friend doesn’t believe in different dress codes for different situations, applying for a job where my landlord works, and more

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

1. My friend doesn’t believe there are different dress codes for different situations

I have a younger friend who works for a well-known leisure apparel company at their headquarters. Many of the employees still work from home the majority of the time and when they are in the office, it’s not unusual for them to be wearing their brand apparel. So, pretty darn casual for this old timer who grew up on suits, stocking, and heels! All that is well and good but there are occasions where they may need to do presentations to other divisions, be in meetings with high level executives, etc. Do you think the dress code changes in this situation?

Her grandboss made a comment about her wearing athleisure attire to a meeting (something along the lines of “That’s what you’re wearing to the meeting?”). She doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal since they didn’t come out and say, “Don’t wear that to this meeting.” I think it is very clear that her grandboss expects more. I’ve tried the “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” approach. I suggest she have one really great pair of black slacks and a jacket on hand for these meetings. She isn’t hearing me. She has said that I “just don’t understand” that wearing their branded clothing is part of the culture. While I don’t disagree with that, I think there is a time and a place for certain items. And I think she could pair quality slacks with their branded shirt and still be part of the culture.

Maybe I’m all wet. If I am, I am happy to back off. But if I’m not, I’d really like some words of wisdom or a relevant article I can point her to.

Well, you’ve got to keep in mind that she’s much better positioned to know what’s acceptable in her office culture than you are — and there are indeed offices that don’t expect you to dress up for higher-level meetings and presentations. So pushing her to change what she’s doing just based on a general belief that people shouldn’t wear athleisure to those meetings would be an overstep; you don’t know the culture at her company firsthand and she does. (And it sounds like you might have a blind spot about the fact that there are companies where this would be fine.)

But her grandboss’s comment sounds like a clear indication that in this office she is expected to change what she’s wearing for some meetings. So you’re probably right in her particular case! But you’ve tried to point it out, she’s not interested in hearing it, and and it’s not your place to keep pushing.

That said, if you hadn’t already been pushing her on this, you could point out that her boss was sending her a clear message that her clothes weren’t acceptable for that context … and it would make sense to say that clearly rather than using “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” which she clearly doesn’t think applies in her situation. But at this point, when you’ve already been trying and she disagrees, the best thing to do is to drop it and assume she’ll figure it out on her own eventually or someone who works with her will tell her more clearly.

2. Is it OK for managers to send mild reprimands in an email?

Are mild reprimands over email an appropriate avenue for small errors? I manage students and staff members who work all hours of the week — hours when I’m off the clock as well. We go over common expectations for job performance in training, and sometimes I’m notified of a small work-related issue about a student who won’t be working hours when I’m normally available. Is it appropriate to send a short email addressing the possible issue and reminding them of my expectations, or should all conversations involving job performances and mild reprimands be in person?

It depends on what you mean by “reprimand.” Frankly, I don’t think managers should need to be doing a lot of reprimanding, so if you find that you are, it’s a flag to look more closely at what’s going on — it could be that people need more training or supervision, or you need to have a more serious performance conversation or even have the wrong person in the job, or your managerial style needs to be recalibrated.

But it’s fine to give guidance in email, or relatively straightforward corrections or reminders. Something like “it looks like you missed the X row in this spreadsheet — can you fix that and make sure you watch for it in the future?” is fine in email. Something like “you’ve continued to miss the X row even though we’ve talked about it repeatedly” should normally be a real conversation (in part because at that point you need to have a real conversation about what’s going on).

3. Is a company’s bad screening system a reason not to take the job?

I recently applied for a job through the company’s website. It’s a relatively high level position, and I thought I was a perfect fit for the job, but alas I never heard back. These things happen.

I forgot about it until a month later when a former coworker told me they had reached out for him to have him consider the job. He wasn’t as qualified as me (he was missing one of the key qualifications), but they’re relaxing some criteria because they hadn’t filled it. They reached out because he had applied for a job in the past.

Hearing this, I figured my application and resume were held up by a finicky screening algorithm. So I reworked my resume and reapplied. Still no response. Which I thought was weird, and I figured maybe they had found someone after all.

Fast forward three weeks. My friend said they asked him if he knew anyone he could recommend for the position and he sent my resume. Within 30 minutes, the recruiter called me and within a week I had interviews set up with the leadership. They are very excited and the process is proceeding very quickly.

Should the fact that they couldn’t find my resume (one they admit is highly qualified) in their own inbox after two applications be a red flag? At the very least, I figure after a failed search they would go through rejected resumes to see if there was something they may have missed. If their hiring practices are dysfunctional, I worry about them being able to get good talent in the future. And if the only way to get through screening is to have a connection, I think this raises serious diversity and equity issues. People without connections tend to be from groups that have been marginalized in the past. Am I overthinking this, and it’s just wonky software/algorithms? Should I mention something about it? Is this a reason to not take a job?

It’s not a reason not to take the job. It’s a reason for them to reassess how their applicant tracking system is working (they should look at why you were screened out and who else has been screened out recently to figure out if it was a one-time fluke or part of a pattern, and whether their system can be tweaked to work correctly or needs wholesale changes), but it doesn’t indicate on its own that the company is dysfunctional. Lots of places that are fine to work have crappy application systems (or some other crappy software that doesn’t reflect the organization’s competency more generally). You’re right about the diversity and equity implications though, and if you end up working there in a position with some influence, that’s definitely something you should point out.

4. Do I need to ask my landlord if it’s okay to apply for a job at her workplace?

Some of my friends have encouraged me to apply for work at their organization. The only sort-of catch is that my landlord also works there.

Is it rude/wrong/inconsiderate to apply without consulting my landlord first? She works in a high position in the company. I’m not sure where she is on the org chart, but I would more than likely work as an underling, definitely not as an executive if they were to hire me. My landlord doesn’t know I’ve been laid off yet because I have savings and my husband works full-time so there’s no issue with not paying rent. I’m not sure what the etiquette is for this situation. We have a great business relationship through my renting from her, but I feel weird putting her in a position to possibly have to vouch for me or a position of intermingling her various businesses with her day job.

You don’t have to mention it to her, but it could be smart to — if for no other reason than if it’s going to cause problems, it’s better to know that now while you can still factor it into your decision-making, rather than after it’s too late to do that. For example, if it turns out the position is in her chain of command, they might not be able to consider you for the job (because it would be a conflict of interest for her to oversee someone who she also gets rent money from). You could wait until you’re a little further along in the process though (maybe after you’ve been invited to interview).

5. Contacting a hiring manager before a job is posted

I work in a niche field that doesn’t have regular turnover. Recently, someone at another company in my same line of work, though more senior, has left their job. I interacted once at a networking event with the likely hiring manager of this role. Can I reach out to Potential Hiring Manager to share my interest if they plan to fill the role? And if so, what is the best way to do so without sounding too eager?

Yes! I’d say it this way: “Hi Jane! We met a couple of years ago at the Oatmeal Association’s annual conference and chatted about the work you’ve been doing on instant oats. I saw that Jane Burtlebot recently left her position with you, and I’m interested in throwing my hat in the ring at whatever point you’re considering applicants for the role. Your project on breakfast grains is exactly the sort of work I’m hoping to tackle next. I’m attaching my resume and I’d love to talk with you if you think I might be a match for what you need.”

{ 311 comments… read them below }

  1. Heidi*

    I’d be interested in knowing what everyone else in the meeting was wearing for Letter 1. I don’t think there is a code that applies to all meetings, but I’d feel weird if I were the only one in athleisure while everyone else wore a suit.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think that is key information – what does everybody else’s outfit look like?

      But at the same time the fact that the boss asked if “that’s what you’re wearing for the meeting?” indicates there is the possibility that she may have been underdressed.

      Different dress codes for different jobs/functions/meetings is a thing. However some people do need to have those “intuitive” bits of working a professional job explicitly spelled out. Hints are great – but not everyone will pick them up and correctly interpret them.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        My job has a lot of younger employees who are fresh out of university, so we have a multi-page dress code with pictures. There are examples of what’s appropriate when we’re working in the office and it’s just us, examples for when we’re going to have visitors to the office, and examples for what would be appropriate to wear to visit a client site. Everything is spelled out, no guesswork required. They emailed it to me two weeks before my start date and it was incredibly helpful.

        1. Annika Hansen*

          That is a great idea! A lot of people don’t pick up on hints. Especially, if you didn’t grow up with parents who had office jobs. Or you are on the spectrum.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I so love really specific with pictures dress codes, it makes it way easier to meet expectations.

          Course every now and then you see something and wonder “why did this need to be explained?”

          1. Nina*

            I used to work in a place where the dress code was ‘wear clothes, they must not have anything obscene written or drawn on them’. Yes, we had that one guy who showed up wearing exactly boardies and jandals in summer, and then ‘minimum of 1 pants and 1 shirt’ was added to the dress code.

      2. Another freelancer*

        I agree and would also raise the point there can be a wide range within athleisure wear. A polo shirt with a small version of the company logo on the chest and track pants in a solid color is a way different outfit (to me) than a t shirt featuring a catch phrase in a huge font and shorts. Both are athleisure but having different degrees of being casual.

      3. Ann Onymous*

        My office has a “dress for your day” dress code, i.e. we can dress casually most of the time but are expected to dress up when we have customers or other VIPs in the building. The problem is, people have wildly different interpretations of what that means. We’ll just get an email that says, “So and so will be in the building on Tuesday, so dress for your day!” and people will interpret that as everything from business casual, no jeans to wear a tattered and faded old polo shirt instead of a tattered and faded old t-shirt with your jeans.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      It definitely is time to stop hinting to LW1’s friend and tell her straight out that she needs to dress up a bit more for client interactions, and describe what that looks like.

      However, it is not LW’s job to do so unless Friend asks for help.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        yeah the boss should perhaps spell it out to her, that she’s expected to wear something smart when meeting with the higher-ups or clients.

        1. HonorBox*

          I’d suggest LW maybe tell the friend to get clarification from the boss. “What did you mean specifically when you asked me if that’s what I’m wearing to the meeting?” The boss needs to spell it out more, though I think it is pretty easy to read the meaning behind their question. But it would be in the friend’s best interest to get clarification directly from the boss so there’s no longer-term concern if the situation continues to present itself. That puts it in the court of the friend and their boss and not the LW’s situation to fix.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I agree–LW does not have the right feel for this situation because it may be true that even in big meetings people here wear branded clothes, but the friend might still be too casual. Only her boss can give her the right opinion here.

            I worked at a jeans company briefly and we were definitely expected to wear the brand’s jeans like 90% of the time. There were times when some people might go with a full suit, but the friend might just need to be wearing some nicer tops or as OP suggested just throw on a jacket or something.

          2. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

            It was the grandboss who made the comment / asked the question, but I 100% agree that LW1’s friend needs to talk to their direct boss about it. Their direct boss has the context and specific-cultur-al awareness to advise the friend on what to wear in different situations. LW1 could be wrong, right, or somewhere in between. I here give LW1 permission to make that one more suggestion to their friend, and then leave it alone.

      2. Observer*

        t definitely is time to stop hinting to LW1’s friend and tell her straight out that she needs to dress up a bit more for client interactions, and describe what that looks like.

        *If* she’s under-dressed, then it’s on her boss to say something. The OP has been going on about it, but they are not a reliable narrator here because of the clear bias that they have. Keep in mind that she clearly stated that she thinks it’s “pretty darn casual.” And while it’s easy to see why you would expect that even in a company like this it would be expected to dress up more for high level execs, why would that necessarily be an expectation when meeting with colleagues in a different division? That apparently unexamined assumption makes it hard to gauge how well she’s reading the situation.

      3. StressedButOkay*

        Yeah, at this point, unless the friend is bringing it up/asking for advice, there’s not much that LW1 can do. The grandboss and others at the company will, and should, be the ones that guide her friend.

    3. londonedit*

      Yeah, it sounds like the boss probably thought they were being perfectly clear when they said ‘that’s what you’re wearing to the meeting??’ – a lot of people absolutely would pick up on the subtext of that, which is ‘what you’re currently wearing was not a good choice for this situation’. But the problem is that not everyone does pick up on ‘guess’ cues like that, and it sounds like the OP’s friend interpreted it as ‘no one’s specifically said I can’t wear this, so it’s fine’. I wonder if the OP could encourage their friend to have a word with the boss – or with a trusted colleague – and ask them to explain specifically what levels of smartness are expected for different levels of meeting. Otherwise next time they could find themselves being left out of the meeting, or find they’ve seriously annoyed the boss, because it’s going to look like they’ve ignored the boss’s suggestion – albeit a subtle one – that athleisure is not the way to go in these situations.

      1. tg33*

        To be honest, I don’t get ‘that’s what you’re wearing to the meeting??’. Does that mean she was overdressed? underdressed? what??? It could also mean: ‘Is that what you’re wearing to the meeting? Great!’ It is a very very unclear message, especially as I would expect the norms at an athleisure company to be different.

        1. Snow Globe*

          It is definitely a message that what she was wearing is not appropriate. If she was dressed correctly the boss is very unlikely to make any comment about how she is dressed.

          1. Observer*


            The OP should advise her friend to talk to someone in the company for specific advice, but I think it’s hard to argue that this was anything but a negative comments. There is *reasonably likely* scenario where the GrandBoss was intending to compliment the friend with that comment.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I interpreted it as “You are dressed in an unusual way that I would not expect in this context. As your manager I am mentioning this to you so that you can choose better the next time this context occurs.” And if you’re already in exercise gear, the message is not that you are too formal. (Unless you’re in a culture where everyone else in this meeting will be naked, because it’s in a sauna.)

