our job candidates show up in ultra-casual interview attire

A reader writes:

I work for a manufacturing company in inside sales/customer service. We support not only the outside sales team but also our customers through phone and email. The job description makes it clear this is an office job.

Even pre-Covid, we were seeing most of the candidates we interviewed come in very casual dress. As in, running-to-grab-something-from-the-grocery-store outfits, not interview-ready clothes. Faded jeans were a norm and even some beanies. It became a pleasant surprise when someone was dressed in slacks and a decent shirt. This was not a youth issue, either. We had adults into their 40’s or 50’s in faded jeans and old t-shirts. Our state unemployment rate was already low at this time, and we were plagued with no-call/no-shows, so we got to the point where we were forced to look past it. Is this a new norm? Is there wording we could add to the job description to encourage a more professional presentation?

Do they actually need to have a more professional presentation? It sounds like the job is helping people through phone and email, not in-person. Does it impact their work if they wear jeans and t-shirts? If the answer to that is yes, then definitely tell people when you’re setting up the interview that your dress code is (business/business casual/no jeans/whatever). But if the answer is no … maybe it’s time to stop caring!

There is a deep-rooted, long-running convention that you dress up for interviews, and I too have been thrown off when a candidate arrives for an interview dressed very casually. I get it! When you’ve been trained that dressing up for an interview (or a job) is The Thing One Does, you can end up expecting it without questioning why or whether it matters, and being taken aback when someone doesn’t adhere to that expectation.

But the world is changing, and many workers (and employers!) are questioning what we really need from dress codes, and whether we need them at all. Some jobs still do need them — for example, there are jobs where dressing more formally builds credibility with clients — but far fewer need dress codes than actually have them.

If your concern is that dressing casually indicates a candidate isn’t taking the interview seriously enough (or might be sloppy/overly casual/too laid-back in other ways): Have any of those casually dressed applicants been strong candidates? Have you hired any of them, and if so, how did they do once on the job? Is there any correlation between performance and what they wore to the interview?

I do think it’s true that when someone flouts an established professional norm, you’ve got to ask what that might mean if you hire them and whether they’ll be out of sync with other professional norms, and whether that’s going to be a problem. But you’re seeing this in the majority of your candidates! If nothing else, that means that norms have changed among the population you’re hiring from.

Again, if the work really requires a certain type of dress, then give candidates that heads-up. But otherwise, ask yourself why it matters.

Candidates: My advice to you is still to dress up for interviews, unless you know you’re in a field where that’s not done, to give yourself the best shot at the job. But managers, it’s time to rethink this on our side.

{ 451 comments… read them below }

  1. ElizabethJane*

    I’ve started dressing up but in a way that is more my style (last time I interviewed I wore red pants – they were linen dress pants, but bright Christmassy red) with a white button down and some funky jewelry.

    Definitely not conservative but it’s also a way for me to demonstrate my personality so I figured if it disqualified me I was probably not a great fit and that was OK. But I was also job searching when I had the flexibility to be picky. If I didn’t have that I’d definitely have gone more conservative.

    1. Rayray*

      That sounds like a cute outfit. I love linen pants because they’re so comfy but still look a little more dressed up.

    2. SeenIt*

      One of my most brilliant hires ever showed up to an interview in MN in Nov. wearing shorts and sandals.

      The other interviewer didn’t even want to bother. We sat down with him anyway, and ended up having him take the standard exam we had all the programmers taking.

      I ended up getting a call from the company a little later on that day, asking if I’d been present when this particular exam was taken.

      Turns out he finished faster than every previous candidate, by a long shot, nothing wrong. They wanted to be sure it was a valid score.

      It’s clearly a knock against you, but not one that should red flag someone out of the running unless it’s a strictly public facing position in my opinion.

      1. JB*

        Ultimately it comes down to an easy way to screen people out.

        When there are a lot of strong candidates, companies can afford to cut candidates based on the easy decision of whether they dressed to an arbitrary standard.

        When there are a lot of good positions open and few candidates, (or, in your case, it sounds like this one particular candidate knew he had a lot of options) then candidates can reverse it and can screen out potential employers by seeing how they react to more comfortable or expressive clothing.

        1. Blue*

          Thank you for mentioning being clear with job candidates if particular kind of dress is required. It’s unfair to evaluate job candidates on criteria if they weren’t informed about it? Like, if you want candidates dressed up for interviews, you need to tell them that. If you want job candidates to send you a thank you note after the interview, you need to tell them that. Folks from cultures that are non mainstream-American may not have grown up knowing about these kinds of professional ‘norms,’ so you run the risk of missing out on good employees if you are judging them based on unfair criteria. The book “Limbo: Blue Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams” is a good resource.

          1. Wenike*

            Just throwing out there too that even people who grew up in mainstream America may not be aware of all the professional norms. My background had my Mom as a SAHM for most of my life (and then disability/retirement due to cancer) and my Dad has essentially only worked for 2 companies in my lifetime as well (and will be retiring next year). I’m in tech, so thank you notes aren’t really a thing for me (that I’m aware of, but I also have had my job for over a decade so things have changed even for me!) and being told what is expected will be very useful for me if I ever need to job search again.

            1. TheLinguistManager*

              I hire a bunch in tech and thank you notes are always appreciated! (And I always sent them when interviewing for a job.)

              Then again, I also like to see cover letters and those are increasingly thin on the ground. Maybe I’m just a dinosaur.

              1. SylviaPlath*

                To each their own, but as someone who is both hiring for a professional “businessy job” position that also has fairly recent experience with being interviewed, I don’t really want to read a cover letter or to WRITE a cover letter myself. People are just going to use a madlibs template for it anyway and I’d rather just ask the candidate on the fly what interested them in the position, etc. instead of expecting busy work just to apply.

              2. shyster*

                I hire in tech too and while I appreciate thank you notes when people send them, I don’t really care if they don’t send them. I do like to see cover letters, but that’s because I feel like it’s another better opportunity for the candidate to sell themselves to me a little that’s different in tone and purpose from a resume. Also, my job requires a lot of written communication, and I’d at least like to know what I’m getting into on the writing front.

      2. David*

        Hah, for a second I could have believed you were talking about my coworker.

        Computer programming definitely seems to be one of those fields where you have to learn not to care about dress if you want to hire the really good people. I’m sure you’ve heard how it’s been taken to extremes in some cases, where interviewers will actually penalize a candidate for dressing up too nicely, like wearing a suit; IMO that’s ridiculous, but it does show how strongly the “normal” expectations are subverted in this field.

      3. Mongrel*

        Honestly, he’s a programmer. I’m more distrustful of the ones who turn up in suits, they always seem to be the ones who view this role as a necessary evil in their plans to be a crap manager.

        1. shyster*

          I have to admit, seeing an interviewee in a full suit would be a jarring experience (I work in tech too). The closest we’ve gotten is button-down and slacks, no tie. Has anyone ever worn a tie? Maybe the dude who work pink chinos, but he also wore sandals.

    3. Smithy*

      I’m in this camp.

      I am part of the “geriatric millennial” generation where when I first started interviewing for jobs, having my mom took me shopping for skirt suits even though I never had a job that was business formal. While I had a wardrobe of professional external facing clothing in my style, whenever it came time to interview – out came the “suit panic”. Did the old suit fit?? How much would it cost to get a new one???? These jobs often require 4 interviews, does that mean I really need to find 4 suit like outfits?????????

      It’s only in recent years that I’ve come to terms that my overall job never requires a suit, I don’t like them, and they don’t really flatter my body. Ergo, shoving my body into one for an interview is something I will no longer be doing. Interviewing during COVID in legging and mumus that had nice collars was truly liberating, and while I accept not doing that going forward – the idea of buying clothing just for interviews is also nothing I’m doing again.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Yep, same. When I’m interviewing, I dress the way I would for my dressiest day at that job, which at my position in my industry never means a suit. Partly because I don’t see the point in buying and tailoring an outfit which I will only wear a handful of times, and partly because I’m just not comfortable wearing them. I want the interviewers to see me at my best, and if I’m distracted by my clothing I’m definitely not at my best.

        1. Smithy*

          Absolutely. My first email to AAM was *cough cough* a while ago, and when I was living in a non-US desert climate where air conditioning wasn’t guaranteed everywhere and I needed to take public transportation to get to my interview.

          I had an interview in July and could not reconcile how to dress in order to be professional while also adjusting to ensure I didn’t show up drenched in sweat. If I were to dig up my email, I’m sure I’d read it now as basically asking permission to not wear a suit for a context where in my gut I knew it didn’t make sense.

      2. Jay*

        I’m 61. I’ve owned two skirt suits in my life. Bought each for an interview and never wore either of them again. I’ve worn separates to every interview since then – blazer and nice skirt, or a cardigan over a sheath dress. The interview for my current job I’d gained weight and the only professional outfit I could fit into was a pair of gray slacks, a soft pink blouse and a black cardigan. Attire in the office ranged from jeans (most of the office staff) to khakis and button down (VP) to a very sharp sheath dress and stiletto heels (GM). My eventual boss was wearing cargo pants and a company logo polo. My clothing clearly wasn’t a barrier as they pretty much hired me on the spot.

        I was taken aback when I interviewed someone for a receptionist position at a medical practice and she showed up in a midriff-baring tank top and a miniskirt. I would have been perfectly fine with a pair of neat jeans and a shirt.

        1. Tupac Coachella*

          I know of a person who was passed up for a server job at a casual dining restaurant because they showed up to the interview in a crop top and flip flops. They hire people in jeans all the time (management actually got together and consciously decided that the idea that people interviewing for a low paying server job should be expected to buy business casual clothes to interview with them was unnecessary and classist, which I thought was pretty cool), but they saw that as too big of a gap from understanding professional norms for them to ignore.

          1. RandaPanda*

            I am a manager at a large national big box store. Our dress code is just solid pants or jeans, closed shoes, company vest or solid colored shirt. I don’t mind one bit if someone turns up to an interview in jeans and a T-shirt. But flip flops or slides, sweatpants, obscene or rude slogan t-shirts, basketball shorts, swimwear, undershirts worn as the only shirt, are all turndowns for me. There’s being comfortable and then there’s having no sense of appropriateness.

      3. glitter writer*

        Very much the same as a “geriatric millennial” (or possibly a baby gen X, depending who is doing the surveying). My mother made me wear pantyhose and a borrowed suit to my first job interviews — for temp jobs and retail! But I got out of the suit habit when I had to scramble to pull together an interview outfit less than two months after my first child was born (at which point “anything that fits and doesn’t have visible spit-up on it” will do) and realized: neither that job, nor any of my subsequent ones, ever had a use case for suits while at work so why should I wear them for interviews? Since then I’ve dressed sharply but not formally and had no problem getting jobs.

      4. sacados*

        Oh my god yes, that “does this suit I bought last time I was job searching three years ago even still fit” panic …. I feel that SO HARD hahaha.
        Definitely never putting myself through that again.

        1. Mints*

          Same, I had one suit I bought when I graduated college and I’m like two sizes bigger than that now. For awhile I would wear it for interviews even though it was a little tight. Then when it became actually too small, I realized I didn’t care to replace it. I have nice enough clothes for interviewing and funerals and etc, and they are not suits, and I’m fine with that now. A lot of dress code advice varies by region, social circle, industry, and I’m now confident that my particulars never need a suit.

    4. Justin*

      Yes, me too. I wear colorful but nicely pressed slacks, and usually a sweater or a nice shirt that is comfortable and a nice, solid color. I like to “pop” in a subtle way but also be comfortable.

    5. Little Lobster*

      This is the way. I so clearly remember how physically and mentally uncomfortable I was at my first interview after college. My mom bought me a skirt suit from Banana Republic and some black leather pumps, and this outfit was WAY too formal for the job I was interviewing for, and for me in general. I didn’t feel like myself. I tanked the interview and did not get the job.

      Now my go-to interview outfit is some nice, high-waisted skinny jeans, flats, solid-color button-up shirt, and a vintage blazer, which I collect and have a ton of. If they don’t like this outfit then that’s a “them” problem, and I don’t want to work somewhere where I can’t dress like this anyway.

      1. ElizabethJane*

        I remember interviewing for one job in a pencil skirt, blazer, and button down shirt and I was so uncomfortable and nervous I got the stress sweats. I had sweat stains on the blazer.

        Did not get the job.

        1. Meep*

          I was told that I shouldn’t wear skirts but dress pants as I will look to “feminine” and men won’t take me seriously (STEM) so I always try to wear dress pants and a blouse. Funny enough, I had an impromptu interview (called me the day of and told me to be in) one time while wearing the most outlandish thing with gaudy black nails. Working there for almost 5 years now!

      2. Noxalas*

        On my very first interview, my mom insisted that I needed to wear a dress, stockings, heels, the whole nine yards. I got there and first thing the interviewers wanted me to do was prove that I could lift 30-pound boxes off the floor. It was so embarrassing. I don’t listen to my mom on job-related matters (or much of anything, really) anymore.

    6. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      All of this, and can we talk about the fact that this job sounds like a “just over minimum wage, not quite a call center” type gig? Not only is it probably unnecessary for applicants to dress up, you’re also likely asking them to spend money they don’t have on clothing they’ll wear once.

      1. Vertically Challenged*

        Definitely not just over minimum wage, and there is a lot to the job. I’ve done plenty of call center work and this really doesn’t compare. We are primarily outside sales support and B2B support. That being said, we are a hot spot for call centers, so I’m sure that’s the first thought that comes to someone’s mind despite the lengthy job description.
        Again, not expecting a suit at all. A polo and nice jeans or slacks would have been fine and quite the step up from many of the candidates.

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          Yeah after reading more your replies, I was a bit unfair. That said, if that’s what I thought, it’s not totally unreasonable that it’s also what the candidates think.

          I have to admit, as adverse as I am to “dressing up” for work, I’d never show up to interview in lower than kakis and a polo. That said, I’m in financial position where buying new duds for an interview is a trivial expense. Someone who was, say, previously at a CS call center, and has been out of work for the last few months might find even new jeans and polo a bridge too far.

          1. Vertically Challenged*

            That absolutely makes sense! I definitely want to try to give the benefit of the doubt. You never know when you’ll find that diamond in the rough!

    7. Meep*

      I never felt like I could dress up as people always made comments on it when I was younger. It still persists because I am in a male-oriented field and am a woman. My female supervisor at the time was the worst. She is pushing 60 and dresses like a twenty-something, but any time I wear anything other than jeans and a t-shirt, she has to remind me that I will be looked at as the “secretary.” However, after comfortably wearing yoga pants through the pandemic due to extreme depression caused by my place of work (and mostly her), I am going to dress cute and slick now!

      It is amazing how much it boosted my confidence when I stopped dressing based on some judgemental bitty’s opinion.

      1. Meep*

        And for the record, when a man comes in acting like I am the secretary, I happily show them I know more than them. ;)

    8. Spicy Nonprofit Iconoclast*

      I love working in nonprofits because I can get away with wackier professional clothing. My go-to interview outfit includes a gray and black houndstooth pencil skirt, really gay wingtip shoes, a statement necklace, and a fire-engine red blazer that looks like it could have come from the Northwest Airlines flight attendant catalog circa 1995. My friend who works for an airline calls it my “crosscheck and all call” blazer. I look fly af and I feel great as a fat person and a gay person. Conservative office wear and suiting doesn’t, well, suit larger bodies or queer bodies very well.

      1. Toasted Coconut*

        I have the same sentiment- I’ve also worked in Non Profit and Community Health organisations, and my bright, quirky and colourful outfits have brought joy to other colleagues as well as clients.
        Heck even my highest ranking manager at a renowned medical clinic wore light denim jeans and loud Hawaiian shirts!

    9. Elizabeth West*

      I do that with scarves and jewelry, usually on a black and white outfit background. Red pants sound pretty cool.

    10. fogharty*

      I once lost a job (a friend knew someone on the hiring committee) because I wore pants which one of the interviewers thought was disrespectful since I’m female.

      This was in 2015. Different times.

      1. Weiwen*

        It was wrong in 2015. It was wrong in 2005, or even 1995. It’s not the same magnitude as slavery was wrong in 2015, 2005, 1995, etc, but it was still wrong then.

  2. shawtydubs*

    I totally agree. Business casual dress codes (or more!) are not necessary for a lot of jobs where they’re in place. And in fact a casual dress code is a requirement for me at any job I take.

    1. Threeve*

      My general rule of thumb for interviews is one level of formality above what is typical at the workplace. So if the place is 100% jeans and t-shirts, I would go with black jeans and a button-down. I think overdressed sticks out way more than under-dressed.

      There’s also a lot of value in being comfortable, if that comfort contributes to a more relaxed demeanor during an interview.

      1. HBJ*

        And then even this bites you in the butt! I interviewed for a job as a lifeguard. I wore jeans and a nice top. I was hired because I could do shifts no one else could, but was told by my boss I should have dressed up more (this was in high school, so her giving advice wasn’t necessarily weird).

        I actually wrote in to Alison about this and she answered and basically said, yea, I probably should have dressed up more.


