candidate was dressed too casually, upset about hiring process, and more

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

1. Candidate was dressed too casually on a Zoom interview

I recently conducted Zoom interviews for a professional position. One of the applicants answered questions well, had an advanced degree, had relevant experience, and seemed to have a positive attitude. I really liked them and could see them fitting in with the current team.

There was an aspect of the interview that gave me pause. The candidate was sitting on their bed with the headboard clearly visible and was dressed very casually (think sweatshirt).

My office culture is mixed. There are casual and formal days. However, there are frequent client interactions where professionalism and a formal, polished appearance is considered important. If the applicant presented themselves in a casual manner during the second interview with the executive leadership panel, they would not be considered.

Given that they interviewed well and seem to be a good fit otherwise, should I give them a chance? Should I briefly remind them that the second interview is a FORMAL interview? I’m worried about their overall judgment, and I’m also worried it will reflect on me if I’m advancing possible candidates who do not present themselves professionally.

People aren’t always clear about how to adjust normal interview expectations for Covid/Zoom times. It’s possible that this person would have dressed more professionally in-person. It’s also possible that they wouldn’t have, who knows.

The best thing to do is to address it head-on. Don’t rely on hints (“this next interview is a formal interview” — which sounds like it might be about the meeting format, not the expected dress). Say something like, “We have frequent client interactions where a formal, polished appearance is important. For this next interview, please dress as you would for a formal client meetings. For us, that generally means a suit.”

The bedroom is a bit harder. That may be the only place in the candidate’s home where they could do the interview. If they’d need a different spot for client meetings, it’s worth addressing that head-on too so you can both figure out if that’s something they’d be able to do … but I’d give a lot of leeway if this is a job that is only temporarily remote. (It’s reasonable to expect candidates in permanently remote jobs to have a professional-looking space to take video calls; it’s not as reasonable to expect it of people who are only at home because of the pandemic.)

2. Do I need to wear my breast prosthetics consistently or not at all?

Early during Covid, I was laid off and then shortly after diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. I’m comfortable being flat or wearing my prosthetics. My question is this: as I start my search and look to returning to work, do I need to choose either flat all the time or prosthetics all the time, or can I choose which I feel like each day? I don’t know how others would take that, and I don’t want to make others uncomfortable. But for me, sometimes the prosthetics are uncomfortable.

Do what makes you comfortable, even if that’s wearing prosthetics sometimes and not other times. No one at work should be thinking about your breasts enough for this to be an issue.

That’s not to say that no one will notice; we don’t block out shapes entirely and some people can’t help noticing changes. But it would be incredibly rude for anyone at work to take issue with or have feelings about what’s going on with your chest.

3. Was this hiring process deceitful?

I work for a large retail company and am currently a mid-level manager. In June I applied for a position that is considered a promotion with another store in my city. Everything went great with my screening call from our recruiter and she even mentioned I had some of the best answers she heard all day. Next came my interview. It went great as well, but unfortunately I did not get the job. I got some really great feedback but was told it had came down to the wire between me and another candidate.

Another opening was posted for the same position but in a store in a different city. My screening call was with the same recruiter from June and she remembered me and had all her notes from the first time around. She didn’t even ask me any of the questions since she said I did great last time and she still had all the notes. A week later, I received an email stating they decided not to go any further with my application. I didn’t even get an interview. Since I was qualified the first time to get the interview, how could I be denied an interview this time? Could this be the basis of some lawsuit for deceitful hiring practices?

No, there’s no lawsuit here. There are a ton of perfectly legal reasons they might have decided not to interview you, like that you were good but other people were better, or you were great but so were 20 other people and they couldn’t interview all of you, or something about this job wasn’t as well-suited for you as you’d thought, or they had an internal candidate already in mind, or they changed the role and are looking for something different, and a zillion other possible reasons.

You’re never entitled to an interview, even if they gave you positive feedback and even as an internal candidate. They weren’t deceitful; they just decided to focus on other candidates.

4. Will I be automatically rejected if my resume doesn’t include my street address?

I was just told that applicant tracking systems (ATS’s) are automatically rejecting resumes without physical street addresses on them, so if you are applying through any ATS at all, you should be putting a physical street address on your resume. Is this true, in your experience? I ask because it seems like terrible safety practice, and also because I absolutely do not put a physical address on my resume and while it’s true that the last time I was applying was about 18 months ago, I made it to the final round of interviews for two jobs in two different states without a physical address on my resume.

Nah. I mean, ATS’s can be configured to do whatever the employer wants them to do, but this isn’t a trend. An employer that wants to require a physical address will just make that a required question in their ATS; they don’t need to pull from the resume at all.

For what it’s worth: Some time ago, it did look odd not to have a physical address on your resume — not because employers ever really used it, mostly, but just because it was the convention. (Here’s what I wrote about it in 2014.) But that’s really changed in the last 5+ years, and it’s very common for resumes not to include them now. That said, it’s generally to your advantage to include a city and state even if you’re not including your street address — if you don’t, that does still look a little odd and will make employers think you might not be local (which can matter if they have a strong preference for local candidates, which can be a legitimate thing).

5. When should I announce my new job?

Thanks to your advice, I landed a great job in my field after being laid off due to COVID several months ago. It involves relocation and aligns with my career goals!

I want to announce this on my Facebook page, as there are many people that are former colleagues. When would be an appropriate time to announce this? After I have been in the job for a couple of weeks? On the first day?

My other issue is that I don’t want to seem rude to my friends who have lost their job due to COVID, but I am also excited and want to share the news and possibly reach out to possible connections in my new city. So when and how should I announce the new position?

Go ahead and announce it whenever you want! Some people are cautious and wait to announce it until they’ve actually started (in case something falls through); you can do that if you want, but once you’ve started there’s no need to hold off on announcing it.

You’re not going to seem rude to unemployed friends. Having a job isn’t rude, and you’re not gloating — you’re sharing happy news. Friends will be happy for you (and your news may give them hope for themselves).

{ 424 comments… read them below }

  1. Harvey 6'3.5"*

    Sometimes there are too many great candidates. The last time my work put out a hiring notice (and I was helping review resumes), we got over 200 candidates. Based on my review, probably over 75 would have been great. We had 2 openings. So you may very well be absolutely outstanding, but in a huge pool. Good luck.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        … why though? This is the first time I’ve heard of such a policy, and I can’t imagine what would motivate that?

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, that’s weird. I do know some employers won’t rehire former employees no matter why they left. I guess it’s pretty normal not to hire people who have been fired, but if they’ve left voluntarily it’s odd to refuse to rehire them on principle.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            My company is this way. One of the reasons is my industry is pretty niche… think 3 main competitors globally. My CEO is very vocal about not wanting rehires regardless of the reason for leaving. He doesn’t want the company to be filled with people wanting the ‘safe option’ and to be bouncing in and out of the company.

            I’m pretty ambivalent on the issue. There have been rehires, but they are very few and far between (I think I know of 2 out 1500 employees and over 10 years) and no matter the position it’s taken to the CEO for approval. It’s not a secret that this is the policy, so it’s not a surprise to most what their chances are of coming back after they leave.

            1. somanyquestions*

              That kind of sounds like he’s trying to punish people who leave, to try to force people to stay. He’s likely losing some really great people because of that pettiness.

              1. SomebodyElse*

                Eh… like I said I’m ambivalent and see both sides of this.

                It’s not great to have employees bouncing back and forth between 1-3 active competitors. (I’ve described my industry as incestuous in the past because between mergers and acquisitions we’ve all almost worked for each other and there really isn’t too many choices for employers if you want to stay in the industry).

                But it does run the risk of losing out to an otherwise good employee who fell for the green grass trap at a different company.

                I don’t think coming from a punitive perspective nobody is being forced stay or go… they go knowing the chances for rehire are slim to none. I can’t really get worked up about a policy that is well known and evenly applied.

                1. Diahann Carroll*

                  It’s not great to have employees bouncing back and forth between 1-3 active competitors.

                  This happens all the time in my little niche of the software industry. It can get weird when competitors come in at high-level positions and then try to turn the company into their former company. It’s like, if your last employer was so great, why didn’t you stay there? Lol.

            2. Artemesia*

              What inevitably happens is that SOMEONE does get rehired and it is a favoritism hire and it undercuts morale. There is a famous case at the WAPO which had this policy. Noone could get re-hired, policy — until the girlfriend got rehired.

            3. Heffalump*

              Please elaborate–what exactly is his problem with people wanting the safe option and bouncing in and out?

              1. Koalafied*

                My guess is the real issue is that he doesn’t want to get into a bidding war with the competitors where they each keep poaching each other’s top talent for increasingly higher salaries.

        2. Brooks Brothers Stan*

          A peer of mine has this policy, and every time I’ve talked with them about it we’ve ended up going in circles. Their view is that if you’re applying to the same place multiple times without attempting to network yourself in (and/or find out why you haven’t been moving forward in the hiring process) then you obviously don’t actually want that specific job you’re just going through the motions of applying. To them a repeat applicant is someone that hasn’t done enough homework to actually be a good fit for the position.

            1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

              That’s usually what I bring up. There’s a fine line between networking and encouraging toxic hiring practices. There’s nothing wrong with networking, and in fact it’s to your benefit to do so. But requiring it in order to be hired simply doesn’t sit well with me—and is bad networking practices to begin with!

              1. Totally Minnie*

                Networking is a double edged sword. It can be useful, but in many cases, particularly early in a person’s career, networking is something that’s only available to people with large amounts of privilege. Some people who need to work while they’re in school and don’t have time to join clubs or attend career day events. Some people who have family obligations that make it difficult to go to conferences and meet colleagues outside their own firm. It’s great to develop a professional network, but it’s not an option that’s easily available to all candidates. I don’t know if BBS’s peer would ever change their mind on this position, but if anybody here is reading this and tempted to rely on networking to find the best job candidates, just know you’re purposefully leaving out some people who could be truly fantastic, and you don’t actually have to do that.

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  We’ve heard many times in the comments of this blog that management doesn’t have the time or tools to winnow down a candidate pool effectively, so some sort of voodoo must be applied–résumé format, references, exaggerated requirements & gatekeeping, networking, position on the stack, etc. The world is just replete with excellent candidates… no matter what you see post-hire.

                2. Brooks Brothers Stan*

                  One of the things I want to point out, as I agree with your comment in the main, is that networking is so much more than clubs, career days, conferences, and such. Those are the most traditional and easiest way to approach networking (and incredibly favors the privileged). But networking literally is just creating a network of people that you know, however you come across them. I have people in my professional network that I met over a decade ago on a fanfiction message board, and others I gained working at a part-time job while completing my undergrad. Sometimes all you need is just knowing someone that knows someone, and it doesn’t matter how you know that middle person.

                  Direct peer to peer networking is great and the easiest, always. However, having access to someone else’s networking group is just as handy in the end.

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              It also doesn’t allow for a scenario where you have two extremely strong candidates but have to choose just one, and then another position opens up and the other candidate would be a great fit…

        3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          The only thing I can think of is logic along the lines of “if they wanted you, they’d have hired you the first time.”

          1. somanyquestions*

            That’s like saying there is only one true candidate for any job. That second place person could never have won out? What happens if the one true candidate doesn’t apply next time?

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              There are reasons why I don’t refer to such logic as “sound,” “viable,” “advantageous,” or even “coherent.”

          2. Filosofickle*

            I’ve been witness enough times to hiring managers starting all over instead of going back to their #2 or #3 “so close we had a hard time deciding” picks that this feels true. Not necessarily as a conscious intention, but a subconscious feeling that this person has been rejected and if they were rejected they must not be good. There must be a reason, even if there wasn’t one. Circular logic. Same if they are still available at a later date, they must not be that good.

            1. Artemesia*

              Self defeating for the business too. I know two people who were second choice in hiring rounds who were later hired and long after the first picks had moved on they were in the CSuite.

        4. COLimey*

          Well, obviously it’s because they don’t want to hire losers!

          It’s the same reasoning behind why we randomly toss about half the resumes we receive, on the basis that we don’t want to hire anyone who’s unlucky.


          1. Artemesia*

            Once read a sci fi story where you could only have a child if you won a lottery and over time the population evolved to be luckier and luckier as every child born has ‘won the lottery’.

            1. Frageelie*

              The population probably just shrunk to a few people who did win the lottery so then the chances were most improved…lol!

              1. SusanIvanova*

                If it’s the one I’m thinking of (Larry Niven), you only entered the lottery if you wanted a third child. So the person with nothing but third-child ancestors for many generations was blessed with a lot of luck.

      2. Mookie*

        Sounds very self-defeating if the roles are at all specialized, or maybe these companies have so little faith in their own recruiting that they have never produced a pool with more than one promising/acceptable candidate. If I were regularly interviewing applicants who I decide I would never accept a second application from, that would be one of the telltale signs of a Me Problem.

      3. Snow Globe*

        I don’t think that’s a common policy. It’s true that if an applicant were applying to different, unrelated positions every week, the recruiter might decide the candidate doesn’t know what they want, and not consider them for that reason.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          Yes, when I was doing solely recruiting we would mark applicants that would apply to any role regardless of qualifications for that role – I mean, I distinctly remember a guy who applied for a technical writer, a finance position, a trainer, a IT consultant and a sales position. He was only semi-qualified for the sales position – we interviewed him to dig deeper, he threw out red flags all over and we were direct in our feedback that he was not a fit for our culture.

          He continued to apply for every position ever posted for the next few years.

          We also had candidates apply that were *good* but the applicant pool might be too big and they didn’t quite make the cut for the interview. Or we liked what we saw but would like to see another year of experience (2 instead of 1) and when they reapplied we interview and (if I remember right) hired a few on their 2nd or even 3rd time to apply.

      4. Anne of Green Gables*

        “And some places won’t hire repeat applicants.”

        For me, this is totally dependent on the situation. We have candidates who will apply for any opening, regardless of specialty of the posted position. We won’t not hire them, but we do look at those applicants with a more critical lenses.

        But once someone has interviewed, if I liked them, I would absolutely interview them again. Sometimes you truly have two (or even more) fabulous candidates. There have even been times when an interview was relatively recent and a similar position opened up and I’ve reached out to a candidate from a previous opening and encouraged them to apply.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        That’s not a very smart policy. My recruiter keeps a file of recent candidates that, absent a slightly better candidate in that process, would have been hired. Those are the first people we call when a position opens up, and I’ve hired a number of them. It cuts down on phone screens because you already know you liked the candidate, and you can jump straight to discussing the details of the open position.

    1. Massmatt*

      I am really wondering what law LW thinks was violated that they think “deceitful interview” is criminal.

      There was a Monty Python job interview sketch where the questions became more and more bizarre, finally the interviewee falls apart screaming and the interviewers crack up laughing “the position was filled MONTHS ago!” Classic, and in the USA anyway it would be completely legal.

      It’s funny because it’s true.

      1. mlk*

        I assume OP3 is thinking about discrimination like all people in these positions turn out to be men or white or pick-your-country-American.

    2. Former Retail*

      I experienced a similar situation although not the same. Position in a different store from my own, aced interview. Flabbergasted I was not offered the position.
      Months later when I gave my notice, it was revealed that my store manager would not agree to let me go to the other store. They wanted to keep me in house to promote to a similar role. But they never told me until too late. Behind the scenes there had been much back and forth about “allowing” me to go to the new store. I had no idea until much much later, when I ran into one of the people I interviewed with.
      It felt extremely frustrating at the time. OP, I can see your point about feeling deceived. In hindsight, my situation was really poor communication. If the manager had told me and worked with me, I would probably have stayed for years more.
      OP your situation reminds me so much of my own. Maybe you can have a converstaion with your manager or in house HR. It’s possible they can shed some light on it.

    3. Sarah N*

      I agree with this — we are hiring currently and had a huge number of amazing, very highly qualified candidates. One opening. So we clearly can’t interview them all or hire them all, even though there are many whose applications are not at all bad or lacking.

  2. Kevin Sours*

    While I wouldn’t get overly concerned about them being in the bedroom, Zoom backgrounds are a thing and if a professional impression is important it seems like something they should know about. I’d still give them a heads up and another shot

    1. Taskmistress*

      Very true, although not every computer has the processing power for Zoom backgrounds. I learned that the hard way when I planned a fun team-bonding with Zoom backgrounds (I work with college students) and half of the team couldn’t participate.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Zoom backgrounds aren’t an option for me on my work-issued HP laptop – I looked. I would have preferred to use one for my night class, but alas, I have to just deal with people seeing part of my living room.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Or the opposite – if you have the work package for Teams, you get background options. Using the downloaded-on-my-home-laptop version or web version, I didn’t have that option.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            I literally just tried the background thing in Teams and, OMG, I love it! Lol. I didn’t even realize that was an option. Granted, my company is mainly audio only with Teams, but I have a mentor here that loves to turn cameras on during our meetings, so I’ll probably start using the backgrounds now (there’s one that looks like a loft apartment with a nice clean wall and a mirror on it, so that will be my screen of choice).