          If someone is dressed in a way that seems unremarkable for the context, you don’t comment “Is that what you’re wearing?” It could conceivably be complimentary if, say, she is in full steam punk regalia where that isn’t expected, and it will read as going the extra mile for the pitch. But almost always the meaning will be “Your choice of clothing is making you stand out, and not in a good way.”

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Correct, if I want to compliment someone’s outfit in the workplace, I would say “I like your suit” or “Great t-shirt!” not “Is that what you’re wearing?”

        3. Irish Teacher*

          I think there’s a strong element of culture here. In a lot of places I worked, this would be a pretty strong message, to the point that a boss who said that would be considered a little blunt.

          And of course, the context matters too. In my experience, “you’re wearing that?” usually implies a criticism (if people want to compliment what somebody is wearing, they would usually say something like “great outfit,” because “you’re wearing that?” tends to have negative connotations) but it would also depend on tone, stress and body language. If the “that” is stressed and it’s accompanied by a frown and a disapproving tone, it’s a lot different than if the boss said, “oh, is that what you’re wearing to the meeting?” accompanied by a smile and a friendly tone.

          It is possible something got lost as the message was passed on and the LW assumed a tone that wasn’t there, as a lot of this stuff is hard to interpret if you aren’t there, but it does sound like that there was an implied criticism.

          1. Smithy*

            Absolutely this.

            It may also be that because this is an athelisure brand, if she was wearing the clothing of the specific brand that comment could have been accompanied by confusing context clues. Essentially that mix of “this isn’t what we’d want you to wear to these meetings, but we also kinda love how much you’re wearing our clothing.”

            I have zero insight to what Lululemon c-suite staff wear, but for a more business formal meeting – if a junior employee showed up in all Lululemon, I see that reaction being different than if it were the clothing of any other brand. Almost like how if at a high level (internal) Dunkin corporate meeting, someone showed up in a Dunkin branded polo shirt (vs any other kind) when everyone else was more suit/tie and other business formal dress. So while I don’t think the rules would ever be 100% black and white, I think there is room for different readings.

            1. MassMatt*

              The issue is complicated by the fact that the company makes the clothes in question. But that doesn’t mean they are intended to be worn in every business setting. Imagine the company that makes swimwear, are the employees wearing bikinis and thongs at work?

        4. ecnaseener*

          It’s the phrasing as a question, when the person has already showed up for the meeting so it’s clearly too late to change clothes, that makes it not a compliment or a neutral question. When someone asks a question they already know the answer to, it usually means they’re incredulous.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            Heh. One of my favorite guilty-pleasure TV shows is Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team. Even the ladies who previously have made the squad have to re-audition every year, which includes panel interviews and several rounds of difficult dance auditions.

            In one episode, a re-auditioning veteran wore a dress with small (palm-sized? Maybe smaller?) triangular cutouts on the sides to the interview. The dress was otherwise not too tight, to her knees, and well above her cleavage. It showed nothing but a bit of rib cage. A scowling panel member growled, witheringly, “Did you think that was an appropriate dress to wear to this interview?” The poor cheerleader shrank in her seat and burst into tears once she got out of the room.

            In later scenes, other panel members referred to that moment as the interviewer having “chewed her up and spit her out.”

            1. TeaCoziesRUs*

              AHH! YOU ARE MY PEOPLE!!

              Ahh, Kat. is it sad that I know exactly WHO you’re talking about, which season, and why? Her dress was beautiful and flattering, and 100% not the right thing. Considering she was a veteran and they do things like fashions shows to drill into them what they should and should not wear to different outings, I was glad the reporter called her out. If I wouldn’t wear that dress to church, I wouldn’t wear it to a job interview.

              Signed, a fellow DCC fanatic.

        5. I should really pick a name*

          It’s not great phrasing, but it would have been a good opportunity for the LW’s friend to get clarification.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, I agree there seem to have been some missed opportunities here. Of course the boss could have said ‘Is that what you’re planning to wear for the meeting? Just so you know for next time, we usually expect something a bit more formal when clients are in the office. It’s great that you love our products, but for meetings like this we’d prefer it if you didn’t wear leggings’ or whatever. Or, as you say, OP’s friend could easily have taken it as an opportunity to reply with ‘Yes, I was planning to wear this – is it not appropriate for this sort of meeting?’. And finally, OP could have phrased it more as ‘Ooh…usually when someone says that, it means they think you should have worn something different. Maybe you could ask around and see what people usually wear?’ rather than getting their friend on the defensive by telling her what she should wear. But it sounds like none of those things happened (and to be fair to the boss, it most likely isn’t really her job to make sure junior members of staff know what to wear to a meeting). Sounds like the OP’s friend will have to figure it out for herself, unless someone (a boss or a colleague) decides to point it out in much clearer terms.

        6. Heather*

          That seems unusually obtuse to me. It’s perhaps not the clearest communication style in the world, but it’s not an unusual one and there is no way “Is that what you’re wearing?” has an implied “great!” at the end…

          1. Miss Muffet*

            and saying, “well they didn’t say I COULDN’T wear this” is also a pretty juvenile response. That sort of specific line-drawing is definitely the kind of thing i expect from high schoolers, not professionals. Even first-job young’uns

        7. Totally Minnie*

          “Is that what you’re wearing?” was the thing my high school BFF’s mom would ask her when they were getting ready to leave the house and BFF wasn’t dressed to mom’s specifications. That sentence is always going to sound like criticism to me.

          1. Observer*

            That’s not just a carryover from HS. It’s used that way in most contexts (at least in the US).

          2. Le Sigh*

            Oh, were we high school BFFs then? Bc this sounds familiar……

            I just started cheerfully replying, “Yup!”

          3. Jaydee*

            That’s exactly the scenario I thought of when reading this letter too. Parent of high schooler saying “is that what you’re wearing?” as their child (usually daughter) is about to leave the house. And the parent always means “You’re not walking out of the house wearing that. Go put on something [warmer/dressier/less revealing/that I approve of].”

          4. California Dreamin’*

            Oof, I actually said this to my teenage daughter last weekend when she was heading to her boyfriend’s house. I often have to remind myself of some of the fashion choices I made when I was in high school when I look at her, but sometimes I fail and just act like a stereotypical mom. To be fair, my daughter’s outfit wasn’t inappropriate but just… puzzling!

        8. MassMatt*

          Really? The person wears athleisure to a meeting, and the grandboss says “that’s what you’re wearing?” And you seriously wonder whether maybe that means she’s OVERDRESSED?

          1. Seashell*

            I guess the problem could be that it was too low-cut or too form-fitting, but I don’t think you can get too much more casual than athleisure.

          2. Artemesia*

            AND somehow the LW thinks it is her problem. She mentioned it to the friend; the friend rebuffed the feedback. So not the LW’s problem to solve.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              True it’s not LW’s problem, but clearly they care about this person and want to see them succeed. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

          3. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            It’s not terribly likely, but it’s possible. There’s a lot of context missing here, and it could go several different ways! A few possible scenarios that spring to mind:
            – Meeting is with big name conservative visitor, in the boardroom, and grandboss really wanted the friend to wear business formal: “That’s what you’re wearing to the meeting?”
            – Meeting is with creative visitor to show off the stylistic range of the brand and friend picked the stodgiest examples from their line: “That’s what you’re wearing to the meeting?”
            – Meeting is in a hot yoga studio with a potential buyer to show off the performance aspects of their line, and friend went with the ponte pants and a wrap-style top: “That’s what you’re wearing to the meeting?”
            – Meeting is an interview panel for a prospective employee, grandboss wore the exact same branded top and is wondering if she has time to change so they don’t match: “That’s what you’re wearing to the meeting?”

        9. Butterfly Counter*

          Oh goodness. I don’t think you’d last a second in Miranda Priestly’s office.

          *imagining the scene where Miranda get’s Andrea’s attention, looks pointedly at her shoes before saying “That’s all.”*

        10. Yorick*

          “Is that what you’re wearing?” pretty much always means that you’re not dressed appropriately, and it’s usually underdressed rather than overdressed.

        11. AnonyLlama*

          It’s not an unclear message. She was telling her that she was not dressed correctly for the meeting. If the LW’s friend was still unclear about what “correctly” means, she could ask, but make no mistake, it was not whatever she was wearing at the time. And since she was dressed very casually, it is unlikely that grandboss was telling her she was overdressed. Athleisure is overdressed for zero occasions.

          LW had an opportunity when her friend relayed this story. “Ooh, when she said that, she 100% means you missed the mark in whatever you were wearing. What were Grandboss and others wearing for the meeting? Those are your cues for what she expects you to wear.”

        12. PuppleShark*

          Yeah, I had to chuckle because it could mean, “we’re all in royal blue yoga pants and you wore purple!” I too would like to know what others were wearing so that would have been my follow-up question when she told me her story about this.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Boss also probably lifted her eyebrows and pressed her lips together and gave a significant pause when she spoke.

        **Boss stops, long glance** “That’s …” **pause, lips tighten** “…what you’re wearing???” ** voice ends an octave higher than usual, eyebrows to hairline**

        Like you said, a lot of people would understand what all of those indirect and nonverbal cues together meant, but obviously Friend did not.

        Lots of people wear jeans and tees on a day-to-day basis, but are assumed to understand that there are certain occasions where something else is expected. Jeans are fine for some things, and considered too casual for others. You might work in the corporate office of a dance equipment company, but that doesn’t mean you show up to everything in a tutu. I wear jeans to work sometimes, but if I need to make a presentation or something, I step it up.

        The important thing to note here is that there is a lot of space between chastising Friend and just explicitly telling her the expectation so she can calibrate her clothing. If she still shows up to client meetings in workout clothes after people have spoken to her and given her examples, that’s a different story, but for now someone can just … speak to her and give her some examples.

        “Hey, Friend, I noticed the other day when you were going to meet with clients that you were dressed in a tank and yoga pants. We can be comfortable like that here on regular days, but that’s considered a little casual when you are meeting clients. Something like khakis or black pants and a blouse, or a simple dress [or whatever], would be very appropriate.” Then maybe even: “If you need ideas, talk to [well-dressed peer of Friend’s]; she might be able to give you suggestions.”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          And that feedback needs to come from someone higher than her at the place she works, who has standing to know what the unwritten rules are in this company.

          OP was okay to say something once–maybe it would have been a helpful “OH. That’s what boss meant?” But now OP needs to step back and wait for someone with more standing (in the sense of knowing what the norms are in this specific job context) to spell things out with a helpful Excel chart.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            I agree. LW’s done all she can do here, and it seems like her friend is only willing to hear this in direct language from the higher ups at work.

        2. tg33*


          It can take me years to understand implied messages, yhey just don’t make sense to me.

      3. RedditBot gone rogue*

        I worked for a well-known athletics brand for over 10 years, and can say that for us, “You are wearing that?” would have been a very open ended comment and not one that necessarily relates to the formality of the clothing versus wearing something that did not apply to House Rules. For us, it would have more likely related to wearing something from a competing company, wearing something from the free bin that was never produced, wearing something that did not fit “as intended” (yes, this was a larger issue of working in that world in general.) Even something as silly as I was inadvertently wearing the same item(s) as the higher up I was meeting with would prompt that reply.

        1. MassMatt*

          But in all the cases you mention, it’s meant as some sort of scorn, disbelief, or disapproval. In no case does “You’re wearing *that*?” translate to “how delightful and appropriate! I wish I had thought to wear it”.

          1. RedditBot gone rogue*

            True, but there were instances where it did happen that it was positive. “You are wearing that!” when someone had a hand in designing the piece and were excited to see it, or it was an older discontinued piece, or rare to be seen and the person was genuinely excited.

            I agree that this was likely a “bad” instance, but dressing more formally may not solve the issue. If you had shown up to meet with our CEO in a khakis and a button down, he would have asked if you were interviewing elsewhere and would have remembered it. We just don’t know WHY the tone was (likely) judgmental.

        2. These Are My Formal Leggings*

          Exactly this. I also work for an athletics + athleisure apparel brand, and work clothing standards are completely different in this world than they are elsewhere. You mentioned competing brands and product development samples, both of which would be a no in my world for important meetings (the first one a huge sin), but there’s also wearing Product Line X (very casual/athletic) while in a meeting with someone you’re trying to sell on Product Line Y (less casual), or even wearing something from several seasons back that’s no longer in the line.

          In apparel, you’re endorsing clothing by wearing it. If you’re endorsing something other than what you want the customer to buy, in a situation where you are directly interacting with them, that’s a big problem.

      4. Yorick*

        This is a message that is very clear to most people (I understand not all people get hints, but this one is even common enough for some people who aren’t good at picking up hints to have learned it). And it sounds like Friend did understand it the way it was meant – why else would she remember it and tell the story to LW? She certainly couldn’t have thought it was a compliment? My guess is Friend is being purposely obtuse; because Boss didn’t specifically say she wasn’t dressed appropriately, she doesn’t have to do anything differently. If Boss had been more direct, Friend might even come up with a different justification for dressing the same.

        1. Baroness Schraeder*

          Yes! This was my take too. Friend almost certainly understood what was meant, felt bad about her error of judgment but too proud to show it, and was looking for sympathy rather than advice by retelling the story to LW.

          Just imagine, if you grew up with a mother who used that phrase whenever you left the house, hearing it from your boss would transport you instantly right back to your teenage years and your instinctual internal response would be the same even years later – the classic teenage “you’re not the boss of me!”