        1. Your local password resetter*

          That seems weird to me for a lifeguard job.
          Most of your work will be in very casual clothing. If someone showed up in some kind of formal or higher end office wear then I would wonder if they were out of sync with the job requirements.

          1. Bananananarama*

            I find this rather strange as well.
            I fully believe in dressing presentable and respectable in accordance to the occasion, but ‘dressing up more’ for a Life Guard role seems a little out of touch and so out of place!

    2. RallyCry*

      There’s a big difference between casual and sloppy though. Sounds like some of the applicants are veering towards the latter.

    3. r*

      Yes, and speaking of unnecessary business casual, also don’t have gendered company-wide dress codes that assume all women work office jobs & so the women’s dress code is more restrictive/formal. I was at a place where, technically, I had to wear a full face of makeup and heels even though I worked essentially a manual labor job. Thankfully everyone I was actually in contact with was like, we’re just not enforcing it, but I got soooooo many reminder emails…

  3. Spearmint*

    Even though you’re hiring for an office job, I wonder if the fact that you’re a manufacturing company means people are taking a blue collar view of the dress code and interview etiquette. Especially if you’re in a region where the vast majority of people work blue collar jobs. Heck, maybe for many of these candidates this would be their first white collar job.

    1. Samantha*

      This is an important point. I’m in manufacturing as well, and I’m usually surprised when someone comes in dressed up for an interview. Even customers and vendors that come in for visits are usually casually dressed. I’d argue dressing up is not an industry norm, especially for a smaller company.

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        I dressed up for a blue-collar job (group interview) and I stuck out by several miles. Khakis and a blouse vs everyone else in blue jeans and polos/tees.

        Got the job, but I was “the college girl” the whole time.

        1. T*

          I’m HR in manufacturing. Our production is safety oriented comfortable attire but our office staff are business casual. Jean and a polo, acceptable attire for an interview in a casual place. Could we lose the sweats and ratty t shirt that looks like you just rolled out of bed for your interview please? Casual is one thing, clean shows me you care about the job and the effort you will put in.

          1. truesaer*

            Jeans and a polo isn’t business casual by most definitions I’ve seen, which goes to the differing expectations based on industry. In manufacturing I could see plenty of people assuming anything is fine if that’s how their past employers were. And I think this is regional as well (including where the candidate may have moved from)…in rural western states people might not even own a pair of khakis or any other pants that aren’t jeans.

            I’d say any invitation for an interview in any industry should communicate expectations clearly. Otherwise it’s tough to complain.

            1. ecnaseener*

              I think T is saying that jeans and a polo are ok for offices with a casual dress code, separate from the statement about their particular office being business casual.

            2. Jack Straw*

              Agreed. Jeans aren’t business casual, at least not in the past 20 years of office jobs and teaching jobs where that’s the stated dress code.

          2. Farrah Sahara*

            I had to interview someone once for a lower level office role (not client facing). She came in wearing a t-shirt, tearaway pants, and white sweat socks stuffed into a pair of stiletto heels. Was quite a look for an interview. She did not get the job.

          3. SofiaDeo*

            This. IMO not so much a “jeans and T-shirt” versus “suit” as “do you look like someone interested in/prepared to work” versus “just rolled out of bed/going to the beach/going to a party”.

            That being said, I always wore suits for my post college white collar job interviews. And got promoted more. Even in the sexist 80’s.

      2. cat socks*

        Last year my husband was applying to facility maintenance positions where people wear uniforms on the job. He doesn’t own a suit, so he wore khakis an a polo shirt.

        1. Drago Cucina*

          My son is a security supervisor and wears a uniform. He’s been part of interviewing new employees who show up in flip flops. He asks them about shoes (not dress, but closed toe required for safety) and they have had no idea they couldn’t wear flip flops every day.

          I think my son owns one pair of black pants from when he managed a sandwich store. That became his interview pants with a polo.

        2. Lisa*

          Jeans are totally business casual now, especially for women, and when combined with a dressy top with jewelry or a jacket. Men too, when combined with. Button down and tie.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I think this might depend on work place. We are casual day-to-day now, and jeans with no rips are allowed.

            When we were business casual no denim or corded pants were allowed. Even now we are business casual/business for outside meetings and jeans would not be considered a part of our business casual in that instance.

            1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

              I think a lot depends on industry too. My last job was customer facing as the integration engineer for a backend software company. I typically wore slacks and a button-down for “customer meeting”, but often wore jeans and a polo for on-site installations and configuration. This was considered normal and acceptable. Even in office spaces like banks and law firms, neither I, nor the tech types I was doing work for would be that dressed up.

              Literally the last time I wore a suit was when a friend of our wanted me to play a gangster at her “murder mystery dinner” three years ago.

      3. MK*

        Someone once told me to dress “one step nicer than you’d wear to work” for an interview. So for a warehouse job I would wear my nice Carhartts and a nice flannel. You can show you care and made an effort without buying anything. For an office job in a warehouse I would wear my nicest jeans (don’t own any slacks) and the same shirt.

    2. Just Another Zebra*

      Plumbing company here, and we see the same thing. I would wager this is exactly what’s happening, especially if you’re hiring within the industry. Since it IS a more blue-collar industry, I’d bet people are dressing like they presume they would be for the job.

    3. BlueK*

      I agree. I think this can also be regional. I live in NYC and people in general dress nicer than they do in the Midwest for example. You just don’t see adults in sneakers here unless they’re expensive fashion ones that you’d never actually wear to workout. Or match with the overall look (think Lulumon). Whereas it’s very common for people to be out and about in them in the average Midwest area.

      And I’ve never seen anyone in pajamas in public here. Not even on a college campus. Yoga pants? Yes. Or leggings with an oversized sweater. But not the plaid pjs you see other places.

      No judgement to my part by the way about the more casual clothing. There are ways when I wish I could wear it outside my apartment here! My point is more that if that’s the norm someplace then business casual seems far more dressed up than it would in NYC.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Wow, that sounds exhausting. I assume by plaid pj pants you’re talking about plaid flannel sweatpants that I would just as naturally wear for exercise as for sleep.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Unfortunately pj’s means pj’s.
          Long flannel pajama bottoms are being sold as separates and worn as outside clothing. Regular pants (US)/trousers (UK). This is an argument I’m having with my teen — apparently kids are wearing them to school, but mine is not.

          1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

            Wearing PJ pants to school is a long running battle. My mom hated that I did that in when I was in high school in 2000. I swear my teachers still liked me and knew I respected them! And I am a respectable adult who wears Real Pants to my office.

            1. banoffee pie*

              I saw somebody on the srtreet wearing pyjama bottoms yesterday. They probably weren’t on the way to a job interview though ;)

        2. JB*

          Sweatpants? I have never seen sweatpants in plaid. Yes, there are sweatpants that people also use to sleep in, but plaid/flannel PJ bottoms are PJ bottoms, not sweatpants a person might wear in public.

        3. ecnaseener*

          Wild. Yep, as far as I can tell you are all talking about what I think of as “flannel sweatpants.” The kind my middle school and high school gave out with the school name and mascot on the leg! For sports!

        4. Starbuck*

          Interesting! I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone working out in plaid flannel pants. Usually it’s leggings or sweatpants (definitely of a different material than flannel pjs).

      2. mreasy*

        Hm, I live in NYC and I swear 50% of the people I see are in sweats or gym clothes…and that’s in Soho. The highs are higher for sure but especially when in their own neighborhood, people here can be super casual.

        1. introverted af*

          Sweats or gym clothes can be very high end. Athleisure is like it’s own whole thing now, so in my mind just because it’s ‘casual’ doesn’t mean it isn’t expensive or look really nice.

        2. Ginger Baker*

          Fellow New Yorker, strongly agree. It’s not that you don’t see people dressed super casually (sometimes suuupper sloppily), it’s that you ALSO see somewhere between one and three dozen people at different times during your day dressed for a magazine shoot, three people walking by in tuxes as you wait for the bus, approximately three Goths, and at least one person who looks like they walked right out of Burning Man.

      3. Cera*

        There is definitely a regional portion to this. I had a boss based on the east coast , I live in the Midwest and also had co-workers on the west coast. Boss decided that we dressed way too casually to be taken seriously (non customer facing roles sitting in casual dress code offices). So she implemented a business casual dress code. Which would have been fine but it became very clear that her business casual was our business/business formal. Her slides reflected interview wear when business casual to us is khakis and a polo.

      4. Adelphi*

        Huh. This is not at all my experience in New York. The PJs thing, sure, but not the sneakers. I’m seeing people in sneakers all the time, especially the last few years as they’ve gained some status. Hell, I only wear sneakers at this point in time in my life!

    4. dresscode*

      I think the fact more people don’t dress up than do is an indicator that the expectations are off somewhere. At the very least, they should consider adding to the job description that the job has a business casual dress code.

    5. KatieHR*

      HR in manufacturing here as well. Since it is an office job I would expect someone to come in at least nice pants and a blouse or polo shirt. However, people that come to apply for the actual jobs on the floor often look like they rolled out of bed but we still consider them since they do wear sweatpants on the floor.

    6. Vertically Challenged*

      That was one reason I could come up with. Since we were a manufacturer, even though this is an office job, they felt they didn’t need to dress nice.
      The area is a decent mix of blue and white collar. I do think we are more white than blue collar here as we are a decent sized city. We do not interview anyone who has not already had some customer service experience.

      1. JB*

        I’m trying to say this in the kindest way possible, but it does seem like you’re taking this personally. ‘They felt they didn’t need to dress nicely’ is quite a bit different than what the commenter you responded to said, which is that they may have misunderstood the dress code or may not be familiar with white collar dress codes at all.

        Do you feel disrespected by candidates showing up dressed this way? Are they behaving in other ways that show disrespect towards you and/or the company (showing up late, for example, or making rude comments)? If not, it might be worth re-framing this for yourself, because it’s unlikely that they’re under-dressing AT you. What they’re wearing is what they believe is appropriate for the occassion, and although reasonable minds may disagree on whether it is appropriate or not, it seems unlikely that they deliberately chose their outfit to upset you.

        1. Vertically Challenged*

          I didn’t mean to come off that way at all. I’m just agreeing that because we are a manufacturer, it’s possible that they didn’t feel it was necessary to dress in anything other than regular street clothes.

          For context, I was adding that our candidates have had customer service experience so they technically should understand. But what they should know and what they do know can be two entirely different things.

          I don’t take it personally, but it does make me concerned with how seriously they’ll take the job, if that makes sense? It’s an intense job and I have to know that they can handle it. Dressing in an old t-shirt and ratty jeans does not prove one way or another, but I’ve definitely found the ones that dressed nicer presented themselves as more qualified overall. The ones that didn’t tended to not be prepared for the interview. No questions, didn’t seem to know much about the job or the company, etc.

          1. Kal*

            A lot of customer service jobs provide uniforms or require very specific clothes for them, so they often don’t actually teach people how to dress at all. And even if someone owns the red shirt and khaki pants from working at Target or something like that, I can see them not wanting to wear that specific outfit for an interview somewhere else. So the assumption that customer service will have taught them how to dress for your job is likely a faulty one, unless you’re selecting for very specific types of customer service jobs that do require their employees to dress similarly to your workplace.

            Being very clear about what exactly you expect when you invite people to interviews is a kindness that will help level this particular playing field and give people a chance to live up to your expectations if it is just a lack of knowledge. It will also help you know that you aren’t excluding people who would be good workers but just don’t know how to dress, since you can better separate them from people who actually just aren’t too fussed about the job.

            You could probably even improve it further if you explain the format of the interview as well, including simple information about how long it’ll be, if they’ll be meeting with more than one person and what point you will answer their questions (which could cue people that they can ask questions in this sort of interview if they just didn’t know that was a thing in this sort of interview). People who just aren’t already aware of the norms will be grateful for the information and chance to better prepare, and those who don’t care will be a lot easier to sort out.

        2. Susana*

          But it is a bit personal, isn’t it? Not necessarily to the interviewer, but to the company.
          It’s like when Julia Loud-Dreyfuss’s character has a date with James Gandolfini at his house – he said he would make them brunch. She shows up at the door and he’s in a casual T-shirt and sweatpants. She said, “oh, did you forget we had a date?” And he looked perplexed and said, no, but it was Sunday and this is what he was comfortable in.
          A job interview is like a first date. You have to make a decision on what to wear, right? You don’t go naked (not a first date, anyway… ). So if you choose to wear your laying-around clothes, you’re basically saying that you see the job opportunity in the same way. No, of course, you don’t have to wear a suit for every interview. But what does it say about your attitude towards the job if you don’t make an effort to put your best foot forward?

    7. Kevin Sours*

      There can also be an office/shop floor divide that drives some of dress codes in manufacturing. Frankly I think it comes out of a bunch of unhealthy assumptions that we should really be moving away from.

    8. Spicy Nonprofit Iconoclast*

      This x1000. There’s definitely a misalignment in the job market right now, where a lot of blue collar workers want office jobs. There’s a skill gap going on, where people don’t have the computer skills for these jobs. There’s also a culture gap, where workers don’t quite understand the culture of white collar work, which totally makes sense to me. And given how desperate many companies are for workers, I think applicants are not trying as hard as they would in a tighter market to appear like a “cultural fit” (which I have no qualms about – I think it’s a good thing, actually, that we’re questions longstanding, likely superfluous workplace norms). The computer skills thing, though, is a systemic issue we will need to contend with.

    9. A Wall*

      This was exactly my thought. My mind immediately cast back to when I interviewed for a job like this and the interviewer, wearing a camo hoodie and a trucker hat, took me into a side room in the shop to have privacy while we talked. I had tried to aim for the middle, a more casual button-down and cotton pants that weren’t jeans with casual shoes, which I was pretty grateful for when I had to balance on a tall shop stool the whole time.

      I heard later that if I had been any more dressed up, he would have written me off as someone who didn’t know what kind of company I was walking into and binned my application.

      1. Jinni*

        This ^^^ I came to California at the start of the first dot com boom. Me and all my friends were from the east coast and dressed up. The interviewers in LA and NorCal were super casually dressed and saw being dressed up as a culture mismatch/misunderstanding. It was a quick lesson many in my circle of friends learned quickly. (Trust me, we talked about it extensively because it was so odd from our perspective).

        At that time though, their job/career paths were NYC finance/law or dot com and that was a wide gulf to bridge back then. It’s very hard, I think to get a feel for the culture from outside… I’ve loosened up a lot about dress because I do see if clothes are not distracting, then for most jobs that aren’t client-facing and even many that are, how someone is dressed isn’t that important.

        And I still dress more formally than most because it was how I was raised, and I’m okay with it.

    10. Call Me Al*

      My little nightmare story… Applying for my first job out of college, I interviewed for a position at a manufacturing facility. I wore the standard “conservative interview” outfit that had been drilled into me my whole life. Blouse. Dress pants. Nice shoes.

      Well, the meeting room ended up being on the factory floor! The interviewers gave me some *very* strange looks when they saw me. It was a very short interview, and a very big learning experience.

      (Oh, and at the plant I’m working at now — customer service, incidentally — we all wear jeans.)

  4. Firm Believer*

    Suits are definitely no longer the norm but in most industries looking pulled together for an interview is an expectation.

    1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

      To me, dressing up, or at least making an effort to look nice, shows me that you take the job seriously and you want to be taken seriously yourself. I’m not saying you have to wear a suit to every interview but if you show up looking like you just rolled out of bed, I’m going to assume this is not a job you really want that badly.

      1. Nancy Drew*

        Yes, this! I like to make the extra effort, as well. I have actually been complimented on my choice of clothing after I received an offer. I can’t help but think this made an impression at my interview that may have tipped the scales a bit.

  5. Rayray*

    I’m all for casual dress codes but I still go by the convention of dressing nicely for an interview. Even if it is a low tier position or a place with a relaxed environment, I just think it’s nice to look more polished and nice when meeting your potential employer. I do think some nice jeans with a blouse or dress shirt could work though, but it’s all about still pulling it together nicely.

    I’ve heard about people though showing up in sweat pants or with a coffee or fountain soda from the convenience store which they just put on the interviewer’s desk like it’s nothing.

    1. Snow Globe*

      Even if the day-to-day dress code is mostly casual, there may still be a few days where you are meeting with clients or senior executives and will dress up more. And an interview should be at least as formal as your most formal work day, not as casual as your most casual work day.

      1. Rayray*

        I agree.

        My thinking is, I’d rather dress too nicely than not nice enough. A simple dress and nice shoes or a blouse/dressy top with some nice pants vs just a casual outfit. I wore a dress and heels to my interview for my current position but I’m in jeans most days. I even wore leggings a couple times because it was 2020 I was hired and only a few positions at my company were at the office (we handle sensitive documents, taking them home would just open a can of worms and cause tons of headache)

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Same here. It’s not “jeans”, it’s ratty jeans that I take issue with. Clean jeans, no holes, plain shirt– in a manufacturing environment that would read “made an effort” to me.