      2. Roscoe*

        Exactly. My computer doesn’t allow for zoom backgrounds without some extra stuff that I don’t really feel like doing

        1. Red lines with wine*

          If you’re talking about a green screen, you don’t need it anymore. The latest Zoom client removes that requirement!

          1. EPLawyer*

            REALLY? Because I want a cool background but wasn’t going to invest in a green screen (no space to put it/store it, etc.)

            1. Artemesia*

              I have a Mac and have no trouble using virtual backgrounds; I upload my own photos to use, but there are also bland bookcases and such available in the ap. I didn’t realize that it was computer dependent.

      3. Rachel in NYC*

        I need everything to be perfect for Zoom backgrounds to work- and even then, they show up in my eyes. So in the best scenario I look like a demon. The rest of the time, I just disappear.

        It’s an odd situation.

        1. Chinook*

          I would so use the eye thing to my advantage, but I am teaching adults and can get away with a sense of humour.

          But, with Teams (I don’t know about Zoom), I know you can import your own photos for your background, so it may be possible to have backgrounds that don’t change your eye colour too much. I have been changing mine daily (this week it is all poppies).

          1. Artemesia*

            yeah zoom lets you upload your own as well. with one person, no problem — when my husband and I zoom together (sounds mildly salacious doesn’t it?) then he goes in and out like a cheshire cat if I am using the virtual background, so we can’t. Our joint zooms are usually in the evening and so just turning off the lights behind us blocks the clutter.

        2. EPLawyer*

          I could use the Demon thing for my club meetings, especially when No to Everything Guy is being well No to Everything Guy.

      4. Quill*

        Yeah, I would assume it’s a technology problem. We may not necessarily be referring to brand name zoom, the candidate may not have been able to install it far enough ahead of time to mess with the settings, the background may not be compatible with the computer, etc.

    2. Ana*

      Zoom backgrounds don’t work well (or at all) on some older operating systems. If they get hired, then presumably the company would supply them newer equipment, but if they’re interviewing on their own personal machine, I’d be inclined to give some leeway.

          1. I never remember my username*

            They don’t work on ours, which are from 2020. That’s what happens when work goes with the cheapest possible option.

            1. mgguy*

              Interesting to see that, considering that they work fine on my 2012 MBP(which is my main system). It also started as a most-boxes-checked BTO config that was about $3K new, and I’ve tossed another $1K worth of upgrades into it(not really an option anymore) over the years. I have zero issues with them also on my 2015 MBP(my 13″ “travel” computer).

              1. Tammy*

                It depends a lot on the graphics configuration of your computer. At my previous job, I had a brand new (2018) Thinkpad, but it didn’t have a fast enough graphics processor/enough video memory for the Zoom backgrounds thing to work. I remember when I ordered my personal MacBook a few months ago, Apple gave me several choices about the graphics. It’s not hard to see how these choices could affect your ability even on a newer computer, especially for people who pick the low end choice because “I’m not a gamer/photographer/video editor, so why does it matter?”

                1. mgguy*

                  Playing around a bit with a second computer(I have far too many) I see why that’s the case.

                  My main 15″ beast from 2012 has a quad core processor. Up until just the last couple of years, the only way you could get a quad laptop was to get a 15″(or 17″, which is long gone from the line up, and they were only quad in 2011). The 13″ and smaller computers always had dual core processors.

                  I just tried virtual backgrounds on my 2015″ 13″ MBP, which is my “travel” computer and is dual core, and it said that unless I had a green screen, I couldn’t do virtual backgrounds because I didn’t have an i5 quad core or better(this is a dual i5).

                  The newer higher end 13″ MBPs have quad cores, but it wasn’t until early this year that you could get an MBA with a Quad(and the base model MBA had an i3).

                  That explains-to me-why I don’t have an issue with virtual backgrounds-even though I never use them-on my 8 year old computer while they don’t work even on a fair few new computers.

              2. KayDeeAye*

                Some of my organization’s company-supplied laptops can handle Zoom backgrounds and some cannot. Mine cannot. I imagine there’s some way to configure the settings to make it work, but I don’t know how to do that (and probably don’t have the necessary admin rights anyway), and this is not the sort of thing that our IT department is going to devote any time/resources, to. Like, ever.

          2. Pink Dahlia*

            Adjust settings on a work computer? Your IT must be incredibly permissive. I can’t even run updates in the App Store for programs I already have.

            1. KayDeeAye*

              LOL – same! They finally started allowing updates to my Adobe suite – it was either that or be bugged by me and the other Adobe users at frequent intervals – but gosh, that took literally *years* of pleading and stubbornness.

          3. ...*

            Hmm. I spent probably 10 hours troubleshooting/researching it myself and then had our IT guy take control of my screen remotely to try to make it work and I just repeatedly get “Your computer does not have the correct processor to run this without a green screen”

            1. mgguy*

              Just checked this myself based on comments above. You need a quad core i5 to make virtual backgrounds work. Up until just recently, with Macs, you needed a 15″ or larger MacBook Pro to get a quad core. Now you can get quads in a fair few 13″ MBPs and even the highest end MBA(even though we’ll see how that changes with the new ARM-based ones announced today). That’s why they work on my 2012 MBP but not on a lot of the lower priced/entry level Mac laptops.

          4. lemon*

            It’s not the settings, it’s your hardware that determines whether or not you can use virtual backgrounds. Older MacBook Pros may support it, because they have better hardware. But *no* pre-2018 MacBook Air supports virtual backgrounds. And I think only some 2018 Airs will run it; depends on your processor and you have to upgrade to the latest version of macOS.

            1. mgguy*

              There again, if Zoom from my testing is to be believed, the basic requirement is a quad core CPU. That means any 15/16/17″ MacBook Pro going back to 2011, but no MBA older than the March 2020 release(since that was the first MBA with a quad option), and the quad is a higher end BTO option. The 13″ MBP went to quad core in the mid-2018 release, but quad wasn’t available in 13″ before then.

              So, to sum it up:

              1. If you have a 15″/16″/17″ 2011 or newer, you’re good to go on virtual backgrounds, assuming your 2011 hasn’t died and gone to GPU heaven(or if it has and you’ve had one of the guys who can “fix” it work on it).

              2. Your mid-2018 or newer 13″ MacBook Pro will work. A 13″ older than that will not work

              3. A March 2020 BTO quad-core CPU MacBook Air will work with virtual backgrounds. The $900 intro price one with a dual core i3 will not work.

              4. No computer branded simply “MacBook” will work with virtual backgrounds(and may not work for much of anything else for too much longer, especially the awful 12″ Retina).

              With the new line of Apple Silicon M1 computer announced today, it will be interesting to see how they handle this.

    3. Crivens!*

      Zoom backgrounds often require a blank or consistent wall behind you to work without looking choppy and terrible. I do not have such a wall in my home.

      Dress codes are one thing but expecting everyone to have a clean and professional office or background right now isn’t practical.

      1. Red lines with wine*

        Not true. I have a very busy background and it works fine. Upgrade to the latest client and you should see a difference.

        1. Crivens!*

          I’ve got it! It still makes me look like I’m phasing in and out of existence when I use a background.

            1. Estrella the Starfish*

              Yes but telling someone that what they said isn’t true because your experience was different also isn’t really necessary

      2. Hazel*

        Also, I’ve noticed that the Zoom background looks best if you don’t move around much, and having to be still is difficult for me. I come across just fine without the background, but it gets choppy when I use it unless I’m truly just watching the meeting and not speaking much at all.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      I’ve had multiple living situations as a working adult where the only place I had for a private call was my bedroom, and the headboard would have been the most neutral thing to point a camera at. If it’s important that they have a clean, professional looking background for video calls from home, then make that clear at the interview and see what they have to say – they may be able manage something for a job that’s not doable for a single interview.

      Asking them to dress as they would for a professional, polished meeting, is quite a reasonable thing to ask, however.

    5. it's-a-me*

      Zoom backgrounds don’t work in my house. I know that may sound weird, but the lighting and paint work and various lighting and other objects against the wall etc. simply don’t allow the background finding algorithm to work – I either end up with random swathes of background visible, or parts of my face and body also obscured by the background image.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        I have the same issue. My (personal) computer died recently and I was able to get a new one with an amazing processor, lots of RAM, and very strong graphics card. It still doesn’t work right. I also have two toddlers and a partner who is also working from home in a small house, so my work locations are limited and I can’t just go somewhere else.

    6. Kathlynn (Canada)*

      When I had my Web cam interviews, I checked my camera on zoom before hand. My fake wood grain wall accepted the background. But so did my face and wall. The only think it didn’t assume was my wall was my shirt.

      1. BonzaSonza*

        Haha I can picture that!

        I had something similar where it thought my hair was blending into the background so only my face and a weirdly shaped forehead were visible.

        1. curly sue*

          My son’s old laptop has somehow gotten stuck on a zoom foreground – faces and shirts are overlaid with a nebula / space effect that he’d been trying to set as his background, and even after weeks of messing around with settings we haven’t been able to fix it.

          Luckily he only has heritage language class online these days, and his teacher thinks it’s funny.

      2. Coenobita*

        Haha yes, my at-home work space is in front of a bookshelf, so Zoom backgrounds tend to (literally) flip on me – my bookshelf looks the same, but my face and shirt show the “background” image. It is kinda creepy.

        Personally I think a headboard is a reasonable background, considering the circumstances. Better that than my bedroom wall covered in posters!

    7. Joanna*

      In addition to not working well (or at all) on some laptops, Zoom backgrounds tend not to work on phones

    8. ACM*

      I think Zoom backgrounds look cheesy AF to be honest. I vastly prefer Zoom over alternatives for quality reasons, but I really wish they’d adopt a blurred background option the way Teams and Skype have.

      1. hbc*

        Thank you! I had an intro meeting with a potential supplier last week, and the digital background was about as professional as you can get–a professional picture of their office building, with their name nicely displayed. It still looked ridiculous to me, and I was distracted by their head subtly changing shape around the edges as they moved. A headboard would have been preferable.

      2. Lucy*

        Yes I used some for interviews last week and it just looks very fake! Teams’ fake office is much better, but there’s still the thing of disappearing into your background when you move around, it gets dark, etc.

      3. SimplytheBest*

        Was just coming here to say this exact thing. I have never seen anybody use a zoom background that looked in any way professional. They’re so cheesy and look so sloppy to me.

    9. Bagpuss*

      I had a Zoom meeting a little while ago which involved me, another professional and a lay client. The other professional mentioned to me, before the client joined the call, that they had some custom backgrounds which their IT people had produced based on photos of their library and conference room, but that he was choosing not to use them as he fund that people were more at east with their own less-than-perfect backgrounds if they could see he was in his living room as well!
      Which was a valid point.
      (Also that was meeting where the client’s dog got exited and started jumping and barking in shot, which resulted in my cat, who had been snoozing out of sight, to make a fleeting appearance as he retreated)

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        “photos of their library”

        Let me guess: Old Martindale-Hubbells, kept just for this purpose. They did look awfully impressive!

    10. Thistle Whistle*

      The background doesn’t bother me but I’d question anyone who thought a sweatshirt was appropriate even to a zoom interview.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        On the other hand, I kind of wonder if there was something about the top not coming across — like, right now I’m wearing a sweater I think is cute, but it is grey, so now I’m second-guessing if it looks like a sweatshirt on camera! So maybe the applicant was wearing something she thinks of as a nice shell for work, but on camera, it just looked like a t-shirt.

        1. GothicBee*

          I wear mostly black and pretty much all of my tops do not come across through zoom, so it usually just looks like I’m wearing some sort of black top but the details are completely lost. A lot of them look like a generic black tee or maybe a black sweatshirt or long-sleeved top. Plus bad lighting and old cameras can contribute to the problem. That said, it’s a good reason to check what your outfit looks like in your webcam before something major like an interview.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I take this as the modern version of all the hand-wringing about business casual, back a quarter century ago. Most guys quickly figured it out it means slacks and a collared shirt but no tie. But there always was that guy who would show up in a tee shirt, cut-offs, and flip-flops.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Based on personal experience, MS Teams, Google Meet, and Cisco WebEx also offer backgrounds. It’s usually in the program’s help file if there’s a way to do it, though I’ve no idea if the machine or processing power requirements differ from Zoom backgrounds.

        1. mlem*

          Google Meet’s new backgrounds are honestly pretty terrible. One of my colleagues keeps trying to use it, but it can’t cope with the way his headphones change his shape or with one regular shape in his background, and he gets halos and block effects and sometimes nausea-triggering distortions.

          Zoom backgrounds can be disabled by corporate policy. (Back when we were using Zoom more, and before my workplace figured out the backdoor some people were using to get past the block on backgrounds, they did better than Google Meet does … but not significantly so.)

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I had that issue with the WebEx background blur option in a meeting last week – that and something behind me kept throwing off the virtual background and looked like a wormhole was opening up over my shoulder.

    11. SomebodyElse*

      Or a blank wall… I’m assuming the candidate had a wall they could have cleared. Honestly, I disagree with advice on this one. It seems that the candidate had a couple of very easy ways to present themselves professionally, I mean a plain t-shirt and a cardigan or a polo or button down and a blank wall is not exactly hard to come by for the average candidate.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Then clear one. You can certainly relocate a dresser for an hour for a job interview.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Exactly. Everything on my walls is pretty much nailed there – there’s no moving anything for an hour. I would have to have the person who installed everything come and take it all out and then come back and reinstall everything – that makes zero sense, especially in the middle of a pandemic when I don’t want anyone who doesn’t live with me in my personal space.

          1. kt*

            Come on. Take people at their word that they’ve thought through it. I live in a very small house, and while I *can* find such a space, it is not always reasonable — “I’ll take my daughter’s room and move the dresser in front of the bed and then drag in a chair that I’ll put in front of the wall and put the laptop on the diaper pail’s flat top but I need to be careful to not move much because my knees will hit the diaper pail and it’s not very sturdy, but there are no outlets in the other room that I can reach with my power cord and the dog has to be kept in my room and the kid needs to be in the living room so that I can pray she stays quiet with her TV show and snacks….” not to mention mobility issues…

            Glad you’re lucky, That Girl, but be gracious to those with different problems.

          2. Crivens!*

            Clearing a wall in my apartment would mean taking the bed out of the bedroom entirely somehow or taking a call in the kitchen hallway between the closer and the wall (where there isn’t room for a chair, so I’d be…sitting on the floor?)

          3. Video All the Time*

            That’s quite dismissive and does not recognize the fact that not everyone has the same luxuries as you. In order for me to take a professional video call, I have to go into a bedroom or risk the dog or the cats showing up. In my bedroom, I literally have one wall. The other three are windows or closets. I physically cannot move the dresser against my one wall on my own. Even if I could, the power source is all the way on the other side of the room. And let’s not forget the horrific colour that my room is painted (a temporary rental).

            I’m lucky enough to have a relatively empty and plain guest bedroom. In order for me to set up in there and be next to a power source, I’m sitting on the floor with a laptop on a chair. I’m able to sit on the floor for an extended period of time but others may not.

          4. Gumby*

            Really? Not a single piece of furniture in my bedroom is light enough for me to move on my own. Since I live alone, the furniture is not moving. It hasn’t been a problem for me because I have a window behind my desk so all you see on calls are my blinds. Still, “just relocate a dresser” tossed off blithely as if it is the easiest thing ever tells me you are either the Incredible Hulk in your off time or have a small dresser. (BTW, former gymnast here. Well supplied with upper body strength. The room I rent is furnished and it is heavy, bulky furniture.)

          5. lemon*

            I live alone in a 235 sq ft apartment. I also have a shoulder injury. So not only is it physically painful for me to move something like a dresser, I also have nowhere to move it to.

            Just because it’s easy for you doesn’t mean it’s easy for others.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        But the questions isn’t “could they have done anything differently,” it’s “should I write them off because they didn’t.”

        1. SomebodyElse*

          I think that’s one and the same. Yes, a person may not have X that is currently available, but can they adapt? Do they show that they’ve attempted to solve that problem? Or did they just shrug their shoulders and say “Nope, got nothing… oh well this is good enough I guess”

          I can tell you that if I interviewed a candidate that couldn’t sort out a clear wall for an hour and couldn’t find appropriate interview attire (no I don’t care how expensive a sweatshirt is, it’s not appropriate interview attire) I’m really going to question their ability to solve problems or make effort in the job.

          People can disagree with me all they want, but I don’t think my logic in this case is that far out of the norm for a hiring manager.

