Career Clinic: Interview tip – bare legs or not?

Bare legs -or not in interviews

Hello   – I was recently turned down for a job and after the interview. When I asked for  feedback I was told that my legs had been bare and one of the panel members had thought this was a negative. Is this quite harsh? I ticked all the boxes otherwise.. Suzie

Hi Suzie   – The song that said a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking has been replaced by bare legs to some. And no  – everything doesn’t go to finish the verse.

But the positive takeaways from this experience is that you asked for feedback. But yes, some companies are conservative,  even if the dress code for the office is smart casual, which can allow bare legs. The people working there already have jobs.  I always suggest that candidates dress appropriately for the sector they wish to interview for. Each profession also has its own uniform and judgments are made on appearances.

The old saying applies – dress for the job you want. Not the job you have! Tweet this

However, unless you’re applying to be a life guard or another occupation where the dress code expectations would be different,  always dress formally for interviews, which will includes tights (pantyhose) or stockings.  Even then, unless you are interviewing at the side of a pool or on the beach, in any office situation full business attire would always be advisable.  You can always take them off when you leave the building.

Unknown factors

Recently one candidate I know, was advised not to come for a second interview wearing red (co-ordinating, expensive) ballet pumps. For some reason they would not have gone down well with the senior management and she was given the heads up before a second interview and went on to get the position. There are also cultural differences, age and even religious factors which might come into play and you may not even be aware of those until you get to the interview and meet the people involved. So caution is advisable.

Then there are the personal care minefields of  the state of your legs. The most important thing is for the focus to be on you – not your legs.  We know that women are judged more harshly on their appearance than men. Dry and flaking, tanned or un-tanned skin and health aspects,  varicose veins or unsightly blemishes are all tricky.  There is also a trend for some not to wear stockings even in the winter. For me there is nothing more unsightly than white goose- bump flesh, red and  blue with cold.  But that’s just me!

My own feeling is that you might have to consider that there were other deal breaking elements involved, but the interviewer chose not to disclose them.

But can a factor as small as bare legs play a key part even though you tick all the boxes? Tweet this

Yes, regrettably it can.

Dear Dorothy
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Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she joins the dots between organisations, individuals, opportunity and success.


  • Laura Daley says:

    I have to say, this infuriates me! I agree with Dorothy’s advice, always within a company’s dresscode, but if this woman chose to not hire her–suit, white shirt, and her under-dress was no stockings on an 80 degree day!! Geez that seems extremely shallow and unfair. It would be easy enough to give you that advice on offering you the job.

    I would second Dorothy’s thought that there may be something else–that she was uncomfortable mentioning ie-cleavage, fit of skirt or jacket…who knows–

    I also think the tough part of dress is that people judge it based on their perspective. If your interviewer is older than you, she/he may bring that perspective of dress with him/her.

    • Dorothy Dalton says:

      Hi Laura – Thanks for your comment. that is the problem with interviews, we never know who is going to be on the other side of the table with their unknown value systems and prejudices. In increasingly multi cultural and cross generaational business environments, we can’t take any chances. I would always recommend erring on the side of caution.

      I was on an interview panel some years ago for a middle management position with a major consulting group. The candidate was fabulous, ticked every box and then some, but he had the barely discernible trace of a hole in his ear. He was cut, not by me, but by male members 15 years my junior. There’s just no accounting for chemistry and what sub text strangers can read into the smallest thing!

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