          Except in this case, well, they are. So hopefully once the initial cringe has faded, LW’s friend will take the advice to heart this time…

    4. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I think it’s probable that LW#1 is correct and that the manager’s comment did mean friend was dressed too casually for the situation but also I suspect that LW needs to back off as their comments haven’t been taken well.

      LW, if you found yourself in a similar situation another time then it might be more effective to query it rather than criticize her or try to tell her what to do.

      e.g. “Why do you think she said that? based on what she and other people there were wearing, do you think it was a hint that she thought you should have dressed up more? ” That way, you aren’t assuming that that you know better, but you are encouraging her to think a bit more about it.

      But at the end of the day, it sounds as though she didn’t ask for your advice and isn’t receptive to your comments, so as you are not her employer, you should drop it now.

      1. Smithy*

        Yeah, I also feel like that sometimes when we have worries like this about our friends or family, it’s because we’ve put ourselves in a headspace of having to take care of them if they do stumble or fail at all.

        In the grand scheme of workplace booboos, dressing over casual for an internal meeting really isn’t the greatest of mistakes. And going after someone for that being a mistake I think has far greater potential to alienate them as a friend than whatever her intent was by sharing the story. I just don’t see a friend sharing that story with the desire to hear “dress for the job you want and not the job have” vs “omg, did I tell you about the time I turned up for a meeting with a giant stain on the butt – girl, we’ve all been there.”

        Maybe it was a big mistake and she was really worried and was just looking for a way to laugh it off or “no big deal” it with her friends? But it just really does not sound like this was the kind of engagement she wanted in that moment.

    5. DataSci*

      Yep. If the execs are in branded attire too, “dress for the job you want” doesn’t mean “formally. (Did people apply this “rule” at Apple in the Steve Jobs era and wear jeans and a black turtleneck daily?) We just don’t have enough info.

      I agree with Alison that the grand boss’s comment suggests the meeting attire was more formal, but LW’s earlier hand wringing about clothing meant she was in a poor position to be heard.

      1. Observer*

        I agree with Alison that the grand boss’s comment suggests the meeting attire was more formal, but LW’s earlier hand wringing about clothing meant she was in a poor position to be heard.


        This what I was trying to say with my comment down below.

    6. MK*

      Your role matters too. It may well have been fine for, say, the clothes designers and IT to show up dressed in atheisure, while more formality will be expected from the company lawyers and accountants in a meeting. But in any case, I think the window of opportunity for the OP to advise her friend without coming across as overbearing or condescending has closed.

    7. Venus*

      If I were OP1 I would ask the friend what others of her level were wearing and if friend was the only junior person there then what was everyone else from her company wearing? If it is something more formal then suggest that friend wear more formal clothing to the next meeting. It shouldn’t be as formal as senior managers because they likely wear nice suits constantly. I aim for similar to what my manager is wearing although I often sit quietly in the background so I can get away with a nice shirt and black pants.

      If OP’s friend insists on wearing the same thing then suggest that they bring more formal clothing and before the meeting ask their boss if they should change into something more formal.

      1. Venus*

        Also OP, please stop from using “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. In my world this seems to be used by people who insist that people should wear suits and dress formally because of course everyone wants to be a senior manager, whereas OP’s friend might be happy in their current role and will push back against that thinking. It would be better to tell the friend that they should look to wear what others of their level are wearing and if there isn’t a peer at the meeting then look to their manager.

        1. Grace Poole*

          It’s almost better advice to say something like, “dress based on who’s going to see you.” Working from home alone is different than a day in the office with peers is different than a client meeting or an all-staff meeting with the higher ups.

        2. Kim K.*

          Exactly! The whole “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” approach misses the whole point where many (especially younger) professionals are doing just that. Sayin “I’d never want to have some job where I’m stuck wearing some boring biz attire.” So, by wearing athleisure, she IS demonstrating: “It’s important for me to work in professional environments where athleisure is the way successful people dress—which can be in all kinds of fields these day. I worked on Honolulu for a decade and business leaders, professors, scientists, etc. wear aloha shirts, even shoes (nice ones) and nice quality athletic sandals. Someone showing up in a suit looks like an out-of-touch outsider, to say the least.

          That said, helping her think through her own ideas of how and where that is an accepted norm might be the way to go. OR, maybe that discussion will ultimately reveal that such workplaces aren’t part of the career environments she’s otherwise envisioning for her future.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Yeah I *want* a job where I can wear leggings 5 days a week. Athleisure Co. sounds like a dream honestly.

    8. Free Meerkats*

      The big issue here is the passive boss. If they didn’t think what the friend was wearing was appropriate, the way to approach that is, “For future meetings with XXX, you need to dress up more.” Mealy-mouthed hints aren’t.

    9. WillowSunstar*

      Right, generally you should try to fit in at work and not be the odd person out, when it comes to things like the dress code. These days, that’s going to vary with hybrid/remote working, but if I’m on camera for a meeting, I make sure to at least have an appropriate top on/hair brushed/makeup on/etc.

    10. Momma Bear*

      We all know people who don’t read between the lines. Friend needed to be told directly what to wear to these meetings. Boss did not appear to do so. I had an old job where a particular client was more formal than most and thankfully the boss spelled out what that meant – suits and ties level attire. Boss did not want to be embarrassed so they made sure the team was prepped.

      This will be something Friend will find out the hard way if she’s wrong. If this were my coworker representing the company I’d probably push harder. However, OP has said their piece (and I think they are correct) and Friend isn’t listening. I’d drop it and go make popcorn.

  2. Samwise*

    OP 3. Good lord, who has time to look through a giant pile of rejected resumes after a failed search on the off chance that juuuuust maybe a good one slipped through.

    Yeah, no. A tremendous waste of time. A good use of time: asking a trusted employee to recommend someone.

    1. Lirael*

      it’s not a trusted employee they asked though, it’s a rejected candidate. that’s pretty weird IMO. and OP has a point about this filtering out candidates that don’t look like everyone else who already works there, and that us A Problem because diverse teams are good for the organisation.

      my sister works in hiring. she takes 2 seconds per application to decide whether it warrants a further look. I reckon if you’re stuck for candidates it’s worth having a look. otherwise, what you’re just gonna use this shitty software forever without ect realising how shitty it is?

      1. FallingSlowly*

        I read that part of the OP as being that the company reached out to invite the friend to apply, since he had applied for a different position previously and they liked him.

        That doesn’t seem so weird to me – he may have just missed out on the previous role and gone on their list of people they would like to hire in future, so then if he declined the new opportunity, asking if he knew anyone suitable would not be too strange.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          I don’t think he declined — I think they reached out to him again, rejected him and then asked if he knows anyone suitable!

          1. Riot Grrrl*

            Unless I missed something in the letter, we don’t know that he was ever rejected. All we know is that he apparently got pretty far into the application process once and then they reached out to him again. It could easily be the case that they reached out, he declined to take an interview, and—finding no one else—they eventually came back three weeks later and asked if he knew anyone else who might be good for the job.

            Whatever the case, this guy is clearly some sort of dynamo because the company keeps having voluntary interactions with him. It’s not that hard to imagine why they’d trust such a person’s opinion.

        2. LW 3*

          My coworker was contacted by the company and interviewed for the position. They decided he wasn’t a good fit. Three weeks later, they offered a different position. Which he declined.

          It’s a fairly senior role, so I don’t think there would be “stack” of applications to go through.

          The main reason I’m concerned is because this job requires building a team. That’s hard to do if it’s impossible to get good talent through HR screens.

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            That was my first thought in your letter – there will be systemic issues inherent in a flawed system like they’re using and it would be valid for you to point this out before you have to start hiring people for your team. If you’re hired that might be a good discussion to take up with HR – Based on your own experience with their screening software, how can you ensure you’re getting a broad variety of candidates?

      2. Zarniwoop*

        It’s all too often the case that the people stuck using the crappy software have zero influence on the people who make software purchase decisions.

      3. Observer*

        it’s not a trusted employee they asked though, it’s a rejected candidate.

        It’s both. Yes, they were rejected for the position, but they are also someone who knows the company and the needs of the position, and who is on good terms.

    2. Gritter*

      If the software is failing to flag decent candidates then that’s a major issue. who knows how many other great candidates they may have list out on? Referrals are useful, but shouldn’t be your primary source.

      The op should definitely bring this up at interview. I suspect they may be horrified that you nearly slipped through their fingers because there recruitment processes are not fit for purpose.

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        I think the issue might be worth bringing up if OP is hired. I would not, however, bring it up in the interview. I don’t see the benefit at that stage. OP doesn’t have the political capital (or frankly the full knowledge) at that point to be criticizing internal processes and risks coming across as presumptuous.

        1. Celeste*

          True. They may have decided not to move forward with OP’s application for some reason and then decided to take another look after the recommendation. I think it would be presumptuous to assume it was a mistake on their end, at least not until after working there a while.

      2. Observer*

        The op should definitely bring this up at interview.

        Absolutely the wrong time for that.

        I suspect they may be horrified that you nearly slipped through their fingers because there recruitment processes are not fit for purpose.

        Is 100% true. The OP should definitely bring it up if they get hired. Even if they don’t wind up in the job, but it was close, they should probably mention it to the friend that recommended them.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I agree. I’d want to know I was missing good candidates so I could talk to HR or IT about it.

    3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Yeah, I usually only had to look through a dozen or so, because we only advertised at one professional training school, and even that was pretty tedious.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      If your screening process has produced zero qualified candidates, it may be worth a peruse through a sample of the rejected resumes to make sure that the automatic screening filters are working as expected. (Personally, I’d be sampling a few of them from the outset to do this, if we used automated screening, but certainly if the system returned *no* qualified candidates at all.)

      The problem with relying on employees to refer people is that it limits your candidate pool to people your employees know, and even further by people your trusted employees who aren’t just after a referral bonus or other recognition know. That seems like it’s missing a substantial portion of the market and possibly creating diversity and equity issues as well.

      1. I have RBF*

        Yeah, an ATS that screens out too many people is worrisome. It apparently is doing a binary yes/no, when it should be doing a ranking score (eg % keywords match to JD), but apparently that’s too hard for the people who create these things to program. If they did a ranking score, then they could take the top N candidates where the JD to resume match was highest. Also, if they don’t tweak the keywords for the JD, it might be applying the wrong criteria to resumes, which will not get you the right candidates at all.

  3. Pam*

    #1 – at the point that you are more invested in what someone else is wearing than they are you need to back off and let them manage their own attire and let the chips fall where they may. They’re an adult, they’ll figure it out, or they won’t, but that’s on them. You shared your opinion, to keep harping on them isn’t a good look.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The bulk of the time I think it (meaning clothing choices) can be left up to the employee and their manager.

      The caveat is if it’s a safety requirement and the manager isn’t there in the moment. Then Joe Coworker can and should step up in the interests of safety.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Another situation—I was pretty glad when Jane Co-worker at one of my early jobs told me that my new skirt was shorter than company dress code. (A gap in their temp to hire process–no one gave me the employee handbook when I was converted.)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In a previous thread lots of people had examples of being young and new and someone older and more experienced spelled out a rule they had completely missed. Like that you should take the tacking out of the jacket tails after you buy it.

          And I think the contrast young/old new/experienced is important here, because we’ve also had tales of the intern cohort going astray because one of their own told them it was fine to leave early on Fridays, or that they should band together to fight the dress code.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            lol, just had flashbacks to an old boss tearing my blazer pockets open for me on a business trip because I didn’t realize that the pockets being stitched shut was a retail floor thing and not just for some reason the way blazers were made to be worn. (As a woman, it’s not like I was unfamiliar with wearing clothing that presumed I had no need for functional pockets!)

            1. Emmy Noether*

              To be fair, there are people who deliberately leave the pockets stitched closed, because it will prevent them bagging out with time (though why one would voluntarily forgo functional pockets is beyond me).

              Tacked closed jacket or coat vents (that’s what those slits are called), on the other hand, don’t move right when walking and need the tacks taken out. They’re one of those secret class markers that say “first taylored garment I own”, though sometimes they just say “can’t be bothered with how my clothes look and think fashion is silly”.

              1. Le Sigh*

                I sometimes leave the pants pockets along my hips stitched closed (as long as the stitching isn’t obvious/a different color thread). I’ve rarely found a pair of pants, no matter their cut nor their marketing claims, with pockets along the hips that actually lie flat. Nor do I find those pockets terribly useful, so I just rely on my jacket pocket or back pocket for stuff like that.

          2. Some words*

            I’ve consistently failed to convince anyone that the “100% wool” tag stitched on their winter coat cuff was meant to be removed before wearing.

            In movies or tv, the line “that’s what you’re wearing?” always translates to “that’s a bad wardrobe choice”. I’m pretty bad at picking up hints, but it’s a fairly common expression of disapproval.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              In a jacket or skirt, if it has a “vent” at the back bottom hem this is often tacked closed with a couple of stitches. (“Tack” means to sew loosely together with a few stitches, designed to be removed later.) Same goes for pockets. This prevents these parts from snagging and tearing on the rack. But when you go to wear the new outfit, you remove the tacking so the fabric to either side of the vent can move correctly and the pockets are functional.

              It’s a classic thing for older coworkers to point out to a young person in the first suit they bought for themselves.

        2. DataSci*

          You actually had relevant information for the situation that your co-worker didn’t, which isn’t the case here.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I think that this should be the other caveat to letting the boss handle it – when you have really relevant dress code information.