          1. Some Lady*

            We are working from home during a pandemic. Our homes have things in them. It’s fair to ask what problem solving and adapting a potential employee can do, but you also need to as yourself, can you, as a manager, adapt? Can you focus on what’s needed versus what’s nice?

            1. SomebodyElse*

              I think the ‘blank wall’ is being taken too literally. Nobody is expecting to not see something in the background, but it is reasonable to see bland decoration, tidy bookshelfs, family photos, etc. Hell I have those in my office. But it’s not unreasonable to think that a background can’t be arranged that is tidy and bland.

              Yes we are working from home in a pandemic. We have been doing this for what… 6, 7, 8 months?

              1. Crivens!*

                And many people are still in spaces that don’t have that bland background that ALSO have decent wifi.

              2. Nanani*

                Look, like a lot of people are saying, some people just CANT.
                Small living spaces, other people in the home (including pets/small children), mobility issues, noise issues, connectivity and power issues, a lot of things could reasonably happen.

                Some us cannot physically move a bookshelf without assistance from another person. It should not require calling a mover or bringing people into your covid bubble JUST FOR AN INTERVIEW.

                “It’s been N months” doesn’t change people’s living spaces and physical abilities.

              3. Kiki*

                I have been doing this for 8 months and yet my apartment remains a studio.
                I do understand where you’re coming from, but I also want to assure you that some people are genuinely in situations where their headboard being visible *is* the best option, especially for a single interview. If you feel so strongly that to do this job somebody must have a perfectly polished background, you should let employees expense a green screen/ neutral backdrop and have that be the end of that.

              4. Le Sigh*

                Yup, we have been doing it for 8 months. While people have had time to figure things out, a lot of things haven’t changed:
                -Ongoing stress from the pandemic and the rising case numbers, which are getting worse in many areas
                -Economic stress from job loss, reduced hours, and/or increased expenses (and in the U.S., a lack of ongoing unemployment and other help)
                -Bad wifi — if they don’t have access to or can’t afford to upgrade their internet (including wifi that only seems to work in some rooms, not others), that is probably still true
                -WFH situations with roommates or other family and few quiet spaces to work or interview
                -Lack of childcare or family care options

                To name only a few! Look, no one is choosing any of this. Yes, people are finding ways to be professional, but what the LW described doesn’t sound big enough to disqualify them. Unless the job is actually requires skills to adapt to pandemic-level stress, can we just give everyone an ever-loving break?

              5. Paris Geller*

                There’s also the fact that some of us haven’t been working from home. I’m job searching and expect any interviews I have to be Zoom interviews, but I have worked from home a total of 1 day since March, and that day was because I was slightly under the weather but had a virtual meeting to attend. Other than that, I’ve been on-site, as has everyone else in my department.

              6. Tiny Kong*

                I still only have the one apartment, and the same furniture in it as 8 months ago. Why does my house have to have “bland decoration” to be appropriate to work from home in a pandemic…

            2. Rayray*


              I did a few interviews from home while unemployed. If my roommate wasn’t home, I’d sit at our dining table in front of a big painting we had. If she was home, I’d go in my bedroom (she did offer to go in her own room to work, but I felt like I’d have more privacy in my own)

              Many of the people interviewing me were also at home. They had their own homey things visible. One guy even had kids I could hear in the background. I actually kinda liked this touch because it felt less stiff and formal and I felt more at ease taking to real people. Some people seriously need to relax and be less stuffy and miserable.

          2. Diahann Carroll*

            I disagree with you about the background – as was noted above, many people just don’t have a clear space to do video interviews – but agree 100% about the top. A sweatshirt to an interview is a no. Unless OP told her ahead of time it was okay to be very casual during the call, the candidate should have dressed like she would have if she were going into someone’s office. Still, I agree with Alison’s advice to warn her for the next interview and go from there.

          3. Ramona Q*

            You sound like you’d be such a treat to work for. Not rigid at all, and never deigning to consider what different circumstances others might be working within!

          4. ...*

            I totally agree about the clothes, the background thing I don’t get because you could at least get yourself sorted in front of some type of neutral wall and put your comp on a makeshift desk or something? Or at least say “Sorry about the background, I’ve got roommates working from home too” and then be extra professional idk.

          5. Paperwhite*

            ” I don’t think my logic in this case is that far out of the norm for a hiring manager.”

            It’s not, which is one of the reasons it’s so hard for people without much money to find a job.

      2. Artemesia*

        I don’t have a single ‘blank wall’ in my largeish condo. Do people have ‘blank walls’ if they have actually moved in and decorated their homes?

        1. ...*

          I mean… I have plenty of blank walls since I rent but I don’t think it needs to be like completely blank. If it has a few pieces of artwork or plants etc that seems fine.

    12. kittymommy*

      I’m considered essential so I’ve been in office most of the time, but a couple of meetings have been from via Zoom and I have just thrown a white sheet on my bookcase or wall ( I don’t really have a wall that doesn’t have something on or in front of it). Now my cat who likes to thoroughly clean herself can be the sole focus of the camera.

    13. Melewen*

      It’s possible that the shirt reads more professional in-person than on video, so I wouldn’t put too much weight on that if she follows your instructions for the second interview.

      As far as the background, I think you can ask the candidate if they would able to create a more professional Zoom space upon hiring, but I wouldn’t expect a change for the second interview. I’ve been interviewing for jobs as well. I have decided that if I get a position that requires video calls, then I’ll rearrange my living room to better accommodate that. But I’m not going to spend money on a backdrop and/or move furniture around just for interviews.

    14. MCMonkeyBean*

      Personally I think a Zoom background pretty much always looks less professional. They just don’t work that well, at least not any time I’ve seen it done. It always ends up like cutting off part of someone’s hair or including a weird amount of their chair or something. I think it’s better to look like you’re sitting in your bed then to look like a bad photoshop job.

    15. Some Lady*

      Zoom backgrounds don’t always work for everyone. And for those saying, just upgrade, unless being knowledgeable about recent upgrades for tech is relevant to the position, I think it’s much, much more reasonable to expect that your interviewers will understand we’re in less-than-ideal spaces due to an international crisis.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        “Just upgrade” also carries the duel assumptions that the candidate can afford to, and that the upgraded tech is available. I bought a new laptop a while back for my kid for remote learning. The purchase involved timing the purchase so that that day’s consignment had not yet sold out.

          1. lemon*

            But no matter how much you update your Zoom software, it’s not going to change the hardware needed on your computer to run virtual backgrounds. The ability to run backgrounds is dependent on your processor, not what software version you’re running.

    16. Some Lady*

      Also – Just updated my Zoom and no, backgrounds still do not work for my (otherwise capable) computer. But I AM now able to give myself a flower crown or a mustache!

    17. Rayray*

      Truly insane to me that there’s this much discussion about a zoom background.

      Like Alison said, maybe their bedroom is their only private space they have at home. This is why job hunting is so messed up right now, hiring managers are literally scrutinizing candidates over their background in their own home and focusing less on their qualifications.

      Seriously, maybe they have a tiny bedroom and thought the headboard behind them looked nicer than any other angle. It’s weird to overthink this so much.

    18. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Zoom backgrounds also, like so many pieces of tech, work better for people who look some ways than they do for people who look other ways.

      For example, it has a great deal of trouble with my braids, so my hair phases in and out whenever I use a virtual background. I can either pull my hair back in such a way that it’s not visible, not use virtual backgrounds, or have a distracting issue with my hair phasing in and out. It also gets confused with my headcovering sometimes and hides part of the top of my head in the background as a result. (I generally wear my hair in braids and a bandanna-type headcovering over just the top of my head – it doesn’t completely cover my hair, although I can imagine that Zoom would also struggle with that type of thing, it’s just not a thing that I personally wear so it’s not a problem I have.) I’m guessing that they did most of their testing on people with short hair and uncovered heads, because the people I see on Zoom with short hair and uncovered heads seem to have fewer issues.

  3. Observer*

    #2 – People will notice if you are not consistent with your prosthetics. So, it’s probably a good idea to choose one or the other for all of the interviews at a given employer. But once you are at work, it’s not a big deal. Unless you are working with adolescents (of any age), the fact that something is something people might notice should not be a big issue. I’d be much more concerned if someone was making dramatic changes to their hair color every couple of days.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I’d be much more concerned if someone was making dramatic changes to their hair color every couple of days.

      Ahhh, Michelle. I’d love an update on her, lol.

      1. Mookie*

        I hope she’s found her niche (and has discovered the joys of dying hair at home) because I love her.

      2. Mockingjay*

        Does she still possess an endless wardrobe? If she’s teleworking due to COVID, does she change for each Zoom call?

        1. Zephy*

          Wasn’t she literally hitting up Goodwill for new outfits on her lunch and throwing away the clothes she came to work in that morning? Or am I thinking of something else?

    2. Fancy Owl*

      Actually, maybe that would be a good reason to switch it up between interviews? If someone is rude enough to say something, that would tell you things about that company. And if you didn’t get the job, and it was because they judged you for your prosthetics that’s a bullet dodged. Of course, this assumes you could walk away from a job offer which you may not be able to do right now…

      1. Observer*

        Well, yes if anyone were stupid and rude enough to comment, you’d want to avoid the place if you have the option. I’d just want to avoid the distraction factor. At work it’s different – at that point even if there is a momentary distraction when someone notices, we are really talking about minimal and momentary.

        1. OP2*

          OP2 here. I am really relieved by these responses. This journey hasn’t been easy, and hearing that I should do what works best for me is really reassuring. I hadn’t expected anyone to make rude comments to me, I guess I figured it would be gossip. And for that, I’m not going to worry. Thank you greatly for your comments, this is the BEST comments section of any website I’ve ever been on. Now, to continue reading!

    3. BritAnon*

      Mneh, maybe people will notice, but if you’re working with adults they probably won’t say anything. I’m an F cup, and sometimes I bind at work, so I go from quite busty to flat. No-one’s ever said anything and I’ve never even caught anyone staring.

      1. Mel_05*

        Yeah, also an F cups and I notice a significant difference in my shape from wearing different bras or the the type of shirt I’ve got on. No one else has ever paid the least attention to it.

      2. Ryn*

        Yup, I’m a DD and wear a binder maybe 70% of the time. I tend towards non-form fitting tops, and no one ever batted an eyelash — I wouldn’t be surprised to find out no one has noticed.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Heck, my grandmother used to keep cigarette boxes in her bra instead of her prosthetics, and people were still surprised to learn that she had a mastectomy.

      3. pope suburban*

        Yes, I know I would notice this kind of thing, but I would never comment on it. My policy at work (and in general, really) is not to comment on people’s bodies, because it’s just too fraught. If someone appears to be hurt/ill, ask if they’re okay. If someone has a five-second fix like something in their teeth or an unbuttoned button, let them know. But anything bigger than that, really, leave it alone.

      4. OP2*

        This is great to hear. And reminds me, I’ve never noticed on anyone before anything like this and I’m surely not the only person to do this. Thank you.

  4. Free Meerkats*

    For number 5, I had a similar thought after having a great week (got a promotion, bought a new car, reached a goal weight) that I posted about in a friend Telegram group. I voiced my concern and was pretty much told that the friends who weren’t having great weeks liked hearing some good news instead of the crapshow going on around them.

    If your friends give you grief about posting good news, are they really friends? While they may just be having a really bad day, look for patterns.

    1. WellRed*

      I had a friend ask if she was posting too many vacation photos of Italy. No, living vicariously over here. Post away.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have been posting posts from my travel blog just so we can have vicarious travel while we are all locked down.

    2. Mel_05*

      Yes, I think some people may be so bitter that they would object, but I actually love seeing my friends post good news when I’m having a bad time. I’ve been surprised sometimes at how welcome their good news is when my news is just the opposite.

      It’s true that sometimes good news rankles, but it’s also true that it’s usually coming from someone I already don’t like much. I just quietly unfollow them if I can’t be happy for them.

      1. Six Degrees of Separation*

        Agree, I’m happy when I hear my friends’ good news. I’m still sad that a close friend held off telling me for weeks that he had eloped just because I had gone through a tough breakup. Believe me, in times like that it brings hope, not jealousy (unless you’re more frenemies, ymmv).

    3. Zephy*

      Seconded. Anyone who gets upset by seeing other people share good news needs to quit taking it personally – no one’s getting hired/getting married/vacationing/buying cars/having kids/beating cancer/whatever AT them. That’s a “them” problem and you, the good-news-sharer, have done nothing wrong by sharing said good news.

  5. Lulubell*

    I’m old enough to remember that we put our address on our resume so the company would know where to mail correspondence. Or at least, that’s what I was told when I graduated college in the pre-cell phone, pre-email era. I just took my street address off like two years ago!

    1. Massmatt*

      I used to put my mailing address on my resume too, and removed it many years ago. Virtually nothing for a legit job application is done through mail anymore, so really all it does is open you up to junk mail at best and stalkers at worst, especially if you post your resume online. There’s really no good reason to let millions of people know your address.

      I think whomever is telling the LW that resumes without street addresses are automatically being rejected either works for a loon or hasn’t updated their systems or expectations since at least 2000.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      There are some jobs that require local residents* so if that’s a possibility do at least include your town&state.
      (*Just one example, cities & towns comnitted to community policing often want their police to have a connection to their jurisdiction.)

      1. mgguy*

        I recently relocated after over a year of job-searching in in this particular area(I had reasons for wanting to move here-specifically because my then fiancée, now wife, was here, and always gave a statement of relocating for family reasons in my cover letter).

        In any case, I’m a chemist and at one point found a job posting for a water quality research chemist(a job I’m more than qualified for). This is in a midwest urban area(not up and coming, but rather kind of steady now after years of decline) that sits on a border, and I knew I’d most likely be moving to the neighboring state. The posting was very clear, however, that you needed to have a driver’s license issued by the COUNTY where the job was located. I emailed to ask how much wiggle room there was, especially since I then had a DL from two states away, and was told there was none(and the online application wouldn’t let complete it without a DL# from the state where it was located). It didn’t make a ton of sense to me, especially given that the physical location was actually closer to a neighboring county than the city proper, but oh well, that one wasn’t meant to be(and at least a few months ago it was still posted).

        1. PostalMixup*

          I suspect there’s a chance you’re talking about my city, though you could easily be talking about the midsize Midwestern metro that covers a bi-state area on the other side of the state (or others, surely). The ridiculous thing here is we just voted down removing residency requirements, even though the state already mandated their removal, and even though certain types of city jobs were already exempt. Why does the forestry service have to live within city limits but not the firefighters? I tell ya.

          If you do live in my city now, welcome! And don’t eat the local style pizza, it’s gross.

          1. mgguy*

            I’ll quit dancing around and say St. Louis…if that’s not where you are I’m guessing Kansas City?

          2. mgguy*

            Also, if indeed, you’re talking about St. Louis, thanks for the welcome! My in-laws are warming me up to Imo’s and some other local places, but I’m not totally sold on them yet.

            1. PostalMixup*

              Yep, welcome to “the Lou!” I’ve been here ten years, but you will never convince me that Imo’s counts as pizza. I hope you’re enjoying your new home, as much as possible during These Times!

              1. mgguy*

                Thanks again! I’m across the river in the “Tax Me” state, but of course travel over there often. Coming here from another “Lou” town(Louisville) it’s definitely a change, but still has a lot of the same feel even with. I do just have to go along with “Pizza” when we get together with my in-laws implies little squares on crackers :) .

    3. Brooks Brothers Stan*

      I was given this exact same advice, but it was the late-90s/early-2000s! Now that everything has transitioned to online correspondence I’ve found that taking my exact geographic position off my resume opened up the amount of positions available to me (this being pre-COVID and before my industry transitioned to mainly WFH). My most recent resume/cover letter package listed me as being in the [Major Metro] and [Major Metro] area, and I received calls back for positions everywhere in-between.

    4. Chinook*

      Mailing address makes sense in the days when snail mail was how employers corresponded with you. And, around here, not all mailing address are street addresses. Sometimes they are post boxes (even if you live in town in a house) and other times rural routes. An employer judging you as hirable based on the type of address would have been ludicrous.

      Now, with email addresses, it is so much easier to forgo it completely. I agree with the idea of putting a town and province in your header, but I also have an “out of area” area code (I chose not to change it after my last move), so this helps confirm that I live near where the job is.

    5. No address , please.*

      I first heard the advice to leave my address off my resume about 6 years ago at a job search program through my church. The leader, a church member donating his services, was a highly experienced outside recruiter and I was 6o+, laid off, with skills in a niche field. As the leader stated it: When was the last time a prospective employer used your home address to contact you? You have better use of those lines on your resume to sell yourself.

      He also noted that it could be readily used find a lot of information about you that should not be part of the job search equation. Leaving out the address would require a few more steps to be taken to scope you out.

