employees and even managers have left or been pushed out. Those of us who are left from before the change live in constant fear that we will be next. Because of that I have been trying to keep my head down to avoid notice, but it’s tough when things keep getting more difficult to deal with.

What do you make of this? Is this (combined with the change in company direction) a red flag to start looking elsewhere? Or would it be better to ride the wave and see if things settle down?

I would assume they’re just trying to cover themselves in case an emergency contact isn’t contacted in a situation where it would have helped. There’s no requirement to have those forms at all, so if they just didn’t want to use them, they could simply get rid of them. It’s much more likely that they’re concerned about legal liability in a situation where someone doesn’t think to use the contacts.

I do think, though, when you get to the point that you’re suspecting stuff like this because general conditions in your organization are so bad, that’s a sign that you should be looking at other options. And really, you describe yourself as living in constant fear that you’ll be pushed out — why would you not be looking around?

4. Candidates who ask for the job description

I’m wondering if this is a pet peeve of mine or if other HR professionals find this annoying as well. I get severely annoyed when I reach out to candidates for a phone interview after they have applied and they ask me to resend them the job description or ask for company information, i.e., “remind me what company this is again?” Is this just something that comes with the territory of recruiting and HR or is it a preliminary indication about soft skills like detail oriented-ness and resourcefulness?

It depends on the context. If you’re calling a candidate out of the blue (as opposed to a pre-scheduled phone interview), of course they might need you to remind them about the details. People usually apply for multiple jobs, and it would be unreasonable to expect them to have the details perfectly organized in their heads at all time, with no notice that they’ll need to.

On the other hand, if you scheduled a phone interview by email (so they had time to prepare for the conversation), then yes, I’d be concerned. Although you do need to make sure your job posting is still online — some companies take them offline once they’re no longer accepting applications, and then candidates have no way of accessing them again (unless they saved them when they applied, which is a good idea but not something everyone realizes they should do).

5. I was fired and my boss keeps offering me side jobs

I was terminated about a month ago and was given my last paycheck that day. My previous boss (she was the CEO) keeps in touch and asking me for side jobs i.e. pay me to help with the website. I don’t want to but I also don’t want to burn bridges. Am I wrong for declining?

Nope. You’re not required to do work for someone who no longer employs you in order to keep a bridge intact. You only have to be polite about it. Say something like this to your former boss: “Thanks for thinking of me for this! I’ve taken on other commitments that are keeping my schedule full so I’m not able to help, but I hope you’re able to find someone right for it.”

{ 379 comments… read them below }

  1. Cat owner*

    LW 1: I’ve worked in a few science research environments and I think you are fine. As a sweeping generalisation on research scientists, they aren’t a bunch who are super concerned with conformity of dress (like say engineers or lawyers who always seem to dress the same way across offices).

    I wear natural make up and do my hair at work and I work in a science research enviroment. I know another person from my old job who full on wore rockabilly clothes everyday – amongst algae scientists who always dressed like they were about to go into the field. I reckon you are fine.

    1. Sandlapper*

      I agree. Unless your style is something which is impractical and/or violates safety protocols (long hair that you don’t pull back, open toed shoes, etc.), no one probably cares. You may get a remark or two — I was always amazed at a lab mate who managed to keep a perfect manicure while working in a chem research lab — but it shouldn’t have an impact overall.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        What is this sorcery?? How on earth did she manage that? My dad’s chemistry lab was famous at one point for having a student who repeatedly complained that her manicure was ruined – they used acetone to clean all the glassware!

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          As someone who gets chips in my polish within 12 hours, even when I use all the fancy products for extending the life of a manicure, I love the durability of gel manicures. However, they absolutely wreck your nails and create a cycle of dependency, because then you need another gel manicure to make them look decent. I love the look of polished nails, but it’s just not something I can maintain. My plain nails look better than chipped polish, at least.

      2. Cindy Featherbottom*

        I agree with Sandlapper. The only time that anyone had commented my appearance in a lab/research setting was when we were working with potassium permanganate and I wore a very bummy shirt that I couldn’t have cared less if it got ruined while working in the lab. My adviser/professor made the comment that I looked like a real researcher, which I took as a compliment for a split second before I realized that she meant I had dressed down A LOT more than normal.
        From my experience, researchers do tend to dress down more than other professions, but I’ve also seen a few who somehow always look fabulous despite their long hours. As long as you are confident in what you do, I highly doubt any researcher is going to judge your makeup and hair being done. (As a side note, I’m jealous that you can pull off the cat eye look. I’ve always loved it but it just looks odd when I do it…)

        1. irene adler*

          The mantra in my lab is ” wear what you can spare” because one never knows what harm might come to one’s clothes. And no one cares how the lab folks look.

          1. KRM*

            Exactly. Wear something you wouldn’t be devastated to get bleach on, don’t wear open toed shoes, wear your lab coat and gloves, and otherwise nobody cares.

            1. wittyrepartee*

              Lol, if it’s a bio lab- only the people with MDs will wear the lab coats. My dad is a chemist and is shocked by this, but it’s pretty ubiquitous as far as I can tell.

              1. Lora*

                Not in industry – fail to wear your safety glasses, lab coat and gloves while you’re working and EHS will complain to your boss and you lose whatever small % of your bonus depended on Safety.

                Have seen people locked out of the lab for repeatedly not wearing PPE. It’s a thing.

                1. Hold My Cosmo*

                  Agreed. I’m at an industrial lab, and people have been escorted off the floor and fired for neglecting PPE. We are VPP Starred, and they do not mess around.

                2. TexanInExile*

                  Love this. I didn’t hear a safety message for the first four years that I worked at my current job at a manufacturing company. New CEO is all about it and starts every single meeting with a safety message. He even chided my VP for walking down the stairs (in very high heels) without holding the rail.

              2. epi*

                I had a lab coat working in clinical research in a hospital, with just a BA. This is really dependent on your workplace.

              3. My Cabbages!!*

                I’m going to back you up regarding research labs. I mean, we *had* lab coats. We even wore them on rare occasion (RNA extraction UGH) but I honestly don’t know if they ever got washed or anything…

                1. wittyrepartee*

                  right?! The lab coats existed, but they only were used if you thought a mouse might pee on you while giving them an injection. Sometimes while using ethidium bromide, SOMETIMES.

              4. Kali*

                I’m only a masters student, but I’ve never seen someone fail to wear their lab coat while working in the lab. That would be a big deal.

                1. wittyrepartee*

                  I was in charge of distributing the lab coats, on our floor at NYULMC (that’s like, 5 labs) they were never worn. That was basically true of all the other labs that I was a part of at U Pitt, Fordham, Rutgers, NYU main campus. So maybe it’s lab to lab, but I have a pretty big sample.

          2. Yvette*

            ” wear what you can spare” is a good point. If the LW clothes come off as too nice, (she wears “dress clothes appropriate for a lab” while others “wear baggy dress pants and sweaters”) people might think that she will be too concerned with ruining them or not have a grasp of what can happen, or be seen as a dilettante. Kind of like the time my cousin’s sister in law showed up to help her move in to her new apartment that needed a deep cleaning, wearing white linen shorts, gold lame sandals and an embroidered silk blouse.

            That being said, I think she sounds fine, unless as someone else pointed out, things pose a safety issue (flowing sleeves, blouses with long bows, ankle breaking heels etc.)

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Beautiful new leather boots plus an acid spill. There was much sad tromboning.

          3. Grapey*

            hahaha as my fellow lab mate once joked “It’s a BL1 lab. We barely need to wear pants.”

          4. Anoncorporate*

            I learned this from experience when I noticed that I was getting a bunch of holes in my nice shirts due to getting acid on them.

        2. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          I agree that in the lab you wear what you can ruin, but in physics I’m used to see as many people in business casual that in faded CERN t-shirts. I’ve even had a few professors who would always show up in suits / silk blouse + slacks! I think the image of the sloppy researcher is more of a myth, at least for the kind of research that you can carry off in an office.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Spouse is in this on R & D side, and I can confirm that he will register you are wearing clothing (check) that covers all the needed areas (closed toes etc) and is vaguely appropriate to business-very-casual in the current century (he’d notice Elizabethan wear). From what I’ve seen of the women in his lab, “the gamut” is a good summary of the level of polish with which they feel comfortable at work.

            (I found Alison’s response really helpful because this is both very group dependent and whether anyone cares depends heavily on how competently you’re viewed otherwise–the answer that is true for Sue at TechA might not apply to Abby in TechB on the the next floor.)

      3. Polymer Phil*

        This is one of the benefits of being a scientist. No one will notice what you’re wearing (as long as you don’t come in wearing a suit of armor or something outlandish like that). You’re overthinking this.

        A place I used to work at had a mix of scientists and office workers, and it always really obvious who was a scientist and who was a cubicle dweller.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          And no one will probably care. OP, you may be surprised at how little your researcher colleagues think about what others are wearing. I have found many in research aren’t making a statement by dressing down. They literally aren’t thinking about clothing at all–theirs or yours.

          1. Blue*

            I work in academia and have found this to be largely true among faculty. Some clearly put thought into what they wear, some clearly don’t (at all), but generally people don’t seem to pay that much attention to what *others* are wearing. (I’m on the administration side, which is more concerned about professional presentation, so the difference really stands out.)

          2. another scientist*

            forgot to say: the dressy clothes, if skewing towards business casual, might actually be good if the OP is worried about looking too young. Blouse and cardigan instead of T-shirt, that sort of thing.

        2. another scientist*

          I agree 75%. The average scientist will a) not pay that much attention to their appearance and b) not pay that much attention to yours. But it just means the range of attire in which you fit in is larger than in other workplaces, it doesn’t mean it’s infinite. I’ve seen people be taken less seriously for looking well styled, especially women. The good news is, it’s not the case everywhere, it’s changing (slowly) and for this particular OP, it doesn’t sound like their makeup would fall into that category.

    2. Artemesia*

      I think the norms are important especially with young newbies who already don’t quite fit in, because none of us does right off the bat. Academic and research positions tend to have a different set of norms around make up and wearing a cat eye and fussy hair might not be the way to go. Obviously one may choose to present themselves in the way that feels most authentic to them, but it is easier to be taken seriously as someone very junior if you are in the ballpark on issues of dress and make up and this is more true for women than men. Just having a decent haircut may already make you stand out here; ‘styled hair’ can mean a lot of different things, but if it is obviously something that takes a lot of time and fuss, it may not fit in this culture. I’d also go with a more natural eye make up. The same thing for women who wear no make up and don’t style their hair when they join a more formal dressing/ made up culture. You don’t have to go with the full face and elaborate eye make-up, but it probably pays to have a professional looking hair style and to use minimal make up like lipstick and perhaps a little subtle eye make-up. No one has to, but ‘fitting in’ on the superficial things is worth considering when new in an organization

      1. Cat owner*

        I’ve literally worn cat eye eyeliner everyday I’ve worked in science research and never felt out of place or out of the norm.

        1. Gen*

          I’ve worn ‘a small cat eye’ as the OP described it every day I’ve worn eyeliner for the last two decades because I can’t work out how to not do that, I really wouldn’t call it ‘elaborate’ makeup. I don’t get the feeling OP is talking about a lot of makeup, it reads more like it’s a small amount in constrast to not wearing any makeup at all

        2. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          I’ve also been wearing cat eye everyday! I stopped just because it doesn’t look so good with my new glasses. I’m a researcher in physics.
          Now that I think of it, the majority of the female researchers I know in my field do wear makeup; I would say that as long as it is professional, it does not matter… in healthy environments. It is also totally possible that LW1 has entered a house of bees.

      2. I Took a Mint*

        Agree, I’ve definitely noticed that some people see “too much” makeup/hairstyling as a sign that you are too focused on the superficial, or too focused on your own appearance, and not enough on the real value which is in your brain.

        Of course the real answer is “Por que no los dos” as people can focus on their makeup before work, and quantum physics at work, and reading for pleasure after work, and through the magic of linear time both goals are achieved.

        But I’ve noticed that most people, especially people who aren’t familiar with makeup/hairstyling, don’t really know what takes “a lot” of time and effort, or what “a lot” of makeup is.
        Winged liner, red lipstick, 2 hrs= “I woke up like this”

        So I think if you can play with your style so your makeup is toned down when your hair is more elaborate and vice versa, most people won’t notice that you look “really done-up” all at once. Unfortunately I’ve noticed that other women tend to be the harshest judges of this “beauty or brains” nonsense so hopefully you can prove yourself technically capable and then have more freedom with your style.

        1. I Took a Mint*

          Part of my comment got eaten:
          Winged liner, red lipstick, takes less than 5 min = “you don’t have to put on the red light”
          Foundation, blush, 3 matte eyeshadows, brows, brown eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss, hair texture spray, gentle waves done with a hair curler, then put up in a ponytail, takes more than 2 hrs= “I woke up like this”

          1. ElspethGC*

            Ugh, true. It’s the trifecta of being a makeup junkie, which I am completely and unapologetically:

            Light on the face makeup but a nice red lip and a bold eye = “You don’t need to wear makeup, I don’t know why you even make the effort, it’s so trashy, boys don’t like it”
            A full face of ‘natural’ makeup that took 10x longer = “See? You look so much prettier without makeup!”
            An actual bare face with nothing on it = “Are you sick? You look sick. You should go see a doctor, I think they have emergency appointments open today”

            ^Actual things I’ve been told by people who should know better.

            On the upside, I can look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards on a half-hour of sleep, but slap on a red lip and a glittery eyeshadow, and everyone thinks I look *super* put-together.

            1. LW1*

              LW1 here- this is so true! All in all, it probably takes me 25 minutes to get up and out the door, which includes hair and makeup since I’m wicked fast. But it probably looks like I spend much longer!

              1. [insert witty username here]*

                LW1 – I think what you’re describing sounds just fine. Maybe you look slightly more “done up” than some of your colleagues, but it doesn’t sound OVER done.

                Also – if you are a beauty junkie (hi, welcome to the club!), you could bring that up in casual conversation some time. Like, if you’re making small talk with a coworker: “Oh, what am I up to this weekend? Making a trip to Sephora for a few new products – I think playing with makeup is so fun!” So then if people think of it as a hobby, I think it will put you in more context and people won’t see you as standing out so much as tamely expressing your hobby at work.

                1. HQetc*

                  I would be cautious about taking that approach, actually. Huge caveat before this whole post that I don’t think any of what I am about to say is fair.
                  I think making it out to be a hobby might backfire in terms of how seriously people take you. I think since it sounds like pretty light make up, people are going to see it as normal or maybe won’t even notice. But by calling attention to it as a hobby, you might run into that thing where “enough” femininity is fine and maybe even advantageous (there can be utility in being the “normal” scientist), but “too much” femininity is “OMG frivolous girls can’t science!!1!” I think having such a “feminine” hobby could run you into “frivolous” territory in a way that just wearing makeup wouldn’t. Again, I don’t think any of this is fair (nor, I suspect, does it stand up under some pretty basic hypothesis testing, but whatevs).
                  All that said, I am a lady in a STEM field, and am also a big fan of the bold lip (would also be a big fan of the cat eye if I could figure that little fucker out), and think I am pretty well respected. Now, I do have a PhD now, which probably helps, but I also rocked the look in grad school. My question is have you actually gotten any comments about it? Because I certainly did get comments when I was in grad school (mostly relatively harmless stuff like “what’s the occasion?” which puzzled me because, like, I wear this at least once a week?), so if you haven’t been hearing about it, it may be totally not on anyone’s radar. Not a guarantee, of course. Do you feel comfortable enough with anyone in the lab to ask about it?

