Interviews can be stressful for a number of reasons, and one of those reasons for many people is not knowing exactly what to wear.
Should you put on a full suit? What kind of shoes do you need? Can you go casual and pull your most comforting pair of leggings into the outfit? This last question especially has become one which has been frequently in recent years owing to the rise of leggings as fashion pieces.
In general, wearing leggings alone to a professional interview is frowned upon because their casual nature clashes with traditional business dress code. This may create an unfavourable first impression upon the hiring team and put you on the back foot from the off. There are of course exceptions to this rule, with plenty of ways to style leggings effectively into acceptable interview outfits.
Curious about how leggings fit into interview dress codes, and how you can make them fit if you really want to? Here’s some tips to help pull it all together.
Is wearing leggings to an interview a bad idea?
Whilst leggings absolutely do have their place in modern business attire, to improve your chance of being hired and create a strong first impression with the interview panel they should at most be used as a piece of your outfit for your bottom half.
Leggings alone should not be considered appropriate attire for an interview setting unless you are entirely confident you have the hiring company’s dress code and ethos dialled in, and know they will not be influenced by such a casual outfit.
Most interviews require a semi-formal or formal outfit. Leggings fall squarely into the casual category of clothing, and are therefore a risky inclusion.
There are some exceptions to this rule, however.
For instance, if you are interviewing for a position in the fitness industry, such as to be a trainer at a gym, then wearing leggings (ahead of a formal suit) would make you more relatable.
You might also choose to wear leggings to an interview for a retail sales position with a company who sell the garments as part of their inventory. In fact, wearing leggings produced by that company can be a point in your favor to show that you are familiar with and enjoy the products you would be selling.
If you choose to wear leggings under a skirt because the weather outside is cold, you’ll likely be just fine. It’s a good idea to wear higher-coverage shoes like boots if you plan to do this, to cover the gap at the end of the leggings. Besides being warmer, this also makes telling leggings and tights apart significantly harder.
How to style leggings into an interview outfit
If you are interviewing for a company with a business casual dress code, you’ll probably be able to get away with wearing leggings provided you do it in a specific way.
First of all, don’t wear leggings as your main bottom piece. Whilst they could be considered business casual they are overwhelmingly associated with athletic and informal outfits. Instead, use them to supplement your existing bottoms; wear them under a dress or skirt.
Second of all, choose plain leggings rather than patterned ones. Patterned leggings are pretty but attract a lot of attention to your legs, which isn’t helpful during an interview; you want the attention to be on your face. Choose solid colors and neutrals to compliment your outfit.
Finally, avoid using pockets in leggings. Nothing looks stranger than hiking up your skirt to access a pocket on your leg during an interview. Even if the leggings you choose have pockets in them, don’t put anything you might need to access during the interview (such as your phone) in those pockets.
What should you wear to an interview?
What you need to wear to an interview depends largely on the job and company that you’re interviewing for. Most companies will have an established dress code; they’ll have a set “look” for their employees to keep up with the company branding.
You’ll want to match this look when you come in for your interview.
Choosing the right outfit for your interview shows the company a number of things about you.
- Firstly, it shows that you care about your interview; if you’ve taken the time to select an appropriate outfit, they can be confident that you have take the time to prepare for your interview and want to make a good impression.
- Secondly, it shows that you understand your workplace; having an outfit that aligns with the company’s branding and overall vibe shows that you know and care about the company’s values and are willing to uphold them.
- Thirdly, it makes you appear well put-together; a clean, pressed, and professional outfit helps you show off your attention to detail and organization.
For most industries, the office standard falls somewhere on the spectrum from fully formal (think suits, ties, and dresses) to semi-formal (button-ups and trousers, but not full suits). You may also hear the term “business casual” to describe the expected dress code – this means a blend of casual pieces like dark jeans with professional pieces like button-ups.
How to style an interview outfit
The kind of outfit you choose doesn’t really change between in person interviews and digital ones. The main difference is that, for a digital interview, you’ll want to focus on your appearance from the waist up and your background.
For both types of interview, though, here are some tips for styling an interview outfit.
- Do your research. If you’re interviewing for a retail position, visit the store before your interview to see what people are wearing. If you’re interviewing for an office position or another position you can’t readily visit, take a look through the company’s website and see what their employees are wearing in photographs and videos.
- Default to business attire. If you can’t find any information about the company’s dress code, you should default to traditional formal business attire. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
- Set it out in advance. Ideally, you’ll want to set your interview outfit out the night before your interview so that you don’t have to scramble for it day-of. You’ve got plenty of other things to keep your mind occupied; don’t make your clothes one of them.
- Prep and polish. Make sure that your clothes are clean, wrinkle-free, and devoid of holes, tears, pet hair, or stains.
- Accessorize minimally. For men, this might mean adding only a simple belt. For women, this might be wearing simple jewelry and carrying a small, plain purse.
- Wear your glasses. If you have glasses, wear them. Research has suggested that wearing glasses to an interview can make you appear smarter and more capable.
What you wear to an interview isn’t the deciding factor in whether or not you get the job, but it can change how you are perceived from the moment you walk in the door. Choosing to wear leggings to a traditional job interview might not immediately disqualify you, but it’s not going to help your case.
If you want to wear leggings to an interview, make sure you use them as an undergarment rather than the main bottom piece, opt for plain rather than patterned leggings, and avoid storing anything you might need to access inside legging pockets.
Whatever you wear, wear it with confidence. You’ve been deemed good enough to get to the interview stage, so the company already sees something valuable in you. Trust yourself, rock your outfit, and focus on giving the best interview possible.
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