      There was a third reason specific to our particular area. I live in a “bedroom community” about 25 miles away from the center of a metropolitan area. The city name used by the post office covers a large geographical area with 125k residents. My area has an undeserved reputation as primarily low income housing and is known for long commutes with public transit serving a limited places with jobs. On top of that, at the time, it was receiving negative attention due to crime, gangs, and immigration issues in a small part of the community. The leader pointed out that leaving out the address would deflect bias (unconscious or not) against us because we live in the area the Post Office labels W____.

    6. Case of the Mondays*

      I work for a law firm that still sends snail mail declination letters. If you are getting hired, you get a phone call.

  6. WoodswomanWrites*

    #1: This reminds me of my own experience interviewing for a position. It was my first interview in many years and I dressed in what to me was a work-appropriate outfit. When I aced the interview, the recruiter gave me really helpful feedback comparable to what Alison recommends–for my second interview with a senior manager, dress as I would to meet a client. Although those kinds of clothes weren’t yet in my wardrobe, I bought some news shoes and then borrowed clothes from a friend. I got the job.

    Please don’t dismiss this person based on their clothing. And in a pandemic, it’s important not to judge their background, either. In a different room they may have kids in school, or a spouse on a work call, etc. and this may be the only space they have for a private conversation.If they dress professionally, give them a pass on the background. If you hire them, you can discuss those kinds of details later.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This. Clothing is so fixable. My husband interviewed for a job directly after work. He was dressed appropriately for his current job. The interviewer understood my husband was coming directly from work. My husband went all through the interview and aced it. Once he was offered the job, the boss explained that the dress code was a bit different and my husband would need to do x, y and z. He showed up the first day with x, y and z in place. He noticed the boss wordlessly beamed at him when the boss noticed the change. My hubby felt really good about that gesture.

      Regardless of a pandemic or not, you can feel free to use words to clearly state what is necessary. If the applicant is smart, they will realize that you are actually HELPING them to have a successful interview. If they do not follow instructions, then that is good information also. I have had people tell me things and I have had to tell people things, usually the response is, “thank you for letting me know.”

      My two cents, clothing and background are not job qualifications. Disqualifying someone an otherwise great candidate without giving them some recourse first seems cold/unfair to the person AND the company.

      1. Kiki*

        Yes! It is always surprising to me how many people would consider eliminating an otherwise good job candidate over their interview apparel without even trying tell the candidate what the dress norms are. I know dress is often interpreted as a signifier of understanding professional norms, but it is also SO FIXABLE.

        1. Chinook*

          I echo this. When I got a job to work overseas as a teacher, I was given a heads up that I would have to wear business formal. Being a rural Albertan, I knew this could mean different things, so I knew to clarify – Calgary business or Vancouver business. With a response of “Toronto business” I knew exactly what they meant and that I would have to overall my wardrobe.

          If the only thing you are concerned about is how they presented themselves, it is a kindness to give them tips for them to improve. Clothing and backgrounds can be changed, attitudes and personality are really what you are looking for.

          1. Auto Engineer*

            So is the difference which team Hockey jersey you wear? (Just kidding since it was to easy)
            The difference in location or job type can make a difference even if you say “formal”. Detroit formal versus LA formal vs NYC formal. Engineer formal vs Lawyer formal.
            Don’t hold it against a person, especially during Covid, if they don’t automatically know what the proper definition is for dress code. I would think wearing the correct style of clothes would be a much simpler fix versus needing lots of training for communication or other skills.

            1. Le Sigh*

              I spent years working out of east coast cities, and later had a job that took me to San Francisco a bunch. I quickly learned that business casual is very different there when I showed up to meetings in heels and black dresses/slacks.

      2. Annie*

        Yes. It really feels like some people in these comments have literally never lived in a studio apartment, or shared space where the only privacy available is in your own bedroom.

  7. MS*

    OP 3- there is a potential lawsuit if you think the reason you didn’t get the job was discrimination based on a protected category (e.g. your race, sex, age, religion, disability). If that’s what you believe happened, talk to a lawyer. BUT if you don’t have any good reason to think that, I 100% agree with Allison.

  8. Jo*

    #2 reminds me of the question sent in by someone who had had a mastectomy and found it uncomfortable to wear a prothesis, so her chest was flat in one side and some of her coworkers complained to their manager that it made them uncomfortable. And the manager, instead of shutting this down, actually had a conversation with the woman expecting her to wear the prothesis! Hopefully these numpties don’t work at OP2 ‘s office, and if they do, she should feel free to shut them down.Having said that, I think the vast majority of people aren’t going to say anything. They might notice but I don’t think it’s likely to be a big deal for anyone, aside from the buffoons mentioned above

        1. kittymommy*

          I don’t think she got fired for it I remember her quitting after someone discussed it with her.

  9. 19-year survivor*

    #2 – I would probably wear them through the interview process, but that’s just me. And if I’d gone to an office pre-covid (I’ve been WFH for years), I would’ve worn mine every day without even really thinking about it (comfort wasn’t really an issue for me). But now that everything is Zoom and we’re home all the time, I almost never wear them and they’re a lot more uncomfortable when I do. When we start to leave the house on a more regular basis again, I think I’ll be wearing them a lot less than before.

    I’ve been at my job for a long time and feel comfortable with my co-workers. I worked here when I went through treatment and I was really open about it, so they’re aware of my history. Just like people mention in passing that they’ve put on make-up for a change or they’re working in their PJs for the day, I might joke that I’m dressed up–I put on my boobs!

    It depends on whether you’re willing to talk about it, of course, but I think if I were to start a new job now and wanted to switch back and forth, I might mention in a matter-of-fact tone that I had a mastectomy and sometimes don’t wear my prosthetics. My strategy during treatment was to get out ahead of it–state things up front so people weren’t wondering what was going on and talking behind my back. When I signaled that I was comfortable with it, it seemed like it was less of a big deal for them. I think that would be the case here, too.

    I hope things are going well with your treatment. Good luck with the job search!

    1. OP2*

      Congratulations on 19! And thank you for your comment. I’m a pretty open person, not shake your hand and say hi I had breast cancer, but where appropriate. I too would be likely to say I dressed up today if it were an open thing. It it experiences such as this I was hoping to hear in response to my letter. Speaking of, thank you Alison!! I really needed this.

  10. AnNina*

    Please speak to your good candidate.
    I have always got excellent feedback on my appearance in client-facing situations. That’s my job, and I know my field and my “status” with clients. But sometimes I am HORRIBLY bad at reading situations with my working community. And thus I often overthink things like how to dress or how to speak, how to eat, how to drink… you know, everything. And it sometimes leads to strange choices…
    If you have any “rules” for office wear, say that out loud. If they are a great candidate, who made a mistake, they will follow those instructions and be grateful for the feedback.

  11. Gazebo Slayer*

    #1: I live in a tiny efficiency apartment, so the ONLY work space I have is my bed! (No, I can’t afford a bigger/more professional place. I live on low pay in an expensive city.) Your applicant may be in a similar situation, especially if their previous work didn’t pay well.

    1. Danielle*

      THIS. A few months back my boss had a conversation with me about needing a designated workspace. I had to tell him, look I live in a 1BR apartment so I don’t have a lot of extra space.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Not to nitpick, but do you not have a wall that you can clear for an hour or two for interviewing to use as a clean background?

      It’s one thing for regular wfh and I totally get that (I have a dedicated space, but it’s filled with crap that I have for the room’s former primary use (yarn in case you’re wondering)) I’m not going to clear a wall or make any changes for my regular job/wfh. I absolutely would for an interview though.

      1. WellRed*

        Personally, I’m blessed with lots of windows, a huge archway between the DR and LR, a fire place, a built-in china cabinet…yeah, big space, almost zero “blank” wall options.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          I’m not going to argue, I was mostly just curious. I guess I would clear a wall for a couple of hours before an interview or sit in front of the china cabinet or something else that looked more polished than a headboard.

          Even big space if big enough is a bland enough background that it would still look fine.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            I see where you’re going. If the candidate needed to sit on their bed, even pinning a white sheet up behind them might have masked the fact that they were sitting in front of a headboard. Maybe the candidate didn’t have time before the interview to set something up…or it didn’t occur to them.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            This presumes that revealing a headboard is somehow less professional than revealing a china cabinet. This seems to me utterly insane. It also is classist: furniture is OK, but only if it is expensive luxury furniture.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              This. If you’re going to pooh-pooh showing non-work related furniture, then that should be all non-work related furniture. I do agree with the person above, though, that it would have been smart for the candidate to throw a plain sheet over the headboard to kind of obscure the fact that it was in fact a headboard. But then maybe she doesn’t have plain white sheets (I don’t) and the sheets she does have are too distracting.

              1. Rayray*

                To be honest, I think a sheet draped over something would look worse.

                Then again, if I were interviewing people via video call and they were in their own homes, I just wouldn’t care if they had furniture or pictures behind them. I’d never expect someone to move furniture around or remove their own personal touches from their home.

            2. DashDash*

              An excellent point — in, say, a studio apartment, are you seeing a headboard? Or the visible part of a day bed because that’s all they can fit? The idea of rearranging furniture for a 1-hour interview also seems excessive to me because the neighbors on the floor below me are also working from home.

            3. SomebodyElse*

              Oh please, classist? I was using the examples given to me from the person I was responding to. I’m out, we have obviously collectively forgot the sandwich rule, and now we’re heading into the inane.

              A note to all those interviewing, yep it’s going to matter to some people. Should it? That’s a matter of opinion. Can it? Absolutely. If you want a job, the interview is the best and only time to put your best foot forward. The last thing that you want to do is to give interviewers a reason to not hire you.

              1. Nanani*

                Maybe stop assuming that people someone -aren’t- putting their best foot forward, as you put it? THAT is the classist part.

            4. EventPlannerGal*

              Well, yeah, I do think that appearing to be doing a job interview from your bed (and in the case of OP’s interviewee, doing so while wearing a sweatshirt) does appear less professional than doing it in front of a china cabinet, or a bookshelf or a door or a wardrobe or a pot plant or a wall with pictures hanging on it or really most things. It isn’t about the relative luxury of the background; it would also look odd to be doing a Zoom interview from your four-poster bed or a hammock on a Caribbean beach. It’s about trying not to give the impression that the interview is something you’re getting around to after your afternoon nap. And if there is truly no area of your living space that is even slightly better than your bed, then you should probably try to counteract the extreme informality of the background by, like, not wearing a sweatshirt.

              1. I'm just here for the cats*

                Off-topic a bit but was it a hoodie type of sweatshirt or was it a pullover sweater that looked kinda frumpy? I have a cotton pull over sweater that is not a sweatshirt but it does kind of look like a sweatshirt, especially if its a bit wrinkled. And I don’t know about anyone else but it’s kind of hard for me to tell what the clothes someone is wearing looks like via zoom

            5. Rusty Shackelford*

              I don’t think china cabinet vs headboard is expensive vs standard. I think it’s public vs personal. People who are non-intimate guests in my home don’t see my bedroom. In an ideal world, coworkers are included in that group. Obviously most of us don’t live in an ideal world right now.

    3. Tex*

      It’s the ‘lounging’ aspect of the bed that makes it questionable. Under today’s circumstances, as long as someone was upright in a chair, the background would not matter as much to me.

  12. ACM*

    Just a thought about including city and state for Alison or others – there are places where even the city can imply a certain racial or class background, the former of which would be illegal to discriminate against (and the latter technically legal but sleazy), or just promote wrongful assumptions. For example, in New York City, some managers might toss CVs with a Jersey or Bronx address on it, or other addresses with further commutes, on the assumption that the person will be too likely to be frequently late. My anecdotal experience though is that those people are much more routinely on time than people who live just a few stops away because they leave extra time built in and plan it better. So my feeling is that as long as your last few years of work experience reflects the city you’re living in and you live in a less desirable zip code, it might be better to leave it off altogether?

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Exactly. A well known “trick” people from neighborhoods with bad reputation still do is write a relative’s more appealing address if necessary. I’m sandwiched between an exclusive residential area and an part of town famous for being the preferred hiding place of all sorts of criminals in the 80’s and 90’s, and sometimes some 40+y.o. people are curious to know exactly how sandwiched I am. Thankfully less and less people ask that nowadays.

      1. Hi there*

        This isn’t a job story, but I grew up in a city on the gold coast of Connecticut. The city has a wide range of incomes and backgrounds, and similar to Fake Old Converse someone once asked me where on Very Long Road I had grown up because they wanted to pinpoint my class background.

      2. Isomorph*

        Those reputations also die hard. I used to live where the red light and drug dealer’s dictrict was 20 years ago. In a small town, in a nowadays completely normal residential area. Still especially older people were worried about my well-being as soon as I mentioned where I lived.

    2. Malarkey01*

      If you leave it off entirely I may assume you live in Duluth even if you’ve had recent local experience (I see a lot of resumes from people looking to move back). What I commonly see though is a metro address, for example lWashington, DC metro area”. I would think the same would be true in any metro where a certain city may carry connotations for those with either unconscious or conscious bias.

      1. A Person*

        I agree with this, although I generally do assume recent local experience = is local. But if you’re looking somewhere other than your most recent experience mentioning in the cover letter why or putting a city or metro area on your resume is helpful.

  13. Everdene*

    OP#1 I wonder if the candidate might not have thought about how their interview outfit translated on screen. Often for interviews I have worn a suit with a nice top underneath (much smarter than a buttoned shirt that could gape and flash ny underwear). If I were to wear that now and take off the suit jacket – because sitting on my bed in a full suit feels weird – suddenly all you could see is the top which might just like a long sleeved tshirt or sweatshirt.
    An explicit message on what is expected would be the kindest thing right now.

    1. WellRed*

      I mostly agree with this but the candidate wore a sweatshirt. Those never translate as anything other than extremely casual. Problem solved by speaking clearly to candidate about expectations in the role.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Yes, while the advice to give them a opportunity to fix is the way to go, it was a *sweatshirt* which is rather unfathomable as a choice. They’re not really a matter of interpretation or translation in my mind — sweatshirts are rarely ok, even on casual Friday. And I’ve often posted here about working in a creative west coast world where almost anything goes, so my standards are way more casual than normal!

  14. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    With the breast prosthetic, are you more likely to be nervous about not wearing it? Especially during an already nervous situation. If it was me, with all my foibles, I’d be more comfortable wearing the prosthetic during the interviews, at least mentally. No need to be worried about how people will view me, etc. (but I have anxiety issues).
    If you are comfortable either way, I’d say it’s up to you, no need to be consistent unless you want to be, or really really don’t want to risk someone asking about it. (we shouldn’t, but some of us are noisier then others.)

    1. Fiona*

      It seems like the OP is less concerned with the interview process and more about once on a job, how to handle it on the day-to-day.

  15. pleaset cheap rolls*

    A sweatshirt? WTF.

    There is surely a lack of clarity on what is appropriate on video calls from home – I could see (for an office job) an argument being made for everything from a nice polo shirt (the casual end of business casual) to a suit and tie. But a sweatshirt? For an interview? That’s is very poor judgement.

    If they were presenting female, perhaps it was some kind of shirt that just looked like a sweatshirt. But on a guy? No. Terrible.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Yeah, while I wouldn’t make much of the headboard thing I really do question why anyone would go that casual for an interview at all. By all means give them a heads up (maybe there’s some explanation, idk, maybe they spilled coffee down their nice interview top thirty seconds before the call and that’s all they had to hand?) but personally I would be a bit put off – dress codes can be hard to navigate but “don’t wear painting-your-house clothes for a job interview” is pretty rudimentary.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I was the first hire for a new agency for the City Where I Lived At the Time. I got to see a lot of folks come in for interviews. One person showed up in sweats for an in person interview. I thought they were a client, not a job candidate. Then my boss told me she walked into the interview with boss and plopped her keys on boss’s desk and flopped into the chair. When boss kindly pointed out that dressing up for interviews was expected (to help this person in the future) said candidate got indignant. Needless to say she didn’t get the job.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          I had an interviewee show up in a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt.
          She COULD do the work, but I was afraid what judgement decisions she would make while on the phone or face to face with clients. I could not get past it.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Eh, people do people-y things. Give him a chance to correct the situation. There’s a thousand reasons why he might have had that sweatshirt on. If everything else is great, this is actually pretty minor and very fixable on his end.

      I remember taking a job where I had to dress up more than my previous job. I explained to the bosses that I had TWO outfits. I washed and ironed them between each wearing. I let them know that until I got a couple paychecks under my belt, this is what I was doing. The bosses did not care in the least. I looked fine. The odd thing here was this place was pretty picky, I fully expected to get some static about it. Nothing was ever said.