            I’ve just been abused one time too many by bosses passing the buck to me and making me have the “you are not appropriately dressed for work” conversations with younger female employees because I was both younger than manager and female. Predictably, none of the folks I was instructed to discuss appropriate office wear accepted that I was talking at the managers behest or changed what they were wearing. (Yes, at current job I refused when we were still in office to have that conversation – I did finally find my backbone)

            1. Anon a Bit*

              Eh, but I can see the logic here. At a white shoe firm I worked at one of the female interns had just had a baby and as a result, her blouses were a) insanely tight and b) always unbuttoned at least 1 button too low to try and relieve the tightness. This lead to a meeting where the entire conference room could see clearly in between the buttons of her shirt.

              I watched 4 senior partners pass the buck until they found a 3rd year and “suggested” she go and have a talk with intern (I was deemed as a secretary to not have enough clout, not that I was itching for the assignment). The 4 dudes correctly assumed that they, 4 dudes in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, should not go talk to an intern about her engorged breasts, that her clothes were too tight, or that they saw her bra. I have no idea what 3rd year said, but the next day female intern showed up in a blouse with no buttons, but was even tighter and lower cut. I suspect the 3rd year was so put on the spot she really just focused on the buttons aspect?

              Eventually a female partner, with kids was brought in from another department (who literally never met this intern) to tell female intern that she needed to buy bigger shirts.

              Oh, and I feel the need to point out that interns were paid $3,600 a week. Lest anyone say it would be unfair to ask her to buy 2-3 tops from any fast-fashion place.

    2. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      Besides, maybe she IS dressed for the job she wants – the one she has. People always assume everyone wants to climb the ladder, but it isn’t always true.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      The friend is going to learn one way or another that dress code does vary based on the situation. If they don’t want to benefit from other’s experience, that’s ok. The OP tried, been rebuffed, time to move on. Not their problem.

  4. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – no, that’s not a good reason to not take a role. There are A LOT of things that can happen that would have knocked you out until your friend specifically referred you:

    1. Perhaps your resume didn’t attach to the application, and was discarded. (It happens occasionally).
    2. Maybe your compensation expectations were outside their parameters, until later in the search. Maybe it’s only because you were referred that they are willing to consider your salary expectations.
    3. Maybe you didn’t come across as well on paper as you thought, and the referral pushed you over the line.
    4. Maybe the recruiter didn’t really know what they were supposed to be finding, and missed that you were actually a really good fit for the position.
    5. Or maybe the hiring manager didn’t explain clearly what they were looking for, and the recruiter was misdirected until the hiring manager told them to look at you as a candidate.
    6. Maybe the role requirements changed at some point in the project, and it coincided with the referral, or the referral reminded the recruiter to go back and review some of the previous candidates.
    7. Maybe you didn’t have some of the unspoken requirements – some things aren’t necessarily spelled out in job descriptions.

    Whatever the reason was, are you willing to give up a position just because the the recruitment process could use some improvements? Most recruitment processes are works in progress.

    1. Peachtree*

      Yes, this letter unfortunately sounds very entitled – there is no guarantee that you had what they were looking for initially, and they may only have reconsidered based on the personal recommendation. I would let it go.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I wouldn’t say entitled, I’d say OP may not have all that much experience with this stuff, or hadn’t considered any of the points learnedthehardway raised.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      8. Maybe they’re about to replace their resume-scanning process or software because they know it’s broken.

    3. Llama Llama*

      I do llama herding accounting. I recently needed a new accountant. My recruiter was iffy at best and kept bringing me people who knew llama herding even though I specifically said I needed strong accountants not llama herders.

      Their bad recruiting spoke nothing of the job as I am in a completely different part of the organization.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I think this is key. In my last job, HR did all the screening. We had no access at all to the process of screening or to the rejected resumes. Our job field is tight and HR rejected people who were “senior thing we do” (bc they were too senior) and sent us those with retail and lifeguard experience, not at all qualified for the above entry level job.

        1. Le Sigh*

          I’m so glad our HR gives hiring managers access to the tracking system. We still have to follow official processes, but we’re allowed to review the resumes. And I always do, because we aren’t big enough to have a true recruiting team, and I can’t expect our HR folks to do their own jobs and also have a clear understanding of what I’m looking for in a very different type of job (including when I might choose to pick an “unlikely” candidate because something stands out to me).

      2. Overit*

        Exactly. The last time I hired, HR did the screening and sent me terrible fits as candidates — people who knew basic office software (one of the basic requitements for any job there) but had NONE of the #1 requirement of technical knowledge.
        This position had been open for a year before I arrived. I was aware that someone I vaguely knew who was qualified had applied and been rejected. I asked HR why she had been rejected and HR told me she didn’t list enough Excel experience…which was an absolutely arbitrary number and irrelevant to the job! I then insisted in seeing all applications and found 10 qualified candidates.

        1. a good mouse*

          I know someone who hires for technical roles who insists on seeing all applications. He’d rather take the time to skim them and find the skills he needs instead of relying on a non-technical HR screener to do the first pass. I think especially for really technical roles this can be helpful, because you can’t expect the average HR recruiter to realize that when you said you need a llama herder that an alpaca farmer has skills that will transfer fairly easily, but a llama groomer won’t.

      3. A Simple Narwhal*

        Yes we used to get horrible co-op candidates from HR, and it was so frustrating. We maintain the website for a dinosaur spa and needed people with/looking to get web and or design experience, yet we kept getting candidates who were excited to work with dinosaurs or learn about the spa industry, neither of which we have anything to do with.

        We finally had to go to HR and insist they give us all the submitted resumes and let us do the selecting ourselves, and wouldn’t you know it, there were a whole bunch of qualified candidates that HR had rejected for some unknown reason.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I don’t think the letter sounds entitled at all, I think they are likely correct that their application was being screened out erroneously. But unless they are applying for a job in HR or IT, whoever they would be working with is unlikely to have anything at all to do with that system.

        (Though it may be worth mentioning to them in case they don’t realize and would like to have someone look into it)

    4. The New Wanderer*

      These application systems can be very brittle, and combined with an HR/recruiting dept that doesn’t have the right knowledge or inputs to screen effectively for certain roles, there are many places for the process to fail. I didn’t get through the (extremely clunky) application system for my current job the first year. I made only very minor tweaks to my application materials and applied the next year and got through. What did it? I have no idea. The team that hired me has no idea why I didn’t get through the first time, they never saw my application at all.

      We’re continuing to struggle with that and the workaround continues to be email blasts to likely sources of candidates with notes about contacting this or that internal person directly to make sure the application materials get seen by the people who can do screening effectively. It’s obviously not a new problem – almost 20 years ago, the same process of mass-email solicitation for direct applications got a number of us hired at my previous employer, because there was a decent chance that an application only sent through the ATS wouldn’t be seen by the right people.

  5. Cobol*

    20 years ago I worked for a well known leisure apparel company (they would call themselves sports apparel). There was a guy who wore a suit, directors and VPs didn’t trust the guy and he glanced out. Recruiters will warn you if you interview in a button up (no tie) be sure to wear a pair of their tennis shoes. In fact the only thing you might be judged on was wearing a basic pair, and not a limited color line, or trendy choice

    1. Annoyed and Cold*

      This is an interesting point. I share a workspace with the company president and I know for a fact he doesn’t trust anyone in a suit. We work in a pretty casual field, when it comes to fashion, and we clean up when we need to. Which is VERY RARELY

    2. sb51*

      Yeah the company apparel thing makes this a little more complicated; for example if the LW’s friend was wearing the same formality as the other people in the meeting but not company branded (or not the latest line or some other more subtle choice).

      But the only thing the LW might have any standing to do is to encourage her friend to ask her boss what the comment meant. If the friend is having ask-vs-guess misunderstandings with her boss, this might actually be a fairly low-stakes way for them to figure out there’s a communications gap.

      1. MissMeghan*

        Oh that’s a good point maybe the friend was dressed in athleisure but not company brand (especially if it was noticeably competitor branded). I was also thinking there may be a disconnect where friend thinks all branded apparel is fine, but friend is wearing sweats while coworkers are wearing golf polos or something.

        LW can’t answer what is appropriate for friend’s workplace and shouldn’t presume to, but LW can advise that friend is getting signals that they may be out of step and to ask boss/colleagues to make sure they’re making the right impression at work.

    3. Polar Vortex*

      This exactly, my dad always told me about a coworker’s kid who was going from the aeronautics industry to the shoe industry, and the friend recommending him had him go out the night before to buy a whole different outfit because he wasn’t wearing the branded stuff that came out of the company. Really taught me to dress for the company, got my current tech job wearing a bright and business casual outfit because dressing up in a suit and tie here is equally abnormal.

      1. Retired Merchandiser*

        Yes!! I did merchandising for Procter & Gamble for years. When I went for my interview I knew to keep it relatively casual, but I made sure to wear an outfit in company colors. (Various shades of blue.) After I was hired, my manager told me that helped her make the decision.

        1. I have RBF*

          It certainly helped me when interviewing at a company whose color was purple, and I wore a purple-ish polo to the interview. (Tech, so business casual was dressing up for the interview.)

  6. SchuylerSeestra*

    OP3: Recruiter here! ATS aka Applicant Tracking Systems do not reject resumes. That is a myth. They are workflow management software used by hiring teams to track the interview process and post jobs. That’s it. Humans decide which applicants move forward and which don’t.

    Some ATS’s have the option to program to auto-reject “knock out” questions based on hiring team’s preferences. Even then it’s not based on your resume but how you respond to the questions.

    There are a myriad of reasons why your resume may not have been considered. Your resume should properly convey your past work, what you’ve accomplished, how you did so, how it aligns with the experience needed for the role,

    I will also say sometimes it’s due to lack of capacity/high volume of applications, parameters of the role changing, other candidates may be more qualified. Or your qualifications may not be as aligned with the hiring teams expectations as you think.

    1. Fikly*

      You are misreading the letter, likely because you are feeling defensive. At no point is the LW asserting that their resume was rejected. They are asserting that they were rejected, via their application, through the system.

      The resume, which they reworked, was part of their application. The LW states that company couldn’t find their resume in their inbox, which is likely referencing them not passing through the application process enough that when they were contacted proactively, their resume wasn’t located as part of people who has passed that initial screen.

      ATS’s auto-rejecting candidates is a huge problem, particularly from a DEI perspective, because people who fall in groups that are under the DEI umbrella are much more likely to have answers to the questions that are auto-rejected, while still being entirely capable of doing the role. And by auto-rejecting them, they do not have the opportunity to demonstrate this to someone, rather than a program that has no reasoning skills, or understands complexity or context.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        There are a variety of types of ATS – some have some AI components, but not many. And those are mostly used for very cookie-cutter, high volume recruitment type roles – like CSRs or other “hire dozens at a time” type positions. Some companies use them for hiring junior level positions – eg. if you have 100s of college grads to get through.

        Those AI types of systems are mostly NOT used for senior management / executive positions. It’s highly unlikely that the OP was rejected by the ATS, given that they are in a senior level role. An AI is just not capable of doing the selection / evaluation for complex requirements.

      2. DJ Abbott*

        It was definitely *not* a myth when an ATS system automatically rejected me for a job where my experience was a 90% match, because I didn’t finish a degree. The automated message I got said it was automated and why I was being rejected.

        Rejecting qualified candidates because they don’t have college degrees is most definitely a DEI issue. I didn’t finish because I got a bad start in life. Does that mean I, or the many others like me, don’t deserve a good job?

        Companies that rely on badly programmed ATS systems and/or hiring practices that exclude qualified candidates are getting what they deserve.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          That’s not the ATS though, that’s whoever in that company decided having a degree was worthy of an automatic rejection. Do you trust those same people to thoughtfully review a resume manually?

        2. SchuylerSeestra*

          Again, that wasn’t the ATS. That was the question the team programmed into the ATS.

          ATS’s are not AI. They cannot think on their own. It’s literally a project management software. That’s all. Any sort of hiring decision is made by a human being.

          I know I sound like a broken record but I’ve been recruiting for almost a decade at this point. I’ve used multiple ATS’s. I spend hours of my day in mine. So when I explain how it works it comes from years of experience of using said tool. It’s genuinely frustrating when people who have little to no experience with hiring try to explain to me how a tool that I use daily works.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            No one is suggesting it’s an AI. Of course a human programmed it. I don’t see how that changes anything at all in the letter?

            1. SchuylerSeestra*

              Folks are suggesting that somehow the ATS weeds out applications on its own volition. Or if a knock out question is programmed it was the ATS that created it.

              1. I have RBF*

                No. That’s not what anyone is saying. They are saying a system, the ATS, rejected their resume because that’s what it was programmed to do.

                Programs don’t have volition. No one implied it was the ATS’s own volition.

              2. Happy*

                No. Everyone knows that software does what it is programmed to do.

                You’re attacking a strawman.

          2. I have RBF*

            Now you’re splitting hairs. If a person programs the ATS to reject a thing based on keywords or degrees, it’s still the ATS that rejects them based on the what the people programmed. All programs are written by people.

            So whether you say the people who programmed the ATS to reject them, or you say the ATS rejected them, it’s the same thing – a machine, operating as programmed, rejected their application.

        3. nodramalama*

          But that’s not a fault in the system, that’s the workplace giving the system the parameters

      3. AnonAgain*

        My last company auto rejected based on things like the type of degree you had.
        I was an internal candidate for a job I knew I would be auto-rejected for because of my degree. The hiring manager (who I knew and knew I was applying) had to manually pull it out of the system’s “trash” bucket to have me be put through to an interview. I am happy to say that system has been amended and doesn’t screen based on degree anymore.

        The company I am at now, works the way you described. I am a hiring manager and I see every resume that comes through. Even ones that should have been rejected based on the questions that were asked (unless they lied).