              2. StaceyIzMe*

                The description you give doesn’t sound over the top. AND it might be a good way to see if the spot you’re in is a good long term fit- will they be open to small differences? If not, maybe it’s not worth a long term investment in terms of career. I liken it to places that require you to be at work for many extra hours weekly, irrespective of work flow or need, because that is the culture. Organizational cultures that require too much conformity aren’t sustainable for self differentiated people.

              3. Glitsy Gus*

                You’re probably fine. If you were showing up in a full face of slap, false eyelashes and all I might say take it down a notch, but what you’re describing is pretty much the basics.

                As Allison said, if you really are worried about it, and don’t have anyone in the lab you know and trust well enough to ask about it yet, scale it back for a few days and see what happens. I have a feeling you’ll find that most folks won’t treat you significantly different, though do expect a mild comment or two in the “you look different…” variety. If you do see a night and day difference, well, you have your unfortunate answer. If you don’t, feel free to go right back to what you were doing.

            2. Jennifer*

              Lol most of the people who have so much to say about makeup know next to nothing about it.

            3. JJ Bittenbinder*

              Ugh, right?

              I hate that woman are lambasted for spending too much time and effort on makeup, not spending enough time and effort on makeup (remember the crazy situation from a few weeks ago where women were written up at OP’s workplace for smudged mascara?!), told we look like whores if we wear what the observer considers “too much” (so subjective), and told we look ill or like we’re “letting ourselves go” if we don’t wear any…

              Just concentrate on my work product and leave the concerns about my makeup to me!

              1. ElspethGC*

                “Why do you wear make-up for men?”

                It’s just like, yes, I clearly own five mascaras and a dozen eyeshadow palettes and 10+ near-identical nude lipsticks because men care about that stuff. Definitely not because *I* want it.

                Men can’t even tell *when* I’m wearing make-up, usually. Why on earth would I spend time on it for *them*? (Also, not straight. At least women can sometimes appreciate my skills.)

                1. Choux*

                  Yep, dudes can not tell the difference between a $10 drugstore foundation, a $36 Sephora foundation, or $6 BB cream. I’m not spending my hard-earned money on makeup to please them, it is all about pleasing me.

                2. Equestrian Attorney*

                  I remember a long conversation about nail polish with a male acquaintance. Him:”you realize guys are going to be attracted to you because you painted your nails, right? It’s like, so stupid and pointless”. Me: “you realize not everything I do is to please men right? Nail polish makes me happy, I do it for me, and I don’t care what men think.” Him: *stare of complete confusion and bewilderment*

                3. [insert witty username here]*

                  @Equestrian Attorney – yup. Had a similar conversation with my dad one day. My 14 yo niece and I are SUPER into makeup and he was saying something like “us guys don’t care!” or “we like LESS makeup!” or similar. I explained that we do this because WE like it and has nothing to do with attracting a partner. He was a bit shocked and I could practically see the wheels in his head turning, like it truly just hadn’t occurred to him, but he took it in stride and really seemed to understand from that perspective.

                4. JJ Bittenbinder*

                  I (very, for reasons which will soon become apparent) briefly dated a guy who said that he didn’t believe that “lipstick lesbians” (a term that was used in the 90s—don’t hate me!) were truly lesbians, because they wore lipstick, which was clearly a tool for attracting men.

                  ::head explodes::

                  Yeah, I then knew that I could not keep dating someone who illustrated just how tiny and closed his mind was in so few words!

                5. ElspethGC*

                  @JJ Bittenbinder (ran out of nesting)

                  Yup. I’m a super femme bi girl, so I get a whole host of assumptions because clearly being femme (long hair, make-up, skirts and dresses, manicures, the works) and also into women means that I’m only *pretending* to be into women so that I can attract men. Which, no. Please stop, society.

                  Besides, I’ve had far more men (unsolicited, because of course) inform me that dark or red lipstick is a turn-off for them. To which my answer is generally “Good to know, I’ll make sure to wear it every day then.”

            4. Ethyl*

              If I’m ever feeling overwhelmed or frazzled, I put on red lipstick because it suddenly makes me *look* like someone who has their act together XD

              1. ElspethGC*

                It really is a wonderful tool. You can change absolutely nothing else, but the addition of good lipstick suddenly changes everything.

                Wearing dresses, too – I do it because it’s the easiest item of clothing ever to wear, you don’t need to worry about matching or coordinating pieces, but somehow everyone takes it to mean that I’m super glam and organised. No, no, you misunderstand – I do this because I’m lazy af and it means less laundry and less thought.

                1. Batgirl*

                  Yep to dresses as a life hack: head through hole, arms through holes, wiggle, wiggle; all done!

            5. whingedrinking*

              I’ve been accused of straight-up lying once because I said that my goth/punk look for shows took far less time and product than a more “natural”, subtle one I’d put on for a formal event. I pointed out that for the heavy look, I didn’t need to blend or contour, and his response was “what’s that?”
              My point exactly.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        I find that it often comes down to the whole package, not just an individual component – appearance, voice, body language, hair, make-up, clothing. This is why giving advice about a particular element can be really tricky, because the exact same outfit/makeup on two different people can come across quite differently.

        1. Argh!*

          I recently made a slight change in my foundation color, and people have been complimenting me on clothes I’ve worn dozens of times and asking if they’re new! Apparently blue and pink now look better. Who knew?

      4. RUKiddingMe*

        I know you’re saying “don’t have to,” but all the suggestion about how a woman, and never a male, should perform her appearance comes off as really paternal and sexist. I think OP will do best if she does hair, makeup, clothes in whatever way she feels most confident.

        1. Yorick*

          But the reality is that this is a bigger issue for women than men, especially in a male-dominated field.

          The advice does sort of apply to men anyway. If all the men in your office have messy man buns or the equivalent and you have highly-styled politician hair, you’re not going to fit in.

          1. LadyofLasers*

            But in STEM, women frequently ‘don’t fit in’ anyway, just because there are far fewer of us. It’s part of why it can be so confusing, because there are fewer role models, and they don’t all agree on a standard! I’ve seen women scientists look masculine, and I’ve others, leaders of their field, dress very feminine. So I really understand why LW1 is confused.

            That being said, yes there’s recent research that more feminine scientists are less likely to be perceived as scientists ( and a lot of women opt to downplay their femininity to fit in. But that’s changing, and it’s not the deal breaker it once was. I actually make a point to dress as femininely as I want, because I want to do my part to change the impression that STEM is a solely masculine endeavor. Not saying all women scientists have a responsibility to do that, and I fully support women dressing as they prefer.

            But when you’re talking about a group that’s underrepresented, just fit in is not always the best or right advice.

        2. Artemesia*

          Every woman has to decide how she wants to present herself. The usual advice in an office on behavior is to observe for awhile and find out what the norms are. Yeah you can speak up loudly from day one, but chances are that hurts you. Appearance is similar; you can make a statement by dressing down in a dress up environment or wearing or not wearing lots of make up in contrast to the norms of the environment, but what is the goal you have? Is your primary goal ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ or ‘how do I build my career in this place.’ These days the acceptable range of dress and make-up is much wider than it was 50 or 60 years ago even in an organization where people are quite formal, but tweaking appearance based on the context may have utility.

        3. Close Bracket*

          Unfortunately, much of science is paternal and sexist. It’s nice to talk about it and critique it, but “do what makes you feel confident” is bad tactical advice.

      5. JSPA*

        Most female researchers are fine with the idea that a younger woman may have more things going on in her day than lab work. You’re allowed to display your personality for your own enjoyment (or to signal compatibility with potential friends or partners on the T or while getting coffee). Just don’t act like we’re gross or unkempt for not doing those things.

        However, scented products are best avoided, and any makeup that can flake or powder off is a known potential contaminant (one that can carry bacteria as well as DNA, RNAses etc) further than (say) a (heavier) dandruff flake. You could ask if makeup is generally presumed to carry that risk in your particular process / sub – specialty.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I hope our letter writer sees this JSPA — that could be a really important technical detail!

      6. Samwise*

        I’d advise the OP to choose a co-worker who is well-respected by the rest of the employees and ask them about it. Or OP could talk with their own manager, or if OP has been assigned a mentor, ask that person.

      7. wittyrepartee*

        In my experience, people in academic labs won’t even notice if you dress up or down. If you wear the same type of thing every day they won’t even think about it.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          I had bright bright bright purple hair the whole time I worked in my lab. No one else had anything but natural colored hair. No one cared except for the one day when my hands were slightly dyed and one of the MDs got freaked out that maybe I was dying of heart failure.

        2. Emilitron*

          Women in academic labs certainly notice how other women dress! They may not care much, but they notice. And usually compare their own clothing and get paranoid.
          Men in academics labs also notice, though are very unlikely to be able to put into words why they’ve formed certain opinions – but will say things about well-dressed women colleagues like “she did great work even though she seemed flighty when I first met her” (i.e. she looked like a girl so I didn’t trust her at first) and “kind of businessy but knows her stuff” (i.e. dresses like she works in an office and it’s kind of intimidating) Basically the average male scientist could meet a female colleague not be able to describe what she was wearing at all, yet end up with first impressions “not sure I like her but I don’t know why” that are entirely dependent on fashion/clothing/presentation.

      8. Dragoning*

        I work in office environments and have natural curls that are next to impossible to really “style” and no makeup–and I looked that way in the job interview, so I figure if they didn’t want me to look like that, they wouldn’t have hired me in the first place.

      9. Michaela Westen*

        People who don’t know the details of hair styling won’t necessarily know whether a style takes a lot of time or not. Some styles look natural but take a lot of work, and other styles make use of the growth, curliness and texture of the hair and might look as if they took time, but did not.
        I think your average person who hasn’t been involved in hair styling wouldn’t think about this unless they saw the employee spending time on her hair at work.

      10. Oh So Anon*

        It’s particularly worth being conscious of if you’re not only younger, but also less credentialed in an environment that cares about credentialism.

      11. caryatis*

        What does “styled hair” mean? Doesn’t every person with long hair do something with it, even if it’s just brush and ponytail?

        1. Emily*

          I don’t know the specific hair styling that LW is doing (could be using curling or straightening tools, or putting it up/pulling it back in a nice way), but I doubt that brushing or a basic ponytail count as “styled” – I do a ponytail pretty regularly and mine looks more utilitarian than anything else.

        2. closetpuritan*

          This is what I was coming here to ask/comment on. I asked three other women at work today, and none of them knew. And one of them does color her hair and wear clearly visible makeup. I’m guessing it doesn’t literally mean coming in to work without brushing your hair and it’s probably something like “heat-styled” or “heat-styled and/or colored”, or “styled in a way that’s usually done by a professional (but you can do it at home with some practice)”, but I find myself feeling kind of resentful because I’m kind of assuming that it doesn’t apply to me and it feels like the literal meaning of the language is implying that braiding my hair and putting it in a bun like I did today doesn’t require any effort. The more rational part of me is telling myself that it’s probably just a shortening of a more specific term like “heat-styled” and is not implying, “jeez, she’s not making ANY effort with her hair,” but…

          …OK, my husband informs me that it basically means having “product” in your hair, hairspray, gel, etc. and probably also including if you “have your hair all layered and stuff”.

          Which brings up a related concern. People can be pretty defensive about this, and some of the negativity that you hopefully won’t see but might comes as sort of a backlash to women resenting being expected to perform femininity. So you might be basically okay with having a different style than the other women there but have to be more careful to not come across as judgey than you otherwise would. So I’m mostly including how I’m interpreting this phrase as an example, but also, this may be a phrase you want to avoid in particular.

      12. addiez*

        Came here to say just this – I work in a conservative financial institution, and cat eye wouldn’t really fit in there either, even though people are pretty well dressed. I guess in the end it depends on how small your small cat eye is – but that’d be the place where I think it could be worth minimizing a bit.

    3. Robin Q*

      While I agree that scientists aren’t concerned with dress and therefore often dress in a way that would be entirely inappropriate for most fields, it means the judgement, especially towards young women, goes in the other direction. I know plenty of women in science who have received comments and been seen as less serious because they dress nicely/do their hair/ paint their nails and generally put (any) time into their looks. Judgement about this is super gross, and should not happen, but it definitely does! I think each person should make a personal choice about how they want to balance being themselves and dealing with old, sexist judgements, but they should be aware of the culture that they are in.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I think this is important. The only way to really answer your question is to know if you do or don’t work with people who are judgey in that way. It shouldn’t be! But probably is IRL.

      2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        It also slightly concerns me that she’s the only BS in an office full of PhDs as well as being the youngest person by 10 years. Those are already two fairly large differences that can lead to people in her office thinking she might “not be as serious”, even subconsciously, that she might want to try to fit in more actively than she would if she fit in in other ways. I had an undergraduate working in my lab who dresses similarly to what the OP describes, and she did stick out.

      3. lawyer*

        I worked on public/private partnerships for a scientific research facility when I was in my early 20s. I wore basic business casual and minimal makeup (lipstick and mascara), which was dressier than the scientists but was consistent with the admin staff.

        Nonetheless, a female scientist nicknamed me “the Bimbo Bombshell” and when I left my job to enter a top-5 US law school, asserted I must have slept with an admissions officer.

        No, you complete jerk, I’m actually that smart. Just not a scientist. Glad you think I’m pretty, though!

          1. lawyer*

            What particularly shocked me was that I have been for my entire life a GIANT nerd and my identity had always been being smart, because I was awkward and unpopular. The fact that I had managed to put together a presentable level of officewear and some basic makeup was a huge deal. So having that thrown in my face was profoundly disorienting, to say the least.

    4. Liza*

      I’ve noticed that grooming/style/presentation that differs from the culture (especially in women) generally doesn’t matter too much if the person is a culture fit but can be a point that people mentally hang other things on if there are other culture issues.

      In my academic department, one woman is extremely well dressed, including high heels, business dress and full makeup, when almost every other member of the department wears minimal/no makeup and tidy but fairly casual clothing. A bright sundress and flats would be as upmarket as it gets.

      We are an academic/clinical environment where the focus is on authenticity and engagement – this particular woman, though competent, is seen as out of step with that. She has not been able to make the personal connections/rapport that are valued within the department (I can’t be too specific without identifying what we do but there’s a great deal of interpersonal work). I think in her case her particular style makes it easy for others to dismiss her as inauthentic, defensive, and out-of-sync with the work we do, when if other colleagues dressed the same way it might just be considered a personal quirk.

      The other message that it conveys is that personal presentation is important to you and you’re willing to invest time/money/energy in to it. There are work environments where that would be essential or a positive, and there are others where it might seem either like you’ve got superficial priorities or that you don’t care if it alienates people (eg when working with a client demographic or colleagues who can’t afford the kind of clothes and accessories you prefer). Though it doesn’t sound like that’s such a concern in your workplace.