      1. BlueK*

        Shoes also play a part IME. Boots or nice flats versus sneakers. Black sneakers versus more casual ones even. Hairstyle too. It’s the overall look. It shouldn’t matter IMO, but it does.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Try to be careful with this, since shoes can be a disability accommodation. Per my podiatrist, I can either wear ankle braces or wear shoes with ankle support (such as hiking boots). Otherwise, I have to walk slowly, keep my eyes on the ground at all times, and carefully cling to banisters when going up/down stairs or otherwise navigating any change of grade to try and prevent falling down with another ankle sprain.

          Every job interview, I look at the front entrance, judge the size of the building, and guess if it’s better to wear the boots or if I can get away with something like SAS walking shoes since I’ll only need to walk a short distance over a level, paved surface to a nearby ground-floor conference room. (I prefer not to wear the braces if I can avoid it. I just have the kind you get at urgent care since I chose to invest in nice hiking boots rather than everyday-use ankle braces.) “Proper” dress shoes are are out of the question with or without braces. (I need no accommodation related to this other than being allowed to wear hiking boots at work.)

          If someone is dressed “nicely” except for their shoes, there’s probably a reason. (I do not work in a field where my shoes should be particularly relevant to what I do.)

    3. ErinWV*

      I have probably brought a drink to an interview, if it was really hot outside (water) or first thing in the morning (coffee/tea). Never thought there was anything wrong with that.

      1. Cera*

        I almost always bring a bottle of water to an interview. I don’t think there is anything weird about it. I do normally leave the soda in the car though.

      2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        Almost universally the first thing I get asked upon showing up for an in person interview is whether I’d like a drink. Usually coffee and/or water, sometimes soda too if the place has a well stocked snack area. I can’t possibly see why bringing a drink in would be an issue.

    4. JB*

      What’s the matter with bringing a drink in with you? I always bring a bottle of water with me.

      What do you do, wait until your throat dries out from a solid half hour of talking, then awkwardly wait for the interviewer to fetch you a cup of water for your coughing fit?

      1. ShowTime*

        This happened to me once and it was incredibly awkward. Threw off the rhythm of the interview and it took a lot of sipping and ahem-ing for me to be able talk clearly again. I did get the job (it was a second interview) but I felt so mortified.

  6. Detective Amy Santiago*

    In my experiences, even the offices of manufacturing companies are a little… I’m not grimy is the right word, but generally they are very different from other types of offices. I don’t think I’d wear jeans to an interview, but I also wouldn’t be likely to wear something very formal either.

  7. learnedthehardway*

    I think everyone is dressing more casually now, but there’s still an element of knowing your audience that you need to pay attention to. I had a series of meetings with the office of a very conservative religious institution for a project I’m working on, and felt a bit under-dressed in my nice but sleeveless top (it’s the kind of shell you’d wear under a suit jacket, which I would normally wear for an in-person business meeting). The female staff in the meeting were all wearing long-sleeved and high collared blouses. Since then, I still wear my sleeveless shells to video meetings, but I also have taken to wearing a light lace shawl or a matching sweater with this particular client.

  8. Mia*

    If only someone could create business attire as comfortable as casual attire! (Business casual sweatpants would be a dream…)

    1. LDN Layabout*

      Most of my friends swear by Uniqlo in terms of business cazh trousers. I’ve also heard good things about betabrand.

      1. Erin from Accounting*

        That’s what I’m wearing right this second. Uniqlo Smart Ankle Pants. The waistband is elastic, but covered by fabric so it’s disguised.

    2. Alfalfa Alfredo*

      They do have suit jackets for women made out of sweatshirt material. Port Authority makes one that you can get from those company logo companies, but you can find them elsewhere, too.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I used to have one of these. I got it at New York & Company. I wore that thing until it literally fell apart.

      1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

        Loooove Betabrand pants. I’m wearing some right now! Do be aware that they tend to run long and frequently take upwards of 4 weeks to ship. But IMO they’re worth the wait.

      2. Vertically Challenged*

        I just ordered some Betabrand pants off of Poshmark to try them out and see if they are worth the money. I’m very excited to try them out!

    3. I have some*

      I have some amazing culottes from sweaty Betty which are heavyweight enough to hang well and look smart (certainly business casual enough for me) but are also very very soft and sweatpant like material. Will put link if I can find them.

    4. Rayray*

      Andcollar is a company that makes men’s dress clothes out of athletic-wear materials. The dress shirts look great and are pretty full proof. The pants look okay but definitely don’t look very tailored, might not be a huge deal for some people though.

      For women, linen pants can be super comfy but also look dressy. Ponte pants are also great. I have a cheap pair of pants from H&M that look like dress pants but they have an elastic waist band and With a simple body suit, it looks pulled together but I feel like I’m in PJs.

    5. KHB*

      In general, I agree with you. I wouldn’t want a job where I couldn’t dress in a way that was comfortable for me, and I’m fortunate that I’ve never had to have one.

      But this isn’t the everyday dress code we’re talking about – this is about attire for a job interview. It’s one day out of your life. So I can definitely see where OP is coming from in bristling that these candidates can’t bring themselves to look even minimally put-together on the one day that they know they’re being asked to make a good impression.

      Even if it’s for a job where appearance and attire don’t matter at all, showing up in sweatpants to a job interview is basically saying, “I prioritize my own comfort and convenience over everything else at all times, and I’ll never do anything for this job that makes me even a little bit uncomfortable.”

      1. Malarkey01*

        I think sweatpants is a bridge too far, BUT there are a lot of people out there that really can’t afford an outfit that they’d wear only one day- and I say this at many different industries and positions. I worked with a non profit that provided interview clothes to those in need and was initially surprised at the number of people that did not own something (I originally thought surely they have something for church/wedding/funeral but nope). It becomes harder for pregnancy, weight gain or loss, medical issues that affect body size, etc. If someone is out of work asking that they purchase clothes for an interview (even second hand where different body types have a hard time in some areas) can be a big ask.

    6. kristinyc*

      I just got some great pants from Marine Layer that look like slacks but feel like sweatpants, and they have pockets. They exist! (And it doesn’t even matter for me since I work from home, but I don’t want to wear leggings/PJs, and this is more comfortable than jeans).

    7. Three Cats in a Trench Coat*

      I recently picked up pants from Athleta that have been filling that niche for me! Definitely not interview pants, but the skyline pant or brooklyn ankle pant in black works well with a sweater or blouse, and I find the comfort-factor comparable to scrub pants.

  9. Meghan*

    I’d also point out that while the job is sales, the industry is manufacturing. Being on both sides of the equation, I find that people in manufacturing tend to dress down for interviews. I’m not sure if its the type of people that want to work in that field, or what, but its just what I’ve seen.

    1. François Caron*

      If it’s manufacturing, the interview might be held at a location which might be dirty or require PPE (personal protection equipment). In those cases, showing up in formal office dress attire and without any PPE would quickly become a deal killer.

      Context is everything.

      1. Meghan*

        SO TRUE! When I interviewed at my old company, I had to go out and buy dress pants, because all I had were skirts, and I knew that if I were going into a plant, I’d need pants. I doubt that they’d cancel the interview or anything, but they’d probably modify the tour.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Yeah, if I’m interviewing at a location that has a manufacturing plant, I’m going to want to wear clothes that will work if “tour the plant” is on the agenda.

      3. Rebecca Stewart*

        My son recently interviewed for a job at a fabricating shop as a junior welder.
        He wore a clean cotton T-shirt and a clean pair of canvas pants, and took his welding jacket, gloves, headwrap, and helmet. On the grounds that part of the interview was a welding test. While the shirt and pants were clean, he had welded in them before, and they each had a burn hole or two. (You can buy a T-shirt for your favorite welder that says “Yes, I know I’m on fire, let me finish this weld.”)

        My mother, a Boomer in generation, was so worried. Did he need his suit? His dress pants? Son pointed out to her that they wouldn’t expect him to show up in clothes he couldn’t do the welding test in.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I work for a manufacturing company, but our office is not on site at the plant – the corporate offices are 15 miles away. I got hired remotely, but am now going in the office a couple days a week, and while we have a fairly casual “dress for your day” dress code, I haven’t gotten the sense that anyone thinks a corporate office job has the same dress as someone who’s welding or packing all day. But, I also think of my job as a marketing job, not a manufacturing job.

      But now I’m kinda curious how people would show up to an interview for an office job.

    3. Anonymous Hippo*

      It varies. I worked in one manufacturing plant where the office people were only allowed to wear very nice dark wash jeans on Friday and the rest of the time you had to wear dress pants and nice shoes. Now I’m at a steel mill, and the whole place collectively snickers when an interviewee shows up in a suit. Not even the CEO does more than a button down over jeans. But wearing a suit to the interview certainly isn’t going to get you downgraded in your interview so probably best to err on the side of caution…better a suit and tie than a t-shirt and ripped jeans IMO.

  10. CarCarJabar*

    Uh, dress codes. My first job out of college had a “no jeans except on Friday or if you paid $10 for the right to wear jeans the last week of every month” rule…. So, obviously our jobs could be accomplished regardless of what covered our butts…. I had a coworker who regularly wore denim skirts in different shades of denim. This was her normal, daily attire. Ok, fine, whatever. One day I wore jeans (nice, clean, well fitted jeans) on a day that wasn’t Friday and GOT WRITTEN UP.

    Uh that job still makes me irritated.

    1. anonymous73*

      A few jobs ago there were a lot of specific “not allowed to wear” items in our employee handbook. One of my team members wore a suit that was paired with knee length shorts, and looked more professional that a large majority of the people in the office. She happened to walk by HR and someone reported her to our boss and he was forced to make her go home and change. I understand the need for dress codes (because people will always take it one step too far), but there is no need to be so nit picky.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        I once had this great summer suit that included knee length shorts. Ugh I miss that one. What’s the difference between knee length shorts and knee length skirt….NOTHING. We’ve made such weird boundaries on clothes.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Right? I used to work in an office where jean skirts were okay because skirts, but jeans themselves were not okay because jeans. Also I had a pair of khakis which were *way* more casual than my nice jeans, so they were allowed because they weren’t jeans. It’s so arbitrary sometimes.

          1. Jay*

            Our dress code says “jeans are not allowed for patient-facing roles.” I have chosen to interpret that as “blue denim jeans” and have white jeans, black jeans, lavender jeans, and most recently a pair of pink jeans…so far, so good.

            1. Windchime*

              My last job actually spelled this out. When I first started working there, the rule was “no blue jeans”. Jeans of any other color were OK; pink, red, black, yellow, white……just not blue. It was so weird.

            2. Retried Prof*

              As a college professor, I wore Gloria Vanderbilt Amandas every day because they seem to be the only pants in the world shaped like me. But I never wore blue denim to work – just every other color under the sun. (Yes, my colleagues wore actual jeans but I preferred a small step above that).

              1. Jay*

                My husband was a college prof in a STEM field for 12 years. He did his PhD in CA where everyone wore jeans, and some (male) professors wore tattered jeans and worn-out Birkenstocks to class. This was the mid-1980s. There were very few women on the faculty and they wore jeans but never tattered or worn-out clothing.

                Then he took a tenure-track job at a small Catholic university here in the mid-Atlantic and rapidly discovered that jeans were a no-no. Some profs wore blazers and button-downs. Hubs settled into khakis and button-downs without a jacket, but he kept a sport coat and tie in his office in case he was called to meet with the dean or provost on short notice.

        2. an infinite number of monkeys*

          Many years ago, I was forbidden to wear my favorite pair of criss-crossed strappy high-heeled sandals to work anymore because they had (1) one strap that went between the big toe and second toe, and (2) an open back, and were therefore, by definition, flip-flops. I was so upset. Those shoes were FIRE.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*


            I actually said that, out loud, when I got to the word “flip-flops.” (Good thing I’m sitting here alone in my car, lol.) That is just….I can’t even think of a word! *insert facepalm emoji*

    2. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

      My favorite dress code ever was a whopping two sentences: Clothing must be clean and free of holes. No graphic t-shirts permitted.

      This was for a small, religiously affiliated private university that was a hot mess in a lot of ways, but I always really appreciated that literally nobody cared about how you dressed. I spent at least 90% of my work day at my computer, in a building no one visited, seeing no one but the others on my team, and it was nice to be comfortable!

      1. ThatGirl*

        My first job out of college was second shift on the copy desk of a small-town newspaper. The dress code was “wear clothes, please.”

        1. CarCarJabar*

          Reason #682 I love working from home- I don’t even have to abide by that dress code!
          I kid, I kid…. maybe.

          1. Trisha*

            Please wear clothes. I am in the position of having to revise our employee on boarding package to clearly spell out that employees need to wear clothes while working from home – especially when on an MS Teams call. And I’m not kidding.

    3. Zee*

      Nothing irks me more than the concept of Casual Friday. If I can get my job done wearing jeans on Fridays, what is magically keeping me from getting my job done Mon-Thurs in the same clothes?

      I had a friend whose office would only allow you to wear jeans on days our city’s football team had a game, but only if you were also wearing a jersey. So ridiculous!

      1. banoffee pie*

        In my last two years of high shool the school made us wear ‘business clothes’ on Fridays to ‘learn’. Learn what, I’m not sure! *eyeroll*

    4. Lurker*

      My first job (late 90s) required that women could not have bare legs and no open-toed shoes were allowed. Which no one had mentioned to me before my first day. I showed up wearing an ankle length J.Crew khaki skirt and black dress sandals and the receptionist promptly informed me this was against dress code. This was at a private post-secondary trade school; I was part of the office staff (as opposed to faculty). The owner was super old fashioned. We had to refer to him as Mr. [Last name].

    5. Anonymous Hippo*

      I despise the pay for casual wear thing. If casual wear is ok at all, then let them wear it. If it isn’t, then don’t. Extorting people for money, even if for charity, is bull.

  11. ThisIsTheHill*

    Betabrand offers “Dress Pant Yoga Pants” which are crazy comfortable, but look like black knit dress pants to an outsider. They’re pricy, but worth it.

    1. Sam*

      These kinds of pants are AMAZING. I owned a black pair that I wore to every job interview (paired with a nice blouse and blazer) for years. I even wore them to court (back when I was practising law) and no one noticed.

  12. James*

    My fist interview I came in wearing torn jean shorts, a ratty t-shirt, and hiking boots. When they asked me why, I informed them that they’d called last minute and I was on my way to help my grandfather muck out hog stalls.

    Got the job. And within a month I was exceeding expectations on my evaluation.

    I will say, there’s value in dress cloths. How we dress affects us psychologically. I’ve seen it myself–if I don’t want to spar, but put on the gear anyway, I get into the sparring mindset. Having a work uniform puts you into “work” mode. What the work uniform is varies–right now I’m wearing a t-shirt, canvas pants, and steel-toed boots, due to the nature of my job–but having one helps you maintain focus. And dressing nicer for the office puts you in a mindset of the situation being more formal than normal; it’s a subtle reminder of the rules of engagement, so to speak. So I don’t see business casual going away. That said, what we consider formal today were once considered insanely informal–t-shirts were considered underwear, the equivalent of walking around half-naked, until after WWII, for example–so we should expect increased informality as time goes on. It’s a whole thing, influencing everything from how we dress to how we speak to the way our homes are arranged.

    1. ecnaseener*

      If this LW is calling people in to interview with zero notice, then yeah they can’t complain! I assume they would’ve mentioned that though LOL

      1. Vertically Challenged*

        They always had at least a day in advanced notice! I would definitely understand if we called them last minute.

        1. BabyElephantWalk*

          A day in advance isn’t that much time. If the applicant already has a full time job that does not require office appropriate wear, this might not give them the time to even go buy interview clothes and many people who are job searching but tight on money might not have interview clothes on hand until they actually need them.

    2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Yep! I once came in for a second interview with my unbrushed hair in a bandanna and a shirt with bleach stains on it. They called me and asked how soon I could be there to meet [additional person], and I said that I could leave my house immediately but that I was wearing my work-in-the-yard clothes, or I could be 30-60 minutes later but showered and dressed appropriately for an interview. They chose the sooner arrival time, and I got the job. (I recommend giving the person calling both options in this case – shows that you understand context and will be flexible to meet their needs.)

  13. H.Regalis*

    If you’re short-staffed, are seeing this from the majority of your candidates, AND there’s no clear correlation between “casual interview clothes” and “bad employee,” I would go with what Alison says and let it go.

    I can get it bugging you if you’re very used to This Is The Way Things Are and then that changes, but if it’s no longer an accurate measure of who will be a good employee, it’s not worth holding onto.

  14. sagewhiz*

    I see both sides of this issue. Yes, super-casual does not automatically correlate to a lax work mentality, especially when the position isn’t public presenting, as Alison notes. And people from disadvantaged communities a) may not have access to “proper business attire” [hooray for the Dress for Success providers out there!] or b) know it is expected. But, on the other hand, schools have found strong benefits from expecting both teachers and students to adhere to reasonable dress codes. It’s likely this also holds true of many work environments.

    1. zillah*

      But, on the other hand, schools have found strong benefits from expecting both teachers and students to adhere to reasonable dress codes.

      can you expand on this a bit? ime school dress codes are frequently a land mine of racism and sexism, and i definitely wouldn’t point to them as being an overall success story.

