Applying for the job next door.
February 2, 2014 6:35 AM   Subscribe

I want to apply for a job that, unfortunately, happens to be located a few floors below mine in the same office building I currently work in. We're talking about 20 floors total in the building, so it's not a huge place. If I get an interview, how do I make this work?

There are some complications, natch. First, it is a job at a different firm doing essentially what I do now. My boss takes things like this personally, so he would view my application (if he found out) as disloyalty. There's very little doubt in my mind that he would fire me on the spot. (I realize the shared elevator bank could potentially make things awkward if I got and took the new job, but that doesn't concern me much.)

Second, my office is casual. People wear jeans every day. I can wear khakis without people commenting, but that's about as fancy as I can pull off without people noticing. I would, of course, want to wear a suit to an interview. Two ideas I've thought of: (1) find a professional networking event going on the day of my interview, and attend so I have an excuse to be wearing a suit; and (2) tell the new employer about our casual dress code and see if they would be okay with me not wearing a suit to interview for this reason.

Finally, while the "same building" issue is one I could avoid by not applying for this job, it is a small community and the rest of these factors will be present for any potential move. There are some good aspects of my job, but there are enough substantial ones that not exploring my options out of fear is a path I am unlikely to consider.

So, how do I do this with the least risk to my current employment?
posted by J. Wilson to Work & Money (17 answers total)
On the first count: Hiring folks are usually very conscious of their prospective hires' need to avoid upsetting things in their current position. They are likely to work with you to avoid tipping your current boss off, especially if they are very interested in you. Just explain your situation to the folks at Potential New Firm, and I'm confident they'll make sure things work out for you. It's pretty unlikely that your boss will get on the elevator at the same time you do, and "catch" you going to the Other Firm's offices, right?

On the second count: I think your idea of attending a professional networking event on the same day as your interview is good, but just saying that you have X formal event right after work would probably do the trick, too. Do you drive? If so, leave your tie and jacket in the car and wear slacks and a button down during the rest of the work day...while dressier than your colleagues, at least it would stand out less than a full suit.

Good luck!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:47 AM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would ask, if you are offered an interview, if you can have the interview off-site, for privacy reasons. And explain the situation. Meet at a quite coffee shop or something, and wear a suit. Take a personal day from work.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:04 AM on February 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

Bring a suit to work and change in a bathroom. If that bathroom has to be in a coffee shop, so be it.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:13 AM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

My boss takes things like this personally, so he would view my application (if he found out) as disloyalty. There's very little doubt in my mind that he would fire me on the spot.

In my mind, this is a very good reason to apply elsewhere. Sounds pretty toxic. (Also, is it even legal to fire someone for interviewing at other companies?)

You can be sneaky about this. Ask for an interview before or after work hours, or off site. If that's not possible, take a day off and schedule your interview for a time when your coworkers are less likely to be coming and going, like midmorning or midafternoon. Change outside of your office - in a nearby restaurant, or find out if there's a guest bathroom in the lobby you can use.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:32 AM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I worked in a casual office and interviewed for jobs without wanting my bosses and colleagues to know. I changed into a suit in the bathroom and bolted for the door. YMMV depending on your office layout.

Agree re: asking for an offsite interview. That seems eminently reasonable to me, esp. given that your current employer is your resume, which should already have alerted them to your situation.
posted by eugenen at 7:50 AM on February 2, 2014

Wear a suit to the interview, don't tell them you'd like to wear casual attire because your current office has that dress a hiring manager I'd be thinking "so why are you applying here?"

I'd definitely change in a bathroom. Ideally, leave for "lunch" with your backpack, go up to the floor you're interviewing on, with any luck it is the kind of building with bathrooms on each floor in common areas, change there, and ask the receptionist at the interview site if you can leave your backpack at the desk while you're interviewing.

Definitely ask for confidentiality from the interviewer, and I might mention that you work in the same building during the interview just so there isn't an accidental "J. Wilson! Nice to see you again?" in an accidental and awkward shared elevator ride in the future, if you don't get the job.