        1. Leandra*

          Someone on the Ask A Headhunter blog pointed out that an employer’s ATS might be discriminating against older candidates, because of changes in terminology over time.

          In her case, the job vacancy called for a bachelor’s degree in human resources. Which she had, but when she was in college the field wasn’t called HR. So if she gave the actual title of her degree, say a bachelor’s in personnel management, the ATS would auto-reject her.

      4. SchuylerSeestra*

        I literally said in my post ATS’s do not auto reject candidates. Knock out the questions can be programmed by hiring teams based on specifications, but it isn’t created by thr ATS. It’s created by the human beings who review resumes.

        If i add a knockout question it’s for a reason. I recruit for highly specialized senior level roles. My questions pertain to requirements for these highly specialized senior level roles. If a candidate does not meet the requirements for these highly specialized senior level roles I cannot move forward.

        1. Observer*

          Maybe YOUR knockout questions are all relevant. However, there is a ton of evidence that a lot of those questions are actually NOT relevant. Like overly narrow degree requirements. And in many cases, even the existence of the degree requirement.

          But those are not the only ones. There are companies that screen WHICH colleges they will accept resumes from, for example. As it happens, there is almost no situation where that’s a good metric. Or overly long experience requirements (including situations where it simply would not be possible for someone to have that much experience.)

          Is that bad set up? Of course. But it does mean, in many organizations, that a resume will never be seen by a human being.

          1. SchuylerSeestra*

            It’s up to the hiring teams to decide what qualifications they expect for new hires. If they set those parameters it’s not a system flaw.

            I also do not have a degree, and I actually agree degree requirements are malarkey. But if thats what a hiring manager wants then that’s an element we look for on the resume.

            I’ve worked with with Hiring Managers with completely unreasonable expectations and I’ve worked with fantastic ones who contextualize the reasoning behind requirements.

            For example a specific role I’m working on has to have significant experience working in a particular industry due to business needs. It is important enough I cannot move forward unless they show they have that expertise. It’s not something that can be taught on the fly, they need to be subject matter experts.

            1. Observer*

              Which is fine. When you work with managers who can articulate reasonable requirements, the system in use is properly designed and works as intended and described (not always the case – not just with ATS), and the people actually setting up the job in the system know what they are doing, it’s unlikely that the ATS will effectively screen out viable applicants.

              But people have provided some examples of how the ATS effectively DOES screen out viable candidates. Not my magic or because it has a mind of its own. But, eg, if the system is set up Qualification X rather than At Least Qualification X then it’s going to screen out people who have Qualification X+1. It doesn’t really matter what the source of the problem is – ultimately, the system is still screening those out. And if that ATS is set to not give hiring managers access to look at those applications, then that’s another block.

              Another point here is that ATS often have REALLY bad user interfaces for the applicants, and I have no doubt that some of the problems with how people answer are directly related to that.

              1. I have RBF*

                Another point here is that ATS often have REALLY bad user interfaces for the applicants, …

                Plus the UI is not great for recruiters, either. Accept/reject criteria are configured by people in HR, and their ability to do so well may be limited by the UI.

            2. Pescadero*

              “It’s up to the hiring teams to decide what qualifications they expect for new hires.”

              “If they set those parameters it’s not a system flaw.”

              The parameters of the system being set by a human has absolutely zero relevance as to whether those parameters are a system flaw. Humans can create system flaws.

              It doesn’t even matter if the creation of the rule was intentional, and is doing exactly what they want… it can be a system flaw… because the “system” includes the people making the decisions on the decision matrix.

    2. Happy*

      Plenty of organizations, including the US government, use software to sift through resumes/applications and promote ones that meet certain metrics.

      1. SchuylerSeestra*

        I literally said in my post ATS’s do not auto reject candidates. Knock out the questions can be programmed by hiring teams based on specifications, but it isn’t created by thr ATS. It’s created by the human beings who review resumes.

        If i add a knockout question it’s for a reason. I recruit for highly specialized senior level roles. My questions pertain to requirements for these highly specialized senior level roles. If a candidate does not meet the requirements for these highly specialized senior level roles I cannot move forward.

      2. TeaCoziesRUs*

        I actually have a funny story about the US government – particularly Civil Service. A friend of mine has a PhD in teapot design. The listing requires a Masters in teapot design. She apparently went from bachelor’s to PhD without getting a masters… so the system kicked her application out. The only way she knew was because she was applying internally, knew the hiring manager, and the hiring manager asked why she didn’t apply. Doh! When she called down to the personnel system office she had to explain to the human that she was actually ridiculously OVER-qualified. The error was remedied, but yeesh!

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Even then it’s not based on your resume but how you respond to the questions.

      This distinction isn’t really meaningful for the situation.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        Came here to say that.

        The questions I got rejected over were not my answers to the 5 clearly filtering questions. I got rejected bc I did not give a 10 year work history.

        I did, but one of my jobs was considered part time so I listed it that way but there was no space to put the hours so they assumed 20 hours a week and it was 30. Their system added up all my hours and it came to a few months less than 10 years so it rejected me. We found out bc I had a connection there.

    4. bamcheeks*

      I am so interested in this question because I constantly hear from candidates that their application was rejected by an automated system, or that you should put in mysterious “key words” in white-on-white text to beat the system, but I have never ever met a recruiter who says their system works like this. Are there any other recruiters/HR people who can comment? Does anyone use a system like this or is it an urban myth?

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Alison had a post on this back in 2020, titled “your job application was rejected by a human, not a computer.” The post was guest-written Christine Assaf, who looked into (and de-bunked) the claim that 75% of applications are rejected by an ATS. A few recruiters/HR people participated in the comments section on that post, too.

      2. Fishsticks*

        The white-on-white text thing doesn’t work as well any longer, because a bunch of businesses caught on to it and started actively working against it, but it absolutely was a good trick for a while. Those systems scan for relevant words that fit with the job description. A friend of mine tried that out years ago and it noticeably improved her amount of applications to calls for an interview ratio. It was the only change she made.

        I have generally found what helps me is my cover letter, but I imagine that that’s because it’s more likely to be seen by human eyes than the actual resume.

      3. Colette*

        Software is not magic.

        Even when an application is rejected by an automated system, someone had to tell that system what the essential qualifications were.

        For example, if the essential qualifications are a university degree, 10 years of work experience, and a Teapot Specialist certification, the system will ask “Do you have a university degree?” “Are you a certified Teapot Specialist?”, and it will calculate your work experience from the dates you enter.

        But … if you are not a certified Teapot Specialist, but you’ve been doing the job for 40 years, you will be screened out, even though you’d be great at the job. And if they put in “university degree” because they just think it’s something you should have, even though it’s not required for the job, you’ll be screened out if you say no, even if you’re one class away from graduating.

        But also, generally HR is not great at understanding technical/specialized job requirements (think of job postings that ask for 10 years experience in technology that has been around 2 years). And that’s more likely to be how qualified people get rejected.

        1. Leandra*

          Yes. An age-old issue in system design is that the people designing a computerized system, don’t understand the business or industry it’s for. That requires the system users to communicate their needs clearly, and the designers to ask the right questions.

          As a test, a CPA applied for a job requiring a certain Level 6 accounting certification. The ATS auto-rejected him for not having the certification. He actually did have it, but at Level 8.

          If Level 6 was only a minimum requirement, the HR person should have told the system designer to have the ATS check for that level and above. To do that, the HR person needed to confirm with the hiring manager what level the position called for.

        2. bamcheeks*

          So my question was specifically whether there are ATSs doing this based on people’s CV/application, rather than on obviously screening questions which have binary tickboxes with questions like, “Do you have a university degree?” “Are you a certified Teapot Specialist?” and “Do you have ten year’s experience in Teapot Design?”

          Are you saying that as an HR specialist or someone who designs ATS software, you *know* it can calculate dates / make decisions based on automatic scans of the documentation you’ve uploaded?

      4. SchuylerSeestra*

        There is so much bad advice about hiring perpetuated out there.

        Think of the ATS has a project management/database system. When your application comes through it syncs directly to the req or project assigned to the recruiter. So when the recruiter goes into the req they can see new applications, plus candidates already in process.

        Even if you get rejected from the job your resume stays in the system. We can manually search the resume database via keyword if looking for past applicants. But we do not use keywords to filter out candidates. That part is a myth. If you add keywords in white at the bottom we can see it. It causes your resume to parse through weirdly.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          You can speak to how systems have been used in your employment, but you seem to be trying to speak for all uses of ATS.

          1. bamcheeks*

            But does anyone who designs or uses ATSs from the professional end say ATSs CAN do that? That’s my question– I’ve never come across a recruiter or an HR person who says they can, but tons and tons of people outside HR who say they can and do.

            1. I should really pick a name*

              What specific function are you wondering about?
              I was referring to the commenter’s general description of the process.

              1. bamcheeks*

                I’m asking whether there is such a thing as an ATS which “reads” resumes or other application documents for keywords or a certain level of experience and automatically rejects some candidates without their applications ever being seen by a human.

                I constantly hear advice that claims this is a thing, but I’ve never come across anyone in HR or system design who says this can happen.

                1. SchuylerSeestra*

                  That’s the myth. ATS’s do not scan or review resumes. They just store them.

                  Some have functionally for hiring teams to add role specific questions to the application. These are typically yes/no questions. A no can trigger an auto reject(the system I use allows us to schedule emails so I set mine to go out the next day)

                  Knock out questions aren’t always set for auto-reject. Sometimes I may add a clarification question that involves more than a yes or no. Like if the role is location specific I may ask where you are based. It doesn’t auto reject because the prompt has to be based on a yes/no question.

                  Some ATS’s can “stack rank” candidates based on qualifications. This isn’t a common feature, and again needs to be programmed by the hiring team if they chose to use it. I think this is where the misconception of the ATS scanning resumes comes from.

                  If a hiring team has implemented knock out questions or stack ranking then it’s because there are specific expectations candidates need to meet for their roles. Hiring is complex, and yes things can fall through the cracks. But it’s humans who make any and all decisions who makes it through the interview process.

                2. Mylia*

                  As another HR individual who has used many different ATS systems there are systems that can “read” resumes or applications and reject or move forward based on that information, yes they exist but as was commented on above very, very narrowly adoped and just are not common.

                  What is much more likely is that the ATS calculates and screens (as programed) from the application component, not the resume or cover letter. I have seen time and time again someone who is highly qualified with a great resume and cover letter but they only minimally filled out the application component and therefore the ATS didn’t move them forward. Most places I have worked with good HR don’t use this functionality for that reason, but it happens all too frequently.

          2. SchuylerSeestra*

            I am speaking on all uses of ATS. Not just my company. There are many different brands so to say, but the basic functionality remains the same. ATS’s are workflow management tools used by hiring teams to manage the hiring process.

            Seriously these tools are not nearly as smart as people think. The state of the art system my company uses won’t even give me the option to manually search for past applicants by location or even partial keywords. Depending on your permissions you can’t even access all profiles. Badly formatted resumes sometimes parse in as gibberish. It’s just a tool.

        2. linger*

          The relevant problem for OP is that in their case the system is operating without independent oversight from those doing the actual hiring, with the result that at least some applications that meet the criteria are (a) being screened out before reaching the hiring manager, and (b) not even being retained for possible review. From OP’s perspective, the system is a black box; it doesn’t really matter how much of it is preprogrammed. It should matter to the company that it’s not fit for purpose; but that’s not something OP has standing to mention until actually hired.

          1. linger*

            N.B. the actual problem could be something as prosaic as a mistyped email address sending applications to an unread account.

    5. Observer*

      I will also say sometimes it’s due to lack of capacity/high volume of applications, parameters of the role changing, other candidates may be more qualified. Or your qualifications may not be as aligned with the hiring teams expectations as you think.

      Given what happened when the OP’s contact recommended them, though, that’s unlikely to be the case.

      It’s not a myth that ATS screen out qualified candidates. Sure, it’s generally because of the way they are set up – most often because the wrong people (who don’t really understand the needs of the position or who don’t understand the ATS ) are doing it, although sometimes it’s because the ATS is poorly designed so that people can accidentally set parameters incorrectly. But the net result is that people who the company would actually be interested in get screened out.

      1. SchuylerSeestra*

        Hiring managers determine the qualifications needed for their open roles. They are the dept head or manager the new hire directly reports into. They write the job description. The Recruiter works on behalf of the Hiring Manager to find candidates based on the expectations of the role.

        Once they have determined the expectations/requirements for the open role it is posted through the ATS onto the companies career page. Applications route directly to the job requisition assigned to the recruiter working on that role.

        The recruiter then reviews the application based on the expectations determined for the role. If the resume does not clearly align with those expectations the candidate is rejected.

        1. Observer*

          That’s how your company works. This is far from universal – read some of the comments here about how other companies work.

    6. I have RBF*

      ATS aka Applicant Tracking Systems do not reject resumes. That is a myth.

      Hah, no. While your system might work that way, most don’t. I’ve talked to internal recruiters about this. You seem to be a bit too defensive of dodgy software.

      Any system that tracks and matches keywords and rejects resumes based on keyword match rejects resumes. Most of these systems have “AI” matching systems, but the HR people set the keywords that are used for various systems.

      If the method is that a human rejects anything with less than a 100% keyword match, that’s still a problem with the ATS system, because the human is relying on it to make their decision for them.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Where have you talked to recruiters who say that this is what their system does? Like I said, I’ve never met anyone who says they’ve used one like this.

      2. SchuylerSeestra*

        Sigh. I’m a senior level internal recruiter who has worked with many different ATS, including Greenhouse, Taleo, Lever, and Workable to name a few. What I’m saying is 100% true. It sounds like you may be misinterpreting your recuiter colleagues explanation.