    2. Malarkey01*

      I’d push back on the school dress code studies. Many of them have found to be biased and the negative affect they have on children from disadvantaged backgrounds has been shown in some studies to far outweigh the gains from other students.
      The biggest benefits that have been shown from school dress codes occur when students are provided free uniforms so that all students have equal footing to appropriate dress. In these cases it wasn’t the dress code that provided the benefit but providing clothes to children.

    3. Andy*

      School dress codes seem to focus exclusively on what girls wear and I would not call them universally reasonable. They typically exclude available shorts (too short) and demand the kind of shorts that are not even available in local stores.

      It was literally difficult to find cloth for daughter that fits requirements. I eventually gave up and had her wear compromise.

      Meanwhile, boys come in sweatpants and that is ok.

      1. Andy*

        And to add to it, universities don’t tend to have dress code and you can’t go more serious then that.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Bingo. University students demonstrably do not need to change out of PJs in order to learn & make valuable contributions in class. But heaven forbid a 14-year-old girl shows a little too much collarbone in Algebra 1.

      2. JohannaCabal*

        Both middle schools and the high school I attended had somewhat strict dress codes. From what I remember, boys were just as likely to be dress coded as girls for wearing baggy pants and anything that could be construed as “gang attire.” And if you’re thinking this targeted POC, you’re right. The only time a white kid was dress coded for wearing baggy pants was when his jeans were literally at his knees and you could tell he was doing intentionally to anger the Vice Principal standing in the hall.

    4. ceiswyn*

      Note that one such disadvantaged community is fat people.

      ‘Proper business attire’ is designed for a specific shape, and the further you are from that shape the worse it looks even if it technically fits. Obese people already struggle against a stereotype of being slovenly, and forcing them into attire that a) is almost impossible for them to find and b) looks bad just exacerbates the problem.

      1. ErinWV*

        Got to agree with this. Everyone keeps using the phrase “put together,” and I would really like to hear people deconstruct what is actually meant by this. To me, it almost always boils down to sleek and slender. There are no clothes in the universe that will create this effect on my body.

        1. Vertically Challenged*

          When I interviewed for this job 10 years ago I was a 2X. I wore a nice flowy blouse and slacks with flats. Personally, I think that’s all that’s needed to look put together. Add a cardigan if it’s cooler.

          1. JB*

            This works well for women, but flowy tops are not an option for men.

            And, to be very honest, the quality of flowy business tops out there for plus-sized women is dire these days. Lots of tops that basically drape over you like a tent, or that are so thin and see-through it’s like they think you’re going to wear it clubbing.

            1. Vertically Challenged*

              For men I can definitely see that being harder. I know most of the guys we interviewed wore collared shirts and slacks, but I honestly can’t remember beyond that. They were put together enough that I didn’t think much of it.
              Plus sized for women I feel is getting better depending on budget and area. I used to get some great work tops from Ross, but I know not everyone has access to those types of stores. In my area, I’ve noticed the plus size clothing selection increasing. Unfortunately that comes with kicking out or downsizing the petites.

        2. ceiswyn*

          Fun fact: when I was a 3X I always looked slightly dishevelled in work-appropriate clothes. Now I’m a size 8 I spend exactly the same amount of time on grooming and yet somehow look ‘put together’.

          Smaller bodies simply have a greater choice of clothes, and are closer to the shape those clothes are designed for. Nothing to do with the body-owner’s professionalism at all.

      2. Chaordic One*

        This is so true. It seems like all they are allowed to wear are shapeless sacks to cover their bodies.

      3. Calliope*

        Eh I’m a fat person and I don’t think I always look or am perceived as slovenly. I do ok and so do a lot of other fat people. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of that stigma and the anti-fat judgments we’re making but there’s also a point where it sounds kind of condescending too. We don’t all just wear muumuus you know?

        1. ceiswyn*

          I do know – I spent most of my professional life as a fat person. But while I had some really lovely outfits, none of them coded ‘professional’.

          Fortunately most places I worked had a casual dress code, because of I tried to wear ‘office wear’ I looked terrible. The shape was just all wrong for my body, and ‘professional’ clothes generally being non-stretchy fabrics and non-elasticated waistbands just exacerbated the issue.

          Fit-and-flare dresses, on the other hand, looked amazing.

  15. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    OP, I can’t explain why it is happening. It’s weird to me. I applied for my first waitstaff job in high school in a polo and dockers and I was hired on the spot (like everyone else.) It was not a selective position and there was a god awful polyester uniform anyway. But if you have a dress code for staff, you should make that clear in the ad. “Business casual office attire” and then use appearance as a factor.
    If you don’t include that then (no, again, I don’t get it, but) you shouldn’t really factor in “too” casual. Maybe focus on clean, not pajamas, coordinated instead.

  16. Andrew*

    My workplace just re-iterated that people need to conform to the business casual dress code at all times (we’re all remote). It annoys me. Although I can understand why they want us to look put-together in client-facing video calls, what does it matter to my co-worker if I’m wearing a t-shirt? I’m getting my job done, and how I look does not affect that. And yes, we’re also a “camera on” organization no matter the meeting.

    1. Rayray*

      I think that’s silly too. If you look nice from the waist up if you are going to be on camera during a meeting, that’s all that should matter.

      I’m pretty sure it was this site where someone wrote on that everyone was required to stand up and show that they weren’t in sweat pants for virtual meetings. I think some bosses really enjoy being in a position of power and they really trip on it.

    2. Gracely*

      I’d be business casual from the waist up in that scenario. At least half of your body can be comfortable.

    3. Lady Ann*

      We had some BS regarding dress code last year, with the official rule being “you must follow the business casual dress code, even when working from home.” What was actually happening was the C level employees were wearing stuff like hoodies both working from home and in the office while lower level staff was getting in trouble for doing the same thing. I don’t know what happened but they are currently piloting a new “casual” dress code, which makes a lot more sense for some of the work we do (people are still expected to wear business casual for external meetings, court appearances, etc but can dress casually while in the office). The new rules explicitly allow leggings, joggers, hoodies, and novelty t-shirts!

  17. PJ*

    I’m a man who has not worn a tie to an interview in some time, and a larger sized man that hasn’t worn a tie to work since my retail days, when Barnes & Noble required their male employees to do so! But that’s never stopped me at an interview or at work. (I do love sweater weather – they feel as great as a suit jacket to me!)

    I can see multiple sides to this one. On the one hand, something like “business casual” should cover a wide range of workplaces and communicate a balance where the employee is comfortable but still in professional attire. Too many workplaces still expect employees to dress far above that level, or use a more casual mode of dress as a benefit/reward, which irks me to no end.

    I think companies/HR sometimes reinforce old/outdated norms because they’re trying to set an enforcement baseline for the times that have to reprimand an employee for truly inappropriate attire (or, in the case of the guy in our office that decided commando was a solid choice for work, lack thereof).

    1. Bee Eye Ill*

      I hate wearing ties so much that I just quit wearing them to most job interviews, and it hasn’t been a problem at all in the past 20+ years since I’ve changed jobs a few times. In fact, I’ve never landed a job where I actually wore a tie to the interview. Probably because I was visibly uncomfortable in the stupid thing.

      1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        My first job in the computer industry was doing telephone based tech support for a small computer manufacturer. This was back in the late nineties when there were still a fair number of the failed competitors to Dell and Gateway limping through their death throes. There were perhaps six of us on the TS team, and our job was to try to talk people through repairing their computers, send out replacement parts when needed, and in the worse cases RMA the entire computer back to the factory for repair or replacement.

        We *never* went on-site to customers, and never saw any actual customers. Ironically, the people who *did* actually see customers in sales and the small attached retail store, wore company branded polos. We had to wear ties. My boss (who was crazy) insisted that people could “hear” the tie in our voice, and we all sounded more professional wearing them. Meanwhile we made like $8 an hour I think?

        The guy who sat behind me was a totally slob. He inevitably had at least one food stain on his clothes, couldn’t have bathed more than every other day, and looked like he styled his hair with axle grease. He was a competent tech, but somehow I don’t think the clip-on he kept in his desk (I don’t think he ever washed it) made him sound any more profession.

        1. Bee Eye Ill*

          My first tech support job was for a bank and we only did internal support. We were not allowed to interact with customers, and only worked from phones, and we also had to either wear a tie or buy a company embroidered polo/buttonup shirt…with our own money.

  18. Hiring Mgr*

    You’ve said this had already been happening pre-Covid and you’ve looked past it, so this has been going on for a couple of years at least… Have you seen any correlation between someone’s interview outfit and their performance once hired?

    1. Vertically Challenged*

      Honestly, we never hired a candidate that wasn’t dressed business casual. The ones that wore street clothes interviewed poorly and didn’t fit with the job overall. My star employees all dressed very nicely for their interview.
      That being said, I would never disqualify someone who interviewed well but dressed in a hoody and faded or torn jeans. I can always tell them later what the dress code is.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Got it! Maybe this is just the new norm.. If you’re still looking for the old norm, i think he’s in my car air conditioning with his friend Max

  19. Uncle Bob*

    This is the same kind of company that thinks employees could not possibly work from home and still get anything done – how would they work without a manager standing over their shoulder?

    1. Vertically Challenged*

      We did work from home for a while, and we don’t micromanage at all. Our philosophy is we’re all adults and expect that you can handle yourselves accordingly. I don’t have the bandwith to micromanage and if the employee needs constant overlooking, they’re not a good fit. I was non-phased by polo’s and decent pants/jeans, it was the ratty, dirty, street clothes that surprised me.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Did you notice a difference between the polo/decent trouser crew’s and the ratty clothes crew’s job performance after you hired them?

        1. Vertically Challenged*

          Almost all the ratty clothes crew interviewed poorly. The one that didn’t had other issues.

  20. anonymous73*

    I “kind of” disagree. There’s a big difference between casual and sloppy. And when you present yourself as sloppy, you’re giving the impression that you can’t be bothered to care about your appearance for a simple job interview. I think the dress code of the office matters somewhat, but when you’re trying to get a job, you need to put your your best self out there. No, you don’t have to wear a 3 piece suit, but let the interviewers know that you aren’t a lazy bum who doesn’t really care whether you get the job or not.

    1. Uncle Bob*

      I get your point but the job market of 2021 means you could show up and set the building on fire and you still might be the best candidate they’ve seen in 6 months.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        “Because of your arson, we’re only able to offer you a $3K signing bonus at this time, but can you start next week?”

        1. Malarkey01*

          Also the position will need to be remote for the immediate future or until the water and fire damage clears out.

    2. Miss Muffet*

      I’m with you on this. Even dressed casually, you can look clean and put together, giving the impression you are putting forth some effort for the occasion. I kindof always thought about interview dress being one step above what the day-to-day clothing would be (unless day-to-day was already suits, which is getting pretty rare these days).
      So if your daily dress code is casual, your interview is biz-cas, if daily is biz-cas, you go with a suit or suit-like thing. First impressions and all that…

    3. Aquawoman*

      I think people don’t think too often about how ableist fashion can be. Personally, I’m autistic, don’t want to wear anything tight or itchy. Structured clothes (like suits) have gotten more tolerable with the inclusion of lycra in everything but that’s just for me. Bad feet, can’t wear high heels. And I know lots of people wear beanies because it cuts down on sensory overwhelm. I get the dress nicely for an interview thing, AND it also smacks me of the “be grateful for the job” type thinking.

      I’m a (in-house) lawyer so we dress business casual but everything I have is comfy. And I wear slip-on sneaker type loafers around the office a lot.

      1. ceiswyn*

        Yes – I live in trainers because I have a damaged ankle and wandering around in thin-soled women’s dress shoes causes me physical pain.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Sure, that’s great advice to give candidates! But the OP is an employer, and employers are desperate these days. It doesn’t make sense to disqualify otherwise qualified candidates over jeans and t-shirts. As employers are desperately trying to woo candidates with higher salaries, unique benefits, hiring bonuses, etc, casual dress is such an easy thing to offer!

      1. anonymous73*

        You can be casual and still look like you put some effort into your appearance. And your attitude matters too. I was providing advice to the OP, in that I get what she’s saying and that she has a point.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Definitely. If the culture LW’s hiring from is one where you could wear (for example) sweatpants to pretty much any occasion, then sweatpants aren’t sloppy.

    5. ecnaseener*

      I just reread the letter and the examples given are faded jeans and beanies. I’m sure there’s cultural variation on this, but I would never call that sloppy! I assume LW would mention if said jeans had holes in them, which would arguably be sloppy.

      1. Vertically Challenged*

        Yes, there were jeans with holes with at least one candidate but she did wear a blouse. Not an office styled blouse, but at least there was an effort to look put together. There was really a long list of items that I was surprised to see at an interview, but I was trying to keep it brief. :)

  21. ChemistryChick*

    While I understand wanting potential employees to look nice, I’ve always been a bit put off about the financial tie to looking nice for an interview. “Nice” can vary depending on your income allows…someone making 100K a year might not balk at a nice suit, but someone making 25K might not be able to consider it and still be able to look “nice” in khakis and a button down.

    I’m not really explaining myself well (rough morning, not enough coffee) but I’m glad to see the mindset shifting. I just don’t like the idea that someone might lose out on an opportunity they’re qualified for based on their clothes.

    1. KHB*

      There’s a lot of middle ground, though, between “perfectly tailored expensive suit” and “ripped jeans and an old t-shirt.” I interviewed for my current job wearing a suit I got at a thrift store for $30. It wasn’t a perfectly stylish cut, but it did what it needed to do for the day.

      And I think a lot of people are saying (and I agree) that interviewing for jobs like OP’s talking about might not even require a full business suit – but that there are plenty of ways of looking presentable without a suit.

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I was attempting to put words to this. Basically, because “its expected for industry X”, I wound up with a store credit card and a couple hundred in debt for a set of interview clothes just out of college. Not showing up dressed appropriately would definitely have landed me in the “no” pile.

      The ability to purchase an all black of-the-moment set of interview clothing for an entry level position that does not pay well had absolutely nothing to do with my ability to perform in said entry level position.

      I eventually wound up in a firm where the dress code was a little…..less, and the unwritten dress code for the industry was scoffed at soundly. And I don’t think I ever wore that outfit again.

  22. ZSD*

    This is kind of a tangent, but is the letter writer perhaps from a country where “beanie” means something other than a small cap that often has a little propeller on the top of it? Or are beanies a trend in a certain region/among a certain demographic? I don’t think I see people walking around in beanies, even in casual situations. (Or is it possible the letter writer is mistaking religious headwear for a beanie?)

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I’m not sure which meaning you’ve never heard, the knit beanie or the propeller beanie…
          If it’s the former, you go back a couple of generations, you’ll find the Beany and Cecil cartoon, with the little boy in the propeller cap, called a Beany.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I always immediately think of the beanie I wore in Brownies. To me, it’s a small skull cap that isn’t a yarmulke.

            But I understand that a lot of people now use it to mean a loose-fitting (slouchy) stocking cap.

            I think neither it that attractive.

          2. Name Goes Here*

            There’s also a Calvin and Hobbes strip (actually, a series of strips) where Calvin sends off for a beanie and it’s definitely the kind with the little propeller on top.

            I’ve never associated “beanie” with anything else, tbh.

    1. Manchmal*

      I think they mean a knit hat? (it’s what comes up if you google beanie hat) I’m curious too what kind of hats people were wearing!

    2. irianamistifi*

      In parts of the US, “Beanie” usually indicates a knit cap that is a little slouchy. Almost like a winter hat but can be worn inside.

    3. You can call me flower, if you want to*

      In my area (the Midwest United States) beanie is another name for a stocking cap. That’s what I assumed it was when I read it.

    4. Spearmint*

      I’m American and when I hear “beanie” I think of a stretchy winter hat that goes around one’s head and ears, not the little children’s hat you describe. That’s what pops up when you google it.

    5. H.Regalis*

      A beanie is also a knit winter hat, with or without a pom on top. I would 99% chance that’s what they’re talking about.

    6. Spencer Hastings*

      I see it used sometimes to mean a knitted winter hat, so I assumed that’s what was meant here.

    7. KayEss*

      Beanies are regionally what might in other places be called a toque: a brimless, usually knit-material cap.

    8. Spicy Tuna*

      Little propeller? Like the kind that a cartoon child or clown would wear? Beanies are mainstream knit hats that can be for warmth or fashion. They’re a little slouchy, not fitted on the head.

    9. Slinky*

      “Beanie” can just refer to any small hat, usually knitter, with or without a propeller. They’re pretty common in casual attire, at least where I live.

    10. Napkin Thief*

      In the US (at least regions I have lived) a beanie is basically a knitted hat. Not offensive, religious, or kiddish, very normal – but casual and not typically worn inside in a serious situation.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Every American I know calls this a knit cap or a stocking cap (or maybe a ski cap). I’ve only ever seen “toque” in print. I know what “beanie” means but I feel like it’s a relatively current usage of it for a stocking cap–it was the tiny hat with the propellor when I was a kid (and nobody wore them). I was born in the 1970s so I’m not that old. Maybe it’s regional?

    11. Talvi*

      I’m glad to see I’m not the only person who makes this association with the word “beanie”! It always takes me a minute to remember that Americans use this to mean a toque.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I’ve seen “beanie” written, but everyone I know (upper Midwest, where winter hats are a must) calls them knit or stocking hats. Or just “hats.” I think of “toque” as Canadian.

