Bare Legs or Pantyhose at Job Interviews?

Joyce Lain Kennedy
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Posted: Aug 05, 2009 12:01 AM

DEAR JOYCE: What is the current thinking on whether or not to wear pantyhose to a job interview? I think it's an outdated idea, especially in the summer, but my mother thinks I'll look tacky if I go bare-legged. Who's right? -- J.J.

When in Rome, dress as Romans -- costume yourself to look as though you belong in the culture where you're interviewing.

Discover what the natives wear by (1) asking the human resources department about the company's dress code, (2) finding a chatty employee who can give you the pantyhose news, or (3) loitering near the workplace to directly observe the in-the-flesh issue.

In my book, "Job Interviews For Dummies," I describe at length the particulars of the evolving dress code, including this advice: "Dress the best you're ever going to look in the job you want."

Your disagreement with mom about pantyhose is, in the main, a generational thing. Most women who began working before 1990 wouldn't think of appearing in a public workplace without wearing pantyhose (or nylons with a garter belt), but many women who started working within the last two decades think pantyhose are beyond frumpy -- they're Jurassic.

Whatever your personal view, get ready to pay off. Mom wins big-time on the only survey I've seen concerning the hosiery-or-not issue -- an online poll on Alison Doyle's Web site, jobsearch.about.com. Search for "panty hose." And be sure to read the 50 across-the-spectrum comments following her article, "Should You Wear Panty Hose to a Job Interview?" Here are five comment excerpts:

-- "Women with very tan, smooth and unblemished legs, and shoes that cover much of the foot, can probably get away with not wearing hose."

-- "Stay with pants suits if you do not like panty hose."

-- "Who wears a dress or skirt to an interview these days anyway? I say pants suits and trouser socks all the way!"

-- "There are companies where slacks are not allowed for women and they are required to wear panty hose year 'round. No woman over 45 should wear a skirt at or above her knees without hose -- gravity wins and its first conquest(s) are your knees. I know."

-- "Two words: yeast infections. I would never, ever consider working for a company that makes wearing hosiery a requirement. I think to force that (as part of the dress code) is incredibly sexist and inconsiderate."

DEAR JOYCE: I'm fortunate to have been offered a better job, which I have gladly accepted. Although I have some beefs with my present employer, I want to resign with grace. Protocol? -- N.B.L.

Good decision. One of my favorite quotes concerning the job you're leaving comes from columnist Bob Rosner: "Don't think of it as your old job, but as your newest reference."

After you get your new offer in writing, compose a civil letter of resignation and meet with your boss. Or you can resign verbally and leave the letter. Say your new job is too good to pass up. You appreciate everything you learned while at the old job and will work to help train your replacement, or otherwise ease the changeover anyway you can.

As you recognize, there is absolutely no advantage to not looking as good going away as you did coming in.

DEAR JOYCE: After resigning from my crummy job to enter law school, I was asked to sit for an exit interview. I see no reason to tell them all the things really wrong here, including the department manager, whom I hope to never see again. -- S.B.

Nor do I -- from your perspective. You admire the company. You admire the boss. You admire the coworkers. Even when you feel like shouting, "That's it, I'm outta here," there's no sense making enemies who could come back to haunt you years later. Short-lived satisfaction isn't worth it.