        Look up Amy Miller on LinkedIn. She is an internal recruiter at Amazon and one of the best resources for job hunters looking to learn more about the hiring process. She has several excellent posts on how ATS’s work.

    7. April*

      If you program a computer to always do X on your behalf when Y is triggered, the computer is doing X. A computer sends auto-reply messages, for example. A computer tells traffic signals they need to include the Walk signal on this light cycle. The difference between “a human told the system to automatically do X when Y happens” and “the system does X when Y happens” is just the phrasing.

      1. SchuylerSeestra*

        Yes but the human determined the parameters of why the computer is set up to respond a certain way.

        So while yes, the computer auto-rejects based on an answer, the human decided the question that needs to be asked on the application, and the reasoning why a No may will trigger the auto-reject.

  7. Mialana*

    “it looks like you missed the X row in this spreadsheet — can you fix that and make sure you watch for it in the future?”

    Please do give this type of info in written form. It’s much easier to find and read up on what the instruction actually was by the time the task comes up again.

    1. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      I’m not sure why you are objecting to this wording in an email, Mialana. Yes, you can find instructions in emails, but what if the worker thinks they know how to do the task and don’t bother to look for instructions?

      1. Myrin*

        I think you might’ve misread – Mialana is doing the opposite of objecting, she’s actively encouraging OP to write stuff like this down (as opposed to giving instructions verbally). If I’m reading correctly, she mostly means this in the sense of there being a record people can look up later in case it’s been some time since they’ve last done [action] and have forgotten parts of it. I’m not really sure what that has to do with people who don’t know that they don’t know something, though.

    2. MillennialHR*

      I totally agree! I keep those comments in an email folder so I can review them in the future to make sure I’m doing the task appropriately.

  8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (landlord) – if she has “various businesses” that she “intermingles” with her job I wonder if the employer is aware of them? I would just apply — after many years of renting (in the past) I’m sick of “please may I do this totally normal thing in my home, I mean in your investment” without having to go to “please oh please may I apply for a job at your esteemed organisation” also. Just because she got there first doesn’t give her “dibs” on the employer. If it turns out later that there’s some kind of conflict of interest (like you’d be in her chain of command) figure that out later in the process. It may flush out a conflict of interest with all her other businesses (which the company is more likely to take an interest in as a senior manager compared to a standard level employee).

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        The landlord may not like the second bedroom being turned into an office.
        Or, imagine if OP is down on her luck with health and car problems and is late paying the rent, the landlord might start threatening to have it deducted from her pay. It would be wildly inappropriate, but if you’ve read this column for any length of time you’d know that being inappropriate is not something that managers or employees necessarily care about.

        1. MicroManagered*

          Why would any landlord ever care that you turned a second bedroom into an office?

          (Barring significant construction or a zoning issue, of course – I’m talking in the normal context of putting a desk in a room you are paying to use.)

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            Have you met any landlords? They can get seriously weirded out about the oddest of issues. (Basically, if they don’t understand it/have never seen it, then they decide they don’t like it.)

          2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            As a landlady myself, I couldn’t care less.
            As a tenant, I had plenty of weird landlords who had peculiar hang-ups about how I was supposed to use their property.

          3. Mid*

            I witnessed my friend’s landlord write them up for putting their microwave on a different side of the kitchen. My friend owned the microwave, it didn’t come with the unit. Moving the microwave didn’t cause any issues or risk any electric problems or anything like that. It just wasn’t where the landlord thought the microwave “should” be, and so my friend got a written notice that they had to change their “remodel” or face eviction. (I’m aware it wouldn’t stand up in court, but it’s still not a letter anyone wants to get.)

            So yeah. There are plenty of unreasonable landlords, and having someone control both your housing and your paycheck is absolutely a conflict of interest.

            1. MicroManagered*

              Oh I would not want my landlord and coworker/boss to be the same person for lots of reasons. Just “the landlord might object that you are using the second bedroom as not-a-bedroom” didn’t make sense to me.

        2. NotBatman*

          rebelwithmouseyhair is right. This whole ask gave me flashbacks to the reason I left my last college job. I was in employee housing, and in a dispute with the landlord over black mold in my bathroom (surface-cleaning the wall every time it became visible was her idea of a solution) — and then that same landlord was my class on the first day. Turns out she was a student employee. We both knew she couldn’t be objective about the mold situation while I was instructing her, and I couldn’t be objective about grading while I was renting from her. She requested a class transfer and was denied; I quit my job. Good riddance to that school.

      2. Sarah Sanderson Smith*

        If there are problems with the OP’s work performance, can the landlord be trusted to manage them effectively when losing their job might affect their ability to pay the rent? Would they be willing to make them redundant in a downsizing exercise if necessary? Would they be more inclined to promoted them because of the personal relationship? And so on.

        If there is any possibility that the landlord could have management or decision-making responsibility over the role, even if they would not be the direct manager, any reasonable company would have to consider the conflict of interest a real possibility.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, these are the issues I was referring to in the post. If the landlord has to pick employees to lay off, is she going to pick the person she relies on for rent payments? Maybe she will, but there’s the potential for huge conflict of interest and the appearance of it.

        2. RecoveringSWO*

          Exactly. A landlord-tenant or similar outside business relationship is considered fraternization in the military and prohibited for this reason.

      3. Healthcare Manager*

        I had a situation where landlord was a conflict of interest.

        My landlord also managed care homes that I had to audit. That’s a conflict of interest because it could be implied that I didn’t audit correctly out of fear of repercussions on me being evicted.

        Just because you can’t think of scenarios doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

        1. BubbleTea*

          That’s a bit different though – the conflict was with them being YOUR landlord, not just A landlord. The comment I was replying to seemed to be implying that just being a landlord was inherently a conflict of interest. I agree that being your colleague or employer’s landlord, or the landlord of someone who has a business relationship with you, is problematic.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Scenario: “Who’s going to be laid off? Well not my tenants that’s for sure. I don’t want them to be late on rent.”

      5. RagingADHD*

        If your landlord was your direct boss or grandboss, so that you are autopaying your boss a large sum of money every month, and your boss controls where you live — you don’t see how that would be an issue?

        If you’re not in their reporting line, there’s no problem. But if you are, it’s a big problem.

      6. Colette*

        You want a manager to manage based on work. So, for example, you don’t want a senior manager penalizing an employee at work because of a dispute over something outside of work (like not caring for a rental property the way the landlord would like).

        And, depending on where the landlord lives, If it’s close to where the OP lives, that brings up a whole host of potential problems (e.g. OP takes a sick day, the landlord sees her doing something that she perceives to be inappropriate, or the landlord wants to car pool).

    1. Alice*

      The issue here is diversification. If a landlord knows both their income and their renters income is coming from one source it can be more risky- mass layoff or company shutdown will be catastrophic for finances. Similar to if both partners work for the same company and have their 401k and health insurance in the same place. It just helps to have your eggs spread across different baskets.

      1. Alice*

        Just to clarify- there nothing wrong with working at the same place, there’s no conflict at this stage (unless there would be a direct manager relationship). From OPs point of view there’s no issue and they need to do what’s right for them.

    2. Snow Globe*

      It depends on where they would be in the hierarchy. I’m pretty sure at some point there’s been a letter here about a manager whose direct report was renting space from her, and the general assessment is that it’s a bad idea. If the employee gets a raise and the rent goes up, is that because the landlord is the one that approved the raise? If the manager needs to lay off staff are they going to choose the person who pays them rent? If they don’t choose that person, will other people think favoritism?

    3. Det. Rosa Diaz*

      Captain, I think you may be reading a bit too much into landlords and power dynamics. Many people have income properties outside of their day jobs – the landlord may have a management company handling the day to day, or have help (say, a partner) who helps oversee logistics. Nowhere in OP’s letter did it indicate that their landlord is a full time landlord who is juggling many different jobs and shortchanging each – I read the various jobs comment as most likely just those two roles. I also didn’t see OP indicate any sort of issue around working from home or other permissions in their letter, so I’m really not sure where the generalization you’re making about being overly deferential to landlords applies!

      1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

        I agree I think that there is a lot of speculation and people reading too much into things. There’s no real indication that this landlord has a huge amount of properties and another job. Heck this could be something like she lived at this house and then got married and the partner had a bigger house so they moved into that house and rented this house. Or she inherited this house but it was too small/not in the right area, but didn’t want to sell so rents it out.

        And there could be someone else who takes care of the property. heck at least this OP KNOWS who owns the house. When my old landlord sold all we found out was that it’s some business name and no one that we can speak to. everything has to go through the crappy management company.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          I dunno, I’m not sure whether she has a large number of properties, but it seemed clear (at least to me) that “various businesses” means she has at least 2-3 other ‘dealings’ outside of her job with the company. Maybe not all houses – maybe other types of businesses. The company may or may not have something (in the handbook or wherever) about outside business interests, and if so they may or may not know about the specific business interests she has.

          1. Det. Rosa Diaz*

            Sure, but even so, why is the issue the landlord’s outside businesses? OP clearly wrote in about whether it was a conflict for her to apply — not about whether the company should treat her landlord differently. Feels a tiny bit like projection about the rental industry, rather than salient to the question OP asked.

    4. I am Emily's failing memory*

      It’s oddly worded, but I don’t think there are any other businesses in play. LW writes: “I feel weird putting her in a position … of intermingling her various businesses with her day job.” Using the plural of “various businesses” on top of the day job does make it sound like there’s more, but LW specifically saying she doesn’t want to put the landlord in that position wouldn’t make sense in the context of any other business interests that don’t involve LW.

      I would reckon a landlord who has a day job is probably something like a person renting their home’s basement apartment for extra income, not a local real estate tycoon with properties all over town.

      1. OP4*

        This is absolutely the case! I’m sure I misstated that in my letter – landlord certainly isn’t a real estate magnate, just happens to work at a very small company within our pretty small community, wasn’t sure if it would be imposing on my landlord if I worked with them and also rented from them

    5. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, I say apply. I don’t think your landlady’s conflict of interest is your problem to pre-empt.

  9. Mark Roth*

    “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” can easily come across as “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.” It can be meaningless or even misleading advice for someone who might not know what the expression means.

    I mean honestly I wouldn’t mind a job where I can wear shorts when it gets hot. But that doesn’t mean I can wear shorts at my actual job.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I’d go for “dress as smart as you are”.

      Conversely, we have a gate that can be hard to open in the summer (the metal expands just enough to make it stick). My partner tells people trying to open it to “push as hard as you’re stupid” and for some reason, they always manage to get the gate open immediately afterwards.

      1. Bagpuss*

        That sounds lie a really odd way to put it. If someone said something like that, I’d assume that they were trying to say say that it was stiff and you needed to push harder, but that they were being extremely, and unnecessarily, rude, in how they did it. What’s wrong with ‘It sticks, you need to push hard’

        1. DataSci*

          I assumed they meant “be gentle, it sticks if you push too hard”. But it’s a weird and insulting phrasing even that way.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        That is a pretty nasty thing to say – inappropriate in a work setting to customers or coworkers, and mean in a personal setting to friends or family. I would be appalled if my partner spoke to people that way.

      3. Small mind*

        I would just assume your partner is an old codger who thinks they’re funny. Someone to avoid in my eyes. p.s. people are able to open the gate because they’re being reminded to push really hard (not because they’re stupid). My front door is very sticky and I tell people to push harder because it’s stuck not locked and you know what, they’re able to open it and it’s not because I called them stupid.

        “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” – Also, I wish people would stop with these crusty old adages handed out by job centres. It also reinforces that a proper ‘suit wearing job’ is somehow inherently better than one that allows a more casual attire. I’ve worked in one place that had ‘business’ dress and I have never felt so demoralised for various reasons (also, it’s a good way to police women’s dress over men’s).

      4. KTB*

        …does that mean to pull the gate? I don’t think I’d have a good impression of your partner, being rude under guise of clever, while I’m struggling.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Perhaps it opens because they’re so insulted they imagine your partner’s face on the gate.

      6. DataSci*

        You don’t know a lot of professors, do you? Intelligence has nothing to do with attire, or with position in a corporate hierarchy.

      7. metadata minion*

        I would have no idea what you meant about the gate and would be confused and kind of offended. I also have no idea what “dress as smart as you are” is supposed to mean. Do “smart” people dress more formally? Less formally? There’s the concept of “smart dresser” to mean someone who’s formal and stylish but I don’t think that’s what you mean?

      8. Reluctant Brarista*

        Is that supposed to mean “push harder – and I think you are stupid” or “it would be stupid to push hard – be gentle?” It’s so deeply unclear, and unnecessarily insulting that you may want to give your Partner a heads-up about how unfortunately their communication style is landing
        As someone who has had a lifetime of being called stupid because of dyslexia/other neurodivergence it feels pretty ableist too. I think anyone with any kind of arm or upper body strength issue would also rightly bristle about being called “stupid” for not being able to push hard enough/avoid pushing too hard

    2. Magenta*

      If you can’t find a way to communicate then you are doomed to being “Shaka, when the walls fell.”

    3. Snow Globe*

      A simpler way of saying the same thing is – look at how the managers in the meeting are dressed and follow their lead.

    4. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, it’s confusing to me. I guess if the job you want is a job at your current company one or two rungs above your own, it makes sense to look at how people at that level are dressing. But the generalized statement doesn’t seem right – if you want to be CEO someday, should you start dressing like the CEO and wearing suits even if your whole team is business casual? (I mean, wear a suit if you like suits, but don’t do it because you think it’ll help you move up.)