    12. Lady_Lessa*

      I’m American, but must live a sheltered life. I am only familiar with your description and not the other knit type

    13. BB*

      In the US a beanie is a knit winter hat. If they are wearing one inside it’s just a style thing, or it’s cold outside and they don’t want to risk having hat hair during their interview.

    14. Vertically Challenged*

      OP here- Yes, they are wearing knit caps. I never considered it being a regional term!

    15. ZSD*

      Thanks, everyone! I’m from the Midwest (but have also lived in the South, the West, and the Mid-Atlantic) but have only ever heard those hats called knit caps.

    16. The Prettiest Curse*

      I am sitting here smiling at the thought of a squadron of interviewees all wearing hats with little propellers.

    17. Roane*

      In at least parts of the US a beanie is also a term for a knit hat you would typically see in cold weather.

  23. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    I generally agree with Alison’s advice, but on the other hand, interviewing is about putting your best self forward, and dressing up some reflects that. I’ve never been one who enjoys dressing up, but I realize that it can make me more confident when I put forth a little effort and know I look good, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with “dressing to impress”, even just a little bit.

    1. DivineMissL*

      I just interviewed for an internal position at my company. We’re on the “casual” side of business casual, but I thought I should dress for an interview as my interviewers were from an era that would probably expect a suit for a director position. So I wore my suit skirt with a cardigan and flats for work, then changed into my heels and suit jacket for the interview. I saw the other three candidates and I was the only one who wore a suit; the other two internal candidates were wearing regular work clothes, and the external candidate came in wearing – plaid leggings and an oversized sweater. I felt like such an old fogey in my suit! But I was offered the job (which I turned down as the salary offered was lateral, not a raise). Then they hired Plaid Leggings for a significantly lower salary than they offered me. So it can go either way!

      1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

        Yeah, that’s true! I guess it really just varies! For myself, though, I’ll probably always be more comfortable dressing up a bit for an interview. It makes me feel like I’m taking it seriously or something! But it really does depend, doesn’t it?!

        Also, I’m sure you looked super-snazzy in the suit, not at all like a fogey! :)

  24. Eldritch Office Worker*

    My rule of thumb for interviews is usually one step more formal than what I expect the office attire is. So my current job I can easily get away with clean, not-ripped jeans or jeggings and a sweater – maybe I’ll wear a skirt or slacks/ a blouse for this kind of environment. If I’m not sure I’ll usually do a neutral dress or a pair of slacks and a blazer. I’ve never worn a full suit for an interview. I want to feel confident in whatever I’m wearing so polished but not stuffy works best for me. Your mileage may vary.

  25. Enna*

    I used to work as a manufacturing engineer. The rule was for interviews you had to wear a suit, which for women at the time usually meant a skirt and always meant dress shoes. Had I not worn a suit I probably would have not gotten the job, however the number of times I was told that I could not tour the facility in dress shoes was boggling.

    1. hamsterpants*

      This is why there is so much pushback against high heels as required dress for women. They literally disable you.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        Not just heels. My wife has a pair of steel toed shoes for when she has to visit the floor. There is a different kind of dress code there and unlike offices it’s pretty serious.

  26. L. Ron Jeremy*

    Just imagine that the only thing that separated you from the rest of the interviewees is a nice shirt and slacks. Or even a polo shirt that gives you a leg up on the competition.

    Nah, that just too much effort. Now let me just pull something from the bottom of my used clothing pile for my interview.

    Yup, this is fine.

    1. Daffodilly*

      You assume that everyone has *access* to a nice shirt and slacks. And assuming that “too much effort” is the only reason they don’t dress up.
      So here’s an exercise for you:
      Just imagine that the only thing that separates you from the rest of the interviewees is a nice shirt and slacks. Or even a polo shirt that gives you a leg up on the competition.
      But you don’t have those in your closet. You’re fresh out of community college, have student loans come due, no credit cards, and $20 to buy groceries for the next 3 weeks. You desperately need a job. None of your friends wear your size.
      And some dude assumes you’re too lazy and grab something from the bottom of the used clothing pile.
      Nope, that’s not fine. And it’s on the manager, not the candidate.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I was thinking the same thing. I am old enough that of course I have a suit. It is hung in my closet, still in the plastic from the last time I had it dry cleaned. The last time I wore it was to a funeral. This was not even the most recent funeral I have attended. I had it dry cleaned for a later funeral, then the organizer put out a message not to wear suits, since we would be spending part of the time standing outside in the desert heat. At this point in my life, funerals and maybe weddings are about the only occasions I am likely to use it.

        This makes me wonder: do the kids nowadays (defining “kids” as anyone under the age of 50) even own suits? And if so, why? If the answer is for interviews to jobs where they won’t be wearing a suit, then this seems more than a little ridiculous.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          I’m 35 so mid-millennial, “kid” by your definition. My mom bought me a suit as a college graduation present to wear for interviews. I wore it three times, got a job, never needed it again. It’s now many years and 2 kids later, I don’t think even one of my legs would fit in that skirt, I donated it long ago and never replaced it. Women don’t generally wear suits to weddings, so I don’t even need to keep one around for that. I do have a blazer for fancy work days but a matching suit is above and beyond the norm.

          I’m grateful my mom got me the suit and it enabled me to get that entry level job in a career I still have, but that suit was absolutely a waste of resources and not everyone is lucky enough to have parents who can or will help them buy such a thing.

        2. m*

          Can’t speak for other people in my age group (cusp millennial/genZ), especially the ones in more conservative industries, but I think many of us do something like I do: I don’t own an actual tailored suit and am unlikely to buy one except maybe for my own wedding, but I thrifted two black seperates, a blazer and trousers, that look reasonable and that’s what I wear to interviews.

        3. LZ*

          I am a 47 year old woman, I do not own a suit. I own some suit-adjacent separates (black blazer, black skirts, black and grey slacks) that came from the Gap, etc and were not nearly as expensive or tailored as an actual suit. The last time I wore one of the blazers was in 2017 for a job interview, but I paired it with nice khaki pants. I wore the skirt and black pants each a couple of times for formal client meetings about 3 years ago. I had several blazers as recently as 5 years ago and let them all go last year because I never wear them anymore. I work in IT (and have been remote for 2+ years) so I have very little need for anything above some business casual/business formal separates that don’t look dated.

        4. JB*

          I’m 30, I own a single suit because I was nominated for an award at work and was informed I must wear a suit for the nominee photo. I will never wear it again (unless they nominate me for another award, I suppose). It feels like such a silly waste. I wear slacks and nice button-downs for day to day work wear, and that’s what I wear for interviews, too – I just double check that I’m selecting the most flattering/least worn items from my work wardrobe.

          1. Vertically Challenged*

            I would be so stressed if I was told I had to buy a suit for just a picture! I’m 4’11” and would be hard pressed to find anything that didn’t look like I was dressing up in my mother’s clothes.

        5. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          I (47M) own a suit for the exact same reason you do. Funerals. And the aforementioned dressing up as a gangster for a friend’s “murder mystery dinner”.

        6. Chaordic One*

          This makes me wonder: do the kids nowadays (defining “kids” as anyone under the age of 50) even own suits? And if so, why?

          Every once in a while I run into overdressed young people (both men and women) in suits for no apparent reason. In most work environments nowadays they’re clearly overdressed. I seem to run into a fair number of young women who remind me of the character played by January Jones in Mad Men, but sometimes with Betty Page hair and/or cat eye glasses. Sometimes the suits are clearly thrift store finds, but they’re clean and they look cute. Maybe they’re doing it for attention? They usually have a sort of funky charm to them. Sometimes I think to myself that they look like they’re playing “dress-up,” but there’s nothing wrong with that and, of course, I would never say anything to them.

        7. Run mad; don't faint*

          I bought my son a suit when he graduated college two years ago. I figured he was going to need one for various formal occasions, such as weddings and funerals and just possibly job interviews, though that was less of a concern since his field is so casual. So far he’s only needed it once. I expect that more of his friends will be getting married in the next year or two and it will get some use then.

      2. zillah*

        I mean, and I think the other thing is that outside of dire situations like the one you’re describing, most people also have a finite budget. Even if they theoretically could afford to get more business-y clothing, it’s probably going to mean taking money away from something else, and it’s not necessarily worth it to them. If I had to choose between an outfit I’d wear twice that would maybe or maybe not help me get a job and a new pair of nice boots that I’d wear three times a week, I’m going to go with the nice boots.

    2. Nanani*

      Sure, because “Effort” is why not everyone has a nice shirt. It’s definitely not a matter of budget – for the shirt itself, for transportation to the kind of store that sells them, for the laundry requirements of that kind of garment.
      No its definitely effort. Nice shirts grow on trees, lazyness is the only explanation

      (end sarcasm)

    3. Amber Rose*

      I went through 5 years of higher education to get a degree with good grades and the respect of my professors, have spent time volunteering, worked my way up from the bottom of the ladder to a position of responsibility and respect over the 10 years of my working career, and have driven myself to learn as much as I can about as many things as I can.

      But yes, not being willing to spend money on a shirt I’ll wear for one meeting is “not putting in the effort.”

      Your standards of effort are a good sign I would not wanna work for you anyway.

    4. zillah*

      Now let me just pull something from the bottom of my used clothing pile for my interview.

      as opposed to what, new clothing?

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        I took that to mean clothes that have been worn (“used”) at least once, but not cleaned/laundered. As in pulling something out of the dirty laundry pile. But maybe that’s just me. X-D

  27. Sami*

    I can’t imagine not dressing at least business casual for an interview, but more likely business. I would probably/maybe throw in something a bit unexpected- maybe a brighter colored shirt, chunky/funky necklace.

  28. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I think people were already a little confused trying to figure out office dress norms – ‘business casual’ means one thing to a Fortune 50 company, and another to a startup. And sure, for an interview – WebEx or in person – I hope to see someone dressed in a way that tells me they’re taking the interview seriously enough to look their best. Depending on the role, that doesn’t always mean a suit.

    The past 18 months showed us how people feel about employer demands or expectations during a pandemic, and employers are finding it hard to justify a lot of those expectations – say, 100% onsite for every role, no matter what. It’s fair to say dress codes loosened up before most folks had to work remotely, and things aren’t so cut-and-dried anymore. And that’s okay.

    Maybe employers can coach or instruct new hires on typical attire for their office, and maybe they can also be more flexible about what’s appropriate for the role or function.

  29. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Also, employers, please rethink any policy that may challenge equity in your hiring practice. Interview clothes are expensive, and while there are ways to get affordable/free/thrifted interview outfits these options often don’t work for anyone who doesn’t fit into a narrow window of standard sizes and cuts. Also, even knowing these standards is a privilege – not everyone grew up in an environment where they learned these norms. Judge candidates on how well they do the job, and if they need (NEED) to dress more formally for the job address that when you make an offer.

    1. Nanani*


      And please for the love of cats stop expecting makeup and salon hair just to look professional.

  30. CBB*

    #1 I’ve been working in various offices of manufacturing companies for years, and it doesn’t surprise me that some of LW’s candidates seem confused about what to wear.

    I interviewed for my current job wearing a button down shirt, chinos, and practical leather work shoes. I might have come off as out-of-touch if I’d shown up in a suit. If an inside sales candidate wore a polo shirt and jeans, I don’t think anyone here would care.

    Which isn’t to say that LW’s company is wrong for being more formal, but a job posting for an “office job at a manufacturing company” doesn’t automatically mean a candidate will know what level of formality is expected.

    1. quill*

      I’ve had mostly office jobs at manufacturing companies at this point, but one of them was paint R&D and nobody below director wore anything that didn’t already have paint stains on it. One R&D place wanted business casual with no athletic shoes… but they must also be closed toe and not have heels, because we were in the lab.

      Everyplace else has been “Pants: full coverage, no holes” and “Shirt: no printed t-shirts.”

      1. SpaceySteph*

        “no athletic shoes but must be closed toe and no heels” If you’re gonna be that specific, its time to issue everyone a uniform shoe.

        1. quill*

          It was a moment where lab safety standards (which have good, toe-retaining reasons) and office professionalism standards (which are based in tradition) really conflicted for all the women in the department.

    2. Vertically Challenged*

      Honestly, a polo and nice jeans would have been fine. It was the faded shirts and jeans, hoodies, knitted caps, sandals and socks, etc. that ended up throwing me off.

  31. Daffodilly*

    What’s the pay? If you’re not paying enough for people to have a more formal “work wardrobe” as well as regular clothes, you’re going to get candidates who cannot afford to have fancy clothes just to impress you. Alison is right to ask you to rethink your expectations here.

    1. Vertically Challenged*

      The pay is (or at least was) higher than the average call center by several dollars. Not a suit and tie pay scale, but a nice top and slacks/jeans at least.

      1. Rach*

        Which is what they will be making, not what they are making. Before I got my degree and was struggling, I interviewed at a bank and wore one of my nicest (a bit too informal to be business skirt and matching knit jacket) and the interviewer practically sneered at me when I walked in the door. I came from a very humble background and didn’t know or have the means to buy an actual suit. It was very demoralizing and I had to take a job as a server (I’m now an engineer and could have been a bank teller). Beanie and faded jeans don’t have anything to do with what kind of worker someone will be.

  32. PolarVortex*

    The running joke in my side of my company is if you’re not wearing jeans and a tshirt, you must be interviewing. (Or meeting with the rare customer who visits our company.) Honestly in my last few internal interviews I think I just went with nice black jeans instead of dress pants (of which I now own none).

    I do think I can understand the expectation for “interview” dress. Conversely I get that buying “interview” level clothes when either a) you lost weight during covid and nothing fits, b) gained weight and nothing fits, c) can’t afford new clothes because you were without a job for a bit, d) some combination of the above or something else.

    I literally donated all my “fancy” clothes because nothing fits anymore. I also wear them so rarely that I can’t be bothered to buy any. I’m at the point where I have a meeting with people above my paygrade today and I’m going with jeans because I have no other options that are nicer and a sweater. I considered buying something, then decided that if this is good enough for my job, this is good enough for a meeting with them and I can’t care anymore if they think less of me for wearing jeans.

  33. DJ Abbott*

    Dressing up is about more than clothes. Dressing up makes a person feel more confident, competent, attractive, beautiful, and more like part of a community.
    If a candidate dresses up a little bit I would take that indicate they are showing confidence, competence, and motivation to get the job and do well.
    If they’re wearing cut-off track pants and a sloppy sweatshirt – I actually saw this in the store yesterday – I would take that to mean the interview is no more important or urgent to them then a grocery run.
    IMHO it’s a big loss in society when people never dress up, because nothing is special enough to make the effort.

    1. CatCat*

      “Dressing up makes a person feel more confident, competent, attractive, beautiful, and more like part of a community.”

      LOL, speak for yourself, buddy.

      1. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

        Agree with CatCat here. As a plus size woman, dressing up makes me feel awkward, unattractive, and a source of derision. Trying to find more formal clothes that both fit and, if not actually flattering, at least aren’t unflattering requires hours of shopping time. A shocking number of “plus size” pieces assume that the plus size body is exactly like the model body, just resized, and fail to take into account the realities of fat accumulation. Hard pass.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Oh yes, the “we scaled everything up by the same amount, so we assume your neck is 40 inches around” thing, so everything falls off your shoulders and requires the wearing of an additional shirt.

          1. quill*

            Or the T-shirt collorary of “we didn’t make anything longer or any larger in the armholes. Just wider.”

          2. SpaceySteph*

            My favorite is the “we assume all plus size women are 6 feet tall so they look proportionate to thin women therefore all our pants have a 40 inch inseam”

            1. Windchime*

              Or the inverse; “we assume if you are plus-sized then you are also short, so our shirts are all so short that your ample belly will be exposed if you raise your arms.”

        2. Lacey*

          Yes! It’s so hard to find the clothes in the first place and then you’re often paying a premium for something that won’t fit right anyway!

        3. Empress Matilda*

          I think the term “dressing up” is pretty subjective, though. It doesn’t necessarily mean a suit, and it’s different from job to job and person to person. (And from year to year – certainly my standards have changed quite a lot since Covid happened! Now if I put on mascara, it’s an Event.)

          DJ Abbott’s advice is pretty common – dressing up *can* make you more confident, etc, and it’s definitely worth doing for an interview if you can. But it’s really dependent on what “dressed up” means for the individual and the circumstances.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Sorry, but still no. I have never met an outfit* that made me feel as confident as leggings and a sweat wicking tshirt. I dress up because its expected of me, not because I enjoy it. When you hate your body, its rare that clothes make you feel confident. I’m glad that’s not the world you live in, but it is for many of us.

            *the one exception is body con dresses but only when I’m pregnant, which I am now for the third time. Otherwise those are also a hell no.

            1. Empress Matilda*

              Fair enough! It works for me, and obviously for DJ Abbott, but clearly that’s not universal. Thanks for the reminder. :)

            2. bkanon*

              The best I have ever felt about myself was in a massive ground-length renfair skirt and a bodice, with crocs hidden by the skirt. Find me an interview where that’s appropriate attire and I’ll be the most confident applicant ever.