      1. Tau*

        I’ve noticed that grooming/style/presentation that differs from the culture (especially in women) generally doesn’t matter too much if the person is a culture fit but can be a point that people mentally hang other things on if there are other culture issues.

        This seems accurate to me, with the addendum that in certain male-dominated environments being a woman can end up being a small culture fit issue in and of itself. Makeup then compounds that, especially as there’s no real equivalent for men and those places may pride themselves on the casual dress-code as well.

        OP1, I’d love to tell you that you have nothing to worry about and can wear your awesome makeup and styled hair to your job with no professional repercussions. And maybe it’s true! But… maybe it’s not. I like Alison’s advice for dressing down and seeing what happens and how people react.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          If it’s a mostly male environment where women have trouble fitting in, it can actually go either way. Sometimes you can drop the makeup and bro out with them, and sometimes they’ll wonder why you’re such a slob. Hard to win in that situation.

    5. Ex-Grad*

      LW1 : I’m also a woman in academia (just got my phD in STEMS) who presents as more feminine than the norm in a place with few non-admin women. I think you may be blaming your clothes and makeup in hope that changing them will suddenly make you fit in and feel at ease. Unless your office is unreasonable (that’s possible), I’m afraid it’s self confidence you need, not a makeover. I’m not saying you’re flawed, it’s normal to be nervous.

      I think a good rule is to assume goodwill and that people don’t expect you to prove yourself. They expect you to
      be reasonably competent (everyone makes mistakes) and will only review that opinion if you keep not meeting expectations (in work or when it comes to interacting with colleagues. I’m thinking of the young woman who wouldn’t stop bringing up brands at work).
      If you are nervous and hold back because you are afraid people are judging you, that discomfort will affect how people interact with you. They will hold back too, which you might interpret as people judging you and keeping you out of the in group.
      You don’t have a PhD, and that’s fine, you’re not lesser. Not all jobs require a PhD. That doesn’t make you less of a person, or mean they can’t find you interesting to talk with.
      Since STEMS is not known for people with amazing emotional intelligence, it’s also full of people who tend not to find it weird if you ask outright “how many questions is too much here? Should I say hi to everyone in the morning or leave people alone?” etc.

      Just my two cents

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Pretty much this. Also if we think back to having basically brand new BA/S in a group of PhDs, that in itself can be pretty intimidating.

        When I was getting mine I dont think I wore anything but sweats the whole time I was wtiting my dissertation save a handful of times. I’m inordinately proud that I managed to show for my defense dressed appropriately! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      2. LW1*

        Thanks! I really appreciate this comment. I feel like the make-up thing is a smaller part of why I don’t feel like a good fit, with the degree difference because the most impactful

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I think if your makeup or anything else you’re doing is making you feel like you don’t fit in, you can change it so you do feel like you fit in. You can always go back to your original makeup evenings and weekends.
          I don’t wear makeup myself, but I think I’ve read you can step it down by changing it a little at a time, so you keep it in your comfort zone. :)

        2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          That’s something I have seen in many lab settings, LW1. The first question is “what degree did you earn?” (sometimes mixed with “and from what school?”). If you don’t give the right answer, everything else becomes subordinate. So, the PhD from Harvard who dresses well is “showing style and leadership” and the BS from a highly-rated non-Ivy school who wears the same outfit is “showy and superficial”. Conversely, dressing down for the PhD is “appropriate to laboratory work” and for the BS it’s “not industry-appropriate”. This is not about the clothing and styling; it’s about maintaining a pecking order based on education (sometimes decades-old) rather than appreciating what the individual contributes. If that is the culture at work, think about whether this is the right job for you.

        3. Argh!*

          Start a diary in google docs, then run a text analysis with “R” to see what your true issues are! Could be fun.

      3. Venus*

        The PhD / Bachelors difference stood out most to me. It doesn’t matter in the long-term but it will likely be a noticeable difference at first.

        In my experience you are fine if you wear natural makeup. Hair can be styled in any way provided it isn’t sprayed or gelled too heavily. For clothing, you should be fine provided you are safe – slacks (not dresses or shorts) and flat shoes.

        I work with a male-dominated STEM space, and I wear baggy clothes because I don’t want to be seen as distinctly female. So much research has been done which shows that – all equal – women are not viewed as competently as their fellow male researchers. So I aimed to be non-binary, and I note that a lot of my colleagues are similar. This should not discourage anyone from wearing what they want, but hopefully provides some context on the ‘baggy, gender-neutralizing’ types of clothing. And maybe I’m the only one who feels that way, although I know quite a few formerly-female researchers who now identify as non-binary (but I haven’t discussed why they wear baggy).

        1. Dragoning*

          I urge to reconsider the idea that dressing in baggy “gender-neutralizing” clothing has anything to do with being a non-binary gender. I wear clothing that fits me properly, and yes, reveals that I am AFAB, but that doesn’t change my gender ID. My clothes choices are still “non-binary.”

          1. Venus*

            I’m not sure why I should reconsider my experiences? I know they don’t apply everywhere, which is why I expressed them as my experiences. I think it’s great that you can be confident in what you wear! Not everyone is so lucky – when I was a student and wore form-fitting clothes I had some uncomfortable looks and comments from young male students, because STEM has a fair number of people who have questionable social skills. It’s a stereotype, but for good reason in my experience. My way, and those of some friends, was to deal with it by trying to hide our bodies, and outsmart the boys.

            1. Close Bracket*

              I don’t think it’s your experience that Dragoning was asking you to reconsider, but rather the association of non-binary gender and baggy clothing. That is, the fit of one’s clothing is not what determines one’s gender, and vice versa. NB people dress in all sorts of ways, including ways that reveal the gender assigned at birth.

              This stood out to me:

              So I aimed to be non-binary

              If I understand you correctly, you changed your clothing, not your gender identity.

        2. My Cabbages!!*

          I’m going to push back on that “no dresses” thing. In my experience a longish (calf length) skirt is totally fine, and common, as long as it’s not so floofy it’ll get caught in the centrifuge.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            I do feminist anthropology. Most people I work/interact with on a professional level skew tiwards being women.

            I sometimes wear a dress (think “teacher” dress…plaid jumper with a cardigan) with tights and Doctor Martins and other times jeans and a v-neck tshirt (think Gap/Target) or something Dr. Who or Hello Kitty (don’t judge me!) branded with my Converse or PF Flyers… All depending on my mood on a given day.

            I find that this “style” serms pretty common. Buuutttt I’m not trying to hold my own in a heavily male dominated/sexist area. Also I ran out of give a fucks a couple decades ago. So..there’s that. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          2. Venus*

            Where I worked, shorts and dresses / skirts were equally bad, for safety reasons (it was also kept very cold, so it would have been hard to wear shorts for an extended period of time). The more clothing we wore, the less likely it was that a chemical spilled on us would have caused serious damage. I realise not every lab is that way, it was more a point that clothing should be limited by safety reasons.

      4. Tupac Coachella*

        LW1, one thing to consider is that the other women in your department may see you paying more attention to your appearance as part of “paying your dues.” As someone who isn’t as far in your career, they very well might understand that you haven’t built up the street cred for more relaxed professional norms. Depending on your coworkers, there may not be that automatic assumption that you pay more attention to your appearance because you like it and are therefore vain (an attitude that’s backwards anyway IMHO, but it is what it is). They could be assuming that you know that you’re still building up a reputation as professional, while they’ve already built theirs and can take more liberties with appearance if they choose.

    6. epi*

      I think the OP should really just ask the women she works with. Whatever they tell her, the real value is in being close enough with senior women in her field to ask.

      When I started working in STEM I had a BA and was working with MDs and PhDs. That can be really fraught, especially as a young woman, and you just won’t foresee every way a mentor could help you in the future. Speaking for myself, as a brand new graduate I was not always a good judge of who was really on my side in that environment. I wish I had pursued closer relationships with a lot of different people, especially women, early on.

      1. My Cabbages!!*

        This is a really good point! People love being asked for their advice, and it can be a great icebreaker to get to know a more senior person (although I wouldn’t seek out a PI just for this question or anything…)

    7. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I don’t think wearing makeup should be an issue, but there’s one warning I’ll give from experience: young women will sometimes get major side-eye for doing their makeup–or even just touching up their makeup–at work.

      Although if you’re a makeup-wearer it’s totally normal to glance in a mirror and dab a bit every now and then, somehow that’s what I’ve observed getting some scornful glances and eyerolls. From older, non-makeup-wearing women. It’s a bummer.

          1. neeko*

            Agreed. I’ll never understand why people get so bent out of shape over people doing makeup where they can see them.

        1. EmKay*

          The Queen of England, Jackie Kennedy, and also my mother, discreetly touch(ed) up their lipstick after dinner directly at the table. If it’s fine for them, it’s fine for me.

          1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

            I think a glance in a mirror and a little touch up are totally normal. I don’t wear makeup every day, but if I wear eyeliner or mascara, boy howdy do I get crows-feet smudges if I get a little sweaty, and I’d rather not notice for hours.

            (And I’ve seen the eyerolls happen in the bathroom as well. It might actually be worse, because in the bathroom there’s the scornful “did you get up from your desk just to go do your makeup? How vapid.”)

      1. Hold My Cosmo*

        A maintenance test is a good measure for lab makeup. If it stays and continues to look the way you intended it to throughout the day, then you’re probably okay. If you’re constantly smearing liner and mascara down your cheeks with lab goggles, or you’re in a stuffy warehouse-style industrial lab and foundation is running in rivers down your temples, skip the makeup.

      2. Jennifer*

        Are they all really that old? If she’s a new grad, I’m guessing she’s in her 20’s. She said the women are at least 10 years older than her, so at least some are just in their thirties. Sure there might be some that are older than that, but I think it’s unfair and a bit ageist to assume they would judge her for wearing makeup when many women of all ages do.

        I think they realized, like I have, that they would rather have an extra few minutes of sleep instead of spending time putting on makeup or styling hair for a job where they don’t really have to look super polished. Some women still want to put in the effort and others don’t. Depends on the woman. Nothing wrong with either point of view.

      3. Flower*

        I would encourage not doing this in a lab space regardless. Too easy to forget what you last touched and get chemicals you don’t want on your face/near your eyes/on your lips in those locations. I’m pretty sure having makeup open in a lab space is on the same level as open food/drink, for reasons of safety. Depending on where their desk is located most to all of a scientist’s day may be spent in the lab itself (not in office etc).

    8. Dwight*

      I wouldn’t put engineers in the same category as lawyers in this case. Maybe high profile engineers, but most companies I’ve been at, the engineers (myself included) dress very casually unless business casual or formal attire is required. That said, plaid shirts seem to be a recurring theme among engineers… and it never hurts to have a collar.

      1. Close Bracket*

        I would lump engineers in with lawyers as people who always seem to dress the same way across offices. Different uniforms for each field, sure, but engineers, male ones, anyway, do tend to all look the same. That might be a function of just men’s casual clothing all tending to look the same, though.

    9. Michaela Westen*

      What do you mean by rockabilly clothes? Vintage dresses and pumps? or blue jeans, white t-shirt and black leather jacket?
      Dying to know. :)

    10. Liane*

      I used to work in both microbiology and chem labs, and the only one where makeup was an issue had bio-clean rooms, where you couldn’t have any on.

    11. Flower*

      Yeah I get the impression nobody really notices. I’ve seen people present all over the spectrum and for the most part no one really comments. So long as safety protocols are followed, dress how you feel comfortable.

      Also, once you’re talking about things like makeup and hair style, to me it becomes less a conversation about professionalism/formality and more about gender presentation. I’m comfortable low femme to androgenous, OP is comfortable closer to the higher femme end of the spectrum. Shouldn’t be a problem with either.

    12. Eukomos*

      Agreed! Also the nice thing about makeup is that people often can’t tell you’re wearing it, especially if they don’t wear it themselves. I strongly suspect OP’s coworkers can’t even tell she wears blush and mascara, and the may not even notice the eyeliner if it’s a small wing.

    13. jclaar*

      I say do what you want. I choose to not wear makeup or fix my hair, too much of a hassle and I’m not there to impress someone. But if you do great. I don’t care what others think or what the culture is.

    14. Mari*

      Agreed. I’m in biotech and there is a range of dress from leggings/jeans and baggy shirts to business casual, depending on personal preference and number of work hours spent at the lab bench vs a desk. Makeup, hair style, hair color, tattoos/piercings all also vary quite widely. The only thing that matters is that you are following safety guidelines about shoes, exposed skin, loose hair, PPE, etc and dress in generally work appropriate clothes.

    15. Close Bracket*

      Funny thing-

      One of the related links is “Do I wear too much black at work?” Throughout undergrad (physics), my wardrobe drifted to mostly black. Nobody commented. In my first graduate lab (physics), I got a lot of comments about how goth I was and was I depressed from a particular group of people. My next lab (still physics) didn’t comment, but I had more clothing that wasn’t black by that time (bc of the comments).

      Then there was a woman in my grad program who entered the year after me. She wore light make up and perfume, which is not a thing physics students do. She was talked about. The talk wasn’t critical or mean, but it was still talk. She was also very attractive, and that probably contributed to the talk.

      I agree with your generalization, though. However, if there is talk, I would advise OP to change her style for work and bring make up and/or extra clothes if she has plans for after.

  2. MissGirl*

    LW1: We are interviewing several candidates at different stages right now because we were approved to double our team. My manager tries to have a team member with him at each stage of the interview. For the most part, these are scheduled ahead and we’re given time to review the resume. However, occasionally someone gets pulled into a meeting or has a surprise deadline or is even sick and another team member gets called in.

    I had all of a minute to review one resume before heading into an interview. I may ask questions that have already been asked in previous interviews, and I may ask something on your resume. I also don’t want to assume something is obvious that a candidate will have because assumptions can be wrong.

    You mention frustration at wasting time reviewing what’s in your resume but that’s a huge part of what an interview is. It takes all of ten seconds to read off a few bullet points so repeating them isn’t going to cost you interview time. Use it as a jumping off point to greater detail.

    If you get snippety or offended at repeating some information that is not going to go well for you. Good professional communication, even when you might be frustrated, is key to any working relationship.

    1. Tarra*

      I think this last paragraph makes some very good points in particular. And try to remember that even if people are aware of the leaders in a particular area, it doesn’t mean they’re going to recall exactly who everyone is and their name.

      It’s also worth remembering that interviews are partly about discussing your resume. They’re also about coming across as a reasonable, personable human. Ideally you would have said something like:

      “I’m so pleased to hear your enthusiasm for the conference. We’ve been really keen to focus on x and y this year.” And then you segue into your involvement.

    2. Hold My Cosmo*

      I agree with everything you’re saying, but it sounds like LW’s experience was a bit more extreme. Explaining the existence of a conference to one of the people who runs it and is a yearly speaker at it…that’s Rebecca Solnit territory.

      1. LawBee*

        This is actually a good callback to the person who wanted to drop popculture references in her interviews. I had no idea who Rebecca Solnit was, googled her, and still don’t get the reference.