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Exactly what I thought – the context for that advice is so narrowly specific. It assumes that 1) the job you want is one held by people you’re in close proximity to and thus able to observe their dress, 2) that those people dress more, rather than less, formally than you, so your risk in emulating them is of being overdressed rather than underdressed and 3) that it would even be at all appropriate or well-received for you to dress differently given the nature of your work – you don’t show up to a factory machinist job in dress shoes and jewelry just because the office workers dress that way and you want an office job, and you probably don’t want to show up dressed like the superintendent if you’re a childrens art teacher.

    5. One HR Opinion*

      Absolutely LOVE this comment! So many clichés and idioms are like this.

      I can just see it now – I want to be an astronaut, so I’ll wear a space suit to work – LOL

      1. EPLawyer*

        Literally said the other day I usually have spare threads on my not work clothes, because the job I want is full time quilter.

        OP was too vague in her explanation to the friend. If the friend didn’t pick up on You are wearing that to the meeting, she wasn’t going to pick up on Dress for Success. OP should have been clearer. But as someone higher up pointed out, friend didn’t ask for advice so OP needs to drop it.

      1. BubbleTea*

        There’s tonnes of potential ambiguity. For one thing, how do I know what to wear in the job I want if I’m struggling to figure it out for the job I’ve got? Plus it doesn’t give actionable advice for the person. Maybe the job she wants is one where you can wear athleisure all the time! That’s not going to change the reality if the job she has doesn’t encourage that. It’s too vague and passive.

      2. Ginger Cat Lady*

        TONS of room for ambiguity and nuance. If the job you want is a lifeguard or a chef, but the job you have is a customer support call center, this saying doesn’t make sense. Wearing a swimsuit or chef’s coat to your job would reflect poorly on you. And yes, some people DO take sayings like this literally.
        If you are just starting out in a business casual work place, but you want to be a CEO some day, should you start wearing tailored designer suits to work every day?
        There definitely are times when following this saying would hurt you, not help you.

    6. Empress Matilda*

      And it also comes with the assumption that the person wants to move up in their org, which is not necessarily the case. See yesterday’s letter, and dozens of others, from people who are already in the jobs they want! So if you wanted them to change the way they’re dressing, this wouldn’t be the way to say it.

      I really prefer the direct approach – X, Y, Z are not appropriate for this meeting, please wear something like A, B, C instead.

      1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        Literally the job I’ve always wanted is petsitting or dog daycare kennel tech. Guess what we wear for those? Athleisure, typically. You’re not going to want to wear a fancy dress and heels for that, although you can (I do) wear a tshirt dress and gym shoes or crocs for a petsitting job.

        “Dress for the job you want” really is silly in the sense that it assumes everyone must dress formally, and speaks to people wanting everyone to dress formally for impressing others, not because they want to.

    7. April*

      I can’t link it easily, but there’s a beautiful image somewhere of a boss giving those instructions to his team and being faced, the next morning, with one employee dressed as Wolverine (the superhero), another as Dracula, one in… rather special-interest adult clothing, one wearing exactly the same thing as the boss…

  10. Melissa*

    You showed your hand a bit in the beginning of your letter when you indicated you don’t really approve of casual clothes at work *in general*. I bet that when you give reasonable commentary, like “Hm, if your boss said that, maybe you should dress up a little more,” your friend automatically thinks “Well but OP has always disapproved of yoga pants.” Your advice isn’t going to seem tailored (lol) for her situation, because you’ve got a bias about it. You should drop it and let her figure it out on her own.

  11. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    I’m delighted to see that Jane Burtlebot at the Oatmeal Association has now been admitted to the AAM ranks alongside Amelia Warbleworth at Llama Grooming Corps and Fergus at Teapots Inc.

    1. Jessica*

      Jane is a major innovator in the porridge field. It’s past time her accomplishments were acknowledged!

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Wakeen tells me he has recommended her for membership in the Cinnamon Toast Alliance.

    3. LimeRoos*

      Same! My husband works in grain and I’m really enjoying the Oatmeal Association (oats are his specialty) and breakfast grain division.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Every time I read the name Fergus on this website I read it in Lady Elinor’s voice (from the Disney/Pixar movie Brave – Fergus is Merida’s father). Maybe Fergus’s last name should be DunBroch!

    4. PhyllisB*

      Our local library just sponsored a session in teapot painting!! Made me wonder if someone on staff reads AAM

    5. Mimmy*

      The pseudonyms Alison comes up with are one of my favorite things about this site! Burtlebot is an awesome last name :)

  12. Bagpuss*

    I was a bit surprised at the advice for #4 – unless OP is going to be asking her landlord for a reference , which seems unlikely, then I don’t see why it would be relevant at all.

    It’s not like working for a close friend or relative where there might be a perception of favoritism, and I would not have thought that there would be any conflict of interest.

    The only downside I can see would be for OP – if her landlord becomes her employer then that potentially gives them more information about her financial situation.

    OP, I would apply for the job, if you get it, by all means mention it to your landlord at that point .

    Also – in your question you say your landlord doesn’t know you’ve been laid off and again, I would take the view that unless it becomes relevant, e.g you were seeking to break the lease because you could not longer afford it, or you were renewing and had to provide proof if incomne, there’s no reason why she would need to know.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      It’s not because of favoritism. It’s because there could be a huge conflict of interest when money is now flowing both ways. “Oh, you got a raise? I guess it’s time to raise your rent.” Or the landlord could suddenly decide she no longer wants OP as a tenant and fires her, figuring that a lack of income will mean she will have to move out.

      I can very easily see these kinds of thing happening with a lot of the landlords I’ve known.

    2. doreen*

      It depends on the organization’s rules and the relationship between the two positions. Some organizations prohibit any financial or personal relationships between supervisors and those they supervise and the same rule that says I cannot supervise my sister also means I can’t supervise my tenant – or my landlord, it’s not a one-way situation. A lot of the time , the work situation came first and these rules cover a lot of situations and some probably seem more relevant than others – it may seem silly to prohibits a a manager from joining a lottery pool that includes their subordinates but not so silly to prohibit that same manager from borrowing money from a subordinate

      Whether it will actually cause a problem also depends on specifics of the situation – it’s one thing if the job is one of two llama herders both of whom report to the landlord and something different if it’s one of the thousand teapot painters and you can just be assigned to one of the 40 other managers.

  13. Healthcare Manager*

    For number 2 can we add in giving an opportunity to hear the other persons perspective.

    No one wants to get an email saying ‘I’ve heard you aren’t doing X, these are my expectations’ without getting their side heard first.

    What if the person who passed on that feed back misunderstood, what if they didn’t realise the behaviour was happening, what if expectations aren’t clear etc.

    A one sided email is just asking for misunderstandings based on assumptions.

    1. doreen*

      Sometimes it’s not really a matter where a perspective needs to be heard. Some situations need a conversation – but ” Remember to complete form B when Situation 1 happens” really doesn’t. And if my manager came in to speak to me on a day they wouldn’t normally work, I would think it was something more serious.

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      If I had a nickel for every time a manager said “you didn’t do X” and I responded “there’s a second tab on the spreadsheet where I did X”…well, it wouldn’t be a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice.*

      *probably more than twice, actually, but I also got more clear with the “see next tab” instructions.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      I’ve found that good managers tend to lead with questions, especially in a situation like this.

      “I saw that X didn’t get done last night. Is there a reason why you weren’t able to get to that?”

      Sometimes there is a good reason why they couldn’t get to it (in which case you have to look at the bigger situation) and sometimes there isn’t (in which case you need to decide what this employee needs: more training, a different workflow, a reprimand, etc.).

  14. Small mind*

    Yikes, LW1. Really mind your own business. I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone in stockings in decades so I’m not sure you’re the best judge. Many workplaces are casual (even athleisurewear). Maybe, your friend mentioned the higher up’s comment as a funny one-off. I’ve worked in very casual places – think: yoga pants, jeans, t-shirts, etc – and like one director will still have a bee in their bonnet about elasticated pants and will screw up their face any time someone is wearing jeans.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We had a VP like that. The jeans were technically allowed, but only the people who caught his subtle cues to dress in slacks were promoted.

    2. Sleepyhead*

      Yeah, honestly I think LW1 needs to back off. It sounds like her friend isn’t looking for advice for what to wear and was simply just venting about one interaction she had.

      I’ve had a few older people in my life who insist they know the norms for my workplace/career be completely wrong, but they still try to help me and it just gets annoying (quite frankly condescending) after awhile.

    3. sherlock*

      “I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone in stockings in decades so I’m not sure you’re the best judge.”

      someone doesn’t go outside much, I’m guessing.

      1. Small mind*

        Hahaha! no, I just live in the 21st century and work in non-fussy environments. I see plenty of tights, leggings, etc at work, but straight up, old fashioned nylons, I think not.

        1. Lucy P*

          Somebody must be wearing them since they’re still sold at drugstores and department stores.

          1. Rew123*

            pretty much everyone I know wears them with dresses at events when it’s not warm. but to be fair we are completely fashion senseless 30+ yo so we just might be stuck whatever decades ago means.

            1. Rew123*

              that being said. this might also be a terminology thing stockings vs pantyhose vs tights vs something else

          2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            Where are you finding stockings in drug stores and department stores?! All I ever see are pantyhose and tights! I have to order stockings and it is a process to find ones that are sheer enough but aren’t itchy.

  15. ThatgirlK*

    OP1 – I would let it go. This can be extremely workplace dependent. I just came out of the tech industry and most days I could wear joggers/leggings and hoodie and I would blend in just fine. I wasn’t customer facing and those that were, would throw on a jacket with jeans when they came in.
    If she is working in leisure ware field, I could see it being similar. But let her figure out what is more appropriate for meetings. Not you.

  16. I should really pick a name*

    LW1, you’ve said your piece, unless your friend asks you for further advice on the topic, you should drop it.

    If they DO ask for your advice, I’d suggest you tell them to ask their manager, and emphasize that whether they agree with the manager’s recommendations or not, there will likely be consequences if they don’t listen to them.

    You don’t know the specifics of what’s acceptable in their office, so you’re not in a position to make recommendations. Their manager is.

  17. Finch*

    OP1 I don’t think it’s your business. Your friend is leading the revolution in wearing athletic wear in the office, and you shouldn’t be standing in her way. My hope is that we only wear sweatpants in the office, fancy meetings be damned.

    1. Some words*

      I just can’t forget the Sienfeld scene where George Costanza shows up in sweat pants. Jerry tells him that he’s announcing to the world that he’s given up. This is more the mind-set I grew up with.

      Being a bit old fashioned I still inwardly cringe when I see co-workers in leopard patterned jogging suits and fuzzy slippers in the office. Jeans is the hard line for myself (work in the financial industry).

  18. Big Ba Da Boom*

    #3 – For an internal posting at my company a friend told me I should apply since I’d be a good fit. I did, and heard nothing back. Eventually the friend asked “the manager has been waiting for your application did you change your mind??” So I sent my resume and application directly to the manager, I was a perfect fit, they hired me very quickly and in a couple of weeks I transitioned to the new position. Then another two weeks later I got a rejection from the HR system saying I was not qualified for the job…that I already had gotten and was perfectly qualified for. These automated systems are so flawed.

    1. Mimmy*

      Wow! Good thing you already had a connection. Otherwise, you would’ve assumed you were rejected. I do wonder about these ATS platforms sometimes. Congratulations!

  19. Pugetkayak*

    Everyday I dress for the job I want – to be independently wealthy and not care at all. I work from home, but that has always been my mantra in my head :)

  20. Polar Vortex*

    For LW2, I’d be curious if it’s okay to send a heads up as to the discussion in the meeting. I take in information better when it’s written, and have had significantly more productive conversations around things I missed when it’s either all via written or alerted via email and then discussed in person later that day. Allows me to think through things, and come up with responses. Feels a little less blindsided too – although that’s just a historic knee jerk from terrible managers that I’m trying to fix.

  21. KatEnigma*

    The problem with LW1 is that more often that not, no one will tell the friend that she needs to dress differently in a direct and clear way. Grandboss probably thinks s/he was perfectly clear. They simply will stop allowing her to present and won’t promote her and will stifle her career.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      In fairness to grandboss, it went through the filter grandboss->employee->friend->us and people here at the far end overwhelmingly nod and say “Grandboss is telling you that your outfit is inappropriate in this context; given that it’s very casual, the correction would be to become more formal.”

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Also that — I’m assuming the friend was in like tights and a crop top and they were looking for something a little more leisure and a little less ath.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I was thinking that the friend was dressed ‘office normal’ for them, with the branded athletic/leisure wear, but Grandboss was expecting something more formal for a big meeting. Maybe she was presenting, or there were outside clients?

    2. Lily Rowan*

      That’s why the best move for the friend is to have a direct conversation with her boss about dress code and expectations, but it’s probably too late for LW1 to say that and have it be heard.

    3. Observer*

      That may be true. But the OP is not in any place to provide helpful advice.

      The only thing that they could advise here is to say that her friend should talk to someone who can advise her about the culture in the company.

  22. Delta Delta*

    #1 – OP seems overly invested in their friend’s work apparel. She’s said her bit, and now can move on. This is squarely on the friend, who, will learn this lesson by the time-tested method of f around and find out. One of two things happened here:

    1. She arrived, felt underdressed and embarrassed, but powered through. now she feels defensive and doesn’t need her face pushed in it by her busybody friend, so she’s doubled-down on “yoga pants are perfect when there are billionaire investors in the room” position.

