I am starting to interview and I don't want anyone at my current company to find out. I also have a very short window during lunch break to do so, therefore it is virtually impossible for me to change clothes.

A few companies have specified that I need to dress smart.

If I dress different than usual, everyone in my current company will notice (I normally wear my sport shoes and training-like clothes to work - in the best case, I wear normal, with a shirt under a blazer).

Would it be acceptable if I dress as neatly as possible and explain to my interviewer why I cannot all suited and booted?

  • 2
    Is interviewing at either the beginning or the end of the day not an option? (That would reduce the time pressure, allowing you to change.) May 11, 2014 at 18:39
  • 12
    What came to my mind first is : What if the interview take longer that you expect?
    – Rémi
    May 12, 2014 at 2:06
  • 2
    I hate to break it to you, but unless you're a complete social pariah that no one looks at twice, people are going to find out. There is much more than just how someone dresses on interview day that gives it away. I'd say if you've gotten to the interview stage at least one or two people near you suspect. Jan 11, 2016 at 20:43

5 Answers 5


I usually tell the interviewers at companies that are known to be more conservative that the dress code at my current employer is homeless casual and that dressing any better will telegraph to the current employer that I am desperately seeking. Which is why I am not going to show up at the interview in a suit. No interviewer at any of these more conservative companies has ever pushed back in the last 14 years, especially as the dress code became gradually more casual over the years. That's in NYC.

Your mileage may vary in other parts of the country or even in other countries. Safest way to proceed is to call and notify and explain. You want the interview to be a non-event in terms of surprises. No "shock and awe" - this include making sure that your showing up as-is to be a non-surprise :)

  • +1 - There's nothing wrong with asking. If a company want to hire people who are currently employed, they have to make adjustments.
    – user8365
    Oct 19, 2015 at 13:35
  • +1 just for advising to keep everyone involved informed of the situation. I've never found a company that will not accommodate such a request for new talent and have traveled down this path myself. Jan 11, 2016 at 20:45

It will vary from person to person.

Some will not require an explanation of your attire at all.

Some will view the explanation as acceptable and think nothing further of it (at least consciously - some will continue thinking of it subconsciously, which can still be to your detriment).

Some will view it as either you not taking the interview particularly seriously, or perhaps as a sign of disrespect.

Some will view the explanation itself negatively (making excuses) (but would've been fine had you said nothing).

Another point to consider - how comfortable would you be sitting there in your training clothes with everyone else wearing suits (for example)? Is there a possibility that you'll get the feeling that you're being judged (for your choice of attire) and that will make you (even more) nervous?

Some options I can think of:

  • Take a longer lunch to change.

    This is a good option if lunch breaks aren't too closely monitored, or occasionally taking a bit longer lunch and working a bit later isn't frowned upon.

    Changing should just take a few minutes, assuming you don't have mobility issues.

  • Take the afternoon / day off.

    Giving even a somewhat vague reason (e.g. 'admin') shouldn't be too suspicious, assuming you don't go for interviews too often (if you do, you should probably focus more on roles you're a better fit for anyway).

    If you're not comfortable with giving a somewhat vague reason (or lying), you could always plan to do some actual admin task during the afternoon or day as well, as to use that as the reason instead.

  • Wear half of what you plan on wearing to the interview to work.

    Would sport shoes, formal pants and a formal shirt hanging out look like you're overdressing? From there it should be a really quick change. Try to wear as much as possible of the clothes which you're going to wear so changing can be done really quickly.

  • Start dressing up to work (most days / every day).

    As mentioned in the above point, you don't have to wear the full interview attire, nor does it even have to look particularly formal, it just has to be some bits and pieces to make changing less effort.

    Incrementally dressing up could be a good idea - wear formal pants with your current attire for a while, then change the shirt, etc.

  • 3
    I had coworkers who celebrated 'Tie Tuesday'. They would wear ties on Tuesday, and at least one would really vary his attire from very casual to an occasional suit. So we quit noticing when he dressed up, and interview clothes would have been part of the normal variety. May 12, 2014 at 16:41

If you have the opportunity to plan in advance, I would advise gradually starting to dress smarter, up to the point where you just dress like that all the time (there's nothing wrong with dressing smartly for work).

If anybody asks, say your SO was nagging you about how you dress, then when you have your job interview you don't have a problem.


You can dress formally and mention you're going to the theatre or other formal event after work. "Yes, I'm all dressed up. My sister will bring her fiance's parents for dinner and my mother said I absolutely had to look good, you know mothers..."

  • 3
    While this may work once, it's going to be pretty obvious what's going on if you try it again. Oct 19, 2015 at 9:38
  • 1
    Not everyone wants to lie to their employer. Besides, a lie is something you have to remember. If you just don't mention it, you don't have to remember what you said later.
    – Jane S
    Oct 20, 2015 at 4:14
  • @JaneS Steve is looking for a different job behind his company's back - he's already lying by not telling the truth. Although I agree with "having to remember later" part. But he already has to do that. "Yeah, this road is jammed even at 13, I've seen it... when I was there... on my day off some time ago, I mean".
    – Karolina
    Nov 30, 2015 at 11:03
  • I know it's probably not meant to be serious, but... that's a terrible excuse.
    – jmorc
    Jan 12, 2016 at 11:32

You say,

therefore it is virtually impossible for me to change clothes.

Is it really impossible for your to change clothes? Really, really?

I have been able to change clothes on the fly, as have several friends, so it is possible. Note that I don't wear suits to work. I rarely work in places where I have to wear a collared shirt and slacks are right out. Yet, I have gone on many a lunchtime interview throughout my working career.

How? Easy:

  • The suit and shirt are kept in my car, hanging up. My dress shoes are on the floor.

  • As soon as I get into to my car, I check to make sure no one is around, then I kick off my shoes and switch pants - this takes about 1 minute.

  • I take off my shirt and put on the undershirt - another minute.
  • I start driving. When I get to a stop light, I put on the shirt and button it up
  • Next light, I put on the tie.
  • Next light, I swap my regular socks for dress socks and put on the dress shoes.

When I get to the interview place, I check myself in the car's mirror to make sure the tie/collar are good, then get out.

I tuck my shirt in my pants and put on the jacket and go to the interview.

Coming back, everything goes in reverse.

  • 1
    One of my jobs is at an elementary school so... being found without pants on in the parking lot would be a very, very bad thing. For that matter being found without pants on ANYWHERE would be a very bad thing. Although there are probably other options. At a pinch you can use a gas station or fast food restaurant bathroom. Jan 13, 2016 at 17:23
  • -1 Above answer assumes OP has a car and lives in an area where commuting by car makes sense (versus a densely populated metro area like NYC where you would most likely be taking public transportation). Happy to remove my downvote once BryanH adjusts his strategy to address how to change on the subway without violating public decency laws. Jan 15, 2016 at 3:49

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