      1. mgguy*

        Stretching I know, but you never know if he was a wearing a shirt/tie or suit and his baby threw up on it, or his dog tracked mud on it, or whatever 5 minutes before the interview. Heck, I’ve known adults get worked up enough over an interview to make themselves sick(or maybe if they’re a little unwell already and that pushed them over the edge) and it was a question of wearing something that was appropriate but nasty or something clean at hand.

        I’m in the camp of “bring it up and see if it’s fixed but don’t knock him out over it”.

        I wear a button up shirt or polo basically every day when working at home(the former more especially as the weather has turned colder) but will also gladly throw on a tie and/or jacket as needed. I know plenty of people who don’t do it that way, though.

    3. iceberry*

      I was recently interviewing for government jobs (everyone working from home). Dress code was never communicated, but MANY of my interviewers were in casual clothes, casual settings, etc. Expectations aren’t clear these days and I think we all need a little latitude especially if it has not been expressly communicated.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        This interview was for “a professional position” by an applicant who “had an advanced degree, had relevant experience”

        It’s not disqualifying, but I’d be on the lookout for other errors judgement.

        Collared shirts for guys. Or *maybe* a super-sleek sweater with a very sleek t-shirt underneath. I could see a very dressy turtleneck working. Casual is not the problem – it’s a gray area. But sweatshirts? No no no. No.

        “MANY of my interviewers were in casual clothes”
        This was somewhat true all the time – the interviewers in a casual workplace will be casual. Applicants? in person not as casual.

        1. KateM*

          Some of what I get by googling “sweatshirt” look like the ones my husband wears over a collared shirt, with dress pants and shoes, which is admittedly one step down from full suit, but good enough for his university job.

        2. iceberry*

          well… I interviewed for a very professional position, and I hold advanced degrees. These interviewers were in t-shirts, one was in a reading nook and kept adjusting their blanket, while using their laptop from their lap. All very accomplished people, in professional jobs. But ya know, life is different these days.

    4. Cat Tree*

      I really don’t think the sweatshirt is a big deal. I work for a very large company and they sent out an official policy (to candidates, and the interviewers so we would know) that you can wear whatever you want, and it’s fine if kids, pets, or parents interrupt. We’re a competitive, high-performing workplace and honestly it seems ridiculous to reject a good candidate because of a sweatshirt. I’ve interviewed 10 people over Webex for several positions and I honestly didn’t even notice what any of them were wearing. Maybe a sweatshirt suitor have stood out enough for me to notice, but maybe not.

      A place that values style over substance is not a place I would want to work for. It reminds me of a terrible job I had that somehow scrounged up desktop computers in 2014 instead of laptops, because being physically present was more important than getting work done, even during a snow storm.

      1. Amy*

        Maybe if this candidate is head and shoulders over other candidates, it wouldn’t matter. But if I have 3 equally qualified candidates, it certainly wouldn’t be a point in his favor in my industry. Silicon Valley, creative firms etc, it might not matter. But in my industry it would and it sounds like LW’s too.

      2. Lisa Turtle*

        OP explain that the job requires “frequent client interactions where professionalism and a formal, polished appearance is considered important.” It’s not unreasonable for OP to hesitate about hiring a candidate who doesn’t even bother to do that for an interview. Most people make an effort to present themselves in the best possible light during an interview even if they know that the dress code for employees is more causal.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Agree. There are all kinds of options between sweatshirt and suit that the interviewer would shrug off, but a sweatshirt* is just so far to the casual side that one might wonder if you will have to school this person on how to dress for business trips and client visits.

          *Now, in my office, the quarter-zip pullover is accepted business casual for the men, esp. on jeans Fridays during football season. (People where them during the week on not jeans days, too.) If that’s what we’re talking about, it’s still not interview attire, but it’s not as bad as a regular crew neck sweatshirt or hoodie.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        It’s not about valuing style over substance, it’s about showing that you understand certain workplace norms. That’s absolutely something I would look for in an applicant. The headboard doesn’t bother me quite as much, and a video interview doesn’t necessarily need to be in formal business clothing, but clothes that are obviously casual show either a lack of interest or a lack of understanding norms. I’ve had a few recent video interviews. For all of them, I was dressed more formally than my interviewers, but I would never have dreamed of showing up in my usual v-neck t-shirt– even if I would feel perfectly comfortable wearing that shirt to an office.

        Your workplace sends out a policy, which is great, because it outlines the “rules” and says, “You’re fine, anything goes.” But in the absence of such a policy (and I’ve never received one for an interview), an applicant HAS to err on the side of more formal. That doesn’t necessarily mean a full suit, but it does mean extra attention to grooming (in my case, doing something other than pulling my hair back in a frizzy bun) and wearing something at least a step up from everyday clothes.

        1. yala*

          “It’s not about valuing style over substance, it’s about showing that you understand certain workplace norms”

          I feel like there’s a chance this could become a bit ableist, in the sense that “you should already know unspoken rules” can really exclude neurodiverse people, when it has the very simple solution of STATING those norms in Grown Up Words. This isn’t really a behavior thing so much. If after being told what’s expected, clothing-wise, the person still doesn’t dress appropriately, that’s another thing.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Yes but the rules of how to dress for an interview aren’t unspoken, they are written in pretty much every interview advice book and website and call them out there. And it’s not even about having chosen an appropriate genre of clothing but a particular item that comes across too casual – there are no circumstances in which any sweatshirt would be considered appropriately formal for a job interview.

            1. Ilene*

              I think expectations for video interviewing do need to be adjusted and stated clearly. Sweatshirts (plain cotton crewnecks without graphics or slogans, essentially a slightly bulkier cotton sweater) over collared shirts were quite common business casual outfits where I lived before the pandemic; it’s possible this candidate thought they were dressed appropriately (and for their region, were) but is interviewing for a position somewhere else.

            2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              But we’re supposed to make the assumption that neurodivergent people wouldn’t even think to seek out those rules and/or not know where to look because they wouldn’t recognize that there are norms in the first place, or they simply would see them as irrelevant.

              I’m *mostly* being facetious here, because while that might apply to some neurodivergent job-seekers, it’d be an incredibly infantilizing assumption to make about many others. I agree with you, baseline formality when it comes to interview attire is one of the least “unspoken” rules of job conduct out there.

          2. SomebodyElse*

            But it’s not something that can be nebulous like conversation. I mean how many reference articles, stories, advice, and resources are out there to spell out typical interview attire. I don’t know that these are really unspoken rules.

            Yes things can be more casual over video, but that doesn’t mean that they are.

            FTR- I did a round of Covid-era interviews and did specify to our recruiter that she should tell candidates that they could dress business casual and did let the interviewers know that is what I did so there weren’t any surprises. But barring that explicit msg to the candidates I would have expected typical in office attire and would have really questioned anyone who didn’t match.

          3. mgguy*

            A year and a half back, I was in the interview process for a “Field Service Engineer” with a major scientific instrument manufacturer. It’s something of an interesting cross between skills that really needs a masters or PhD in the hard sciences, “real world” knowledge in stuff like gas plumbing, often climbing around in tight spaces or the like, and education. I was already doing that as a big part of my then current job, and I wanted a career doing it full time.

            In any case, I didn’t make it to the in-person interview stage, but I did receive a “tip sheet” about what was expected both for phone interviews and in person interviews including attire. I thought that was a good idea for leveling the playing field for everyone so you weren’t caught off guard(as well as a bit of a test to follow specific procedures since part of the job is being creative and part of it is making sure you’re following exact ways of doing things with good attention to detail).

    5. AndersonDarling*

      I’m curious as to what kind of sweatshirt. Was it a $10 hanes sweatshirt, or a $100 designer sweatshirt. The fashion houses started leaning into sweatshirt styles last year. To me, a sweatshirt is always casual, but to others, they are the height of fashion. Same thing with ponchos…I did not understand the style, but I accepted that it was in fashion and therefore it was acceptable to wear them into the office.

      1. WellRed*

        height of fashion and office appropriate wear aren’t always compatible, though. I think we need to give the OP the benefit of the doubt that this was indeed a sweatshirt in every classic sense of the word and therefore surprising, but not insurmountable.

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        I’d argue that ponchos and sweatshirts are a bit different from each other in terms of office wear, though. Shawls of some sort have pretty much always been a part of business casual, so a poncho or ruana that looks like a shawl you’d wear to the office isn’t really rewriting the rules. A designer sweatshirt, however, is still a sweatshirt in form and function.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        That’s just not true, though – a lot of stuff that is in fashion is not necessarily appropriate for office or interview wear. Like, if someone turned up to a job interview dressed like a TikTok e-girl in a tennis skirt, heavy chains, combat boots and a bucket hat, they would be very much in fashion but not appropriately dressed for an interview (unless I guess they wanted to work for TikTok). Whether the sweatshirt is $10 or $1000, it’s still a sweatshirt.

    6. Xenia*

      It’s not the best thing ever, but as interview foibles go, it’s super minor. I’ve interviewed with people recently who were working from their garages and had their children’s drawings up on the wall. And I discovered to my horror that my go-to interview outfit combined with my camera angle makes my nice shirt look like some sort of plunging open-chested affair. I agree that the best option here would be to require business professional apparel for interview 2 and see what the candidate does.

  16. Hotdog not dog*

    #2, first of all, I wish you good health! Second, I used to manage a woman in that exact situation. Sometimes she wore them, sometimes not, depending on her mood, her outfit, or her comfort. On the rare occasions that anyone noticed, nobody cared. She always dressed appropriately for work, with or without her prostheses. Our department celebrated her 5 year cancer free anniversary by participating in the big annual race for the cure in our area a few years ago.

    1. OP2*

      Thank you for the good wishes. I do have a good prognosis. Your office sounds like a nice place to work, and how kind of you to celebrate that way.

  17. Lady Heather*

    LW2, I’m a leg amputee and I recognize the “am I making other people uncomfortable when I wear a skirt? When I don’t wear my prosthetic? When I pull of my prosthetic in public?” that I had briefly after the amputation, but quickly I realized.. no one really minded. Some people assumed I’d mind – “Now you can never wear a skirt, what a pity!” (to which I responded “What do you mean? This is the first time in a month I’m wearing trousers!”)
    And if anyone did mind, I’m not sorry my body disturbs them. That’s their ableism or whatever you want to call it.

    Some people will probably ask, and it may help you to have a script what to say when they do – I like a noncommittal, disinterested “I was ill” because I don’t like it when people I barely know – and am certainly not on sharing-medical-details level intimacy with – ask me questions about my medical history just because they’re curious, and I’ve found that when I do answer those questions with a deeper explanation, I don’t feel well afterwards – I feel exhausted, exposed, used-as-a-means-to-satisfy-another’s-curiosity. (And it doesn’t make for an equal relationship when you get off on the “You talk about what you had for dinner, I talk about a very traumatic part of my history” kind of foot.) Being more deliberate* about who I tell helps me feel better about it when I tell, and less awkward when I refuse to.

    *deliberate: that really just means that I ask myself “how do I want to reply to this question?” before replying. Sharing when I’m in the mood to share, and not just whenever another person requests to have their curiosities satisfied.

    Best of luck to you.

    1. Lady Heather*

      TL;DR: you have all these questions now, about how you wear your prosthetic, and maybe some more about how you should dress or whatever. Whether you do make others uncomfortable, and whether you should care if you do.

      The questions and insecurities/uncertainties will go away as you get more used to your body. When it becomes your normal, other peope not thinking it normal will become abnormal.

      Which is a nice way to live.

    2. OP2*

      I appreciate you sharing, especially as this is great advice and I am one who definitely needs to plan what to say in advance. Thank you.

  18. anony*

    Disagree with Alison’s answer to #2. As someone who has lost multiple family members to breast cancer, the switching from prosthetics to no prosthetics would be incredibly noticeable and triggering for me (much more so than consistency with either option), and I don’t know if that would go away for me over time, and I’m sure it would affect my work with that person/in that environment. I still think OP should do what is comfortable for her, but it’s not as simple as we’re all adults and shouldn’t be thinking/feeling about someone’s sexual body part.

    1. Funk*

      I’m sorry you/your family has gone through all that. However, I don’t think that modifies the advice to LW2. People can feel uncomfortable /triggered about all kinds of things, and sometimes it’s respectful to try to honor that when it’s something small or easily avoided. But it’s not on other people to guess at what everyday things people around them might have feelings about and avoid them. And, I don’t think it’s right to tell a breast cancer survivor base how to dress, especially when they’re probably still figuring out what they like and are comfortable with. That should be LW2’s main focus.
      (illogical extreme; the LW who’s workplace tried to avoid triggering someone’s OCD by having everyone dress and line up by patterns the person found acceptable)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. For other people, life goes on. And many times this hurts, such as for couples who want a child and can’t; for people who have lost a parent and see others with their parents; lost pets are in a similar vein.
        The planet keeps revolving when we are saying, “Wait. No. Stop.” Our best hope is to work out a plan of what we will do when those triggers happen. And they will happen. I remember walking into Target after my husband died. I broke into uncontrollable sobbing. It was just Target.

        I knew that I had a ways to go on processing my grief. Through my own lenses my heart goes out to the OP on this thread. I know first hand that it can take a while to process the raw grief and I also know that some grief lasts a life time even though the grief changes form.

        1. Fieldpoppy*

          This is a very compassionate comment. I’m sorry for your loss, Not So New.
          The world is full of trauma — that’s part of being human — and as a result, there are countless triggers for that trauma. I personally believe our lifelong work as humans is to make peace with that trauma in some way or another (not “get over it,” learn to incorporate it into the tapestry of what makes us who we are, have a bit more peace with our responses to it). Of course when we know someone has a fresh loss, we should avoid doing things that callously trigger it (like my cousin, who lost her son, who had a friend think plopping a baby into her arms would help her somehow). But the world does continue to spin, and people who remind you of your lost loved ones will pop up. Part of learning to be with grief is about being with those triggers.

          I hope you find some peace, anony.

          1. OP2*

            NotSoNewReader and FieldPoppy, what kind compassionate comments. Some people have a knack for expressing themselves, and I’d say you really have it. I am grateful I’m comfortable going flat or with my prosthetics, and I’d feel bad if it was an issue for someone. But there’s issues for all of us out there, I struggled with pink ribbon month, and every time I read someone died of cancer. I can’t get away from it and just forget for a while. But I am still processing and grieving a little and adjusting.

            Thank you for your comments and your kindness.

    2. Bilateral mastectomy*

      I’m recovering from breast cancer surgery right now. If you’re sure that your work with that person would be affected in this situation, that’s good to know about yourself so you can work with someone to help you develop coping strategies. If my work was impacted by a colleague who had difficulty working with me because I had cancer, I’d definitely bring that to my manager’s attention.

      1. ...*

        Exactly. If I’m uncomfortable because of something such as that, its on ME to develop strategies to co-exist. Not the person who had cancer or another issue.

    3. WellRed*

      Well, I’m this case it’s not about you and your need not to be triggered is far outweighed by what the actual cancer patient needs.

        1. Wintermute*

          WellRed is 110% correct. We have developed this corrosive idea as a society that we should never be exposed to anything we find upsetting, that’s just not true, someone else shouldn’t have to experience actual pain because you find something unpleasant. Having past trauma is not a license to be cruel, especially to someone who went through their own traumatic ordeal.

            1. WellRed*

              Thanks, Wintermute, I’m genuinely surprised Anony found what I said upsetting enough to have a comment removed. I hope they find peace.

    4. Kaiko*

      I’m sorry for your losses. At the same time, it’s not reasonable to expect people to present an “untouched by illness” body to those around them, simply because the illness is triggering. I can almost guarantee that the LW has her own medicalized trauma she’s dealing with. If scars, prosthetics, and reminders of cancer are triggering for you, please talk to a therapist – it’s so common in the aftermath of losing folks to need that help.

    5. iliketoknit*

      Why is this thinking about a sexual body part? Why do boobs always have to be sexualized? This isn’t a sexual context, unless the job is VERY different from what I’m imagining.

    6. Autumnheart*

      Er, yeah, that’s super-duper a “you” problem and not a “them” problem. You can’t say “I’m triggered by their breast size and can’t work with them” and expect them to accommodate you. Policing other people’s bodies in order to maximize your own comfort isn’t a thing.

    7. Observer*

      This is one of those things where it’s just not reasonable or realistic for you to expect people to accommodate you. If they had only one breast removed, would you require them to always wear a prosthetic to avoid triggering you? What if they just happen to have breasts that are noticeably different sizes (Yes, that actually exists)? Where does it end?

      Are you going to require anyone who has ever had a breast procedure to never mention that in your presence because that’s triggering? What happens when someone actually gets ill in your workplace?

      The point is that your reaction is waaay out of the norm and one that is not really reasonable to expect people to think about when deciding how to handle the issue of breast prosthetics.

    8. Zephy*

      Yeah, that’s 100% a “you” problem and you should probably pay less attention to your coworkers’ breasts.