        1. portsmouthliz*

          She wrote “Men Explain Things To Me” and it contains a rage-inducing anecdote about a man telling her about a book he’d heard of, that matched her field of interest. She explained that, yes, she was familiar with that book because she wrote it. He literally was not able to believe this and kept saying “no, no, it’s a different book I’m thinking of,” even after a third person joined the conversation and confirmed that yes, the book in question was Solnit’s.

        2. Hold My Cosmo*

          Her essay (mentioned by portsmouthliz) kicked off the term “mansplaining” and brought the concept to international attention, though she personally does not care for the word.

      2. OP 2*

        It definitely felt like he was mansplaining the conference I help organize to me! I think that colored how I felt about his preparation the rest of the interview. I was 100% professional, so if my letter sounded like venting, it’s because I let it out there and not in the interview!

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          I get that.

          Not on the same level at all but I’ve had Appliance Repair Dude, who’s probably never done a load of laundry in his life mansplaining to me, for weeks that “sometimes they get off balance” and I should “be sure to put the clothes in evenly” because there’s nothing wrong eith the washer.”

          So it’s obviously me who has been doing laundry, with many different washers, for fifty freaking years…that’s the oroblem dude?.

          It’s under warranty goddammit, it’s broken, fix it! Well lo and behold, poor little inept woman that I am was right. They figured it out when Appliance Tepair *Woman* came to check it out. Quelle suprise!

    3. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      Also, the purpose of an early interview can vary a lot. I’ve had phone interviews that were all about screening me as a candidate, and I’ve had phone screens with an interviewer describing a job in detail, including some of the challenges (cough *surprisingly low salary* cough) that weren’t in the posting, to make sure that I felt I would be a good fit and determine if I was still interested in moving forward.

      In the latter, the call was essentially to make sure that nobody was going to waste their time on an in-depth interview if there were major dealbreakers right off the bat, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if the junior HR rep had I was talking to had barely glanced at my resume.

  3. Anancy*

    LW #2 I wouldn’t be as perturbed by the fact that he hadn’t reviewed your resume as by the fact that he tried to explain the conference to you. He could have easily said “Sorry, I was on the phone about National Conference, are you familiar with this event?” and let you then tell your experience and qualifications. In general, with a senior role, I agree that it would feel condescending to be treated as though you are unaware of this National event. Usually the assumption would be that the interviewee would be familiar with the industry and events. If the other interviewers are as unprepared (or also make assumptions) then that says a lot more about the company culture than you, and that would give me serious pause.

    1. MsM*

      Eh, depends on the industry, I think. If there’s really only one or two major conferences, then yeah, probably best not to treat someone else in the field like they’ve never heard of it. If there are a lot, then assuming ignorance may be more forgivable.

      More importantly, a lot of the senior executives I’ve worked with, regardless of their overall competence, are easily distractible because they’ve got so much going on at any one time. If they’re in “exposit on the conference” mode, sometimes you just gotta jump in and pull them out of it.

      TL;DR: definitely try not to take it personally, LW2.

    2. Burned Out Supervisor*

      He could be asking as a way to ascertain your actual level of involvement. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that he’s dealt with people who pad their resume. It’s easier to b.s. that stuff in writing, it’s a whole lot harder to do it verbally (IMO).

    3. Adminx2*

      I read the story as “I was just pulled in last minute and am flustered and going to over explain what I was just doing as a way to establish my authority while I pull my stuff together and get on with it while trying to make sure you don’t realize how unprepared I am.”

      People blather when they are put on the spot a lot, it really has nothing to do what what the topic is or its relevance to the situation.

    4. Sam.*

      It sounds like the LW has interacted with several others at the company and not had an issue. I’d guess this is someone who didn’t have enough warning to prep or he never bothers – which means that’s just how he is and that he hasn’t bothered for any other candidates they’re talking to.

    5. OP 2*

      Yes, this was really what got me – he just acted as though I had dropped off of a cloud, with no knowledge of anything whatsoever, which was compounded with clearly not having viewed any of my materials. Luckily, so far, other interviewers have been much much more prepared!

    6. Thor*

      I don’t know, it was in an interview setting so he many not wanted to make it seem like knowing about the conference was part of the qualifications.

  4. Engineer Girl*

    If he’d glanced at my resume or cover letter, he’d have known that.

    Maybe, maybe not. It’s likely he is interviewing several people and may have become mixed up. It’s also possible he’s pulling up the resume at the same time he’s making small talk with you. Then he’ll be reminded when he sees your resume.

    BTW – If you have to ask “should I be offended?” the answer is always NO.
    Taking offense should always be avoided because it just inflames the situation. Annoyed, maybe. Leave offense for the pot stirrers.

    1. Geek*

      Additionally, is it possible that #2’s resume and cover letter may not communicate with perfect precision and succinctness? I’d take the opportunity to ask myself how to edit them to more clearly convey what was missed with minimal reading effort from future interviewers.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        Even if I’m intimately familiar with a candidate’s application materials, I’m still going to ask questions about what’s on the resume. It’s not a substitute for the interview. Sometimes it’s a jumping off point. We know who the person is on paper, but a lot of people look great on paper. You get the candidate talking and you get a better sense of who they are and how they will fit.

        1. Yorick*

          But if you ask questions about the resume, it should be something like “I see you’ve been involved in planning National Conference, tell me about….”

          Not just asking them to restate their resume verbally.

          1. OP 2*

            Yes – and these interviews were several past the introductory qualifications and resume review point – I’ve had several of those. These were much deeper dives into how I’d handle situations in the role, etc. Of course I don’t mind answering questions about experience, but we’re far past bullet points at this point in the process.

            1. Oxford Comma*

              Well, there’s disorganization and that’s a warning sign to you. But as someone who has been on search committees, things happen on our end too and while we do our best to deal with that, sometimes the seams show.

      2. OP 2*

        Thanks to Alison and the number of interviews I’ve gotten, I’m quite sure my resume is succinct and precise :) Clarity isn’t the issue here.

    2. Parenthetically*

      If you have to ask “should I be offended?” the answer is always NO.

      Exactly this. Don’t ever look for ways to be offended — hell, I’d even say don’t waste time being offended even if someone is being blatantly offensive. Take action, register disapproval, make a complaint or a report. But “offended” is a fruitless place to stay for any length of time.

    3. Sam.*

      I witnessed this in an interview recently. A fellow interviewer referenced the candidate’s graduate education when asking her a question, but she was remembering the grad degree from a different candidate who had some common experiences with this one. In this case, I’d say it *was* a reflection of the person’s larger disorganization, but it could’ve just as easily happened due to a simple memory lapse, so I don’t think the candidate can draw conclusions either way, and I certainly wouldn’t consider it a personal insult.

  5. Tarra*

    #3 I think that while your workplace has issues, this isn’t one of them. It just seems to be saying: we want contact info in case we need to use it, but we’re not guaranteeing we’ll use it. That’s just expectation-setting and it’s not unreasonable.

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      I don’t know. I kinda feel like that disclaimer is a veiled way of saying “If we caused the accident that is the reason for potentially contacting emergency contacts, we might wait until we have a chat with our lawyers first to CYA.”

      Of course, I’ve worked for a lot of companies that suddenly changed policies like this and it was because they were shady. YMMV.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        This is what schools do, too, it happened to me as a kid. They held me past dismissal, I was being picked up and my mom got stuck waiting outside. I can’t even fathom what would have happened if I’d been a bus kid. I guess I would have slept there.

    2. JSPA*

      “We may but are not required to” is pretty standard protection on all sorts of documents. Didn’t need to exist until there were lawsuits when a company didn’t try all / enough contact options. Whether dotting i’s and crossing t’s is micromanagement or tightening up a dangerously sloppy situation will depend entirely on P.O.V.

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        There has to be a better way to phrase it than words like required, liability, obligation. Why not use the good ol’ “there is no guarantee” or something that doesn’t make it sound like the company is choosing not to do what they should in an emergency?

        1. #3 OP*

          That’s what I was thinking. I’m all for CYA, but wording like that is just weird. It’s not like I work for a government agency or a high risk/high security firm…

    3. snowglobe*

      There are a lot of companies that are paranoid about getting sued and will take steps to cover themselves wherever possible. A company that is very ‘policy oriented’ and micromanaging would likely be one that is concerned that if they somehow don’t call the emergency contact within 10 minutes they will be sued over it. I don’t think that this means they are *intending* to not use the contact information; they just don’t want to be required to.

    4. kdub3*

      I wonder if someone had a medical emergency and they called 911. In the rush of everything they probably forgot to call the person’s emergency contact. Perhaps the person was upset, that they were not notified. Sounds like a CYA thing.

    5. BetsyTacy*

      In law school, they talk about how a golf course might have an unofficial policy that when you see lightening, you blow the horns on the golf carts. They would shy away from having that as an official written policy because then the time you miss the lightening and don’t blow the horns, you are now liable if someone gets injured because you didn’t follow policy.

      I see this as a lawyer amending to make sure that if they don’t call an emergency contact – for whatever reason – they’re not liable for that.

    6. Not Me*

      I change policies where I work all the time based on new legislation, regulation changes, case law, or lawsuits against other similar workplaces. It’s 100% reasonable that either a new lawyer to the company took a look at their policies and suggested changes, or even that a suit was filed against the company.

      I wouldn’t consider this an issue. In my experience a company that has policies but is ignoring them is not a well run organization. Sounds like the management change is an attempt to run a business the size of a Fortune 1000 properly and with consistency (the main point of policies).

    7. TootsNYC*

      I think this is all of a piece with all the other issues.

      They put that disclaimer up there because they think you will sue them or get on their case if they don’t do this sensible thing.

      That’s because THEY are treating you the way they expect you to treat them.

      It’s classic projection.

  6. Startup HR*

    #4 If I’m constantly getting candidates who can’t remember my company after they’ve applied, I’d ask myself how I’ve described the company and written the job description in such a way that makes us so easy forget. Most job ads for a type of role look exactly the same from one company to another. Maybe it’s time to take a look at your recruitment marketing strategy and refresh it. Change the copy or the layout or something so that you don’t look and feel interchangeable with your competitors.

    1. Maria Lopez*

      Or maybe the OP is calling the job candidates weeks or months after they have submitted applications.

      1. Zephy*

        This is very possible. For CurrentJob, there was a gap of almost 7 months between submitting my application and being contacted for a phone interview. I didn’t remember applying for it – I knew I had applied with the company, but had no recollection of the specific role, because at that point in time I was applying for lots of things at lots of places.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        Or there’s three similar positions that they’ve posted and applied to for the same company.

      3. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        I once applied for a job in early January and got a call back in late March. The job posting was no longer up and so I asked the HR rep to send me the job description because I no longer had access and wanted to be prepared for my interview.

        OP, it sounds from your letter that you are reaching out to set up an interview, and in response they are saying “yes, here is when I am available, and also can I have the job description again.” If that is the case, I think it is a good sign they are asking so they are prepared.

        This is pretty common and I don’t think you need to be irked by it or view it as unprofessional. Especially if you are the HR rep facilitating hiring for another department – this is kind of part of that job description.

        1. TootsNYC*

          In fact, I would suggest that you anticipate this question and be prepared for it.

          There are things in landscape design called “desire paths” or “desire lines.”
          I think this is a similar thing. If this is common enough that it annoys you, I would argue that you should expect it to come up.

          So identify your company a bit more carefully, and offer to send them the job description along with the confirmation of the appointment time. Consider it the equivalent of offering them a glass of water at the start of the interview–a form of basic hospitality.

    2. Daisy*

      Further than being forgettable, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been contacted by a company I had no memory of applying to, and eventually worked out either that they’d announced themselves to me with a different company name than the one in the ad (e.g. a parent company, or a brand within a company, or they use a different name for employees vs clients), or that it was an ad that didn’t give the company name. An astonishing number of hiring people seem to have zero awareness of how they’re advertising the job. OP might want to check that info is actually there.

      1. MsM*

        Ugh, what is the point of those postings that don’t name the company? It’s especially frustrating in my field: how do you expect me to fundraise for you if I don’t even know what your mission is?

        1. boop the first*

          As someone who prefers to take public transit, I especially like to at least know the location of the job! So many postings have zero identifying information, but I’m not going to apply to a job if there’s a chance it’s 2 hours away by three buses, no thanks!

          1. Dwight*

            I’ve worked out that for every 10 applications I make, 1 gets a phone interview (generally the number goes up when I’m employed, because I only apply to jobs I know I’m a great fit for). And of those interviews, maybe 1 in 10 will result in a job offer. That means it could take up to 100 applications to get a job. When I was looking I kept a log for employment insurance reasons, but it would have been easy to forget specifics.

      2. Busy*

        Yeah really.

        And I would like to take this on the flip side of what OP is saying. Do employers have any idea how annoying it is to be called out of the blue for a phone screen and then NOT describe the company and position they are calling about? That drives me nuts. Why would they think that this was the only job I applied for?

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          I could not agree more. How the hell do these people even think job hunting works, anyway? #rhetoricalquestion

        2. Mookie*

          Yep. You should assume people looking for work have applied for the same or similar role elsewhere. Would it be reasonable to expect a hiring manager or somebody from HR be capable of recalling with great accuracy an applicant’s background if that applicant were to call them out of the blue? Particularly this early in the screening process? The principle is the same.

      3. ChachkisGalore*

        Yeah – this. It’s been while since I’ve job searched by applying directly with companies (my industry seems to rely almost exclusively on external recruiters), but back when I was, it was very hard to keep all companies straight.

        First, I was applying to 50-100 jobs a week. Then, so many companies on Monster, Indeeed Craigslist, etc. Didn’t list the company name. Or the job ad that was posted (prob by an assistant/intern) was completely different than the job description provided when I requested it. Or the person calling only id-ed themself by name and role (“Hi, this is Michelle, I’m calling in regards to your Broom Analyst application”). Or I had applied to two companies with a similar name and they id-ed themself as a shortened version (I applied to Tiger Brands and Tiger International and the person just said “I’m calling from Tiger about your application” and then their email address was Or the title was different enough that I wanted confirmation (I applied for a Broom Analyst position, but I was contacted about a Sweeping Devices Associate position). Or they found my resume posted on one of the job boards and didn’t make that clear (“Hi, this Michelle from Bear Enterprises and I’m calling about the Broom Coordinator role we’re hiring for”). And the list goes on…

        Which is why whenever I deal with potential hcandidates (used to assist in a lot of hiring so I often contacted applicants initially or coordinated for interview or calls) I always attach a copy of the job description when I’m reaching out to them by email. It just made life easier for everyone – the candidate would have all the info in one place and if the candidate came in and seemed to not be familiar with the info in the job description then there’s really no excuse.

        1. Human Sloth*

          Thank you – “I always attach a copy of the job description when I’m reaching out to them by email. It just made life easier for everyone.”

        2. another scientist*

          +1. I just had a phone screen scheduled 3 months after applying (not crazy long, but long enough). The week before phone screens, the hiring manager sent the job ad to all candidates (in BCC email), in case they hadn’t saved it. If you expect people to be prepared for the phone interview, that’s an easy step you can take to allow them to think of examples showcasing the requirements from the ad.