        4. ThisIsTheHill*

          This. I have broad shoulders & a long torso for a woman. Even before I was plus-sized, finding a button-down shirt that fit my shoulder & chest & covered my gut was next to impossible. Fortunately, things have changed enough that t-shirts & other options under a blazer are acceptable – but I still have trouble finding shirts that are long enough that don’t look sloppy because I’m swimming in them.

          Don’t get me started on buttonfly pants/waistbands & belts & the resulting imprints on your waist.

          1. Arabella Flynn*

            Try online retailers geared toward “modest” dress, or hijabi ladies. They carry basics like t-shirts, camis, and blouses that are longer in the torso, specifically so they don’t ride up and expose your stomach when you move.

        5. Random Biter*

          “As a plus size woman, dressing up makes me feel awkward, unattractive, and a source of derision.”


      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Dressing differently from the people around you makes you feel more a part of that community? Huh?

        1. DJ Abbott*

          It does for me. All my friends like to dress up for social events. When I go to an interview I want to feel like I can be part of the work community and dressing up helps.

      3. Gothic Bee*

        Same, lol. I feel most confident, competent, and attractive in my preferred outfit, which is jeans, a black t-shirt of some kind, and a hoodie if it’s cold, add a (faux because I’m poor) leather jacket on top if it’s really cold. Why don’t we get that not everyone has some weird default “dressing up in nice(r) clothes makes me feel good” baseline? I will wear whatever is required of me at work, but I’m not going to pretend like I feel better about myself in a nice blouse and slacks, even if I manage to find some that fit properly (which is a feat in and of itself).

    2. Anononon*

      “cut-off track pants and a sloppy sweatshirt – I actually saw this in the store yesterday”

      I could be reading the tone wrong, but it seems to me that you’re a bit taken aback by someone wearing that to the store? Perhaps where you live, it’s different, but this is 100% the norm where I live, and I don’t think it’s a negative at all.

        1. JB*

          It sounds like you spend a lot of time and energy noticing what other people are wearing. I couldn’t tell you if I’ve ever seen cut-off track pants before because I wouldn’t notice, care, or remember. I’m currently in the office with five other people and couldn’t tell you what any of them are wearing unless I went and looked at them.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      To my hubs “dressed up” means anything outside of his normal baggy cargo shorts and tshirts.
      To be dressed “business casual” would mean nice nonripped jeans and a polo and sneakers. He wears this to interviews.
      “Formal or Sunday Best” means black or tan chinos and a dress shirt.

      I’ve yet to get him into a suit or even a sport jacket. Even for a recent wedding he wore tan chinos and a white dress shirt (no tie) and loafers. It is what it is. Sometimes I envy guys. Women can seldom get away with this. We’re judged much more harshly.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        All that sounds good to me! I’m just saying making a little effort helps. It doesn’t have to be extreme!

    4. Andy*

      > Dressing up makes a person feel more confident, competent, attractive, beautiful, and more like part of a community.

      It does not make me feel part of community. It makes me feel apart visibly distinct. If I am dressed up, I am wearing something else then people on my position wear. Everyone can tell I am applicant, because well, being dressed up means I am different.

      It does not make me feel competent or attractive either.

      > If a candidate dresses up a little bit I would take that indicate they are showing confidence, competence, and motivation to get the job and do well.

      You are equating artificially raising own *feeling* of competence with actually having competence. That does not makes sense. I can dress up or down and still be exact same worker.

    5. DJ Abbott*

      I’m sorry I don’t have more time to debate this. I have to work and then prepare for an interview tomorrow at a bank, where I’m wearing a suit I found at a thrift store. A rare and lucky find, it didn’t even need to be altered!
      The bottom line is clothing and style send a message whether we want it to or not. All my experience has taught me this.

      1. JB*

        I’ve worked in banking for about a decade and I can tell you if you showed up to an interview in a suit at any of the banks I’ve worked at, the message you’d be sending is not great. Unless you’re interviewing for a very high level position, but then I’d assume you wouldn’t need to be thrift shopping for your suits…

    6. Mockingjay*

      I used to think like you, DJ Abbott. Then I hit middle age and could not longer fit formal professional clothes. And I was tired of reinvesting my wages into expensive clothes worn solely at the job.

      I have pointe knit slacks that I use for meeting days, with long, tunic sweaters or swing tops that skim the bulge and nice leather flats (and an underwire free bra!). I look professional – maybe not to Hollywood standards – but I am so much more comfortable and I can focus on the meeting.

      Agree with Alison it is time to rethink this. There are industries or companies which require formality, but most businesses don’t.

      1. Windchime*

        Ponte knit pants are awesome. Ever since I discovered them, I wear nothing else. When they start to get too faded for work, they become non-work pants. My favorite work outfit was black ponte pants, a bit of a nicer t-shirt, and a hand-knit light-weight sweater. Sandals during the summer, nice leather sneaker-ish type shoes for winter. Done.

    7. OrigCassandra*

      Absolutely not a universal. Walk this back, please.

      “Dressing up” makes me feel self-conscious, socially awkward, and uncomfortable. This was true even when I did fall within rigid USian weight norms. Now that I’m fat, it’s a kajillion times worse.

    8. Rach*

      “Dressing up makes me feel great and more confident! But this isn’t true for everyone and employers shouldn’t judge employees based on appearance.”

      There, fixed it for you.

    9. DJ Abbott*

      Ok, I’ll try one more time. When I say dressing up I don’t mean wearing things that make you uncomfortable or are inappropriate.
      I mean making an effort to look good in your own style and environment. It has nothing to do with fashion. It’s your personal style.
      James’ and Kiko’s posts below get at what I’m trying to say. Clothing is communication whether we want it to be or not, and looking good makes people feel good.

    10. Workerbee*

      “ Dressing up makes a person feel more confident, competent, attractive, beautiful, and more like part of a community.”

      This is an instance where really examining where you got those thoughts and perceptions from is a worthwhile exercise. Time and again I’ve found that these so-called universal mantras (or mandates) can be distilled down to someone wanting to “other” certain demographics, and/or someone wanting to make people feel Less Than so they can make money off of you. Snake oil comes in all sorts of glossy packages.

  34. Amethystmoon*

    My job is data entry, and many bosses at my workplace still won’t hire candidates who don’t wear suits or suit jackets to the interview. No one from outside sees what we do while we’re working. Our own dress code states casual knit tops without collars and nice jeans are allowed.

  35. MissDisplaced*

    As someone who has spent a lot of money for both a “work” and a “casual at home” wardrobe, I wish more companies would consider not having a dress code beyond being clean, neat and presentable.

    As to the OP, they do state it’s a manufacturing company. In general, I’ve observed that manufacturing tends to run towards the more casual end of the business casual spectrum, with jeans being the norm, often worn with a company logo t-shirt or polo. So I’m not too surprised they’ve had people show up in jeans. For a lot of manufacturing workers (my husband included), “dressed-up” means blue jeans + polo shirt. Asking for business casual chinos and a dress shirt is like saying you want “formal.” LOL!

  36. DJ Abbott*

    Dressing up is about more than clothes. Dressing up makes a person feel more confident, competent, attractive, beautiful, and more like part of a community.
    If a candidate dresses up a little bit I would take that indicate they are showing confidence, competence, and motivation to get the job and do well.
    If they’re wearing cut off track pants and a sweatshirt, which I actually saw in the store yesterday, I take that to mean the interview is no more important to them than a grocery run.
    IMHO It’s a big loss to society when people never dress up. It means nothing is special enough to make the effort.

    1. Daffodilly*

      Wow. If “Dressing up makes a person feel more confident, competent, attractive, beautiful, and more like part of a community.” what does that say about your opinion of those who cannot afford to have fancy clothes?
      I take that to mean you discriminate against those who have less than you.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        You don’t have to be rich to get a nice shirt or blouse and pants or skirt! They’re available at mail order companies and thrift and resale stores have lots of good options. I’ve gotten many, many great pieces from thrift stores in my life.

          1. Carlie*

            Yep. I can hardly find things in the right size at actual stores, much less from people’s leftovers at a thrift shop.

          2. Rach*

            Took my 5’6″ size 2 daughter to find film noir clothes for Halloween at a thrift store, there were racks and racks for her to choose from. My size 18 body? There was half a rack, lol.

        1. Daffodilly*

          But you do have to have SOME money. And even if you cannot relate, I can assure you that there are lots of people who would have a really hard time coming up with any money for that.
          And odds are, if someone finds something at a thrift store on a deadline for an interview, it might not fit right, or be last season’s style, or commit some other fashion faux pas that people like you would use to denigrate their “effort”

          1. DJ Abbott*

            I know! I was prepared to not find anything, or if I did it would have to be altered. It is a once-in-decades find!
            FYI I don’t care about fashion “seasons” and wouldn’t know last season’s style if I saw it. I certainly wouldn’t judge.

    2. Nanani*

      Maybe it makes you feel confident. You’re not everybody though.

      (Also ewww “feeling attractive” has zero place in a job context)

    3. Amber Rose*

      Alternatively: I don’t need clothes to feel those things, and if you do maybe you’re compensating for a lack of actual skill.

      Judgement can happen from both sides of the argument you just made, which is why clothes shouldn’t even be part of this conversation.

        1. Anononon*

          It bums me out a bit that a number of people have pushed back on your implied universality of your comment, but you don’t really seem to have taken it in at all.

        2. Amber Rose*

          As did you. Which was my point. That judging people based on arbitrary nonsense is, in fact, nonsense.

    4. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

      As I pointed out in your first posting above, this is not everyone’s experience. As a plus size woman, dressing up makes me feel awkward, unattractive, and a source of derision. Trying to find more formal clothes that both fit and, if not actually flattering, at least aren’t unflattering requires hours of shopping time. A shocking number of “plus size” pieces assume that the plus size body is exactly like the model body, just resized, and fail to take into account the realities of fat accumulation. Hard pass.

      Please consider that other’s lived experiences might not match your own.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I’m sorry about the duplicate post. It looked like the first one didn’t go through.
        When I say dressing up I don’t mean you have to be all out formal! To me the key is to show you made an effort. When I started making that effort people start treating me better. Just a blouse instead of t-shirt and a nice pair of jeans, skirt, or slacks.

        1. Daffodilly*

          But, effort is not the type of clothing!
          Someone can have dragged their butt out of bed, taken a bus across town to a thrift store, not found anything fancy in their size, taken that bus to another thrift store for another fruitless trip, gone home with nothing.
          Then spent the night washing all their clothes and trying out different outfits with what they did have before settling on the best option with their current setup.
          Then have someone like you blow them off for not wearing something you arbitrarily decided represents “effort”
          When you judge a person’s clothing, you DO NOT see the “effort” or lack thereof. You judge them by a fake standard that only serves to keep those with money/access in power.
          And if YOU noticed that people treat YOU better, they’re doing the same thing and that should not be something to perpetuate.

        2. Nopetopus*

          As a larger woman, I’ve found that “making an effort” has the opposite effect and people actually often treat me worse! It just leads to more people noticing me, which leads to more people judging me and my existence in the world as a fat woman. Your experience is not universal.

    5. James*

      “Dressing up makes a person feel more confident, competent, attractive, beautiful, and more like part of a community.”

      It’s context-dependent. If a driller shows up to an interview in a suit and tie I’m going to wonder why they’re not working (every drilling company I know of is slammed right now). If an admin comes in wearing jeans and a t-shirt I’m going to wonder if they know what they’re doing.

      In addition, I often use how I dress to show I’m apart from the community. I’m not the guy doing the work, I’m the boss. I can wear a button-down shirt and brand-new jeans on a jobsite because I’m not the one getting dirty. Sure, it’s not very egalitarian, but it’s a cultural thing; most field workers don’t respect you until you earn it either by working them into the ground or having enough clout to get them fired. When I want to show I’m part of the community I wear a t-shirt and some rougher jeans (still clean, but with some stains on them), to show I’m working like the rest of the crew.

      My point is, as others have said, your experience isn’t universal. It’s highly dependent on the individual and the context, including the nature of the job. Clothing is communication, and communication is entirely dependent upon context.

      As far as confidence goes, if you’re as confident in a bath towel as you are in a suit and tie you’re just faking it. Cloths are a reminder, not the source. Confidence comes from competence; anything else is arrogance.

      “IMHO It’s a big loss to society when people never dress up. It means nothing is special enough to make the effort.”

      You don’t know the effort that goes in, though. To give a personal example: I once showed up at my kid’s karate testing in my field cloths. I looked fairly scruffy. But I had spent the last week working my tail off to arrange to be off site for that event, got into the site early (5 am) so the work I couldn’t offload could be done, and missed two meals because I didn’t want to risk being late. To say that I didn’t put any effort in because I was still in jeans and a t-shirt is not just wrong, it’s fairly insulting. It’s valuing image over substance.

    6. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

      > more like part of a community

      Dressing similarly to other people is what makes you feel like part of a community (with those people). It’s one reason why uniforms exist. That’s not the same as dressing up.

    7. Kiko*

      I agree with you, but I think the way our culture is going (and how clothing is now manufactured), it’s making it less and less appealing to put in the appropriate amount of effort required to look decent.

      I read a Vox article a few years ago, that argues suits have gone from a Western status symbol to one that represents a formality with a negative connotation attached to it (for example, you’re more likely to wear a suit to a court hearing than you are to your white-collar office job). I found the argument compelling and I see it in all factors of current living.

      I think this sentiment alongside the total degradation of our fashion industry (the death of our tailors and other highly-trained fashion artisans, the mass production of cheap and disposable clothing, the push of our — once prestige — fashion houses’ massively lucrative accessory lines over bespoke clothing) has made it difficult for regular people to find decent clothes without forking over an obscene amount of money and time. I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask for normal people to “dress up” more when it’s become prohibitively difficult to do so.

  37. Vertically Challenged*

    To add a bit more information, we are the corporate headquarters and get unannounced (to us) visits from some of our larger customers, so dressing business casual is important. Although, it can still be heavy on the casual part. I definitely do not expect a suit, but I would feel better at seeing nice jeans and a nice top. None of the candidates that were exceptionally casual were good fit with one exception. Unfortunately, he had other issues that ended up disqualifying him. I certainly didn’t judge on looks alone, but it was a little off-putting that they didn’t even try to look presentable. No matter what, I still focused on the qualifications and personality the most.

    1. Megabeth*

      Is there a company website that candidates are using to apply for these jobs? I wonder if you might include some pictures of the office staff on the site somewhere, maybe in a group photo or something? When I’ve researched companies before interviewing with them, I paid close attention to their website because whatever is on there will generally tell you how they want to be perceived. If they had pictures of their staff in suits and ties, then I assumed that they wanted to project a formal image; when I saw pics of employees in polo shirts, that told me that those companies would be much less formal.

      1. Vertically Challenged*

        There is a website where we were all listed individually. Originally we were in our blouses, but then it switched to the company polo shirts. I think the polo pics were up at the time. The company wide photo included manufacturing so you would see a mix of jeans and tshirts along with suits and everything in between.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I remember when I applied to similar jobs back when I was first entering the work world. My rule was no jeans (khakis were fine) & no T-shirts. Even if those clothes were OK for the job I was applying for, dressing up just slightly showed respect for the job & the interviewer. (I didn’t think of it any different than dressing up for church or other special events.)

      But now I live somewhere that people don’t even dress up to go to the symphony or a nice restaurant. (I come from a working class background, & my family loved pulling out our fancy clothes for special events.)

    3. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

      I get jobs thru staffing agencies, and they usually explicitly tell me what the dress expectations for the interview are. (And they’re usually reasonable and accurate for the company.) Maybe as part of your process in setting up the interview, you could include information like that?

    4. ElizabethJane*

      If that’s the case why not include “Dress is business casual” as a part of your interview invite? Why make candidates guess?

      1. Vertically Challenged*

        Honestly, we’re not the ones that set up the interviews. All that is done by HR, so I’m not sure what information is conveyed to the candidates.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Why not ask them? When I was a trainer, I found out that HR was telling people they needed no computer skills for a customer service job. That was true many years ago, but it was no longer the case once I was training in the early 2000s. (They didn’t need to be advanced, but you did need to be able to search through screens while answering a phone call.)

  38. Veryanon*

    I used to do a lot of recruiting/interviewing, and while I didn’t expect people to wear full-blown suits, it was always nice to see a candidate who had made an effort to look more pulled together. I never held it against anyone who didn’t wear a suit, especially if it was a lower level job where they wouldn’t be expected to dress that way, but I did want to see that they were taking the interview seriously. I wouldn’t get too annoyed about manufacturing people coming to the interview in jeans, though.
    For myself, I haven’t had any external interviews in 5 years, and none of the suits I own still fit, so I’d probably have to scramble a bit, but I’d probably go with a nice blouse and skirt or dress with a jacket or sweater.

  39. mc*

    Memories! Since I had only had secretarial jobs up until that point, I turned up to interview for my first biochemistry lab job in a pale yellow cotton voile shirtwaist dress with a lace collar (that I had made myself). I ended up being interviewed in the lab which was incredibly messy while some grad students were bleeding rabbits and someone else was butchering a cow’s head to remove the brain. I did get the job, but they told me later that they all expected me to quit right away. I should have worn jeans…!