    9. Me*

      I’m sorry you would find this triggering but your needs do not trump the individual actually experiencing it. If it would affect your work I would encourage you to explore ways to not be triggered by someone else’s body such as therapy. Unfortunately it is on you to deal with.

    10. Rainy*

      When my first husband died, I lost some friends, and some people in my department started shunning me. My being a widow made them uncomfortable. They didn’t want to be around me, being reminded that they too could lose someone they loved at any time. One person saw me crying, some months after he died, and started gossiping that I was mentally unstable because what mentally healthy person would still be sad four months after her partner of over a decade died.

      The things these people did and said hurt. I didn’t deserve to be shunned because something bad had happened to me. If you have a problem with people whose experiences make you uncomfortable, that’s not their fault, and if you treat them differently–and especially if you shun or berate them–because of it, you’re choosing to act like a jerk. Nobody’s out here choosing to lose body parts to cancer, but you can choose not to treat them like crap because of it.

      1. OP2*

        Rainy, I literally couldn’t say “my mother died” for at least a year. To be treated as you were, that’s heartbreaking. I needed intensive therapy to deal with my loss, it was sudden, and if people around me weren’t sympathetic but the opposite , oh how much harder it would have been. I do hope you’ve found a better office, or made peace.

        1. Rainy*

          You are so kind. He died over a decade ago now, and I definitely landed in a better place after that. I hope that you also find yourself in a supportive environment that allows you to thrive in your work. It sounds like 2020 has been a jerk of a year for you. I hope 2021 is much better.

          FWIW, if I were your coworker, while I might notice, I would probably conclude something pretty darn close to the truth, and I would never, ever bring it up in case it was upsetting for you! And I like to think that more people are on the side of minding their own business and being kind to their coworkers than not.

    11. KoiFeeder*

      I don’t know how to say this compassionately, so I apologize in advance.

      No one is having breast cancer at you. No one is having a mastectomy at you. No one is making prosthetic choices at you. Cancer is a horrible and traumatic thing to go through, and you simply cannot expect them to tiptoe around your feelings while they’re recovering. If you find someone’s body triggering, that is between you and your therapist. They do not factor into it.

    12. ...*

      Its also not the OP’s responsibility to alter her breasts to make other people comfortable. Her body, her breasts, she decides what to do. She does not need to adjust her post cancer treatment to make others more comfortable. Didn’t we already have a letter over this?

    13. mgguy*

      I can’t directly speak to this, and this isn’t exactly comparable, but being around drinking/alcohol has always made me really uncomfortable. A lot of that comes from losing several family members to alcoholism, a self-imposed problem in some ways, but also in and of itself a disease. Part of it comes from having other family members and friends harmed seriously by alcohol directly or things people have done while under the influence of it. In my family, responsible drinking mostly doesn’t exist-it’s either complete avoidance(as my parents have done and I’ve followed) or complete alcoholism with almost no middle ground. I realize that’s NOT the case for the vast majority of the population, and most people who do drink can do so safely and responsibly.

      In college I avoided places where I knew it would be going on just because I knew I would be a nervous wreck. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve know there would be professional situations where I’d be around it, and again I’d have a really, really tough time getting through those but did.

      Over the years, I’ve spent time around people who DO control themselves. In particular, I started getting a bit more comfortable when I started dating my now-wife. A family dinner usually involves most folks sipping a glass of wine. My wife doesn’t drink often(once a month would be a lot for her), and when she does it’s a glass of wine or a beer sipped over an hour, or with her best friend maybe a couple of beers or glasses of wine through an evening. In the time I’ve known her, she’s never been anything beyond a little more talkative than normal, and even one drink with dinner and socializing(without drinking) for an hour afterwards has her handing me the keys. I still never will drink myself, but being around her and her friends/family has made me realize there is a middle ground. I still sometimes get on edge just by being around it(particularly if I’m around people drinking a lot, even if it’s not people I know) but I’ve learned to cope and not just be a social hermit when an event may involve drinking.

  19. A Non E. Mouse*

    I wanted to comment on the sweatshirt along the same vein as a couple of others: there is the possibility that in person the shirt looks fine.

    I have a couple of shirts I really like that I wore to the office before we were sent home to work earlier this year, shirts that got compliments.

    These shirts do NOT translate on camera. One ended up looking like a washed out t-shirt, and the other goes stupid weird color wise.

    It’s very possible their shirt looked appropriate in the mirror (or even with a different background in their home, but last minute they had to move the interview), and by the time they realized it didn’t play, it was too late.

    I’d give the candidate a heads up about expectations for the next interview and if they follow directions, consider it a one off.

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      We’ve been working from home for months….. looking at ourselves on camera many many times.

      1. Bagpuss*

        No everyone has.
        Speaking for myself, I have had precisely 3 on-camera meetings since March. (Mostly mine have be voice only )

        And I think that different people have very different levels of awareness about how they present. Someone could have had lots of zoom meetings but not paid a lot of attention to how they appear, if those meetings were mostly with existing coworkers or clients where appearance isn’t critical.

        I agree that the way to go is to raise the dress code expectations with the candidate and if he doesn’t / can’t meet them then maybe decide not to move forward with him.

      2. SlightlyStressed*

        Not all jobs require cameras to be on though. I’m in a professional position and have turned mine on maybe twice this year. Perhaps the applicant’s current/previous job did not require camera either.

        1. TiffIf*

          I have turned my camera on exactly four times since I started working from home full time in March–three times were when I was helping with some second round interviews and once was when I was conferencing with an international team member who I was talking to for the first time.

      3. Environmental Compliance*

        Assuming that the candidate has been WFH at a place that requires video. In my husband’s case, he hasn’t been on video more than 2x since April, as he’s been unemployed since then. Prior to that, his workplace didn’t do video calls – they did conference line only.

        Whereas I have been mostly in-office for a few months and have video calls once or twice a day.

      4. le beef*

        Besides the excellent point others have made that many of us generally have voice-only meetings, there is a very high chance that someone who is interviewing for a job has not been working at all, let alone meeting on camera.

      5. Jessen*

        Not necessarily! My job almost entirely uses text chat with the occasional voice call mixed in. I haven’t even taken the duct tape off of my camera. I don’t think it would even occur to me that a shirt that looks fine in person might look different on the camera.

      6. Lynn*

        That is not true for everyone, though. I have worked from home for several years now and have been on video for work 1 time. Even with COVID where the entire company went to (and is going to stay) on WFH. We just don’t do video calls-for which I am very grateful.

        I have done more video calls with my motorcycle club this year than I ever did calls for work-and that is where I discovered that a very work-appropriate sweater reads as a kind of slumpy tshirt/lightweight but really worn sweatshirt on video. I love this shirt for working on site and actually own it in two colors-it is light weight enough to handle all but high-summer days, but doesn’t have to be ironed after being in a suitcase for a week. Honestly, it is something I would wear for an interview without thinking twice. But it turns out that on Zoom, it looks pretty terrible. I only noticed it because I wore it for a club meeting. If it was actually something that could have been misread on video, I would be inclined to give the benefit of the doubt.

        That said, if it was definitely a sweatshirt (I’m imagining my University of Gallifrey hoodie here), then that is something to take into account for sure. Perhaps not enough to disqualify a truly strong candidate, but definitely a point I would address and/or take into account.

        As far as the backdrop-as long as it wasn’t truly egregiously offensive (I’m thinking of porn or hate-speech type posters), I would assume that the background was the best they had to offer and would address it only insofar as it might actually matter to the job.

      7. Rainy*

        There’s a zoom setting where you can turn off your own camera view, and a lot of people do that in order not to be distracted or made self-conscious. So it’s entirely possible that someone hasn’t been looking at themselves all this time.

      8. Ohlaurdy*

        Assuming the candidate has in fact been working on camera many many times, they might be in an office currently where professional attire isn’t necessary on zoom. My typically business casual office has weekly video calls and every single person has worn teeshirts or sweatshirts every single time unless we’re doing a zoom with a client that we don’t speak with frequently.

    2. Hillary*

      Yes. I just changed clothes after checking my outfit on screen – finding a combo of camera appropriate, work appropriate for the people I’m meeting with today, and temp appropriate for our house adjusting to a 40 degree F swing in 48 hours was not easy. So many of my blouses are too busy for the camera, but blazers are overkill when our execs are taking meetings in golf shirts.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        But that’s the argument for checking your outfit onscreen before the interview. We should always take a moment to check if we’re in a situation where it matters, like an interview.

        1. Hillary*

          I agree, but I also have sympathy for someone who wouldn’t think of it. I do video calls all day and many people don’t. It’s a yellow flag but I’d give a candidate a chance to demonstrate a correction.

        2. Kiki*

          It can also be hard to “unsee” what you know something is. So if I were wearing a grey sweater, I would do a camera check and say, “Yep, grey sweater and you cannot see anything inappropriate– all good!” I may not realize that it could look like a sweatshirt.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I was recently on a Zoom with an in-office colleague and thought, wow, this is an uncharacteristically casual look for her. She seemed to be wearing a grey sweatshirt. When she got closer to the camera to adjust something, I saw that it was actually lightweight fabric in a black and white print, but the print was so small that it read grey when she was farther away. And unfortunately, rib knit neckline/cuffs is apparently a thing for women’s professional clothing now? Anyway. In person, it was fine. On camera, it looked like she needed her college logo emblazoned on the front.

  20. Ainsel*

    As someone with the opposite problem (I’m trans and only wear my binder sometimes), most people won’t notice or won’t comment on your chest, especially in a professional environment. Just in my experience, nobody tends to notice when I go from a DD to an A cup and back again, and if they do I either play it off like it’s odd they asked or I explain, depending on whether I think it’s safe to tell that person. Do what makes you comfortable!

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I *might* notice this but would never say anything. I’m old enough to know that not everyone has their natural hair color, eye color, etc., so if it even occurred to me I could extrapolate that people sometimes enhance other body parts, too, and, more importantly, that it doesn’t affect our work.

      1. Chinook*

        Speaking as someone who just went from dark hair to “stained glass peacock” coloured hair (hairdresser’s proud description), I can honestly say that, if anyone notices a difference, few will comment.

        Heck, I dressed up in a unicorn onesie (complete with hoodie) for a video call for Halloween and my boss said he was disappointed that no one dressed up in costume (the hair was just a happy coincidence). Most people won’t notice or, if they do, don’t care unless to make a friendly, positive comment.

    2. ButtonFern*

      Yeah, I don’t know if this will help alleviate your concerns OP #2 – but I also wear anything from very constrictive sports bras that nearly flatten my chest to push-up bras depending on what I’m doing after work / what silhouette I’m going for with my outfit. Similar to Ainsel, I don’t think most people pay enough attention to notice, or if they do they don’t care or have enough sense not to mention it.

      And if anyone does bring it up, it should be clear to everyone that they’re the ones creating an uncomfortable situation by being incredibly nosey, thoughtless and inappropriate – not you and your choice of how to dress.

      1. KateM*

        I was just thinking this – people who don’t have experience with mastectomy would probably think that OP wears different kind of bras. And it would take a serious creep to bring that up!

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Or someone who wants to know the brand of that amazing bra that makes you look so much bustier when you wear it…

      2. OP2*

        Yours and all the others who’ve commented their figure changes day to day for whatever reason, has been really enlightening. And I’m glad to hear “no one has asked or said anything” and that people mind their own business. I truly appreciate all the comments.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      if they do I either play it off like it’s odd they asked

      Or you very correctly point out that it’s weird and inappropriate for them to ask…

    4. Observer*

      I either play it off like it’s odd they asked

      Well, it IS odd that they ask. Sure, people notice. But part of being an adult is not commenting on everything you notice! Are these people who ask intrusive questions in general?

      1. Ainsel*

        To you and Rusty up above, you’re right that it’s weird! (Especially since I look anywhere from 16 to 27 depending on how I dress and carry myself). However, I am in my early 20s in a mostly blue collar area and at a blue collar job; I don’t always have the clout to tell people that’s weird! Especially if they’re a supervisor or from corporate. So instead I typically go with a “that’s interesting that you noticed” + change of subject. Just to clarify why I used the wording I did. Naturally if you can just safely say “that’s a weird question/comment” or “why in the world do you think that’s appropriate?”, feel free!

        1. OP2*

          I really like “that’s interesting that you noticed” and will keep that one on my short list. It’s perfect. Thank you!

  21. Roscoe*

    #1. This seems a bit much. As Alison said, a lot of conventions are kind of out the window these days. Did you specify what the dress should be? If not, maybe he felt like it didn’t really matter. I’ve interviewed at companies where my interviewers were wearing tshirts, and it was fine. If you want them to wear a suit, mention that. As far as the bed goes, who knows. Maybe he lives in a studio apartment and that was his best option at the time. This all just seems like pretty petty reasons to consider not moving him along in the process.

    #3. It is also very possible that whatever kept you from getting the first job kept you from getting this one. People talk. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the hiring manager for the first position was in touch with the hiring manager at the second position, and that affected your candidacy. Its not deceitful. But if they knew based on the other person’s feedback, that they didn’t want you for the job, its probably best to not waste anyones time. A similar thing happened to me. I was a teacher and applying at different schools in the same district. My first one, me and the principal would’ve never been able to work together. She didn’t seem to like me, nor I her. But, I know for a fact, because another principal mentioned that he knew I interviewed with her, and he implied they discussed me before my interview. At that point I knew I wasn’t getting that one either. So, basically, it happens when you are interviewing in the same network

  22. Dust Bunny*

    I find this “it’s Zoom so I can wear a sweatshirt” mindset really weird: It’s still an interview. You presumably still own interview-level clothing, at least from the waist up. You’re still at work. Why on Earth would one not wear interview clothing to a Zoom interview simply because it was on Zoom and not in person?

    1. Anononon*

      I recently “attended” a court admission ceremony over Zoom, and one of the attorneys getting sworn in was wearing an air jordan tshirt! I was blown away and kinda surprised the judge didn’t say anything.

    2. pancakes*

      Maybe their cat or baby threw up on their planned outfit moments before the meeting, who knows. Being dressed down on one occasion during a pandemic doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal to me. If the person otherwise behaves too casually or seems unprepared or caught off guard, then yes, that’s something to think about and maybe discuss, but if it’s just this one thing I’d try not to focus on it.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It’s not just the regular Monday meeting, though. It’s a job interview. It wouldn’t be a dealbreaker for me (especially since, as I commented above, the shirt might have looked more professional in person) but it would make me say “hmmm.”

      2. Ohlaurdy*

        I also think it’s possible they could’ve had a major and weight fluctuation during the pandemic and this is their first interview since and their suit didn’t fit and they unfortunately either realized way too late, the interview was scheduled in a timeline that didn’t allow shopping, and/or couldn’t afford to buy a new one if they got laid off recently. It’s weird times out there right now!

        1. Texan In Exile*

          Yeah, I’ve been wearing nothing but stretchy gym clothes for months. I was a little concerned last Tuesday when I got dressed to work at the polls: would my pants fit?

          (They did.)

    3. irene adler*

      Sometimes the candidate is told that the Zoom interview will be audio only.

      I am told that frequently.
      Only, surprise! The interviewer has their camera on.

      (Yeah, one should dress anyway. But dang, when told “audio only” you’d think they’d stick to their word.)

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        This! I had an interview for Current Job where I was told it was phone only by HR. Then suddenly, 5 minutes into the interview, the interviewer told me it was video, and could I please switch that on? I was definitely not wearing what I would have otherwise for a video interview (still was a collared polo, but a very casual fabric – I had been staffing a table at a conference all day).

    4. CheeryO*

      Agreed, I’m finding these comments really odd. If you can’t figure out a vaguely professional outfit for a Zoom interview, why should I believe that you’ll be able to dress appropriately for clients? If you’re not trying to present yourself in the best possible light in an interview setting, why should I think that you’re going to perform well day-to-day? I understand that we’re still in a pandemic, but it’s not asking that much to pop a blouse on top and make sure it reads OK on camera prior to the interview.

  23. Amy*

    I had situation with a colleague this year. We were co-workers on the same level and he would frequently show up to client Zooms meetings with a sweatshirt, baseball cap with view of an unmade bed. It reflected poorly on our company. All our clients were either in their normal offices wearing suits or at home wearing some level of business clothes. And we definitely got some comments like “oh dress down day at your company?” which annoyed me to be lumped in with him.

    I spoke to him, finally spoke to his boss. He insisted it was NBD. If my co-worker needed someone to say to him “okay, today is a client meeting and this client usually wears a suit” that was never going to happen. I prefer my bosses hire people that have good instincts about norms or emerging norms in our industry.

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      ” with a sweatshirt, baseball cap with view of an unmade bed”

      W T F.