      4. KRM*

        I once got a callback where the caller said “Hello I’m calling from Dr. X’s office”. I was mentally scrambling to work out if I’d made a Drs appt and forgotten, so I asked what she was calling about and she said “It’s a job application. Well, you people apply to everything”. So not only was that annoying, when I went back after to check my applications, I realized it was for a hospital where they post the department of the job, but no names, so I got even more annoyed at her attitude to me. Yes, I had applied for a lot of jobs. But your website is very general, so please don’t get snippy with me!

    3. Mae West*

      Yes! Another peeve I have with job posts is when they’re full of nonsense! Don’t say that you’re looking for someone to manage internal communications when you really mean a receptionist!

      1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

        Ugh, this is so irritating, but I find at my institution, we are sometimes required to have jargony nonsense in the posting, to get it through HR. So just know that it isn’t always the hiring manager/department that decided to post the ridiculous verbiage.

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I recently found a “Recycling Program Coordinator” position that, when I read the full description, was advertising for a trash collector to empty the recycling bins.

        1. Parenthetically*

          I snort-laughed. I’ll take “Egregiously Misleading Job Titles” for $800, please, Alex.

    4. ChimericalOne*

      Well, and sometimes (like Alison says) it’s not that the candidate doesn’t remember your company or the position AT ALL — sometimes it’s just wanting the specific job description & realizing that you didn’t save it (or not knowing in the moment if you did & trying to cover your bases). Many, many companies will take the job description offline once they get to the interview stage, so if you want to have any hope of using it to guide your interview answers (to know what to highlight to meet the criteria they say they have), you’ll need to have saved it or to ask for it.

    5. Dragoning*

      Also, a lot of scammers will call people saying that they’re responding to your application–that you never sent. This was discussed in another post earlier this week, I believe.

      It’s not unreasonable to give them a reminder. If I’m in active job-search mode, I have enough applications out there that I might not remember your company name, no.

      1. Zephy*

        > Also, a lot of scammers will call people saying that they’re responding to your application–that you never sent.

        What a bizarre scam. What’s their endgame, I wonder? Is it an MLM thing, or are they just selling lists of names and contact info to other scammers?

        1. HRB*

          I think some try to get personal information for identity theft purposes? I have a friend that got tricked into a fake chat interview.

    6. fried_twinkie*

      I once had a recruiter email me with just this in the body of his email: “Are you available to interview next week?” No other info to help me identify what role this was for, let alone where it was or with what company. When I replied that I was interested but needed more info, the recruiter responded a week later to tell me the position had been filled.

  7. Gen*

    #3 anyone remember the coworker who refused to tell the guy who’s wife got shot in the line of duty that he needed to go the hospital? This seems like a legal disclaimer to avoid the same kind of drama if they fail to contact anyone in the event of an employee getting injured

    1. Not Australian*

      Yes – and wasn’t there also one about a manager or co-worker who failed to pass on a message about a sick horse, and the horse died? But whatever the legal obligation may be in these cases, I’d argue that there’s certainly a *moral* obligation to forward this kind of information.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      I can also imagine less nefarious scenarios, like an employee that doesn’t show up and is written off as a no-call, no-show, when really they’re injured at home, or an injury that appears to be minor and is brushed off, but ultimately is more serious.

      Not to say that’s the case, but in an otherwise functional and reasonable company, I don’t think I’d assume it’s always to cover liability in egregious situations. I also think that even these disclaimers might not protect them from successful litigation in a more extreme scenario.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I equate it with a warning label on a product. Common sense tells you not to do something, but someone has sued a company because they weren’t explicitly told not to do that certain something. It’s just CYA speak. Although if there are other red flags about changes the company is making, start looking for a new job before it’s too late.

      1. LawBee*

        A lot of times, the warning labels are there because of a combination of someone doing something that didn’t make common sense (holding hot coffee between her legs) and the company making a dangerous product (the coffee being beyond boiling hot, so that a spill literally blistered skin and the subsequent burns needed surgery, which would have been the case had the coffee spilled on any part of her body).

  8. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    LW4–This is why, if I’m job hunting and my phone rings, I let the call go to voice mail and pick up the message immediately after. If it’s a potential employer, I open my file with their job posting + the resume and cover letter I sent and review them, then call right back.

    1. ChimericalOne*

      Yeah, unless you’ve literally only applied to one job in the last month, that’s the safe way to do it.

    2. Name Required*

      As someone who has been on the other side, this is sometimes very frustrating, especially if I’ve asked for best times to call in the application. If you don’t pick up, I’m calling the next person on my list because I have 20 people to call, rejection emails to send, and interview invitations to create in a 1 hour time frame on top of my regular job duties. It’s not that I would discriminate against someone who isn’t able to answer their phone 100% of the time, it’s just that I don’t have time to play phone ping-pong with you unless you’re an incredibly desirable candidate. If you call “right back”, I’m the phone with someone else who answered and I’m getting through my entire list before I listen to your voicemail.

      On the flip side, I’ve never expected candidates to answer interview questions during an out-of-the-blue phone call. It was more like, “Hi, this is Name Required from Full Company name. You applied for our Job Title Matching the Job Posting through our Description of Application Process on Date You Applied. We’d like to set up a phone interview with you. Here are our available interview times; do any of these work for you?” Or I would send the same through email, or would ask an assistant to call and set the meeting.

      1. valentine*

        But the best time to call isn’t down to even the minute, the candidate doesn’t want to sound flustered as they scramble to find your information (because you might reject them for that, too!), and if you’re calling months later, maybe the best time has changed.

      2. Big Bank*

        With the rise of spam calls, I imagine I’m not alone in not answering my personal phone unless I know who it is. Just this week alone I’ve gotten upwards of 20 spam calls. If it’s a prearranged call and/or you’ve confirmed the number you’re calling from that would be different. But a vague range of days/times you might call and I dont know the number? I’m sending it to voicemail.

        1. LiveAndLetDie*

          Especially because spam callers take an actual answer as a sign of “great, this is a live number!” and then your spam calls will get even worse. That companies don’t expect people to let it go to voicemail these days is at this point very silly. In the past you were often already calling during business hours, when ‘letting it go to voicemail’ is sometimes a necessity (some jobs don’t even let you have your phone on you), and now that America’s spam call issue is at its zenith, “letting it go to voicemail” is practically a requirement.

      3. Robin Sparkles*

        But you are then calling them at a specific time and date – almost like an interview or an appointment. That is different that just calling someone at when they are generally available. Just because I told you the best time to call me is between 11 and 12 – that doesn’t mean I won’t get tied up the one time you call me at 11:15. For all you know, I had to use the bathroom, stepped away from my desk, or got pulled into an impromptu meeting.

        1. Name Required*

          I’m replying to Robin, but this is really for everyone who has responded to me …

          In an ideal world, all hiring managers would have all the time in the world to find the best candidate. In the real world, they don’t. I’m reading Who Plays Backgammon? as saying that they never answer the phone. If I have to call you, then you call back while I’m on the phone with the next candidate who actually answered the phone, then I call you back when I have time to and it goes to voicemail because you never answer your phone … well, I’d be frustrated. I don’t think that’s out of line.

          Granted, the positions I’ve been the hiring manager for, or been on the hiring committee for, have always required external communication with clients. If you couldn’t answer the phone professionally and schedule an appointment without being flustered, you were probably a bad fit for the job — you can’t send a client to voicemail every time they call until you’re ready to talk to them. I’ve also never been involved in a hiring process where we were waiting months to contact people; generally the same week or a week after application.

          1. Mookie*

            In the real world, people looking for work are often employed already and are equally busy and spread thin.

            1. Margaery Moth*

              Yeah this is nuts. I’d guess most adults won’t answer their phones for anyone during the day, let alone a random number. Ignoring people who call “right back” and prioritizing those with unlimited free time seems…unwise at best.

              1. Name Required*

                This is not what I’m saying at all. There are lots of busy folks who answer their phones; it’s not just people with unlimited free time. And yes, people looking for work are equally busy … but intentionally making it harder to a hiring manager to contact you seems like shooting yourself in the foot. If you’re job searching and you get a call and you can answer it safely, but you don’t? That is nuts.

                It’s not nuts at all to expect people to occasionally actually answer their phone when they list it as a contact point. “Occasionally unable to answer the phone” is not the same as “intentionally never answers the phone and always sends people to voicemail”, which is what I understand Who Plays Backgammon? as saying and folks agreeing with.

    3. DaniCalifornia*

      This is what I do. I’ve been burned in answering because I stepped away from desk at work thinking it was a recruiter and then they started spouting off every detail of the job without saying what company they were. That or 60% of the jobs I apply for have no company name. So even when I save the link or job ad, I don’t know which ad it might have been for! I know companies don’t want to have people contact them directly but if you’re not willing to share all the information don’t expect someone who has applied to 50 jobs in 1 week to remember your job ad.

  9. Batgirl*

    OP1, your look sounds low key, and not overdressed at all, but I get wanting to blend in while you suss out your place in a culture.
    If you want to dial it down while keeping hold of your makeup (I would just gleefully go in barefaced but that’s me) you could switch black mascara to brown and a cat eye for a tight line. It would take the same time and feel much the same in terms of polish, but it would be too subtle to become something identifiably different about you.
    I can’t quite picture what your hair concerns are; from the natural description of your makeup, somehow I doubt you are going in with elaborate updos. I bet you are fine.

      1. Hold My Cosmo*

        Stamps. Several companies sell a V-shaped applicator that you literally just press against your skin and go.

        1. BadWolf*

          Really?? I’m super near sighted so applying eye make up is generally a pain. But maybe if I had a stamp, I could rock a cat eye. Goes off to google.

    1. Overeducated*

      I feel like everyone I’ve known who’s done a daily cat eye was read as “personal quirk,” not “overdressed,” since they’ve worn it 100% of the time for years rather than situationally. That’s thr one thing i wouldn’t worry about toning down!

      1. SweetTooth*

        There’s definitely a range! Cat eye doesn’t have to equal Amy Winehouse or Adele. It can also be just a little flick at the outside corner of the eye.

  10. Longtime Lurker*

    #4. Just so happened this past Monday I interviewed for a job where I had to ask for the job description. I had a basic idea, but the job ad listed ZERO job duties and just went on about how great the work culture and people were, and while that is important to me, I made sure to check them out and at least find out what sort of business they were in before applying. All things considered, it looked like a nice place to work and I’m waiting to hear back.

    Also, ever since the last time I had to keep work search logs for the labor department, I have always saved the entire job ad as a page on my computer, because as Alison says, often the ads expire or are pulled. I recommend a browser plugin called “Save Page WE” because you can save an entire page–graphics and all–to a single html file. Doing it like that also provides me with a convenient timestamp so I know when I applied.

    1. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      I used to do something similar but copy/paste the job ad into an email then email it to myself with the subject line “Applied to this today!” esp. when applying for secretarial jobs, the description don’t vary much.

      1. Busy*

        Oh I have been using my email as “cloud” storage for years for non-personal information things.

    2. mf*

      I’ve applied to some online job postings where there was a description posted but when I went to the interview, I discovered that it was a new position so there was no finalized job description. Would’ve been really nice to know before I arrived! (And if I had asked for the job description, maybe they would’ve told me!)

    3. Kheldarson*

      I work for the government, and our job postings for the pool positions are the most generic thing. An Office Assistant 2 position might be the person answering phones, or doing the file work, or doing database work, or all of the above. So it makes sense that the interview includes a description of specific duties. I’d wonder if the company is going too generic.

    4. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Thank you so much for the tip about the plug-in! I’ve downloaded it and it works perfectly.

    5. zora*

      I just print to PDF and save in a folder on my computer. Usually by month in a time that I’m job searching.

      1. Longtime Lurker*

        True, and I know everyone has a method that works for them, but I like the saving as html approach because it preserves the page with formatting and links intact in case I need that information later on.

  11. J*

    LW#1: Your look sounds fine. It sounds very subtle. You might look out if place in very heavy makeup, but this seems reasonable for the setting. Additionally, with few other female employees, you’re not going to stand out as much as you would among 30 barefaced women.

  12. Likethecity*

    LW3 your company sounds like the last 3 years at the company I just left a few months ago. I completely agree with Alison’s advice on this but I know it’s unnerving especially when there are so many other changes. Like the company I left (as a manager and I was one in a string of managers leaving, like your company) this is just yet another symptom of a much larger problem. I wish you the best in dealing with this!

    1. #3 OP*

      Thanks! After submitting, I realized that I was just overly focused on one tiny piece, but it is really just one small detail in a broken system. I think it was also the WAY that it was worded that really bugged me. That type of verbiage is being thrown around all over the place here now.

      Usually companies brag about culture change because it’s supposed to be for the better, but to go from down-to-earth (even the president would eat lunch daily in the break room with everyone else) to management cliques who spend all their time behind closed doors and are never available to their teams but still micromanage all the little details? I wouldn’t say that is a positive culture change from an employee perspective.

      I also realized I need a vacation.

      1. Likethecity*

        Vacation helps for sure! I swear our companies sound identical, which is sad to think that there’s so many dysfunctional companies out there.

  13. Bookworm*

    #4: I think Alison’s answer is on point but as an interviewee I also wanted to add is that I’ve had interviews where job duties that were brought up in the interview WERE NOT listed in the job description. I’m not talking minor things like say standard administrative tasks that often come with many, if not most jobs but significant of the job (like, one person wanted to know if I had previous experience with managing volunteers to make them feel more welcome, another wanted to know if I had training experience to teach others to do the job I thought the job was about [!], etc.).

    Again, can totally see your POV about people being unprepared but sometimes job descriptions appear to be tweaked and the candidate may not know.

    1. Samwise*

      Yep, been there, and not moved on to the next stage clearly because I did not have much experience in the unlisted area.

  14. Stained Glass Cannon*

    LW 5: I just want to add that politely declining a side job shouldn’t be considered burning a bridge in the first place. If your former boss is petty enough to treat it as such, then it’s probably a bridge well burned.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Let’s not forget, LW5 said they were terminated. Why are they still taking calls from OldBoss? If I’d gotten fired, i’d make sure any company property under my control went back to the company, and their numbers would go straight to voice mail. Sounds to me like when your girlfriend breaks up with you but still wants to have sex once in a while when she’s between other boyfriends. No thanks.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        If OldBoss is calling them up & asking them to do stuff, then they couldn’t have been fired for incompetence. I wonder what the heck they were terminated for? Unless OldBoss thought they were bad at X but good at Y, or… ??? Maybe the company couldn’t afford to keep someone full-time?

        Either way, if the LW doesn’t want (or need) the work, they should definitely politely decline. This is crazy.

        1. valentine*

          OP5: Say you’re busy and filter the emails, possibly with an autoresponse that the account is not frequently monitored (though she might hunt you down elsewise or ask for a better email).

  15. LGC*

    I appreciate that the Michelle letters were recommended at the bottom. (For anyone who has not read THAT saga (especially if you’re LW1): please read them IMMEDIATELY, and happy Friday.)