    1. Blarg*

      I’m amazed with your vocational and avocational skill set — you work in a biochem lab AND make your own cute clothes? Impressive.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      “I should have worn jeans…!”

      Which raises the point that there is more than a little element of guesswork for the candidate. Over-dressing might lose them the job.

      1. Toe Bean*

        My friend applied for a job at a Dog Grooming business, and during her job interview she’d dressed in dark skinny jeans and a nice top and a cardigan.

        The manager was very impressed by her skills, but admitted to her later that they contemplated not hiring her, as her interview attire made her appear ‘stuffy’ and assumed she wouldn’t cope with the hairy, messy nature of the job.
        (Most staff wore sweat pants and an old t-shirts)

        Clothing really is difficult at times to figure out. Sometimes a well meaning attempt to look presentable can backfire!

    3. Recruited Recruiter*

      I don’t interview people for a lab, but another messy role. I won’t take applicants on a tour of our facility if they are wearing too nice of clothes.
      For the job that I recruit most for, though, the best dressed interviewees are compensating for a serious lack of any helpful skills.

    4. James*

      We have someone like that in our office. She dresses up to come into the office (or did before Covid). Skirts, blouses, shawls, makeup, jewelry, all that. We’re a bunch of field people–the only person who dresses above “khakis and a polo” is a senior VP, when he’s got meetings. Two of us said, independently, “I give her two months.”

      She’s still with us, and one of the best of the team at certain tasks.

      Honestly, I’ve found very little correlation between dress and competence.

    5. Loredena Frisealach*

      My husband was interviewing for a dev job at a gaming shop. I said you can’t go wrong with a suit. I was wrong – his interviewers were in shorts! He said they definitely conveyed that he was overdressed (apologized for not having their admin tell him to wear jeans)

  40. Nanani*

    Brilliant response!
    Why -should- someone need to spend all that extra time and money and effort for a one time meeting? Especially when they won’t need to dress to that level on the day to day.
    You’re interviewing them to see if they can do the job, evaluate that not their wardrobe budget.

  41. ex Alaskan*

    I lived for a time in a town in remote Alaska. We had three seasons: icy, muddy, and dusty. Wearing ‘nice’ clothes was absurd and impractical. And, you know, you were almost always layering anyway, so what was the point?

    A couple years the town needed a new city manager. A couple Outsiders were amongst the final candidates. Both showed up in suits and dress shoes, and legit couldn’t even walk outside safely. A smidgen of both practical sense and research on the place you say you want to LIVE would have suggested, at the least, some more rugged footwear. Dress for the job you want not the job you have and all.

    Needless to say, the local candidate got the job. He was dressed for the weather. And the obvious choice. But they did their due diligence on seeking external candidates.

    I’d kept my good clothes in some boxes at a friend’s place. Getting reunited with my shoe collection a couple years later was amazing. I am thankful for my time there, but I do love me some sidewalks and pavement and stuff.

  42. Junior Assistant Peon*

    This seems to be a thing now. I interviewed candidates a few months ago, and only one guy wore a suit and tie. Everyone else wore a business-casual collared golf polo.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        We hired one of the golf polo guys. Suit guy did improve his standing, though. My boss perceived him as overqualified and was wondering what might be wrong with him. He made a great impression in the interview, but we decided someone else was a better fit.

  43. Amber Rose*

    I have the same job in the same place (sales support for a manufacturer) and we tell people not to dress up for their interviews. The expectations are funny. I actually got called out by an interviewee for not dressing up for an interview last week (she was very professionally dressed). I don’t ever dress up at work, I am permanently in jeans and hoodies, it seems a little silly to go out of my way to spend money on clothing I’ll use for one hour this year.

    We all need to adjust our expectations. Fancy clothing does not equal respect. Dressing appropriately for the job you’re applying for or in is not a crime.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      The job candidate criticized how her interviewer dressed? I assume that she didn’t get the job! I pretty much expect to be best dressed person in the room when I interview for a job. Most lawyers only put on a suit if they are going to talk to a judge. Some will put on a suit for a client, but more often it is a jacket and tie.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I’m not sure if she’ll get the job yet or not. She didn’t exactly criticize so much as comment, and I thought it was pretty funny. Kudos to her for questioning it honestly, because how we dress is a part of our corporate culture and that’s important to know about going into a new position.

        1. JB*

          She probably commented because she felt awkwardly overdressed and felt the need to acknowledge it. I would’ve done the same in her shoes.

      1. Amber Rose*

        She wasn’t rude, just surprised, so I laughed. I honestly did feel a bit bad for looking like I was about to go for beers instead of interview, but my only nice sweater was in the wash and my single blouse no longer fits.

        I also pointed out that we literally have no expectations for appearance here if you aren’t part of the sales team. That’s important info for someone interviewing to know, I think. There are definitely people who wouldn’t be comfortable here at our level of casual.

    2. Tuesday*

      I wish my office would tell people they don’t have to dress up (not up to me). Candidates come dressed so much more formally than everyone else in the office, and I feel awkward for them. I usually dress up a bit on interview days, but my coworkers will wear whatever, including very casual clothes if it’s Friday. That seems a bit rude to me.

      I think your workplace is doing it right. It gives people a better idea of what working there is going to be like, and I don’t see the point of special interview day clothes.

  44. gododgers*

    This is a convention that I wish would go away. Pulling the suit out out of the dry clean plastic that hasn’t been worn since a funeral 4 years ago and trying to find the shoes that were worn once is a pain. And if you have gained or lost any weight since then, good luck. You don’t want to show up in a $99 Jos Bank or Men’s Warehouse piece of junk, so time to spend $400 on a semi-decent suit that you will wear maybe wear 4 times. Don’t forget a new belt.
    I know women have their own issues with formal business dress also.

  45. Kiko*

    I may have missed this in OP’s original letter, but are they explicitly stating the dress code expectations prior to the interview? I think a lot of people are oblivious unless given instruction. On the total polar opposite side of this discussion, I was told my my current employer NOT to dress up for my interview, as it wouldn’t be considered on whether I would be a good fit. I really appreciated the heads up, although I did dress rather nicely (just not my total interview outfit with high heels and all).

    This is random a side comment, but I think our culture has shifted so much on clothing formality in the past decade or so, it’s actually really difficult to find good quality, nice looking work clothes. I truly enjoy fashion, but I’ve found that I now need to do a lot of research to find clothes that look nice, are made of decent materials (not poly, viscose or nylon-bends galore), and will stand wear over several years. It’s no wonder people are gravitating towards casual clothing.

    1. Vertically Challenged*

      I know our job description does not state the dress code, but I’m unsure if HR makes any statements when scheduling the interview. Personally, I would have assumed for an office job that the dress code would be more than jeans and a t-shirt.
      Honestly, I haven’t had to be the interviewee in over 10 years. I couldn’t find any articles that said dressing casually is now acceptable. It had me wondering if the candidates were serious about the job since I was always taught to dress nicely for an interview. I have no issues changing my expectations.

  46. L*

    It’s answers like this that make Alison the best! I agree that, unless there’s a real business need for it, who cares? My current manager comes from a privileged, wealthy background and one place it really shows up is in work attire — she was SHOCKED when an intern (with no external facing duties) didn’t know not to wear jeans on her first day (in a mostly empty Covid office, no less). She’s also always talking about how the most professional look includes a silk scarf…without ever thinking that not everyone can afford a silk scarf to go with every outfit! Anyway, thank you Alison once again for great, progressive, reasonable advice.

    1. Lacey*

      Ugh, yes, I briefly worked in an office full of those types. I was coming from a place where jeans and t-shirt were the norm and had to buy a totally new work wardrobe, but it clearly was looked askance at because it all came from Target and Old Navy – the places I could afford!

    2. Jean*

      I would not be able to resist laughing in someone’s face if they unironically expected a silk freaking scarf as part of appropriate work attire. Ridiculous.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Silk is expensive and hard to clean, and I like my scarves as accessories. But I have like one silk scarf and a bunch of cotton ones, and a bunch I’ve crocheted myself. And yes, I wear the ones I’ve crocheted to work sometimes.

    3. Bananananarama*

      My mom isn’t as extreme as your manager, but 30 odd years ago she’d worked in a corporate office and back in the day women were expected to look immaculate. Im talking blazers, a blouse, pencil skirts, modest jewellery, heels and woe betide if you didn’t wear a panty hose! She stopped working to look after me and my siblings, but years later she got back into the workforce and was shocked that so many staff, including management, no longer adhered to formal office attire. She felt very out of place and a bit miffed that her colleagues got away with wearing things that would have gotten her reprimanded years agom

  47. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    One of the best people I ever hired for an office job showed up in jeans and a t-shirt. She simply said “Sorry, my current job is cleaning houses and I didn’t have time to change” and that was that. She had an excellent interview and did an excellent job in her role.

  48. Sunflower*

    So funny how times changed. For the better since I work better in comfortable clothes.

    About 30 years ago, I walked into a place for a job application and they interviewed me right here. I wasn’t ready and just wanted an application! Felt so uncomfortable because I was wearing black sweatshirt material type pants and a casual top. Not sloppy but still…..

    Nowadays nobody will blink an eye.

    1. anon24*

      My current job is in healthcare, in a role where I’m wearing a uniform all day. It’s my first job in the field. I appreciated so much that when they contacted me to set up an interview they added a little note at the end of the email specifying that the dress code was business casual, so I didn’t have to guess what was expected of me. I didn’t know if overdressing would get me seen as someone who was out of touch with the role, but I certainly didn’t want to underdress!

    2. Lacey*

      Yes, I’ve heard lots of people say they work best if they’re dressed up, but I’m not doing my best work if I’ve got clothes that need fussing with. Fortunately, most of my jobs have been places where jeans and a top are the norm. In fact, at one job I wore a skirt on day and a coworker joked about how over dressed I was.

  49. Girasol*

    It’s a strange custom that people must dress for an interview in a way that makes them look oddly stodgy in the casual office where they’re interviewing, as well as uncomfortable in clothes that may have been bought at considerable expense to wear only to interviews. But if they dress in office-casual or casual clothes it would be a signal that they’re not conscientious and/or not serious about getting the position. I hope covid breaks this silly no-win situation.

  50. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    I work from home and am interviewing for other work-from-home roles. The interviews are usually on Zoom, and often take place on my lunch break or right after my workday finishes. I dress nicely but don’t go all out — I think it’s understood that this is how I dress for my workday. So I might wear a dress or nice blouse, but skip the jacket and pearls.

  51. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    A few years ago I interviewed a college senior for an after-college position and she wore the shortest short shorts I’ve ever seen a human wear. To her job interview. For a job in an office (not a Hooter’s restaurant). I couldn’t believe she could even sit down in them without sustaining some kind of injury. There’s casual, and then there’s indecent. In what world would anyone think that was ok to wear that to a job interview, are they not getting any coaching anymore in either HS or college on basic expectations? I’m pretty liberal-minded and relaxed around office customs but that one shocked even me.

    1. Amber Rose*

      That’s the line. The dress code for even the extremely casual workplaces I’ve been in is “reasonably modest.” Usually you’d assume you draw the line at anything that might result in a nip-slip or underwear reveal while moving around.

      I audited a place where I asked about dress code requirements, and my contact cracked that people regularly show up in their PJs. He was right! Anything they wore was covered by their work coveralls, so they’d just show up in whatever. It was pretty funny. But even they were covering most of their skin.

      1. Allison*

        Same. I can’t imagine wearing any kind of shorts to a job interview! A knee-length pencil skirt is one thing, but IMO there’s no such thing as “professional” shorts for either gender.

    2. OyHiOh*

      I am a volunteer judge for DECA – in essence, business development for high school and college students. Students are supposed to show up to competitions in “business casual.” However, their instructors are not allowed to give them any guidance beyond looking “neat and presentable” because around 30-ish years ago, a group of parents sued DECA, along with several other business development orgs, for basically stiffling their children’s self expression. DECA, Future Business Leaders, and the rest all walked back their dress code expectations to “neat and presentable” and told instructors they could not offer any guidance at all on dress, and judges are not allowed to take dress into consideration (unless it “crosses the line”). You can always spot the students who have privilage (parents familiar with white collar norms, money, etc) from the ones who don’t.

      I feel that the decision to walk back all dress code guidance was a mistake; that the organizations should have taken some time to develop guidelines that take into account regional and cultural variation instead of not providing any at all. These are competitive extracurricular programs that help students with college and post college plans. None of us are doing the students any favors by not teaching them how to dress in line with regional and industry norms.

  52. Andy*

    I don’t like dress up requirements for anything, because it means I have to buy new cloth for them. That means shopping for fitting cloth and yeah, I dislike shopping and that effort. I can afford them, but it still feel wastful.

    These occasions are rare. My weight apparently fluctuates – it goes both up and down. And each time I find there is either nothing fitting or the fitting thing is not warm enough or too warm for summer.

    And everything prior pregnancies is bad, because my breasts changed permanently. So if I can get away with not dressing up, I will go with something clean that I currently own.

    And per post, the applicants can get away with it.

  53. Chris too*

    I’m Canadian, and I had no idea a “beanie” was anything other than the propeller hat. The other hat you’re describing is a “tuque,” of course!
    From what OP describes some people are
    coming in underdressed, but there’s definitely an “overdressed” level for some non-manufacturing positions where I work, for instance a suit and high heels instead of separates and flats, when the primary thing going on here is manufacturing.
    Where I work we’re doing something both scientific and dusty, and you can’t assume the grimy person on the shop floor doesn’t have a PhD. It’s not exactly “blue collar” vs. “white collar,” more just a feeling the applicant doesn’t really “get” what we’re doing.

    1. James*

      See, that can get you into trouble. I’m a geologist, wanted to be a geologist/paleontologist my whole life. Rock-jocks tend to be….we’re the rednecks of the science world. There is an inverse relationship between how well you dress for a presentation and how much respect you get–show up in a suit and tie and people wonder why you’re there, show up in flannel and jeans and a beat-up hat (you’ve gotta have the hat) and folks take you seriously. You’re a REAL geologist, you actually go into the field and get your hands dirty!

      You can imagine how well it went over with my parents when I put forward the argument that I should dress this way!

    2. Tinker*

      I would try that, but I am concerned that I would thereby get arrested for public indecency and/or various weapons charges.

    3. JB*

      IME people who do that tend to stick out like a sore thumb and never do make it to the job they want.

      Wearing a suit in customer service doesn’t lead people to look at you as ‘future CEO’, it just leads to them looking at you funny.

      1. Tinker*

        Also, not everyone necessarily wants a job where one wears a suit to work. Which is not necessarily a departure from the literal text of the adage, admittedly, but in practical usage it often implies criticism of the decision to dress in a less-formal way and the structure of the thing fundamentally implies that the way you dress for “the job you want” is self-evidently always compatible with but “better” than the way you dress for “the job you have”.

        That isn’t always the case. For instance, in some places I’ve worked, there either aren’t significant differences in how formally people dress based on their role, or the differences are the reverse of the usual — say, the clothes worn by engineers / engineering managers look suspiciously as if they are about as old as the career of the engineer in question, who is also perhaps not very good at laundry. In other places I’ve worked or considered working, there are uniform, safety, or practical requirements that make business formal and some business casual schemes straight up inappropriate — wearing dress shoes instead of steel toed boots will get you corrected, not promoted.

        I do think that it’s useful to know the effect of various clothing signals and to strategize accordingly — to think about what sort of clothing conveys competence as a self-defense, or how to incorporate notes that signal technical focus or creativity into an outfit that is also fully acceptable as “business casual” — but if anything that adage seems like it leans away of thinking in those terms.

  54. Snarkastic*

    Even if the job is in a casual place, I would still try to look polished and professional. I wouldn’t show up in my distressed jeans (regular with no holes, at the very least), nor would I throw on a t-shirt. I’m youngish and this has served me well.

  55. Observer*

    OP, you say that you have been “looking past this.” I’m really glad to hear it. Because I thing that what you are describing helps explain why there are still so many people unemployed while employers are complaining that they can’t find good people. Too many employers can’t or won’t look past inconsequentials like this.

    To some extent, this is the new normal. I’m not a big fan, but it’s pretty clear that pushing back on this is not going to get you the results you need – in fact it’s likely to get you the reverse. You don’t want to turn off otherwise good employees who think “I’m going to be sitting in a factory. Why on earth do they need me to be in a suit? Or even business casual. What other unreasonable expectations are they going to have?”

  56. Old cynic*

    I remember working on a closed (no outsiders saw us) tech facility in the 80s and we had to wear dress shirts and ties. They relaxed it in the 90s and the tie was optional (but encouraged) and dress shirt still required.

    Now I see guys in graphic tees, shorts, and flip flops and can’t help but feel jealous. I think people do better work when they feel comfortable.