      Make the bed. Put on a collared shirt.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      A colleague of mine does his calls from a bedroom where the bed is often unmade and the bookcase behind him looks like a disaster. He thinks it’s funny. I think it looks terrible. And yes, I realize it’s just books and it’s his home, but it makes me cringe because he sits there for video-based client calls too.

      Since the lockdowns started my office has also become my partner’s gym, so my camera faces a rack of weights and various accessories. I hate it. (We move in two months so I will no longer have to deal with it, thank goodness.) But I take some comfort in the fact that it’s nicely organized. When I’ve done video interviews, I’ve positioned the laptop so the background behind me is a bookcase where all the books stand up straight. Things don’t need to be super-special-Insta-influencer perfect, but if they’re going to be on camera, they should be neat enough so as not to be distracting.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I think that’s the point. They don’t need to look office-level professional, or instagram-worthy curated. They just need to not be distracting.

    3. Observer*

      Please. Your coworker was being an idiot but that’s because you are already getting snarky comments and he’s doubling down. And the manager is not doing his job.

      But making hiring decisions based on the fact that a manager won’t manage is a bad idea even for the company that has the bad manager. The only effective way to deal with non-performing mangers is to make them start managing, or replace them. Making hiring decisions in a functional company based on the fact that managers in some companies won’t manage is just ridiculous.

      1. Amy*

        My colleague was fired last week. He was eventually managed.

        But this isn’t Kindergarten where it’s fine to have zero expectations of someone and lead them by the hand through every routine. I’m in a B2B role where we are expected to show judgement, respond to explicit client feedback, anticipate unsaid client feedback and objections, while working autonomously. Managers are only on client calls of the highest importance, not day-to-day meetings.

        I would not expect that someone who didn’t dress appropriately for an interview to suddenly have a formal polished appearance for clients. And if this is an issue, it doesn’t just affect managers, it affects co-workers too. Teaching a colleague how to shop for professional sweaters and make his bed should not be my job.

        1. Observer*

          But that’s not what the OP is describing. Again you are projecting the behavior of someone who was apparently being willfully obnoxious about his clothing etc. on to the person the OP interviewed. But there is no reason to expect that this is an accurate framing.

          Now, if the OP says “I need you to dress as though we are having a meeting with a client who expects a formal, professional and polished appearance” and their interviewee shows up in a sweatshirt again, that’s one thing. But simply making one’s expectations clear is not hand-holding, and it’s not remotely in the range of teaching someone how to shop, etc.

          1. Amy*

            Showing that you can present yourself to senior management the same way you’d present yourself to clients is part of the interview in my opinion. I’m happy to see what a person’s natural instinct is without prompting.

            If this were a back office or lab role, I’d likely care less. But in many positions, presentation is a huge part of the job.

            1. Observer*

              “Natural instinct” is pretty useless. It’s never a good idea to expect people to read your mind. If a certain type of appearance is important SAY SO. The same is true for pretty much any requirement of the job.

              Expecting people to mind read, which is really what you are describing, is a bad way to hire.

              1. Amy*

                And yet, reading clients minds is a big part of many jobs. But it’s not really mind-reading, it’s being alert to norms, their cues, the industry, dynamics on their team, their needs, their biases.

                As the cook said in Downton Abbey, “I know they are hungry before they know it themselves.” It’s describes manor houses and many RFP processes too.

              2. EventPlannerGal*

                It seems to me like you want to assess this person on whether they own another garment that is not a sweatshirt and whether they are capable of putting that garment on when explicitly told to do so. What Amy is talking about is assessing whether they have the ability to think about what type of meeting/event they are about to attend, figure out what the appropriate way to present themselves is for that meeting and do so without being explicitly instructed to do so by an authority figure. (This is what you seem to be referring to as mind-reading?) Personally, to me it does not seem unreasonable to expect candidates for this type of role to be capable of the latter.

                Since this candidate sounds otherwise really good I probably still would move ahead and give them the explicit instruction to dress more formally. But presentation/how they handle the client-facing part of the job would be a big area of concern. This sounds like a mid-career type job, not entry-level, and by that point most jobs will have some things that if you need explicit instructions to do them it’s a bit concerning.

                1. judyjudyjudy*

                  I think a lot of these matters depends on the specific industry. I got hired into a mid-level position as my first non-academic job because I had an advanced degree with relevant experience — experience I got in grad school, not in my industry. In grad school, all I wore are sweatshirts, jeans, and sneakers, just like all my cohorts. I would not assume that this person must have industry experience and therefore is either ignoring work norms or is unaware of them. I’m not very concerned with this person’s judgement and it seems like a pretty easy fix to me, but maybe in OP’s world this is a aggedious mistake.

  24. CupcakeCounter*

    #1 The bedroom thing is not an issue for me. Before my first Zoom interview I set up a call with my SIL and carried my laptop all over my house to find a good spot (my dedicated office has HORRIBLE lighting for video calls). It could be that was the only spot either due to lighting, connection, or another person on a video call in the house. The part that gives me pause is the extremely casual dress. Even in the time of COVID, how hard is it to throw on a collared shirt for 30 minutes for an interview? I was laid off due to COVID and while job searching and doing video interviews I didn’t go full suit like I normally would (finance), but I wore a professional shirt and one of those open style blazers with nice black yoga pants. Even when I work from home (currently in office…ugh!) I wear a top that would fly in the office on casual Friday (with yoga pants because lets not get too crazy) because I’m new and people are curious so tend to ask to turn on the video for a “face to face”.

  25. irene adler*

    In my job search, I have recently had a bunch of Zoom job interviews.

    For many Zoom interviews, I am told beforehand that they will be conducted in audio only or audio+video. And sometimes a format is not mentioned.

    For those that do not mention a format, I don’t know what to expect so I follow the interviewer’s lead. If they go audio only, then so do I. I’ve joined the meeting with video on, only to have the interviewer ask ME if they should also turn on their video.

    And, I’ve had several back-to-back interviews where there’s a mix of audio+video and audio only. Sometimes I’m informed of this-and sometimes not. It can be tempting not to dress formally, hoping that they will all be audio only. Maybe that was the case with the candidate. I try the middle ground and wear a nice blouse.

    Suggest clarification beforehand as to the Zoom interview format so that the job applicant can know to dress appropriately.

  26. MissBliss*

    I like “stress address” as a typo for street address. I do indeed reside at my stress address these days!

  27. cat lady*

    LW 5, I’ve been having a similar internal quandary– I just got a significant promotion, but I’m reluctant to share about it because there was just a round of layoffs and a number of people are currently on furlough. My department is the only one that’s growing (and bringing in more revenue) but a) we tend to be ignored by the college as a whole, so lots of people don’t know how much we’re growing (enrollment almost doubled in last six months, quadrupled in last year and a half) and b) that’s not stopping me from worrying what laid off former colleagues think.

  28. AndersonDarling*

    #1 Was it conveyed to the candidate that this was a proper interview? I’ve been caught off guard when recruiters send a request “Just to chat for a few min!” or “Let’s set up some time to talk!” I think we are going to have a casual conversation about my background to see if the job is a match, instead I get grilled with formal interview questions.
    I’d check the wording in any communication to see if it is in alignment with your expectations.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Ugh… not fun. I think that’s where the old advice that was common in the era of drop off your resume to a company comes in handy. Dress like an interview for every interaction. Or failing that plead broken camera :)

  29. Rusty Shackelford*

    #3, it sounds like you’re applying at different branches of your store? I wonder if people who are already in that particular location are given priority. Or, since you said it would be a promotion for you, maybe people who are already in that position, but are in a different location, are considered first.

  30. Aerwyna*

    #2 I agree with Alison, do what makes you comfortable! It shouldn’t make a difference, but if you are concerned about biases while interviewing and want a lighter alternative to the prosthetics you may want to check out “knitted knockers” which are little knitted pillows shaped to fill in a regular bra. You can request a pair, or find patterns to make your own on the knitted knockers website (

    1. OP2*

      I was gifted a pair by my surgeon. They’re amazing. And that’s a charity I intend to support. I hadn’t thought to use those ongoing though, so thank you for the suggestion.

  31. Superb Owl*

    #4, I live in a highly segregated city and try to avoid looking at addresses on resumes to avoid unconsciously biasing myself when I’m reviewing. Honestly, I often wish they weren’t on there (or that HR would strip them, as well as names). In my city, it doesn’t even take looking at a map or being knowledgeable about neighborhoods – for the most part, even glancing at an address is often an 80%+ indicator of someone’s race.

  32. employment lawyah*

    1. Candidate was dressed too casually on a Zoom interview
    I would not be concerned.

    If they were otherwise competent and good, I would assume that they are easily capable of adopting whatever professional image you require, and that this was a miscommunication brought on by the oddness of CV and Zoom interviewing.

    If you’re curious, you can always address it in advance of your second interview and ask them to dress up.

    2. Do I need to wear my breast prosthetics consistently or not at all?
    Do whatever you want, it’s your body.

    If you switch often, then (depending on a lot of factors which you don’t discuss) it’s possible that some people may vaguely notice. Certainly nobody should comment, that would be incredibly rude. But if you feel uncomfortable with that possibility that a random person may notice, you can always opt to be consistent.

    3. Was this hiring process deceitful?

    4. Will I be automatically rejected if my resume doesn’t include my street address?
    Possibly (the world is a big and odd place!) though probably not. Also it would be stupid of them to do so. It’s more likely that they would filter (if at all) by zip code or state, not by street address versus PO box.

  33. Blue Eagle*

    #1 – People who are on video calls where their background suggests a bedroom seem very odd to me. How difficult is it to reposition your computer so that you are sitting on a chair and the background is a blank wall (or a wall with a picture or other piece of art, etc – which is what I do when on a video call). We really don’t want to see your bedroom or your bathroom or your kitchen, or your family members walking behind you where we can see them. {Which makes me think of the one AAM commenter who mentioned being on a conference call and a co-worker working from her bedroom left the computer up when she went to another room and the AAM commenter saw her co-worker’s husband walk out of the bathroom naked. Yikes!}

    1. Ilene*

      For many people, particularly those living in cramped urban environments, it’s actually quite difficult.

      1. asgard*

        Having lived in a cramped urban apartment I can say it was quite easy to sit against/near a wall or closed door or bookcase or counter or anything solid, really. In fact, it would be quite difficult NOT to. It would be SO much hard to get open space behind me. The wall doesn’t need to be clear, pictures and hangings and shelves are fine (as long as they are “safe for work”). And you only have to do it while on camera so it’s not like you’re setting up for all day. So when done you can move back to a more comfortable local.

    2. Jessen*

      I live in a studio apartment and there is no possible location I could put a camera that would match your description. Bedroom/bathroom/kitchen describes everything I’ve got here. And there is no blank wall anywhere or wall with just a picture or something.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        In one of my old digs when I was younger, it would’ve been bed frame visible or window with giant rotting hole underneath it visible. (Hooray for landlords who never fix anything….) And I’m not talking undergrad days, I’m talking a bunch of PhDs, a JD and a Masters in a sharehouse because that’s what we could afford at that time in that city.

        As a sidenote, I’m kind of surprised how many people in the comments seem to think the OP needs to base their entire hiring decision on this one preliminary interview. As Alison said, if sweatshirt candidate seems otherwise skilled, another interview can be arranged with more specific parameters to see if their sartorial choices are poor judgement, bad camera translation or just general pandemic weirdness.

    3. londonedit*

      Many couples in urban areas are having to deal with both people working from home in a one-bed apartment. Certainly in London, it’s common for flats to have a combined kitchen/living room and then a separate bedroom and bathroom, so if both sides of a couple need to be on calls/in meetings, the only option is for one of them to work in the living room and one of them to work in the bedroom. It’s really, really common. I live in a studio flat and I’m fortunate in that my laptop camera faces towards my bookshelf and wardrobe, which are both painted white and are fairly inoffensive, but it’s really not difficult to imagine that many people wouldn’t have an easy option for a plain background wall. Not everyone has a spare room to magically transform into a private office.

    4. Kiki*

      I do not really want you to see my bedroom either, but my apartment is all bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, or cat tree. Could I rearrange my whole apartment so I could have a blank wall behind me for all my video calls? I could, but my bed would be in my kitchen and it would be deeply inconvenient for me to move that around every day. My coworkers will live if they can see the corner of my bed behind me on video. It’s a pandemic.

    5. CheeryO*

      I think seeing a kitchen is fine as long as it’s clean. I’d do that a thousand times over before I took an interview from my bed.

      1. Jessen*

        Still depends on your setup, though. My kitchen here is kind of a hallway with counters on one side and the fridge and stove on the other. Honestly not only would it look strange as the background, there’s really no way to fit a table and computer chair in there. I wouldn’t take the interview from my bed, but if I was doing one the bed would probably end up in the background. There just aren’t a lot of good angles around here for video calls.

    6. bkanon*

      Very difficult. There isn’t a single blank wall in my house. Even the hallway has bookcases and family photos. Eight rooms, five of which are bedroomX3, bathroom, and kitchen. The other three are two communal living spaces for the family and the pantry. I could use the pantry, if one didn’t mind the litter box and the hot water heater.

      1. Heather*

        Everyone is taking “blank wall” way too literally IMO. A bookcase, family photos, or an arty poster is fine, and completely different from the headboard in someone’s bed.

        1. Jessen*

          I really don’t think we are. The options in my case are – the wall with the bed and my laundry, one with the bathroom and a bunch of cat stuff, one with the dresser and a bunch of electronics and craft supplies, and the one with my door and workout corner with a big mirror that shows the rest of the room. None of those are particularly professional options.

    7. Observer*

      How difficult is it to reposition your computer so that you are sitting on a chair and the background is a blank wall (or a wall with a picture or other piece of art, etc

      Depending on the living situation, it ranges from “very difficult” to “impossible”.

    8. Nanani*

      Very, if your living space is small or there are other people using it or all the other “walls” are windows and doors or you can’t physically move the furniture (because you have mobility issues or it’s bolted in or you just don’t have the physical ability) or a lot of things.

      “Just”point it at something other than bed, but it also can’t be pointed where other people might be walking? That’s a contradiction for a lot of people in small living spaces.

      Just cause its easy for you doesn’t mean it’s obvious and simple to all!

    9. Tiny Kong*

      Very difficult in urban apartments.
      Especially if you expect those places to have the other elements required for a comfortable workspace: electrical outlet, table and chair, room for mouse or writing surface, privacy from other family members…

      I have 3 rooms in my apartment, so it’s either bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, or living room where my family member is also working from home.
      Do you not know anyone without a home office?

  34. EPLawyer*

    #3 – you said you applied in your city and got to the final round. Then you applied in a different city and didn’t even get called in. It could be something as simple as they need someone in the same city. Maybe for last minute coverage or to be on call for emergencies. If you are in another city, you aren’t as available as someone in the same city. That’s it. Nothing deceitful at all.

  35. lilsheba*

    Honestly why are companies even focused on “polished appearance” anymore? How one dresses doesn’t matter. It’s so shallow. As for backgrounds, seriously who cares? Ooooh you’re seeing my home, oh no. I really don’t see the big deal. There are more important things to worry about.

    1. employment lawyah*

      Honestly why are companies even focused on “polished appearance” anymore? How one dresses doesn’t matter.
      It matters a lot, to a lot of people. It matters more than most people think. It probably matters more than more people realize.

      Think about it! Most of us believe that folks make some judgments (often called “prejudices”) even on IMMUTABLE characteristics like race/gender/age. Right? We know that people do that, even though we also know for sure that those don’t really have predictive value.

      And so it’s even more common for people to make choices based on OPTIONAL choices like “what you chose to wear” or “what color you chose to dye your hair” or “what do your tattoos say” because those DO have predictive value about all sorts of things. In fact, the reliance on those things is often precisely why people choose to use them as signals: If a business chooses to “dress casual” (to convey approachability) or “dress in 3 piece suits” (to convey formality and attentiveness, etc.)

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Clients often care, and most companies aren’t comfortable telling clients that they should just get over their silly opinions about appearance.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Sadly, I must agree with this. If this wasn’t a client-facing position, I think the tone of a lot of these comments would be different.

        1. Amy*

          I don’t think it’s sad. I’ve recently been Zooming with a lawyer for $400 an hour on a complex legal matter. I prefer that he’s professional, no nonsense and I don’t need to worry what he’ll wear in front of a judge.

          1. Crivens!*

            I mean, if companies in general started communicating to clients that they will not give in to ridiculous demands about professionalism, and they can either accept that or move on, clients would have no other choice.

            1. Amy*

              I am more than happy to pick up any clients that feel like their needs are not being met in a professional enough manner by their current company. I won’t call them ridiculous. Sounds great.

              1. Paperwhite*

                I’m kind of curious about what you think of straightened vs natural hair. If a client said “that woman you had on my case has a head full of rumpled curls” would you tell your employee to go get her hair straightened to be “professional enough”?

