Ask Belle: Stealthy Interview Attire
Apr 2, 2014
I’m in the process of applying for a new job and I need your help with a problem. My current office is business casual, most of my co-workers wear jeans and polos, and my interviews are all in professional-dress offices. How do I dress for the interview without giving away to my co-workers that I’m on the hunt for a new job?
I receive different variations of this question frequently, and it is a conundrum. So I put the query to a group of ladies at my resume session last weekend, and they had some great suggestions.
Timing. If you need to be dressed in a certain way, but you don’t want to run the risk of being caught, try changing the time of your interview. Most reasonable hiring managers will understand if you need to come in first thing in the morning, over the lunch hour or last thing in the evening. They should understand that you have commitments to your current employer, so see if you can move it to a different time. So see if you can come in late one morning or leave early one day before you play James Bond with your attire.
As one of the women put it, “Do you really want to work in an office where they won’t move the interview a few hours? Are those the kind of bosses you want to have?”
Tissue Paper. One person suggested wearing a blazer and blouse with jeans, then packing your pencil skirt/trousers in tissue paper. The paper will prevent wrinkling, and then you can change in the bathroom on your way out. If you can’t change in your office, I once ducked into a nearby store and asked a very accommodating sales clerk if I could borrow a dressing room.
Bait and Switch. Is the blazer the dead giveaway? Wear it with jeans the day before your interview, and then hang it up in your office or cubicle before you leave for the day. The next day, wear the pencil skirt and blouse with a pair of flats, and simply grab your jacket on the way out the door like it’s no big deal.
The Buddy System. One of my friends had an important interview at a K Street firm. Her boss would have gone ballistic if he knew she was interviewing three-months post-promotion, so she had to get creative. A good friend worked in a nearby building. So she gave her friend the suit a few days before, then went to the friend’s office over the lunch hour to change in their restroom, went on her interview and returned the suit.
Tell Your Boss. There are situations in which telling your boss you’re looking for other work is not possible. There are some employers that become territorial and insecure about their employees, and they just don’t take that news well. If you’re in this situation, then wardrobe stealth is required. But I would wager that the majority of women are not in that situation.
Perhaps, I’ve been lucky, but with the exception of one jackass, I’ve always been able to be honest with my employers about my intentions. In fact, telling them has helped me find open positions, get the best references and line up interviews. So don’t just assume that you can’t be forthcoming with your employer, really take the time to determine what her response might be and whether telling her will be beneficial to you in your search.
Any tips to share on how to look like you’re not interviewing when you are? I recommend not leaving your resume lying around. You’d be shocked how many resumes and cover letters I’ve found in copy, fax and printing machines.