    1. Bananananananrama*

      I sort of mentioned this earlier but yeah, my mom worked in a corporate office thirty odd years ago and had to dress immaculately – blazer and skirt ensemble with pantyhose, modest jewellery and heels and full make up.
      Took time off when she decided to have my siblings and me. Returned to the workforce decades later to find staff wearing clothing she would never gotten away with back then. To be fair they weren’t wearing anything ‘inappropriate’ as such, its just that jeans, brightly colored dresses, quirky socks and even smart looking sneakers became the norm. First week into her role she couldn’t tell apart Management and lower ranking staff cause they’d all be wearing jeans!

  57. Pyjamas*

    Could they be coming to your interview straight from their current job, one where dressing up would scream, “I’m job seeking?”

    1. autumnal*

      Isn’t that the truth! On occasion I’d “dress up” to go to work and be bombarded with questions about when I was leaving for my job interview.

  58. autumnal*

    This question had me flashing back to a job interview I had about 21 years ago. I was one month postpartum; stuffed into a suit and pantyhose; and was supremely uncomfortable. It was early December and it was a pink(!) spring suit – the only thing I could fit into – but I was still roasting due to hormones. The interview lasted close to 2 hours. As a nursing mom, I was just thrilled to not spring a leak.

    Several years later, I was interviewing for a position at a hospital in Las Vegas. It’s memorable in that 1) I got the job and 2) it marks the very last time in my life that I wore pantyhose. Pantyhose in August in Nevada. Yeah, that’s a nope.

    I’d also like to add that expecting people to wear fine clothing to an interview is one of the reasons that people who cannot afford them don’t get jobs or don’t even bother to apply at all. Clean and neat – that should be the standard for anything but the most well-paid professional positions.

  59. Seen it all*

    I’ve seen it all in re interview attire. Generally speaking, the more casual the interview attire, the more I had to coach the employee on appropriate attire for the workplace. If someone showed up in short shorts and a tank top for the interview that’s how they dressed for the job unless I explained that they needed less casual attire.

    And, the more casual the approach to the interview, the more casual the approach to actually showing up and doing the work expected.

  60. Ray Garraty*

    I would much rather be remembered as “the only candidate that wore a suit” than “the only candidate that didn’t wear a suit”.
    I can’t see being overdressed for an interview hurting you, but I can definitely see being underdressed hurting you, if for no other reason than raising questions about your professionalism.

    1. David*

      Being overdressed is absolutely a thing depending on the industry. Everywhere I’ve worked post-college, showing up in a suit would suggest you either didn’t read up on the company or didn’t care, and would likely disqualify you.

      There’s power in being able to show up casually. “I don’t have to dress up to look desirable to an employer” is a flex.

  61. Bluey*

    This is the perfect example of an opportunity for employers and businesses to clearly communicate expectations and standards to employees or potential employees. While I personally wouldn’t choose to show up to a job interview in a casual outfit, there are a lot of things people just straight up don’t know, or have no experience with; not everyone reads AAM or other work-related blogs or websites or has access to someone who can clearly explain “how things should be.” A way forward for this LW may be to include a phrase in the listing, or have recruiters communicate to the candidate what the expectation for the interview may be.

    If you want folks to dress a certain way, ask them to.

    1. Lies, damn lies and...*

      That’s all there is to it. Can’t be mad at someone who didn’t follow the rules you didn’t tell them.

  62. Bugalugs*

    We’re very casual here and it’s nice when people show up dressed well but being a warehouse we don’t expect much beyond jeans and a t-shirt anything better is a plus. However we do look at clean and kempt. If they show up is dirty sweatpants and a shirt with holes it reflects badly on them and is taken slightly into consideration. Because we need to be very organized it can, and has previously, shown that you’re less likely to care about keeping things organized. It just shows a bit of care in what you’re doing/wanting to do. On the other end though we are in a warehouse so things can be dirtier then an office so when people come in wearing suits/dressy clothes and then get visually annoyed, think scowling while brushing themselves off if they get something on them such as dog hair or just dust from the building, it shows that they might also not be a good fit since you’re likely going to get dirty doing this job. Neither are deal breakers but if we have 2 candidates that are really good for 1 job it is a consideration.
    FYI we do advertise that there is a dog on site in the job posting at the top along with reminding them when doing a phone screen and booking an interview so they know ahead of time.

  63. Thomas Spring*

    I once lost a chance at a job (~ 10 years ago) because the dress code at my then-current employer was jeans/casual and the interviewer would not schedule any time for the interview except for lunchtime; they informed me that I was not considered for the job because I was not in suit & tie for the interview even though I warned the interviewer both before and during the interview that I could not dress up without warning my current employer I was looking elsewhere.

  64. Allison*

    I look back on my interview attire when I was in college – both for retail/food service gigs and for office-based co-op jobs, and they weren’t quite faded jeans and a t-shirt, but it wasn’t great either. I didn’t buy a blazer and pencil skirt outfit until senior year, and in hindsight I realize I should have invested in that stuff much earlier, but hindsight is 20/20! If someone is coming from a blue collar background and they’ve never worked in an office before, they might genuinely not know what “proper” interview attire is, or they might understand in theory what ideal interview attire looks like but they can’t justify the expense, and they’re working with what they have hoping it’s enough, and planning to invest in office attire if they get the job. That was me, that was definitely my naïve, misguided mindset when I was in college.

    OP, if interview attire is important to you, I might issue guidelines when the interview is being scheduled – assuming you send out a confirmation with boilerplate info about directions and parking, include a note about the office dress code, and how candidates are advised to dress accordingly (maybe include examples on what that means). And if you’re not sending that confirmation email with the boilerplate info, maybe that’s something to look into. If not, I think you need to look past the clothes, and focus the interview on their attitude and skills, and assess whether they can do the job. Maybe mention that the office is business casual, and verify that they’ll be willing and able to follow that if they got the job.

  65. Random Biter*

    I can’t begin to tell you the sheer joy I experienced when I was told at NewJob that the only dress code was don’t come to work in your pajamas.

    At OldJob I actually had to bring in a doctor’s note saying that due to my propensity towards fasciitis and having had a spinal fusion I was only to wear sports shoes and never heels.

  66. Cat lady*

    Is it possible your job candidates can’t afford to dress up for an interview? It’s really easy to say dressing up is the norm, but expecting someone who might be one payday away from homelessness to buy an outfit they may never wear again is tone deaf.

  67. lilsheba*

    I really think it’s time to drop the whole “dress for an interview” thing, it so doesn’t matter anymore! Just be comfortable and clean, I feel you will get a much more accurate impression of someone if they dress like they usually do, instead of a fake one dressed up.

  68. YellowThere*

    I’d love to see dress codes included in job postings and/or reiterated in interview confirmation emails! Years back on a previous job search, one company that I was setting up an interview with did that (ie: “We’ve got a casual dress code, so feel free to wear jeans!”) and it was such a relief to not be stressing about if I would be over/under-dressed. It may be fairly small, but it can really ease the anxiety over interviewing.

  69. Kevin Sours*

    I hate interview dress codes. It’s not really the clothes, though I do prefer not having to dress up. It’s not really the expense, though I know that’s a big concern for many people. It’s the head games. It seems like everybody has their own ideas of what *right* is and god forbid if a candidate varies from that. Part of that may be my experience as a programmer where a few places still have real dress codes, many don’t but expect you to dress up for the interview, and some will ding you for dressing up.

    1. Windchime*

      I’m also a (retired) programmer. Anything from clean jeans to slacks is fine. For guys, a tie is not necessary at all although a button-down would be OK (not required). If a candidate wore a suit, we would probably wonder if s/he was applying for a job as CIO or Director. A person wouldn’t be ruled out, but it would seem strange.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve never worked for an IT company; I’ve always been in healthcare in the IT department. When I first started out 20 years ago, even the desktop support people who crawled under desks were required to wear slacks, dress shirt and tie. Things have changed, and for the better.

  70. Kevin Sours*

    Something to consider. Of all of the criteria a candidate might not meet for a position in an interview, dress is probably the easiest to fix after hire. So even if the job does require dressing up a little, ask yourself if it’s worth passing on an otherwise strong candidate over it. Obviously you need to address it as part of the hiring process to make sure the job requirement isn’t a problem for them.

    1. Chaordic One*

      This is true. I recall hiring a couple of under-dressed interviewees and after they’d worked for us for a month or so, and received a couple of paychecks, they splurged and bought more appropriate work clothes.

  71. Lobsterman*

    I’ve been told what level of interview attire to wear to about half my interviews on the most recent go-around. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you want Office Casual, or whatever, ask for it.

  72. KellifromCanada*

    I believe in always dressing better for the interview than you would for the day-to-day job. Once you’ve started work, dress for the job you want, rather than the job you have, if you think there’s any opportunity to move up in the future. And if you can wear it to the beach or the gym, you can’t wear it to work (unless you work at a beach or a gym!). It’s always better to be a little overdressed than to be underdressed.

  73. Susana*

    I want to not care – to say that what you’re wearing is meaningless. But the reality is, we are making a statement with our clothes, including the statement we are making when we are dressed very casually or sloppily. I think we’re done with skirted suits and hose – unless you’re in a job that require sit day in day out. But if someone showed up to an *interview* in faded jeans and a T-shirt? I’d think the interview was not much of a priority.

  74. Chilipepper attitude*

    Someone mentioned posting the information in some way.
    I think including something in the job posting is a really great idea!
    I once worked for a Yeshiva High School that regularly hired teachers who were not Jewish or Modern Orthodox Jewish. They almost never explained to interviewees the dress code or that men prefer not to shake hands with women and then it was all awkward when women would show up and quickly figure out something was different about what everyone else was wearing. And they even did not always adequately tell the new hires what the dress code was. Basics were, for women, covered up to the collarbone, down to the elbow, and no pants, but skirts should be past the knee.

    To be fair, they did not expect interviewees to follow the dress code but a heads up would have been nice so that I could adjust myself in a way that worked for me and possibly the dress code or just so I would know that they did not expect me to follow it but that others would be. And a few teachers did not realize what it was till they had been working there a few weeks. It was so awkward when they would suddenly realize one part of their clothing did not fit the code.

  75. Susan Ivanova*

    In 1992 I flew in to Silicon Valley for a tech job interview. I wore the first and last suit-skirt combo I have ever owned, which my mom insisted on because of course you need to wear a suit for an interview.

    Every single person who interviewed me said “you do know you won’t need to dress like that for jobs out here, right?”

  76. Jennifer Juniper*

    I thought dressing up for the job interview served several purposes:

    1. Sorting out candidates. If people dressed inappropriately, it meant they would not a be good cultural fit.

    2. Testing candidates’ willingness to follow the rules, which is an essential trait at any job.

    3. Testing the candidates’ resourcefulness and willingness to go above and beyond for their employer. If the candidate was able to scrimp and save for an interview outfit, spend extra time preparing the right outfit, and spend lots of time preparing by researching the company, those are all beneficial for the employer.

    1. Observer*

      Testing candidates’ willingness to follow the rules, which is an essential trait at any job.

      What rules? Unless you actually post what your dress code, what someone is wearing says nothing about their rule following.

      Testing the candidates’ resourcefulness and willingness to go above and beyond for their employer

      Seriously?! A candidate is supposed to go “above and beyond for” a POTENTIAL employer? And go “scrimp and save” and “spend extra time” to show up in an outfit that does NOTHING to actually improve their job performance?

      What are you looking for? Loyal retainers to the court or employees who will do a good job for a decent pay and benefits package?

  77. Earl Anderson*

    I went for an interview once in dirty work clothes.
    It was a technical position in a manufacturing plant and at the time I was currently servicing automotive electronics (2-way radios). So working on the floor of dirty cars and trucks was a big part of my job.
    To be fair I did warn the interviewer in advance what my appearance would be like and why. It was a case of interview scheduling and the availability of both parties involved. (They wanted to see me ASAP and my work schedule did not allow time for a change of clothes.)
    I subsequently got the job!

  78. TiredMama*

    I may be alone but I always felt like “dressing up” was meant to be a barrier to people applying to jobs “above their station” so to speak. A way of defining who is the “in” group and who is the “out” group. It also seems to be a way of controlling, particularly, women…must wear skirts or dresses. If we want people to do good work, don’t we want them to be comfortable?

  79. Hiring Mgr*

    If anyone has seen the Disney movie Aladdin, you’ll recall that Aladdin was poor, had bad clothes, and was even called Street Rat by the other villagers. Yet in the end the princess fell for him and he became a hero. Interesting parallel, no?

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I’m not sure what point you’re arguing for with that, given that he dressed up in much nicer clothes in order to have the chance to get close to the princess…

      I think on the whole no Disney move is a particularly good frame of reference for how job interviews should go.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        You don’t think the Beast made a good first impression on Belle? Then again when he got dressed up in his fancy dinner clothes and had his mane done, that’s when the sparks started to fly

  80. A*

    I am in a white collar office job role in a manufacturing environment – and while the day to day dress code is extremely casual (jeans & tshirts/hoodies etc.) I still dresses up for the interview, and for the ones with my previous employers that were also primarily a blue collar environment. Not a full blown suit, but nice pressed jeans + blouse + blazer.

    That being said, having sat on plenty of hiring panels – this is not uncommon and often is just a matter of clarifying with the perspective candidate to ensure they understand there may be times where they need to dress up more if vendors or clients are on site.

    One trend that I’ve seen across my last three employers (over the last ~ten years) is a shift towards ENCOURAGING white collar employees to avoid ‘dressing up’ on a day to day basis if they are located in a blue collar environment. When I first started in this line of work there was a push for white collar employees to dress up, but it’s been trending in the opposite direction to minimize the perceived divide between white/blue collar. I whole heartedly support that trend, both because it’s in line with my own preferences but also because it helps break down the feeling that a ‘bunch of suits’ are sitting in an office somewhere making business decisions while ‘the flannels’ are doing the heavy lifting (borrowing phrases often used in my industry, not my own word choices). However I do think interviews are a different ball game.

    1. Vertically Challenged*

      That’s a very interesting perspective and it makes a lot of sense. There is definitely a divide between white and blue collar.

  81. ggg*

    I had an interview where I was told that it was a casual place and I absolutely did not need to wear a suit. I think they wanted me to feel at ease in case I did not have a suit, but really this just led me to obsess over what I should be wearing for days on end. I settled on a skirt and sweater but I felt weird the whole time. I should have just worn my darn suit, that I specifically bought for interviews!

    I did not get the job, it would have been a bad fit anyway, but this stupid worry certainly didn’t help things.

  82. LMB*

    As a woman who has a very hard to fit and constantly changing body, the most nerve wracking part of every interview (and formal presentation and panel and meeting with fancy execs) I have ever been on is getting dressed. I’ve probably wasted thousands of dollars buying suits and blazers and shoes, suffering through the meeting extremely uncomfortably, and never wearing that outfit again. The whole hair and make up thing also plays into this. I had an interview once when I was about 14 weeks pregnant—all my jackets looked like Chris Farley doing “fat guy in a little coat” but my new maternity clothes were swimming on me. I looked absolutely ridiculous and was totally self conscious and really blew that interview. I’m just a person who never looks “polished” and professional situations where you are supposed to are just hell for me. I always know my stuff but I waste so much time, energy, and money freaking out about clothes. My dream is a world where you can wear flip flops and gym clothes to an interview.

  83. Meg Danger*

    Haha! I got my last two office jobs dressing casually – The first job post indicated that the role was “part-time casual” which I assumed meant casual attire, but it was actually an internal description meaning essentially “not eligible for benefits”. I wore corduroys instead of jeans, because my logic was you dress one step fancier for interviews. I later moved into a more blue collar/management role in that org and wore jeans everyday anyway. For my next job, my view of professional attire norms had skewed too far blue collar, and I showed up (in jeans and a nice blazer) to an interview panel where folks were wearing full suits and accessory-coordinated dresses. For some reason they still offered me the job. I might assume something similar is happening in your hiring process where potential employees are erring on the side of blue-collar in selecting their interview outfits.

  84. Candace*

    I have had people ask about our dress code, and I’ve gotten to the point where I tell people to dress business-casual for interviews- a tie is not required, nor are pantyhose, etc. Once they are at work, I have been asked a couple of times whether we have a specific dress code – I’m in an academic library. We have one – sort of. Basically, it comes down to a few points I have learned to require through somewhat complicated past difficulties. They are: 1) Cover everything that would get you arrested. (Yes, there’s a story.) 2) If you are shelving, wear closed-toe shoes. (Book carts running over your toes HURT.) 3) Maintain basic hygiene – if it reeks or has a week’s worth of food spills on it, WASH. 4) No clothing printed with profanity or obscenities. (Gak, especially at public service desks!) Other than that, I am more concerned that you show up and do your job well. I have zero interest in tattoos, body piercing, rainbow hair colors – it’s all fine. The only time I ask people to dress up even a little is if we are having an event for donors or accreditors or, in one case, the UN’s ambassador from Poland – then please do wear something a bit up from what you’d wear to go get groceries. I sincerely have many better things to worry about than clothing. As long as you show up for work reasonably clean, covered, and in clothes that are not falling into bits, I’m fine with it. My staff seem to love me for this …. And yes, I’ve hired several blue-haired, eyebrow-pierced, tattooed librarians. And the students love it.

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