When you’re interviewing for a job, it can be hard to gauge company culture from afar. And if you earn the chance to interview in person, deducing the unofficial dress code can be a challenge. That’s why we think it’s best to always err on the side of formality. Think of our fictional friend Myrtle…

Myrtle was an environmental activist and she carried that young hippie vibe with confidence. She grew her own kale and used it in homemade organic juice blends. She knew the difference between the garbage, compost, and recycling bins and was never shy about educating the aloof bin offenders. She had a cause she was passionate about and was ready for a career dedicated to making the earth a sustainable place to live.

Luckily, she was already well on her way. She’d had a good phone interview with the international organization GreenPeas, and today she was going to meet them in person. Myrtle felt ready – she knew all about GreenPeas’ ongoing initiatives and thought her dedicated activist background made for a great match.

Her anxiety only kicked in when she opened her closet door. She was reaching for the simple inconspicuous dress amid the sea of flannel, but then she paused:

Is this really what I should be wearing? Something boring that doesn’t reflect my authentic self?

Myrtle thought back to her phone interview. It had been an easy conversation where they discussed everything from the job’s day-to-day responsibilities to the perils of asparagus farming. Myrtle put the plain dress back in the closet in favor of her favorite flannel and vintage Birkenstock sandals.

These guys get me. This will be better.

It wasn’t better. When Myrtle walked into the office it was a business casual scene with nary a flannel to be found. To add insult to injury, her sandals hadn’t seen the light of day in many months and seemed to be wafting an unusual scent that was attracting attention from passersby. Not good Myrtle, not good.

Things did not improve when she was called in for her interview. It was immediately clear to everyone in the room that Myrtle was underdressed. And unfortunately for Myrtle, this seemingly small factor was a major distraction. The interview should have been focused around Myrtle’s portfolio of experience; instead, it was awkward from the get-go and left a regrettable lingering sandal smell.

Myrtle did not receive the job offer. And while she won’t be chaining herself to train tracks with Greenpeas anytime soon, she has some promising prospects coming down the pike. And thankfully, the plagued Birkenstocks have found their rightful place in the closet once again.

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