Good luck!
posted by arnicae at 8:20 AM on February 2, 2014

Also, you could get on the elevator on your own floor, get off on any other floor, change on that random floor, and then take the stairs to your appointment. Reverse the process. Nobody has to see you in the elevator in the "wrong" place.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 8:35 AM on February 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

(Also, is it even legal to fire someone for interviewing at other companies?)

Assuming we're talking about the US, it is legal to fire someone for literally ANY reason whatsoever except discrimination against a very narrow set of protected classes. In many states you can say to someone "You are fired because you are gay" and that is entirely legal.

Anyway. Do you really absolutely need to wear a suit to the interview, as opposed to khakis and a tie you whip out at the right moment? I know it varies by industry but it's getting to be less and less of a "thing."
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:01 AM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wear the suit, I like the idea of getting off on a neutral floor and taking the stairs. Odds are in your favour that no one will be the wiser. Taking the day off for the interview may be more difficult if you bump into any one who knows you.
posted by arcticseal at 9:01 AM on February 2, 2014

I mean, the clothes you wear to work plus a jacket and tie will probably look a hell of a lot better than a suit you smuggled in in a backpack!
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:02 AM on February 2, 2014

Yes, I need to wear a suit. I'm a lawyer and in this industry it is standard interview attire, even though many offices are now business casual. Khakis, a tie and blazer would look very out of place, in my opinion.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:50 AM on February 2, 2014

In terms of bringing a suit into work - bring it in a couple of days early in a dry cleaning bag as if you'd just picked up dry cleaning and hang it on the back of your office door.
posted by sciencegeek at 10:33 AM on February 2, 2014

You can explain away wearing a suit by saying something like you're going to a funeral or wedding immediately after work and won't have time to change.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:41 AM on February 2, 2014

Just do absolutely nothing differently at your current job. Do not breathe a hint or a word. Work the same as always. Wear the same clothes as always.

As soon as you contact this new employer, explain the situation so they don't say something to your current boss. Change into the suit literally in the bathroom/lobby of the new office. Tell the receptionist you need to use the restroom and do it. Should be no problem. Then change back, walk out, act as though nothing happened. Tell interviewer you cannot give current reference as your boss does not know you are looking for new work.
posted by quincunx at 11:02 AM on February 2, 2014

A travel garment bag (of the sort that allows you to pack a suit into a carry-on or suitcase) is just fine for transporting an interview suit. You can keep it in the trunk of your car if you drive to work, then change in a neutral bathroom. Many are designed to fit into a 22" carry on so if you do not drive to work, you could conceal it in a large backpack. Wear trail runners with your casual attire and your oversized backpack and claim you are going hiking after work. Schedule your interview late and then "take a hike".
posted by crazycanuck at 11:03 AM on February 2, 2014

To build on a couple ideas above:

Bring your interview suit into your office in a garment bag, and per Oriole Adams, mention that you need to attend a funeral that afternoon..... work Current Job in the morning, then take off work for the afternoon while claiming the mythical funeral; change into that interview suit. Post-interview, go directly home. The only catch here is that you'll have to be sure to schedule the interview well: you don't want it to be at lunchtime, when you risk being seen in the elevator or building lobby by your coworkers or current boss; and you don't want to be seen leaving the building at 5pm when current coworkers are knocking off for the day: "hey, didn't you take off a couple hours ago? What are you doing still here?"

Alternatively, yeah, a totally off-the-premises interview location would be even better; any way you could do it as a lunch meeting somewhere away from your current coworkers usual lunch spots?
posted by easily confused at 12:29 PM on February 2, 2014

Schedule your interview first thing in the morning, as early as you can. (Bonus: you get to have your meeting before the day's stuff starts happening.) Bring suit with you in garment bag in case you run into anyone (worst case, you mention you're dropping off dry-cleaning after work.) Change in bathroom after interview; go to work, hang your dry cleaning bag in your office.

The less lying you do, the better, honestly. Don't say you're going to a funeral - this quickly gets creepy, people offer condolences, etc., it's gross to lie about that. Just say you will be in late.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:56 PM on February 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

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