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              So “please wear something that is not a sweatshirt” is a ridiculous demand now? Seriously?

        1. ...*

          Not everyone wants a future of indefinite work from home where everyone dresses like a blanket grub. Asking people to be clean and professionally dressed isn’t too high an expectation. I’m not even talking thinks like dyed hair or painted nails. Just professional and pulled together. Focused.

    3. Chinook*

      Because it is a sign of how you take care of the small details. It is the same reason that some rock bands ask for no no red m&m’s in their riders – if there are none, then they are more confident that you have taken care of other details such as stage set up and safety concerns.

      I once asked my grandfather why the military makes guys make their beds to military standards (he was a staff sergeant and telling us stories of flipping poorly made beds). He said that, in peacetime conditions, there is no reason not to take the time and effort to do everything crisply, neatly and to specifications. If you can’t do that now, how can they expect you to follow standards, procedures and specifications when under stress and lives are at stake?

      As long as the specifications are clear at the outset (which the OP can do by explaining dress code and background requirements), she is free to judge the intervewee on how well those specifications are met.

    4. Allonge*

      I imagine quite a few companies expect to go back to working in person at some point, so they hire for their old standards, while temporarily interrupted. Quite a lot of people find it comforting to keep some things as they were before.

      And there is quite a lot of space between ‘anything goes, it’s the end of times anyway’ and the ‘wear your office shoes at home or else’ extremes. People do get to have a preference.

  36. Fiona*

    I remember feeling wary about a hire because he showed up jeans and a sweatshirt – that said, this was for an IT role and I think there are different expectations around that. According to people in the know, he answered all the questions perfectly and we hired him. He was an incredible asset: knowledgeable, helpful, always available. Truly one of the best hires we made at our small company and I’m really glad I was “overruled” on the dress code thing. As the process continues, definitely file away this as far as assessing good judgment and see if there any other flags that concern you, but as others said, don’t fully rule her out.

    1. lilsheba*

      that just proves that clothes don’t matter! It’s the person that matters, not what they’re wearing or they’re tattoos or hair color.

      1. Heather*

        Sure, in a non-client facing role. It sounds like the OP is in a conservative industry and that clients expect someone professional looking. Most people would blanch at a lawyer or mortician rolling in in sweats and jeans.

  37. Wintermute*

    Something to note about clothes and Zoom.

    A lot of people are having trouble getting cameras right now, which means many people who would otherwise get a name brand are forced to rely on whatever was in stock on Amazon for quick delivery, often a no-name import brand of dubious quality. These cameras can have a serious flaw in their optics regarding near-infrared light– a frequency which can sometimes make clothes appear far different than they appear in sunlight or in the light of a bathroom mirror while dressing, including sometimes appearing far more translucent than you would think possible.

    Now, I have no problem with those products (I love my “samwung” tablet), but some of the cameras have a serious flaw. By nature all digital cameras see near-spectrum infrared light. This can cause serious issues so most of them put a filter on the lens to exclude this light, however in cheap no-brand equipment that coating (which is one of the expensive parts of a good camera) is often “minimalist” at best, and could easily wear off, and might admit frequencies of light that are not intended. This means what they see in the mirror after dressing is NOT what the camera, and thus you on Zoom, see.

    Life pro tip: near-IR can sometimes “see through” clothing, so if a coworker has visible underwear this may well be the reason, it would be a kindness to warn them their camera may be showing more than they can see in the bathroom mirror.

    In addition, it can definitely make clothes look different. Now it probably won’t make a suit look like a sweatshirt! but it certainly could make colors look like they clash oddly or make fabrics look different.

    Also, I’d cut anyone slack on professional dress right now because A) most dry cleaners are closed and B) at least in my area we still have a coin shortage meaning a laundromat that uses cards (and all the virus exposure that comes with going to a highly trafficked public place) is the only option if you can’t afford a pickup/delivery service.

    additional life pro tip: some older cameras, one I know that’s famous for it is the Gameboy accessory camera for the GameBoy Advance, can have the IR filter coating scrubbed off with a brillo pad letting you take some awesome pictures (at very low resolution, in that case) of things like flowers, which are often even more vibrant outside of the human visual spectrum.

    1. Attack Cat*

      This is why I use my phone for zoom (college). My laptop technically has an in built camera, but it’s not great. I’m not in a position where looking professional matters, most of the time I can leave my camera off, but I personally dislike having an image quality resembling a potato.

  38. SaffyTaffy*

    OP2 I’m so sorry about your illness. My aunt shared that she doesn’t always wear her prosthetics to work, which is in an office setting.

  39. voluptuousfire*

    I’m currently interviewing and my experience may be a little different in that I’m interviewing with tech companies, so generally speaking, they tend to be more casual. I had a Zoom yesterday and I wore a black and white striped top with a ballerina neckline. It’s very simple, clean, and does scoop in the back but no one sees that. I could easily wear this under a black suit and it would look really good. Otherwise, I don’t really bother with digging out my interview clothes.

    The other day I had a Zoom and wore a pink sweater fleece over a black tshirt and it was fine.

  40. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – Just be frank with the candidate about the context of your office and coach them on their appearance/presentation for the next interview. Then see how they handle it – are they open to the feedback? Do they follow your advice? You’ll get some insight into the person’s response to criticism/feedback, and a better sense of whether they will fit into your culture, as well as an indication of whether they are interested in a more corporate / formal environment. Also, they may have been under the impression that this first interview was more of an informal meeting, or they may have been coming out of zoom meetings at their current job where everything is ultra casual.

    OP#2 – Congratulations on your recovery! I would tend to go with a consistent look, but that’s just me and my need for privacy (I didn’t tell anyone when I was diagnosed with a health issue, because I didn’t want anyone to question whether I was able to do my work, so I would have made sure I didn’t look different). Also, I know my clothing would hang wrong on me if I altered my silhouette significantly.

    OP#3 – There was no deceit in the hiring process. In fact, they were remarkably open with you and quite honest. You’re not entitled to an interview, and if you already had interviewed for another role, the company is entirely within their rights to decide that you’re not the right candidate for the same role in a different location. There are a myriad of reasons why that could be so, even if you did interview very well – eg. they have an internal candidate, other candidates were stronger, you lack a skill the new hiring manager wants but that isn’t on the standard job profile, they don’t think the commute is viable or they are unwilling to consider a relocation, etc. etc. etc.

    OP#4 – most resumes I see now omit an address – so I’m guessing that most ATS aren’t screening them out automatically. That said, often an ATS will require you to provide an address when you set up a profile, if it can’t parse one from your resume.

    OP#5 – As long as you are certain that the job is yours, timing your announcement is up to you. That said, I would wait until after you’ve started, just in case anything goes wrong at the last minute.

  41. ggg*

    I have a reasonably sized house but have occasionally taken Zoom calls from the bedroom to escape my kids and husband, who are also working/in class all day. There are only so many private areas in the house that are suitable for meetings. Sometimes I like to use our porch, which is more picturesque, but it can be too noisy at certain times of day (construction, trash trucks, lawn mowing up and down the street, that kind of thing).

    So I wouldn’t judge the candidate for Zooming from bed, assuming the bed was made and they were sitting up straight rather than obviously lounging. I’m a little iffier on the sweatshirt but people have pointed out that clothing may read differently on camera.

    1. TiffIf*

      Literally the only place I can work from is my bedroom (small apartment shared with a roommate who is also working form home).

      1. Frageelie*

        I don’t have a problem with that. I think the dress though – even if you didn’t wear a suit, I would NOT wear a sweatshirt on an interview call. I think that is bad judgment. Now, if the candidate is awesome in all other ways, I would not exclude them, but it is one thing to consider if you have a tie.

    2. Observer*

      Yeah, even in a fairly large home, it can be surprisingly difficult to find a space that meets requirements that basically translate to “pretend it’s an actual office.”

      I have a fairly large house, and I think we would have all been able to find a QUIET spot, even before most of my kids moved out. But there is no way I would have been able to put everyone in front of a blank wall or one with just a (work approved) picture.

      And if someone has a school aged child in their household on remote school, the problem may be compounded because a shocking number of schools / teacher have ridiculously stringent requirements for where their students “attend” class. Many parents don’t have the wherewithal to fight this stuff.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Oof I’m really feeling the ‘quiet’ aspect right now too! I’m trying to record a video presentation this week, and it turns out the room with the best lighting and most professional-looking background also seems to funnel in the noise from every bus, truck and construction site within a two mile radius.

        And boy can it be hard to escape pets and kids. One of my best friends started working from home the same month his toddler entered the “I am angry at the universe and I am going to scream about it all the time” phase. My cat is deaf and so only meows at maximum volume. Both of them can be heard at least three houses away. Some things can’t be helped.

  42. Ohlaurdy*

    OP #3: I think it’s worth remembering that your extremely positive interviews were with the recruiter. In my experience, internal recruiters are usually really enthusiastic and a little fluffy when it comes to interviewing. They want to get to know you but they also want you to get excited about the role. They also usually aren’t able to speak toward your candidacy since they’re not the hiring manager and they don’t do the job you are interviewing for. You could say the same exact answers to the same exact questions to the hiring manager and get two totally different responses because in the end, the hiring manager is the only person who truly knows what they need. I’m sorry this round of interviewing didn’t go as you expected, but as everyone else has already said, there are SO many factors to a rejection and most of them aren’t illegal.

  43. Dr.X*

    #1: On Zoom interviews and (the lack of) virtual backgrounds.

    It is important to note that zoom backgrounds are not only incompatible with many older computers but also prone to erasing black and brown skin. So I think it’s unreasonable to expect this in any professional context.

  44. Brett*

    If the OP is concerned about physical address versus mailing address or another type of address, as someone who specializes in these types of address systems, that level of verification is prohibitively expensive. It can be affordable to validate a set of addresses on a one time basis, but being able to do rolling validation in a system like an ATS can end up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

    1. I am Number Four*

      I was mostly asking because the context I was given this information in was one where the person had a lot of implied and directly claimed knowledge and authority over best practices, and was advising others, but the advice seemed both off-base and directly contradicted by my own experience.

      I really appreciate your comment, as it gives me more ammo to push back on the bad advice with!

  45. Mr. Cajun2core*

    OP #1.

    I almost didn’t hire a student worker because for the zoom interview he had a t-shirt on and was wearing a baseball cap on backwards. It would have been a big mistake. He has turned out to be an excellent, hardworking, and very motivated employee. I credited his mistake to him working in construction previously which has a much different dress code than an university.

    When I offered him the job, I explained to him the dress code and he has complied with it since.

    As Alison said, please do not discount the person because of their attire during this time.

    1. Mr. Cajun2core*

      Also, I want to add that yesterday I did not think that his shoes were appropriate and that they looked too casual. Well, being 50+ and never really into fashion, I was wrong. They apparently were very stylish, modern, and dress shoes.

  46. Renee*

    FWIW – I just did my first set of interviews to hire this past month through Webex. I always use the blurry background jusy bc my office is also my dressing room (spare bedroom/ small master closet). Pretty much everyone was dressed ok, but backgrounds were just walls. One was a living room – honestly we didnt care. One of them I had no make up on and my hair wasnt fixed bc I forgot we were having work done on both bathrooms that day.

    And we do a lot of Webex for work. Ive also done some Webex meetings with outside personnel of very high title in state or federal government that were no make up, sweatshirt, cats sitting in front of the camera (including mine!). I just figured it was all part of this new working from home thing. But then again we are a relaxed government office, not a fancy private sector business. We have a dress standard for client interaction that will be explained during onboarding.

  47. MissDisplaced*

    #1 Please don’t rule them out over a sweatshirt and a headboard. I recently had an interview I thought was supposed to be a phone screen. But the person decided last minute to do video. Luckily, I do have an office, but I was dressed much more casually than I would’ve been had I known. Zoom has thrown all norms out of whack!

    But if formality matters so much, tell them a formal, professional level of dress is required in the next round.

  48. Paperwhite*

    Honestly, I hate the sandwich rule. It causes people to continually recommend sandwiches to celiacs and then scold them for not taking the advice instead of adjusting it. (I’m being metaphorical here.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The sandwich rule is about outlier cases. Example (using the one that started the rule):

      OP: I’m having a problem that could be solved by easy things to bring for lunch.
      Commenter 1: Sandwiches are easy and delicious.
      Commenter 2: Not everyone can eat sandwiches! Some people are allergic to them. Thus, your suggestion sucks and you should be more considerate.

      That’s not okay. But this would be different:
      OP: I’m having a problem that could be solved by easy things to bring for lunch.
      Commenter 1: Sandwiches are easy and delicious.
      OP: Actually, I see how that would work for a lot of people, but in my case I can’t eat sandwiches. Anyone have other ideas?

      Totally fine.

      Also fine:

      OP: I’m having a problem that could be solved by easy things to bring for lunch.
      Commenter 1: Sandwiches are easy and delicious.
      Commenter 2: I have the same question, and in my case I can’t eat sandwiches. Anyone have other ideas?

      The rule just means that you can’t shut down ideas because they wouldn’t work in every circumstance for every person. But it’s perfectly okay to refine the request for help by providing additional details for your own question.

  49. OP# 1*

    OP#1 here. Thanks to everyone for their perspective. I obviously am not going to disclose my organization, but we are very well known to people who work in this industry, and we are also very well known for our very formal interactions with clients and stakeholders. It would literally be impossible for any candidate with the credentials that this individual has to not know this. I’m really not exaggerating here.

    That being said, behind the scenes, we have a more casual environment especially since Covid hit. My employee’s kids and pets are usually at one point heard or seen during our staff and check in meetings, and it’s very much ok. However for client-facing interactions, Zoom or not, this is not the case and professional attire (suit) and behavior is expected. There is opportunity to come into the office and socially distance in a conference room by yourself to conduct Zoom meetings if there is an issue with space or confidentiality at home. My employer had definitely tried to keep everyone safe and at home as much as possible.

    Regarding this candidate, I did advanced them in the interview process along with another candidate, and I gave them both the same advice to treat the next interview as if they were coming into our office. I also indicated that we had not relaxed our dress code during client-facing and formal meetings, but a more casual dress code was in effect when we were just having internal meetings within our departments.

    The shirt certainly looked like a typical gray sweatshirt to me. I think a bedroom is fine if that is what you have available, but to actually be lying in the bed at the time, combined with the casual attire, just came off as way to informal for the occasion. It does make me question the judgement of this person, but they interviewed well and I will absolutely give them a chance to change my perception.

    Thanks again !

    1. Maltypass*

      Oh I did not pick up from your letter that they were lying in the bed, I thought they were sitting on which is a very different vibe! The dress code alone is an easy mistake in the current climate but lying in bed I can see why you questioned judgement. It is always possible they have health issues (I myself suffer from constant migraines and am capable of cognitive and social stuff like an interview but not necessarily sitting up) and it’s understandable they don’t want to disclose that, but that’s total speculation. Hope it works out

  50. AnyJennyWaynest*

    OP2, I’m a 13 year survivor with a one side mastectomy. I gave up wearing a prosthesis almost 2 years ago because I could never get it to look natural with the remaining kind of large breast. I don’t wear super tight fitting clothes, but I’m sure someone could notice if they really were determined. No one has EVER made any comments, or seemed to notice, and I’ve gone to both professional and field meetings that way. Just my data point!

  51. Ellena*

    From the 2014 reply of Alison related to #4 – “most people’s addresses are in the phone book and available online”- is this really (still) the case in USA? Really creepy. In Germany (and I believe most Europe) this doesn’t happen with personal data. From relentless marketers to criminals – my address is nobody’s business unless I give it.

    1. Rainy*

      Yes and no. There are still phone books but most people I know recycle them when they’re delivered. They also aren’t delivered as often as they used to be. And the phone book only has people with landlines, and only if the numbers are public and the person hasn’t opted out of the address recording bit.

      Now, sometimes you can look someone up and find addresses through online lookup sites, but there will be a lot of addresses, virtually all of them out of date, and they’ll be pulled from public records like voting registration etc.

      I’m not sure when this changed, though–I only moved back to the US in 2014, after six years abroad.

      1. mgguy*

        It usually takes some digging to find an address/phone number online these days even if you know a decent amount about the person, unlike the days of just looking them up in a phone book(or the old days of the internet where you could find complete phone books online). About a year ago, I managed to dig up a(landline) phone number for an old friend of his he hadn’t talked to in several years and had misplaced their number. It was quite a bit of hunting.

        I know that my cable company keeps wanting to bundle a landline in with my cable and internet. I specifically DON’T want it because I then don’t want to have to deal with paying extra for it to be unlisted and paying for that. Since I’m a college professor, I really, really don’t want a listed number(or address) even if half my students may never have touched a phone book in their lives.

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