    LW2…I wouldn’t be offended if I were you, because even if your issue is really the lack of review, it will come off sounding like you’re saying, “do you know who I am?” (And honestly…as others have noted, that might have been how you came across in the interview by cutting off the interviewer to talk about your involvement.) I’m with the consensus on considering this a caution sign, but in the absence of other warning signs it’s probably just the interviewer slipping up a little.

    Speaking of caution signs, LW3 probably should be touching up their resume immediately. The note on the emergency forms seems weird and legalistic, but in a functional environment I don’t know if it’d really be a major red flag on its own. But combined with everything else…this is not what LW3 signed up for at the very least, and quite frankly it sounds draconian and as if the people in charge of the company handbook were allowed to run amok.

    (And like, my job is stupid about policy, and I’m recognizing this.)

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      For those who aren’t sure what LGC is referring to in the first sentence, it’s the “you might also like” links about the employee who drastically changes appearances in the middle of the day, and the much-appreciated and fascinating update. I agree that they’re great reading!

    2. I'm Now A Fan Of Michelle*

      I’d read the first Michelle letter but for some reason not the second! I have no idea how I missed /that/ update. It made for highly entertaining lunchtime reading.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            To me she sounds like she had a terrible attitude. She might be better suited for something not client-facing where she either has plenty of free time to play with her look, or can do it as part of her job.

    3. OP 2*

      I didn’t cut the interviewer off, I’m sorry if it came across that way! I just waited for a natural pause and piped up that I was very aware of the conference, was on the organizing team, and had spoken at it the past several years and was in fact, speaking at it this year! I kept it light and “oh hey, yes, I’m aware of this, by the way … ”

      I think “offended” was probably the wrong term – everyone is correct, I shouldn’t have been offended, but I was really annoyed that he started off by explaining the conference to me. As I said in another comment, he acted like I had dropped off of a cloud, had no idea about the company, the community, or anything – and this was far from an introductory interview!

    4. #3 OP*

      “quite frankly it sounds draconian and as if the people in charge of the company handbook were allowed to run amok.”

      I’m laughing at the visual this created. Thank you for that! And I do think you’ve hit the nail on the head here.

      PS – I had not read about Michelle before. That was fascinating!

  16. Momofadoptedangel*

    LW4: I constantly receive calls, impromptu “do you have a few mins to talk” and they ask why i want to work for the company or what made me apply to their particular posting. Most are posted anonymously. I want to scream at them “how the h@$) do i know when I don’t even know what posting was yours!!! I then have to fumble something and it never comes across polished.

    1. Michaela Westen*

      I think I would just ask what job they’re referring to and get some details. If they get snippy about you not recognizing their name when they *didn’t put it in the posting*, you don’t want to work for them anyway.

  17. Roscoe*

    #4 . I think you should let it go. As Alison said, people apply for many jobs at a time. Not to mention the fact that so many companies take forever to get back to you after you submit an application. Sometimes finding a posting for a job you applied for months ago is really hard. I mean, you probably have that at your fingertips where they may spend a long time looking for it again

    1. Richard*

      Exactly. I’ve definitely gotten calls months after putting in an application, and I’m glad that the people who called weren’t offended that I wasn’t totally prepared to talk details about the company on the spot.

  18. Environmental Compliance*

    LW 4 – I have been that person that needed to ask an HR staff member who called me what company they were with. To be fair though, I was actively & aggressively job searching, had several applications out, and when they called all they said was “about your application – let’s schedule xyz” with an immediate launch into scheduling. I think they said their name, but nothing about what company they were with. So yep, had to ask. And when I asked, the person immediately got very confused and hesitant, and spoke to me like I was stupid. Strike 1. I got to the interview, and they kept me waiting for about 25 minutes because they didn’t tell the interviewers it was scheduled and no one was available. Strike 2. I get finally into an interview room, they don’t even know what position they were interviewing for, and one interviewer just didn’t talk at all. Strike 3.

    So from the side of the individual applying, it’s sometimes completely necessary to ask who we’re talking to on the phone! Maybe the person calling forgot to say who they were, or they said it so fast (or quietly) it was impossible to hear, or the phone cut out, or it’s been 3 months since they applied and the assumption was made they didn’t make the cut and they mentally moved on, etc, etc, etc.

  19. Overeducated*

    LW #1, I think it’s worth considering who your look reflects in any workplace. At my last workplace, I came in more dressed up than all the research/professional staff, the only people who dressed up more were admin. Since I was younger than most of the staff, I already struggled with being taken for an intern, so I toned it down to the “casual” side of business casual most days. Then I switched jobs and offices and found the opposite – management, senior staff, and the aspiring upwardly mobile dressed on the “business” side of business casual and people in long term admin and technician positions dressed more casually. So I stepped it up a notch.

    My point is that it is important to be yourself, sure, but if there are broader cultural trends in your work environment, your style may be saying something to others that isn’t necessarily what you mean to say. So consider whether that is the case where you are.

  20. Argh!*

    LW 1: I work in a different profession, but I am the only woman who wears make-up where I work, and I dress more formally than most of the women. I keep my styling natural-looking, and I am just dressed “office-appropriate,” as opposed to dressing like a lumberjack (my boss’s winter style).

    Here’s why I do it: I’m also the fattest woman at my workplace. My feeling about what others think is that if you’re thin or normal-sized and don’t fuss over your appearance, the worst someone will think is that you don’t worry about trivial things like shopping or make-up. But if you’re fat and you do the exact same things, you’re a lazy pig who’s let yourself go. Even if they don’t really think that, not having to worry whether they think that makes it worth it to me.

    My advice to LW regarding ageism would be to use a make-up and hair style that’s 10 years older than LW. Also, some make-up styles signal class, so beware of that. For example, in the Midwest, white women who use eyeliner on the lower lid almost never have a college degree. Where I used to live on the East Coast, black women with fancy nails almost never have a college degree.

    Consulting with a make-up pro might be a good way to set a style that won’t offend and also get some validation from a neutral third party. They would know whether the cat-eye spells “young and low-class” or spells “takes care of herself” within your locality’s culture.

    1. MsM*

      As an overweight woman who dresses in accordance with her office’s business casual aesthetic, and only gets (mildly surprised but positive) comments when I do step it up, I think the “not worrying about it makes it worth it to me” is the key takeaway here.

        1. valentine*

          in the Midwest, white women who use eyeliner on the lower lid almost never have a college degree. Where I used to live on the East Coast, black women with fancy nails almost never have a college degree. […] Consulting with a make-up pro […] a neutral third party. They would know whether the cat-eye spells “young and low-class” or spells “takes care of herself” within your locality’s culture.
          This is classist and gross and a makeup artist isn’t neutral on the subject.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            Of course it’s gross, but being aware of the most gross and classist biases helps people step over potential landmines.

            A graduate-educated WoC who keeps her nails short and in conservative colours largely because I’m familiar with some ugly stereotypes

            1. Argh!*

              Exactly. It might be a common make-up style elsewhere, but where I live it screams out the opposite of what someone with a college degree would want to have people think. Make-up style is a cultural practice, and people read cultural biases into what they see in make-up and clothing.

            2. I've got Nothing*

              I once went in front of a black female judge with “fancy” nails. They just weren’t overly long. I’m a college educated professional black woman and keep my nails done also, but they are shorter because I like them like that for practical reasons. I enjoy bright or dramatic colors when I feel like it. Ugly stereotypes extend to our hair also. People need to be educated, not catered to.

    2. ChimericalOne*

      You make some good points about the role of weight. I’m a fat woman myself & I can definitely see how that plays a role. Unfortunately, I really can’t “do” makeup for so many reasons (the least of which being that my mom grew up on a farm, never wore it & never taught me, the worst of which being that I discovered that my skin & eyes are both way too sensitive for it — my skin is combo oily & dry, causing makeup to bead/shed/smear, I break out easily, and my eyes will be stinging & tearing up all day if I dare put on mascara or eyeliner).

      You also make some interesting points about the class-signaling (and age-signaling) of different styles of makeup, hair, etc. Rather than consulting a makeup pro, however, the LW might try just looking around more and seeing what she sees herself. She can probably discern much of that for herself if she consciously starts to keep an eye out for it.

      1. polkadotbird*

        As someone who has learned how to do my makeup, I can assure you that none of the things you listed would stop you from wearing makeup, and there is a lot of information out there if you are interested – different techniques, products, or styles that don’t involve particular products. Of course you may not be interested in wearing makeup at all, which is also a perfectly valid choice.

        I will just note on the mascara/eyeliner front – you should replace your mascara and felt tip eyeliners pretty often, around every 3-6 months (longer for pencil eyeliner), due to the potential for bacterial growth. As a result, mascara and eyeliners aren’t designed to last very long, and the formula degrades over time – which often means it will flake off into your eye and cause irritation. So, if you are a person who wears makeup irregularly, you may want to consider replacing things even if you have only worn them a few times.

    3. LawLady*

      You make a really good point about the signaling aspect of makeup. And it’s so subtle. There are lots of stories online of women who are told by men that they “look so good without any makeup” when in reality they’re wearing a full beat (concealer, contour, highlighter). People who aren’t familiar with makeup often don’t recognize what the makeup is doing, they just notice a subtle difference in impression.

      Makeup style can make you look younger, older, healthier, less tired, etc. But often the impression isn’t “oh LawLady is wearing concealer and lipstick” it’s “oh LawLady looks healthy and awake”.

      1. Argh!*

        I have received several compliments about clothing that I’ve had for a long time since making a subtle change in my foundation color, and yesterday someone told me that I looked “really put-together today,” when I hadn’t done anything different except the foundation color!

  21. Former Scientist*

    LW#1 I worked in a research lab for over 20 years, and everyone just rocked the look they were comfortable with. I, like you, wear makeup every day, as did some of my female colleagues. Others clearly rolled out of bed and came directly to work! No one will think it’s weird/inappropriate (unless you show up in a fancy dress or something). But on that note, if you do dress extra nicely one day (skirt, dress, etc) everyone will ask where your interview is.

  22. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    LW4 – Businesses have become really cagey with info in their online job listings. They don’t post the company name or phone number, and the job description is vague. Applicants aren’t rude or stupid for asking for that information once they have you on the phone.

    1. Fergus*

      And if the person calling things the applicant is rude or rude or stupid for asking for that information it’s a very big reason not to continue the call because you don’t want to work there.

    2. Alianora*

      Does anyone know why that is? It doesn’t seem like a safety consideration on par with an individual person not wanting to post their phone number or real name online.

  23. soupcold57*

    Number 4: It is perfectly reasonable for someone to ask for the job description when you contact them. They’re going to be apply a lot of other positions and possibly even at your same company. So it is actually quite prudent for them to ask for the current and correct job description.

    1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      I think the onus should be on the interviewer though to just provide this info up front, don’t force the candidates to ask for it, especially if some time has passed since the original application!

      1. Fergus*

        My fiancee got a call after a year for a job, she asked who are you like anyone would remember applying.

      2. ChachkisGalore*

        100% agree – I mentioned above that when I used to assist with a lot of hiring I did this as a rule.

        When I was job hunting I did a pretty decent job of keeping good records (I was on unemployment, so I needed to keep logs anyway). At the very least I copied the URL into a spreadsheet with the date applied, company name, title, etc so it was pretty easily searchable. Then started copying and pasting the job descriptions after realizing the original postings sometimes were removed. Still… it could be difficult to keep track, and even if I did have access to that info I was so appreciative when the employer included a copy of the job description just so that I had all of the info in one place, rather than having to go between different logs/email chains/docs.

  24. Elise*

    #1 – I wouldn’t change, honestly. I moved from the financial industry to another career about a decade ago, and the dress was much more casual in the new industry. I didn’t wear what I was expected to wear in my previous career to work of course, but I also didn’t dress down as far as my colleagues. I’m also one of the only ones who has moved up the career ladder, and it’s obvious that what we’re wearing does make a difference and my decision not to dress down as much as other ended up being a benefit (in addition to hard work and qualifications). So this may be another way to think about it.

    Disclaimer: I do not agree with the fact that my appearance should be a contributing factor, but it’s an argument for a small amount of care above your coworkers being OK. As long as they aren’t coming to work in ripped jeans and you’re wearing a suit or ballgown. :)

  25. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

    #2 – Maybe because I’ve never been on the interviewer side of the equation, but something like this would really tick me off. Candidates are expected to be impeccably prepared, and yet interviewers are sometimes not prepared at all. The one time this happened to me, I knew immediately that I wouldn’t want the job even if it was offered to me. Remember, your candidates are, or at least should be, judging you as well.

    1. mf*

      Agreed. Do I really want to work for somebody who doesn’t have their shit together? Or someone who maybe doesn’t take interviewing and hiring very seriously? Thanks but no thanks.

    2. Name Required*

      Yeah, I agree. As someone has gotten pulled in many emergency meetings before a scheduled interview or client meeting, it’s really easy to say, “It’s really nice to meet you. I was pulled into an impromptu meeting right before this, and out of respect for your time, I want to refresh myself on your resume (or my meeting notes, or whatever) before we start. Can we take 5, or would you prefer to reschedule your interview?” Signaling respect for your candidates (or client, or whoever you’re not prepared to meet with) goes a long way, as long as you’re not constantly unprepared.

    3. Delphine*

      There always seems to be that one interviewer who doesn’t even seem to know what job you’d be doing or the specifics of your responsibilities.

    4. OP 2*

      That’s what got to me – I spent quite some time researching not only the company, but all of my interviewers. I spent a LOT of time on my resume, tailoring it for each job, and of course my cover letter, and then some supplementary materials. To go into a late-stage interview and speak with someone who has not even glanced at them just really rubbed me the wrong way.

  26. mf*

    #4 – You should also take into account how much time has passed between the date the candidate applied and the date you’re contacting them for a interview/phone screening.

    There have been times when I applied for a job and didn’t hear back for 2-3 months. And in the meantime, I applied to a *dozens* of jobs. In those cases, of course I’m not going to remember the one specific job you’re calling about. And a couple of weeks after I apply, I may throw away the job description since I figured you weren’t going to call.

  27. Kaitlyn*

    LW1: [hand clap emojis all around] YOU DON’T HAVE TO REJECT THE FEMININE IN ORDER TO SUCCEED PROFESSIONALLY. This is another side of the patriarchy/toxic masculinity rearing up at work (hi, hello, I will die mad about this), and workplaces that signal that expressing femininity or femme-ness will result in overt or subtle punishments—such as not being taken seriously!—are workplaces that should be challenged to diversify their ranks. You may feel weird or out of place with a small amount of makeup on, and people may say that wearing make-up is a personal decision, and both those things can be true. But: both those things also exist in a context, and right now, your context is one were makeup is rejected for reasons. And those reasons often have to do with how women downplay certain parts of their femininity to seem more professional, or to fit in better with the mens. Not saying you have to, not saying you must, but you CAN reframe the decision to wear makeup as a reclaiming of your identity as a woman in a field where women are few and far between. AND! You can treat it as a practice run for when you move up the ranks. Would a CEO or company head wear baggy sweats and unstyled hair? Would a manager want to model that for her staff? TL;dr: being a woman is fine, and expressing femininity is fine, and your mascara and blush can be warrior paint in the fight against sexism.


