Miss Manners

Miss Manners: Interview dress code should be clearly spelled out

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I went to an interview for a part-time job wearing an expensive blazer and blouse, heels, good jewelry and makeup, along with a pair of classically tailored denim trousers — not jeans.

The administrative assistant met me at the door with a full-bodied scream — I do not exaggerate — “You’re wearing jeans! Mr. X. hates jeans.”

I was somewhat taken aback, but I said calmly, “If you have a company dress code, I shall tell him that, if hired, I shall certainly comply with it.”

Her response was to tell me that I could not interview that day and to come back when I was dressed differently. I left feeling confused and insulted. I was not told to wear specific clothes to the interview, and I certainly looked professional; I am 60 years old and a college professor.

My thoughts are that if this company did not want to hire me, that was entirely up to them, but to treat me this way was incredibly discourteous. Am I wrong to feel this way?

GENTLE READER: You are not, Miss Manners assumes, asking her to understand the distinction between denim trousers and jeans, even if Praxiteles himself did the alterations.

But perhaps she can help by sharing her suspicion that the administrative assistant may not have been acting with the full support of her boss and company. As you say, why would the company encourage such behavior?

If Miss Manners is correct, you might have a different problem, namely that the assistant, surprised at your compliance, neglected to mention to her boss not just your apparel, but your appearance. A written note to the boss explaining that you were sorry to be turned away from the interview should result in his either chastising the assistant or — if she was transmitting his orders — thanking her for sparing him the sight of denim.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter and her boyfriend eloped in Hawaii. His mother is on the East Coast and I’m on the West Coast. I’ve never met her, and I’d like to send her a card saying how sweet I think her son is and how happy I am for them . . . along with congratulating the two new mothers-in-law!

I asked my daughter for her address, and she told me it would be too “weird” to write her. I’d love receiving a card from her! Do I need to catch up with this new generation?

GENTLE READER: “Weird”? To express goodwill to someone whom your daughter has brought into the family? You now have a relationship with this lady, and Miss Manners encourages you to welcome her, as well as to explain to your daughter that marriages unite two families.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A business associate, a lawyer in our firm, passed away. The cases that he was working on have been reassigned to my boss.

When is it appropriate to ask his staff to give me the files and discuss the cases with me? He passed away over the weekend and the funeral is today.

GENTLE READER: Mourning etiquette has recognized shades of gray for longer than it has clothed itself in black and (for children) white.

Those closest to the deceased are expected to grieve the most and need the greatest time to recover. Business associates at the office are presumed to be at the opposite end of a spectrum, able to carry on necessary business.

Shocking and upsetting as the loss may be to the staff of the deceased, etiquette does not require a waiting period before one can request the files, though Miss Manners would suggest not doing so on the day of the funeral.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com.

, by Judith Martin

 
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