    2. She genuinely doesn’t get it and will get reprimanded or worse next time. Then she’ll know.

  23. RagingADHD*

    LW1, there are very, very few types of unsolicited advice that people are willing to hear:

    “Hey, you left your coffee cup on the roof of your car.”

    “Hey, excuse me, I’m a dermatologist and I strongly recommend you get that mole on your wrist looked at, because it’s suspicious.”

    Unless your friend is asking you, “Nobody takes me seriously at work, what can I do to project more gravitas?” then she doesn’t want your input.

    LW3, if nobody who cares about DEI ever took a job at a company whose recruiting practices could possibly be exclusionary, then the only people who work there would be folks who are blind to it, and nothing would ever change. (If that’s what’s going on.)

  24. Fluffy Fish*

    OP2 – I think maybe its just semantics of your choosing the word reprimand, but in case not please make sure you are not confusing people are humans and make errors (especially student employees who are learning how work works) with things that need reprimands.

    Like Alison said – reprimands should be rare. Asking mistakes to be fixed however is normal. I’ve been working a long time and still need eyes on everything I write because of typos and other errors. My documents aren’t littered with them but there’s often something to be fixed. That’s just normal.

    Of course there is quality and quality that comes into play but in general errors are the peril of being human.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I think the introduction of error correction in the answer may be a bit of a red herring. When I saw “student workers at all hours” and “reprimand,” I immediately assumed it was some kind of minor issue with following procedures or keeping up to standards. Stuff like putting things away in the right place, wearing a required uniform shirt, or tardiness.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        errors/mistakes/misjudgment are all the same to me. can just as easily say humans make mistakes to humans make errors.

        none of those are things that should generally rise to reprimand unless it’s a repeated issue especially with student workers. someone above said it well with if anything they should have a conversation about what’s going on before jumping to reprimand. humans are late to work, have dryers that unexpectedly break, misplace things.

  25. Rosacolleti*

    #1 slacks and a jacket? Very last century.

    #3 I’d be super wary of a business who use algorithms for screening CV’s, unless it was for a very unskilled role. It would make for a great question to ask at interview though

    1. I should really pick a name*

      With the number of applications some companies get, it can be needed.
      Sometimes there are just too many for a person to sift through.

      The only other option I could think of is having a person review them, but they will only review X number of applications.

    2. BellyButton*

      I haven’t worked any where in the last 15 yrs that didn’t have some sort of pre-screening algorithm set up for resume submissions.

      1. I have RBF*

        This. Even if it’s just keyword or screening question matches.

        The problem comes when non-technical HR tries to establish keywords and minimum experience, etc for positions that they can’t really understand. Yes, there’s a difference between “10 years experience” and “>= 10 years experience” – the first one will screen out both nine years and eleven years experience. If the HR person doesn’t really understand that system and how it handles matching, it can end up rejecting every resume because of improper configuration.

        IMO, a system that has points and percentage matches would work best. Then “10 years experience” might be 100 points, but 9 years might be 90 points. You would weight the points toward what was most relevant for the job, then after the job was posted for two weeks, pull the highest 20 matching resumes, send them to the hiring manager, and see if they fit at all. If they don’t, you work with the HM to readjust the scoring, and re-run it on the same batch of resumes. If the JD was accurate, you should be able to pull the most qualified candidates out of the applications by tweaking the keywords and requirements. But this requires effort on the part of the HM and HR.

  26. BellyButton*

    My entire company is WFH. We are very casual- t-shirts, hoodies, even hats when we meet on Zoom. We get together in person quarterly with the entire company, and then as leaders we get together 4-6 times a year. It is no different in person. For me, I like to dress up, and I am usually the one leading or facilitating the meetings, even when the CEO and board is there- I will wear jeans, casual heels or heeled booties, a women’s company branded t-shirt (so it is fitted and not sloppy), and I will usually put on a casual blazer or cardigan when it is time to stand up in front of everyone. There IS something about being a bit more put together, especially when you are the one presenting or facilitating. I have a hard time imaging myself standing up in front of the c-suite and board of directors in yoga pants and runners while walking them through quarterly strategic planning sessions.

    Unconsciously people respond to someone who is pulled together. People can rally against it, people can work to change it, but it is true.

  27. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

    #3 do you have a name that the algorithm could have thought was fake or something? I don’t remember it it was here or elsewhere but there was something where the person had a crude name that application software wouldn’t allow him to put in. (think of like Cocks)

    Perhaps something like that happened, where the algorithm thought it was a fake name and so deleted your application. This shouldn’t happen but I think you should mention it to the hiring committee.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      It was here! 4th letter on the “I caught my boss listening at my door, using a fake name for job hunting, and more” post from January 4, 2023.

    2. linger*

      There’s actually no indication that OP3’s previous application(s) even got received. Certainly not by the hiring manager; but there’s apparently not even a record with HR. I’m increasingly leaning towards the most likely cause being something like an incorrect email address that directed (some) applications (possibly systematically, from one source) into an unread account.

  28. jane's nemesis*

    LW1, respectfully, you need to disengage from your judgments about your friend’s clothing choices.

    Honestly, I LONG for a job where I could wear athleisure in person (I’m fully remote, so I am comfy, but when I occasionally go in person I have to be uncomfy and I hate it), but I agree that your friend missed a big hint when their grandboss made that comment. It’s just really not your place to police your friend’s clothing choices.

  29. Observer*

    #1 – Dress Codes.

    You need to take a HUGE step back.

    Two things jump out at me. The first is that you seem a touch dismissive and even judgemental about the dress code and your friend’s adherence to that code. I get it, but if that’s the way you are coming off to her, she is totally going to dismiss you. And rightly so. Now, I get that I could be misreading your attitude, but it is coming through that way – you want to make sure that it doesn’t inadvertently come across the same way to your friend.

    The other thing is that I think you are both wrong. You are wrong in that you seem to assume that all meetings outside of her department need to have a more formal / dressed up look, but you don’t really have anything to back it up. Where you are right and your friend is wrong is specifically about the meeting where her grandboss asked her about what she is wearing. A good rule of thumb is that “that’s what you’re wearing to the meeting?” or comments like that should generally be recognized as a version of “Are you SUUURE you want to do that?”

    What you could do is try ONE more time. This time, don’t make specific suggestions. Instead, point out that whenever a boos or grandboss asks a question like that it’s a sign that they don’t like what you are wearing, they think you should know better, and they don’t want to come out and say it outright. There are MANY bosses that operate that way, and not just in terms of what you wear. So, it’s important to learn how to navigate that kind of thing in general.

    As far as the clothes themselves go, don’t make specific suggestions. I don’t even work there, but I totally see why she doesn’t think you get the culture. To me, it looks like your suggestion is to find a way to look “more professional” while having a token nod to the brand. Again, it doesn’t really matter if I’m misreading this. What matters is that it’s quite possible that that’s what your friend is hearing, and that would make it reasonable for her to push back.

    You would be better off advising her to talk to someone in her organization who at least has been around the company for a reasonable amount of time and is doing well, and ask them what makes sense in terms of dressing for meetings with external people, other departments, and higher ups. That would make the important point, while pointing her to a source of advice that really can be expected to have an accurate read on the culture.

  30. MonkeyPrincess*

    I think it’s important to note that Grandboss said it in such a way that it stuck in the friend’s mind, and friend repeated it to an older person (who I’m actually guessing is her mother or another close family member).

    So I’m guessing it wasn’t just a conversational tone, unless the friend tells the LW everything… “And then GB said it sure was a nice day, and then she mentioned that she was hungry, and she asked if that’s what I was wearing, and then she asked me to get the elevator button because her hands were full.”

    Clearly it was said in such a way that the friend noted it, even if she didn’t understand the meaning behind it. Which means I doubt it was just polite conversation, and I’m guessing that the grandiose DID mean it as a polite criticism.

  31. Former Athleisure Employee*

    I used to work for a well known footwear and athletic wear company, and wearing business formal or business casual, even (especially!) in an important executive presentation would make someone look very out of touch.

    That said, not very product my company made was appropriate to be worn in the office, even though the dress code was very casual. Just because they made cropped tank tops, sweatpants, and 3″ running shorts doesn’t mean I would wear those to work. There can be a point where casual wear can get too casual, and I wonder if that’s the line that LW1’s friend was potentially crossing? Even so, the solution would be to choose different casual clothes (jeans instead of sweatpants, for example) – not wear business formal attire.

  32. No Soup for You*

    So LW#1 does not actually work with their “friend” but she somehow knows what is appropriate attire for a place where they don’t even work? It’s uncomfortable enough when someone you work with tells you that you are not properly dressed, but for someone who does not even work with you to say that? I would seriously reconsider my friendship with someone who was so quick to be critical of me over something they had no direct knowledge of.

    1. Chick (on phone)*

      I’m willing to bet my entire next paycheck that this is actually a mother & daughter.

  33. MissAmandaJones*

    I’m a consultant for a global corporation. I’m also a fitness instructor and brand ambassador for a fancy-pants athleisure company. Some of my clients are coworkers who I train at lunch or after work in the company-sponsored fitness classes. I wear my teacher clothes; my fancy, overpriced (even with my discount) yoga pants, with sweaters, sweatshirts, or blazers. These are not worn-out, stretched-out, pilled, or see-through clothes. Tops are tunic-length, so nothing is exposed. So many non-work questions are recommendations for proper-fitting sports bras or non-transparent leggings. If I have a meeting, I’m in a skirt or trousers.
    And I find myself shocked at what colleagues wear to the office. Baggy, faded, ripped, wrinkled clothes that I’d only wear on laundry day. And these are managers, directors and above!

  34. JustMe*

    LW 1 – I used to live on the West Coast in the US and saw this kind of thing all the time. My roommate used to argue up one side and down the other that office dress codes were oppressive and inhibited her thinking, which, she argued was what she was hired for. (I would say that’s not the ONLY thing you’re hired for, as a young person in particular you need to do extra to prove your professionalism, it’s kind of a privileged rich white person thing to act like you can dress however you want and expect that your skills will speak for themselves when many other people don’t get to do that, etc.) My mom used to always say it could come across as arrogant if you underdressed in a professional position–basically, signaling to the other people that you think they’re not worth putting in the effort for.

    One of the best examples I have that’s illustrative of this is my fiancée and his colleague had to make a big pitch for a fairly conservative company in New York City. Their office culture itself was very casual, but my fiancée wore nice shoes, slacks, and a sport coat. His coworker wore a beanie, jeans with holes, and dress shoes with no socks (because aesthetic). When they walked in, it immediately became clear that coworker was wayyyy underdressed for the occasion, and the pitch was a disaster. As they were dejectedly leaving the office, a drunk homeless guy pointed to the coworker and said, “Look at this guy! HE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE SOCKS! Hahahaha!”

    1. judyjudyjudy*

      Is your point that, you should try to match the dress code of the work environment? Do you think LW1 should speak with their friend again?

  35. Constable George Crabtree*

    LW #1, I dunno if this is particularly helpful other than just hearing the perspective, but I thought it was interesting to think about. Alison pointed out the phrase “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” and I can confirm that as a 28 yo professional woman, it just comes across as outdated and empty. First of all, the job I want *is* the job I have! And second, it doesn’t actually convey anything particularly useful these days, dress codes being generally much more flexible and relaxed than a few decades ago (depending on the industry of course). The snappy line just doesn’t carry weight anymore. What really helped me get a grip on situational dress codes (other than observing my colleagues) was understanding that my clothes send a message about what kind of person I am much faster than anything I can say. If I want to be percieved as put-together and in control (heading a meeting), vs. approachable and relaxed (day at work), vs. professional and authoritative (working an event), I can curate my clothes to send those messages for me. Now, Alison’s right – your friend has kinda made up her mind about what clothes are appropriate and that’s her prerogative. But if you ever find yourself mentoring a younger professional around clothes again this might be a more relatable approach!

  36. raincoaster*

    #1 reminds me of working for Starbucks back in the 90’s. Baristas wore stuff from second hand stores. Managers wore stuff from The Gap. District managers wore Banana Republic. If you deviated from this, you got serious side-eye.

    The day I got promoted to management my mentor took me aside and said I should stop wearing a backpack. My backpack was an expensive Eddie Bauer convertible bag, so I just turned it sideways, tucked in the straps, and suddenly it was a briefcase. At the next meeting he complimented me on it.

  37. nodramalama*

    LW1- let it go. For one thing, stockings suits and heels is frankly, an outdated expectation for MANY workplaces. For another, it’s not your circus, not your monkeys. Your friend has not asked for your opinion on their dress- they’ll either figure out the correct dress code or they won’t.

    For all you know, the grandboss’ question because she was wearing a competitor’s brand, not the formality of the outfit.

  38. Fran*

    #2- I work with student workers and it’s all online! I try to have meetings on Teams were possible to go over any errors but recently had to send an email. The student had missed significant steps which put us behind and I needed to inform her of what it was and how to fix it. Through email because we had no upcoming time to be in person/ I was going away. It helped, but I try to do Teams wherever possible

  39. judyjudyjudy*

    LW1, you are in the cusp of doing Too Much. you have done Just Enough. You have given your opinion and then wrote to Alison when your friend didn’t take your advice. Now you can stop. You might be right that your friend is expected to dress more formally for big meetings. But she doesn’t want to, and it’s her career to manage, not yours. Best of luck to both of you.

    Also, I haven’t seen anyone wear stockings for at least a decade. I guess Kate Middleton kind of brought them back? Maybe it’s industry specific? Also, heels at work as a requirement? I’m not sure there are many industries left with that policy. My mother, an electrical engineer, had to wear heels to work in the 70s and 80s. She hated it. So maybe we can leave some of that in the past.

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