    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I mostly agree with how you feel insofar as what should be. But it’s not the case in many, many situations. The LW isn’t asking if she should feel comfortable wearing makeup when nobody else in her office does, she’s asking if it will impact how she’s perceived, and the answer, sadly, is: maybe.

      It’s more helpful for people–especially particularly younger people–to get advice on the world-as-it-is, rather than the world-as-we-want-it-to-be.

      1. Kaitlyn*

        And I understand and appreciate that, but that’s how we get into these longstanding ruts of workplace expectations, and this is why change is hard. So: my encouragement to her stands.

          1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

            The LW is already in a battle to feel more confident in her role. That’s her context, and our context shouldn’t be her first priority.

            At her age, in her position, I’d say it’s best to focus 100% on her own confidence and comfort, balancing what makes her feel more self-assured in her appearance vs. feeling better when she blends in visually and might be taken more seriously.

            She’s already fighting systemic sexism in a major way just by her chosen career, and suggesting that she power through her discomfort out of consideration for big-picture social issues (with even the tiniest hint that she’s letting the side down if she caves) is doing her a disservice.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        But we will never have the world as it should be if everyone just accepts the ststus quo and never takes a stand agsinst the world as it is.

    2. Delphine*

      Being a woman in the workplace should not result in punishment. But let’s be honest, being a woman and expressing femininity are two different things. Ideas of what (and who) is and isn’t feminine, including makeup, come from the patriarchy. If all other things were equal, women would be able to get out of bed, wash up, brush their hair, put on neat/clean clothes, and go to work. They wouldn’t need to express “womanhood” or try to perfect their natural features to exist outside of the home. Your point about women in senior positions being held to these standards is pretty indicative of the fact that perfect hair and makeup isn’t a free choice for women.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I want zero women to feel pressured to put on makeup, but all women to feel free to put on as much makeup as they like.

        1. Kaitlyn*

          And men! And the genderqueer! Industry is probably the best arena for gender bloodsports, but dismantling the patriarchy means doesn’t mean that gender disappears and all we have to is wash our faces and pull on a sweatshirt; it’s that everyone is free to express themselves regardless of gender constructs and constraints.

          LW, I know this meta-level is probably not super relevant to your life. But also: you do you, boo! You feel confident with a cat eye? It’s your signature? GOOD. I LOVE IT. If letting your freak flag fly is, like, tasteful blush, then fly it.

        2. Argh!*

          Sadly, how we feel we should be viewed and how we are actually viewed don’t always match. There is sometimes a trade-off between doing what you want and earning what you deserve.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Yes, tell me about it. If I didn’t have to earn a living, I would sleep as long as I want every morning, take it easy till after lunch, be outside in the afternoon, and go dancing in the evening.
            What I actually do is get up before 6am, eat, dress, go to work, stay in the office all day, do errands and/or cook in the evening, and I’m fortunate if I get more than 6.5 hours sleep. All this is compromises I’ve made to work with society.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                I think I would have liked bartending… but before the smoke-free law I couldn’t do it because I’m allergic to tobacco smoke. Even now it can be a problem because smoke comes in through the door or around the windows, and occasionally someone tries to sneak a cigarette in a nightclub. Sigh.
                Also I don’t really have the stamina, and I’d like to have my evenings free for social. Oh well.

        3. Alianora*

          What’s interesting to me about that hypothetical is that our personal preferences are influenced by societal pressures. So like, I genuinely do like how I look with makeup on, and I wear it every day. I would wear it even if I was spending the day alone.

          But I can’t pretend that my preferences aren’t a direct product of being raised in a society where the way I look without makeup isn’t considered attractive.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Totally! I almost added something about interrogating our preferences but ran out of brainwaves.

          2. Starbuck*

            Bingo. What’s wrong with women’s natural faces? Nothing. Or at least, there’s nothing wrong with our faces that isn’t also “wrong” with men’s faces. But we’re expected and conditioned to wear makeup and take care of our skin, and they’re not? Women have to wear make-up to look “professional” and they don’t? It’s clearly BS.

            You can enjoy make up as a personal choice but that doesn’t negate the power imbalance that results in having to spend all this time, effort, money and mental energy navigating the correct way to be feminine in any particular situation. The fact that there’s never really a right answer should be some clue.

      2. Kaitlyn*

        Oh, no, my point about women in higher positions wasn’t about what standards they have or are given to uphold. It was about what you can choose to do when you have power and authority.

      3. Starbuck*

        Agreed. Makeup is not, and never will be, a tool for fighting sexism. It might make you feel nice to have people treat you better when you perform femininity better, but that’s not empowerment.

  28. just trying to help*

    #2 – I’ve been there on both sides. As the interviewee, I have tried to have my sales pitch about myself ready, and why I would be excellent for the job and what I bring to the organization, and what value I will add. I have also been on the other side where I was pulled in as the interviewer at the last minute to fill in for someone else, and I did not have time to read the job description or the resume or the application. In this instance, I asked open ended questions trying to get the subject to give me their sales pitch about themselves, filling in the areas I mentioned above about my own sales pitch.

  29. drpuma*

    OP1, it might be helpful for you to check in with yourself as a “dress for the job you want” moment. When you look around your lab, or even the larger organization your job is part of, whose career path would you most like to emulate? How does that person present themself?

    OTOH, the most personally helpful workwear guidelines I ever got came from a former boss at a very small org who told me to “dress however you can be most productive.” I was early in my career so it took me a little while to get my head around, but it’s been my North Star ever since. If you are dressing in a way that helps you be most productive, stick to it. Having a distinctive look and being easy to recognize can be good for your career.

    1. only acting normal*

      Dress for the job you want is true. I work in STEM (office rather than lab based). I used to wear suits, and I was constantly pushed towards project management (which I hate doing). Now I could be one of LW1’s slacks and sweaters colleagues, and I’m finally allowed to be a scientist.

  30. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

    #4 – In the email offering dates/times to candidates for phone screens/in-person interviews, I always include the position title and the job summary from the posting, so candidates who have applied to many positions (including probably several at my large state institution) know which they are being asked to interview for. When I call, I identify myself and also the position I am calling about. I have never had anyone ask for the job description or to be reminded of what position we are talking about.

    Of course, I don’t let months pass in between their applications and the request for screens, either, which may not be typical at my place of work :-) But our process is slow enough as it is (for example, I’m finally hoping to extend offers to two candidates soon for positions I have been working on since October!) and I don’t like to move too slowly to nab the good candidates.

    1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      Another reason I do this is that my positions are usually closed when I call to schedule interviews, so there is nothing for the candidate to find online, and I don’t assume that they all had the forethought to PDF the posting and save it (although apparently many do, I see upthread).

  31. Database Developer Dude*

    I want to know why LW5 is still taking calls from OldBoss. If I’d been terminated, all calls from OldJob would go to voice mail immediately.

  32. Dressed "like a manager"*

    Dressing: One of the worst bosses I ever had told me I dressed “too much like a manager” and I should dress more like my peers– I was 29, they were all 50+. I was client facing- which included executives, and they weren’t. The women I worked with wore khakis and polos. I’ve never worn that in my life, and I certainly wasn’t going to dress so casually when the clients I was meeting with wore suits. I was rarely in the office for an entire day, but if I was I dressed more casually, but usually, I was in and out of the office going to client sites. I knew who my audience was- and I dressed in a way that matched their culture, any decent boss would encourage that.

  33. Mike B.*

    #5 – If you’re not already employed again, why not take on the freelance work? It would be great to be able to say “they had to lay me off for X reasons, but we maintained a good relationship and they’ve actually continued to call me for contract assignments.”

    #2 – In most cases I wouldn’t think much of it, but it sounds like you’re a fairly senior candidate and the interviewer didn’t realize that. It could mean that they’re interviewing for multiple positions and he got you mixed up with a junior person (I admit I don’t always fully review the resumes of entry-level candidates in advance), but I would wonder about a place that asked to interview someone relatively prominent in their industry and wasn’t paying enough attention to realize who she was before she came in.

    1. Statler von Waldorf*

      For your response to #5, I’ve got three reasons for why not to take the work.

      First let’s not that people aren’t robots, they are humans with feelings. Most people aren’t going to “maintain a good relationship” with someone who has terminated them. This will obviously vary from person to person, but IMHO it’s very reasonable to have negative feelings towards someone who has fired you, and to not give a single solitary f*** that they are now also feeling negative consequences from they decision to fire you.

      Second reason is the money. I doubt that the employer is going to offer more than their previous hourly rate. However, as a contractor, that is a pretty severe cut in pay, as you are now responsible for your own taxes and medical. The rule of thumb is that you need to add at least 50% to your hourly wage as an employee to make the same amount as a contractor. I wouldn’t do it for less than double.

      The third reason is closure and moving on. At this point, the LW needs to focus on finding a new job. If you take that contractor work, it will probably interfere with that. Getting fired is similar in some ways to the breakup of a romantic relationship. If someone dumped me last weekend, I think it’s a bad idea to agree to a booty call for this weekend. The LW needs time and space to heal and shake the firing off, which they won’t get if they keep working there as a contractor. Instead, they’ll just be reminded of that firing over and over again. No thanks.

  34. Polymer Phil*

    OP 2 – I think I did a poor job of hiding my irritation with this as an interviewee, and probably torpedoed my chances at several companies until I realized what a standard thing it is for interviewers to be completely unprepared. I think it’s often for the reasons Alison describes, such as people being pulled in at the last minute; I just wish my younger self knew to expect this and not treat it as a sign that the person and company don’t have their shit together.

    1. Nico M*

      But it IS a sign the company don’t have their shit together.

      “Hey candidate, we are going to take half a day off you, but we can’t be bothered to invest 10 minutes preparation on our side”

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        Nico, what you have to remember is that as a manager, your workload doesn’t get reassigned when you are hiring for your team. You can work for an employer that’s a great place to work and it’s perfectly reasonable for an interviewer to run out of time to prepare because life happens.

        We’re currently hiring for positions at my agency. We have about 15 interviews spread out over the next 2 weeks because we are accommodating everyone’s schedule, both interviewers and candidates. This two week period is running right into one of our major deadlines for the year that can’t be moved (it’s set by statute). My team is already carrying more weight than they should because we’re down people, but there’s not much you can do when someone gives notice right before a major deadline to go work for a vendor for more money and another retires out of the blue because of issues with her family. I’m already working a lot of nights and weekends to meet our deadlines. And even though I’ve set aside time to review resumes and application materials, inevitably there is something that will come up. We don’t close the front door and stop working just because we’re hiring.

        Am I a bad manager? No. Do I have my shit together? Hell yes. Is my agency a great place to work? It is. But there are sometimes when we’re really busy and this just happens to be one of them.

        1. Other Foot*

          Well, I only hope you are generous to busy candidates who might not have been able to prepare for the interview as well as they might wish.

      2. Us, Too*

        I do at least 3 interviews per week plus writing candidate feedback and debriefing on it to make hire/no-hire recommendations. The odds are stacked against me that from time to time something is going to get in the way of me reading someone’s resume thoroughly (or at all). Sometimes it’s because I’m filling in at the last minute for someone who is sick or dealing with a serious customer-facing issue. One time it was because our computer system sent me a Spanish copy of the candidate’s paperwork – I don’t read Spanish fluently enough to understand it (long story – we’re in international company and we hire from many regions). I’ve also had emergencies that occupied the time that I planned on reading the paperwork. So, really, it’s just an unfortunate thing that sucks.

    2. OP 2*

      Luckily, i think I did a great job of being upbeat and professional and not being irritated (probably why my letter sounds so irritated!). And also, the rest of my interview calls have been great, so I think he was the only unprepared one – phew! It just really threw me off as it was the first of many video interview calls this week.

  35. TL*

    Letter #2 – I manage recruiting for a specific department (I’m not in HR, but I’m the HR liaison) and one thing you have to remember is that hiring managers and other team members are doing interviews and hiring processes on top of their regular, often very busy, jobs. So, the half hour they have scheduled with you is often the only half hour of their attention you’re going to get. They’re also probably interviewing multiple candidates and it’s not really their job to keep it all straight. Mostly, the goal is to make sure they like you and think you’ll be a reasonably good fit on the role and team. It’s not deeper than that, just take from your time with them what you can.

    For job seekers, the position you’re up for is a huge focus for you while you’re interviewing, but for the folks hiring it’s a peripheral thing at best to their day-to-day at work. It’s rarely the top priority for them, even though it’s often the job seeker’s top priority.

  36. Augusta Sugarbean*

    Not trying to make light of any LW but I’m now picturing a movie short in which the interviewer from #2 calls the candidate from #4. Chaos ensues.
    – Hi Susan. This is Bob Jones from Smith Investments
    – Hi Bob. What company is this?
    – Who am I talking to?
    – No, no! Who’s on first.
    – Naturally!

  37. Arctic*

    LW#4 Isn’t asking for a job description a sign of honesty and capacity to make direct requests? Also “skills” that are worthwhile? I get not liking “what company is this again” but why would you begrudge a job description? The initial interview is worthless if the candidate doesn’t have it.

  38. MissDisplaced*

    #1 I think you should wear the appropriate makup and clothing styles you feel comfortable with. It doesn’t sound like you’re wearing anything SO way out of line as to to be inappropriate, more like maybe you’re just being a tad more made up/dressed up than some. And that’s fine.
    I don’t think you have to resort to baggy clothes, but if you do want to, the clothing is an easier thing to tone down to be slightly more casual. It’s easy to wear jeans with a dressy top, or say dress slacks with a casual tee shirt type top, or leggings and tall boots, etc.

  39. HRM*

    LW #4 – I recruit for hourly customer service positions and don’t schedule phone interviews because it’s too much to organize. That being said when I do call people I always say the company name and position again, and if they don’t remember that’s fine! Instead of being frustrated think of it as an opportunity to explain your company and the role in greater depth – which often leads to finding candidates who are a better fit anyway! I have a “speech” I generally use to explain the role I’m looking to fill and it takes maybe a minute, so my phone screens are still only taking 10-15 minutes even with this included.

    1. Richard*

      Exactly. There’s no reason to expect that applicants only apply for one job at a time and have all the details about it ready to go at any given moment.

  40. Wing Leader*

    OP #1– Like others have said, I personally think you’re fine.

    If you’re just talking everyday makeup and normal hair styling that looks pretty natural, then I wouldn’t worry about it. Some women in my office wear makeup, and some do not–it’s really just a matter of personal preference (I’m one who does). As long as you always look clean and polished, no big deal.

    Of course, if I’m misunderstanding and you’re much more Dolly Parton-esque than I’m picturing, maybe tone it down a little.

  41. LawBee*

    LW2 and LW4 seem to be the same issue – why doesn’t X person know who I am?

    The answer is the same, honestly. You aren’t the only action item on X person’s list, and people need reminders.

  42. Mrs_helm*

    #1 may also want to consider that people who have paid their dues can get away with looking slouchy much more easily than a new person can. In fact, it may be a little bit of an ego thing, to display that they are secure in their value. Their professionalism will be judged on their years of output, but you don’t have that.

    I’m not saying that’s 100% what’s going on. But I wouldn’t rule out that it has a little bit of play.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s how I leaned reading the question. These are older women. I wore makeup for the first year at my new job to look put together while they were learning about me.

      Now it’s hit or miss if I wear makeup or do my hair. I certainly don’t care if a new woman comes along and how she presents herself, her work and personality are what I focus on.

      Unless it’s a full face and dramatic, I just don’t notice because it’s no big thing.

  43. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #5 But why were you fired? Are you now receiving unemployment benefits? Are they asking for freelance/contract project basis or would they pay you as a W2 employee?

    If you’re on unemployment and they’re offering you temp assignments they’re going to run through as salary/wages, you may be disqualified if you turn down work you’re qualified for depending on your region and employment security division…

    1. FinickyEater*

      At the end of the day, I think she’s fine not taking jobs she wasn’t looking for, and continuing her jobsearch etc. She doesn’t know how she would have been paid, and it doesn’t matter because she doesn’t want the job and she’s not under an obligation to take it. I’ve been on unemployment multiple times in multiple states and all I’ve ever had to do is affirm that I’ve been job hunting and haven’t turned down any reasonable permanent job offers. What her former boss is offering isn’t what they’re going for with that question.

      (and honestly, it’s all self-reporting so how would the labor board even know)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


        We as employers can fight if we offer work and you refuse. I’ve done it before in multiple states.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, but these sound like side jobs, not W2 employment. I agree with FinickyEater that this isn’t what they’re going for with that question.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Hit send too soon.

        So you as a worker report and we as an employer report. It’s only dicey if you deny your former employers because as you’ve noted, it’s a self reporting scale.

        However they can and sometimes do check that you’ve applied places since in some states you’re required to use their work-force data base and submit lists of where you’re applying.

        If they find you skirting the system, which is minimal of course, they can block your benefits and make you pay them back.

        Granted without all the extensions available any longer with the recession over, it’s not as much of a gamble.

  44. Enginerd*

    LW1 – There’s a lot of good things to consider here. I’m a female in engineering with 10+ years of experience. For the first 5-8, I tried to fit in with the office culture and dress. Think khakis and button downs, little make up, conservative hair. It was fine, but I never was fully comfortable. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to change my wardrobe and appearance to be more authentic. First, I updated my wardrobe to clothes that were appropriate, but not necessarily “normal”, like skinny dress slacks and blousey tops with feminine heels. Later, I changed my hair from natural dark brown to platinum blonde. I started wearing make up that I felt good in. It really made a big difference.

    I wish I hadn’t waited so long to be more authentic to myself. I was worried about fitting in. What I’ve found is that I’m more confident and my work speaks for itself. Additionally, my personal style has helped me differentiate myself (in a good way) and a platinum blonde pixie cut is easy to spot at conferences! Do what makes you comfortable. If someone is going to judge you based on your clothes or make up, they were going to judge you superficially no matter how you look.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Good for you! I mean, who ever said engineers and scientists can’t look fashionable?

      If fashion and makeup makes you feel good, go for it! Likewise, if you hate it and want to live in khakis and a lab coat, that’s cool too. Either should be fine (as long as it’s appropriate and safe attire for work that is).

  45. Moose*

    LW 1: As others have noted in the comment thread, a little blush and mascara aren’t much makeup and look casual. Even a small cat eye is fairly everyday-looking. If you were doing huge wings or dramatic eye shadow every day, it might be different, but what you do sounds subtle and standard and not super noticeable. With such a small amount of makeup, I’d say keep doing it if it makes you feel more comfortable and confident. If you really wanted to try toning it down, I’d say just do a regular thin line of eyeliner instead of the cat, or leave off the eyeliner and stick with your foundation/mascara/blush. Obviously I don’t know the culture of your workplace, but what you’re doing now sounds fine.

    1. Anonforthis*

      I’m really happy that I now work in an industry (biotech) where I’m not expected to get all suited up every day – I work in HR, but I happily wear jeans and sneakers and t-shirts pretty much every day now. As for makeup, I’ve never been a huge makeup wearer, so I keep it very simple – a touch of eyeliner, mascara, and blush. I use moisturizer and lip balm as appropriate. My hair pretty much does what it wants, so I usually just pull it back in a clip or tuck it behind my ears. At age 50, I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I don’t enjoy “dressing like a girl.” :)

  46. Jennifer*

    #4 This is why I MUCH prefer getting an email instead of a phone call. With calls you end up playing phone tag if you can’t answer at the time, or they call at the most inopportune time when your brain is 100 miles away and you have to wrack your brain to figure out who the heck the person is. Just say, “This is Jane, calling from X company regarding the X position.”

    But yes if it’s a pre-scheduled phone interview, unless it was “scheduled” a few minutes ago, they should have taken the time to do some research and it’s a bad sign.

  47. Jennifer*

    #5 This is strange. Why terminate someone if you like their work and plan on continuing to ask them for help? Good for you for not falling for this.

    1. Statler von Waldorf*

      It tracks for me, I’ve seen how this situation happens. Manager thinks that an employee is not adding sufficient value to the business. Manager lets employee go. Manager then realizes after the fact that the now fired employee had a required skill that no one else in the company does, like running the website. Manager doesn’t want to pay to have a real pro come in and do the work, so they try to get the now fired employee to come in “as a contractor” to fix the problem.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Or the fired employee wasn’t good at X but is good at Y, and X was the majority of the job. Firing doesn’t have to be an adversarial thing; it doesn’t need to mean “we hate you and never want to interact again.” It can just mean “we both tried to make it work but this job isn’t the right match for what you’re good at.”

        1. Statler von Waldorf*

          That is absolutely true. It is also true that when a romantic couple breaks up; it doesn’t mean that they now hate each other, it can mean that they both tried but it just didn’t work.

          However in both cases I would call that kind of emotional maturity the exception to the rule. If I hear hooves, I assume it’s a horse, not a zebra.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Eh, disagree. Lots of people stay friends with exes and lots of firings aren’t adversarial. Maybe not the majority, but not so rare as to be zebras.

            1. Statler von Waldorf*

              Fair enough. This disagreement might be due a blue collar / white collar difference in our experiences. In my decades working in blue collar environments, non-adversarial firings are actually rarer than both zebras and staying friends with your exes.

      2. Jennifer*

        I’m so petty, if I didn’t need the money I wouldn’t help them.

        I wonder if there is a way to change their job title or switch them to a freelance role without completely terminating them if they have an essential skill? Not sure about the legality of that.

      3. Exhausted Trope*

        Yep yep yep. Inexplicably, I was laid off from a position and heard later from a former coworker that the department badly needed my help in an area that I was in charge of, and had done great (award and bonus winning) work in. Gave me great satisfaction to hear that.

        1. This one here*

          I was fired from a legal assistant job (was re-employed within three weeks, and it could have been two weeks if I’d sent an email sooner). One of the attorneys I worked for is “high-maintenance”, and *he* didn’t want me to be fired, but also didn’t keep it from happening. Since then, he’s had trouble keeping an assistant. It got back to me that another assistant there said “They were stupid to fire [This one here].” Yes, they were.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      #5 – been there, done that. I was once terminated in a cutback, and my designated successor couldn’t handle the work. So the person who was “doing the work but not officially doing the work kinda sorta” was on the phone with me nearly every day. For months.

      Then – this is wild – I had a job interview with a software firm in Florida. (I live in Massachusetts). So I got in the car and drove down, visited family, did what I had to do down there, took three days to come home. I was gone around 10-12 days, don’t remember.

      When I got home – there were eight-ten messages on my phone box “Where are you? HALP! HALP!” I called back – “oh I was in Florida. Why are you calling?” (I had to keep the connection, because there was a possibility I’d be recalled and if I didn’t have a job… ) the response was almost “HOW DARE YOU!”

      I retorted “One of the upsides to getting fired, is that you owe nothing – to the people who fired you.”

      Eventually I landed another full time position – advised that the calls had to stop OR I would accept a part-time consulting gig, but my obligation is to my new employer. They later called and said “hypothetically speaking, if you were recalled would you come back?” I said I might consider it but there would have to be a three-year no-layoff agreement now… I wasn’t going to walk from a good position to a tenuous one.

      My current employer has had a habit of firing people and then, six months later, trying to hire them back. Hasn’t worked out well – people have moved on to other positions and besides, can you TRUST anyone that fired you?

    3. Close Bracket*

      Why terminate someone if you like their work and plan on continuing to ask them for help?

      It’s not always about poor work or a bad fit. Sometimes, for whatever reason, someone has to go, and this is the position where we can spare a full time person.

    4. nytosf1*

      Totally agree with everyone’s opinions on this one. I’ve taken the polite route as suggested by AAM and seems to work.

      It is true, it’s like an EA who won’t leave you alone and keeps asking you for favors– money or not! Stings and burns.

  48. BelleMorte*

    LW#4 I think it depends. Where I work, the official job description is different than the job posting in terms of comprehensiveness. Job postings are usually a wish-list of skills, whereas job description documents tend to be more detailed in the day-to-day duties, breakdown of percentages of time expected to tasks i.e. 50% front desk, 20% data analyst… and often have a lot of really useful information that helps job seekers make an informed decision. Some companies have these, some don’t so that is why people may ask.

    Also during my largest job search I was applying at 20-30 different companies at a time, all with similar job titles, so when Bob calls about the Analyst position without clarifying the company/Department, I am going to need to ask!

    1. ChachkisGalore*

      Yes! I’ve experienced this – where I’ve requested (or just been pre-emptively sent) a job description after being contacted for a role and it was either totally different or much more detailed than the original job posting.

  49. BookLady*

    LW 1: Is there someone in the office you trust to ask if it’s weird? I totally agree with Allison that it’s a matter of culture, and maybe there’s someone you could ask on the sly. Maybe something like, “I might be overthinking this, but I feel like when I wear makeup and do my hair, I’m out of sync with the rest of the office. I don’t want to come across as trying too hard or have people focus on my appearance rather than my work. Do you think I should tone it down, or am I good?”

    1. MissDisplaced*

      True, but OP might not get a valid answer, especially if all the other women are older.
      I don’t know what type of office it is and the work they do, but the culture at some places can be very ‘makeup and fast fashion is chemical and wasteful to the environment and therefore BAD’ kind of vibe. Or if they’re older with kids and families they may not care as much.
      If it’s the makeup/fashion=bad type of vibe, OP would have to really consider if it was worth it to fit in. I used to work in an office that was ‘fitness crazy’ and got chastised and lectured every time I cracked a Diet Coke. :-(

  50. Exhausted Trope*

    LW5, makes me wonder why they fired you if the boss keeps asking for your help. Sounds like they may have made a mistake but I also have no idea why you were terminated to begin with.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      In the computer world, such mistakes happen more often than you might imagine. It’s one of the few industries where you can get fired, and then the employer begs you to come back.

      The problem is – some bosses can’t swallow their pride and admit they were wrong. They have to figure out some means to, well, reverse their decision without looking wishy-washy/indecisive and suffer a loss of face.

  51. Elizabeth*

    1. I think it is ok to lean a little more toward ‘together’ (e.g. subtle makeup and hair) if this is how you are comfortable than to lean toward the ‘not put together’ side of things in most industries. I dress a little more formally than a lot of people in my company but I’m a Director and interact with the senior leadership team.

  52. Sleepytime Tea*

    LW 1 – I think it’s important to feel comfortable in your own skin. If YOU feel most comfortable wearing makeup and doing your hair, then do it! I’m the opposite. I feel most comfortable in a pony tail and no makeup, and when I worked in an office where that was expected I hated having to do it. The thing is that dressing down when everyone else is more made up is looked down upon a lot more than being the most put together person in the room. I moved to a new job where I dressed a tad nicer than most people in the office, and no one ever made comments that I looked too nice. It definitely goes the other way. So do what you feel is most comfortable for you. As long as you’re not coming in to work with impractically long nails and stiletto heels I think you’re good to go.

  53. Marni*

    Regarding #1, I used to work somewhere with a highly casual dress code. Creative industry, jeans and sneakers were the norm. I felt quite threatened by a junior employee who always looked like she could go to a fashion shoot after work. I was so afraid that the bosses, all men, would think she was more polished and professional than I was. I later found out that they thought the opposite; they thought she was spending too much time on her appearance, and not enough time on the work. Neither reaction is good, but they do both happen. :-(

  54. restingbutchface*

    OP#1 – I see you’ve already got great responses but I wanted to chip in from the other side of the fence eg someone who sometimes feels odd because I don’t wear makeup, high heels etc.

    – **this is a game you cannot win**. If some people think you’re “better” without makeup, other people will think the opposite. After all, women should be judged by their appearance regularly and everyone’s opinion is valid! /s

    – say you stop wearing makeup tomorrow and then next week you get a promotion. Yay you! Or… are you going to worry it’s nothing to do with your talent and just down to the fact you stopped presenting as who you really are? Would suck to increase that nasty imposter feeling that I think a lot of people experience.

    – if you have always worn blush and suddenly stop, you are going to get asked if you’re sick. *grits teeth*

    In summary, you do you and play the game that matters – being awesome at your job. Sending you good thoughts and looking forward to a cats eye makeup tutorial that the comments section is obviously crying out for :)

  55. Noah*

    OP#3 — I cannot begin to describe how jealous I am of your situation. I WISH the place I worked would start enforcing all the policies we have.

  56. Chelsea*

    OP#4 – this is a pet peeve of mine, on the applicant side. As Allison says, a lot of companies take down their job descriptions after they are no longer looking, and yes, I have indeed applied to a huge amount of jobs and have not saved the descriptions because I will only hear back from around 5% of them.

    I think a workaround is for you to state the name of the position when you email and copy the job description below in your email.

  57. Former Employee*

    Regarding OP #2, people seem to be trying to make excuses for the interviewer, such as you aren’t the only one they are interviewing, etc. This is for a high level position. OP knows the CEO and is an organizer of a conference in which the CEO is involved.

    I have to agree with those who concluded it was an example of mansplaining.

    1. LemonLyman*

      I disagree. It would be manaplaining if the CEO were the one doing the interview. But we do not have enough info to pass judgement on the actual interviewer one way or another. How involved has he been with planning this conference? Is he actually involved with the non-profit stuff or does he just know based on what he’s told and his focus is internally on the for profit business? It doesn’t seem like OP has had previous contact with him based on her post to AAM, so we can give him a little slack for maybe him not knowing that she’s a big deal in the conference.

      I’ve been in situations where I’m the lead on a major project in my own company and someone from a different department (same org) mentions a big project and explains elements of it to me and…you guessed it. It’s my project. I chalk it up to the person simply not knowing who is point on that project and getting their updates from our leadership or other colleagues.

      I’d be interested in knowing how the interviewer responded when OP explained her role in the conference. That would have helped give us more insight.

      tl;dr: OP was expecting to interviewer with someone better prepared, so she is definitely in the right to feel a bit annoyed. But we don’t know the interviewer’s situation since we don’t have enough information so we shouldn’t pass judgement one way or the other on him.

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