Engineering Interview: Skirt or Pants?

What should women wear to engineering interviews: Skirt or pants

Studies have recommended that women opt for skirts in their job interviews as it helps them build a better first impression. However in STEM, that’s not always the best idea. Skirts and pants can say a lot about a job candidate. While it’s usually not a big deal which one you pick, sometimes one is better than the other.


Figuring out the “skirt or pants” interview attire dilemma

As trivial as this seems to be, first impressions certainly play a role in the candidate selection process. While your bottoms should not be a pivotal deciding factor, it conveys a message about your personality. This could contribute to the final decision, especially if the competition is fierce. Being judged by clothing isn’t fair, but people have pre-existing unconscious biases that we cannot control.

Figure out what the interviewers are looking for

The engineering workplace can differ greatly even within fields. Some important questions to ask are:

  • Where will you be working
  • What are the conditions like?
  • What are your job responsibilities?
  • Who will you be interacting with?

The answers to these questions paint an ideal picture of their new hire. From there, we can figure out which bottoms are more suited for the workplace.

Pants appear practical and hardworking

You can never go wrong with a pair of nice fitting pants. Pants are reliable and practical. Especially in a male-dominated workforce, you can be certain that you and your pants will fit right in.

Professional black pants
Professional black pants

Pants are traditionally more masculine. Thus, a candidate wearing pants will seem to be a better fit for a traditionally masculine job.

Not surprisingly, jobs that prefer masculine personalities tend to involve:

  • getting your hands dirty
  • engaging in physically strenuous activities
  • working in harsh environments

Many people unconsciously associate these activities with masculinity and believe that feminine people are not as suited for these tasks.

In more extreme cases, employers may completely disregard a job applicant because they appear too feminine. This may be illegal, but in most cases it’s nearly impossible to prove that you were discriminated against. Wearing a dress or skirt has some risks as it can cost job opportunities. This is why I consider pants as a safe option. They’re boring, but always acceptable.

Skirts appear professional and friendly

A tasteful dress or skirt can be the perfect combination of professionalism and femininity. While there are jobs where toning down femininity may be advantageous, there are also ones where feminine behavior is more favourable.

Professional black pencil skirt
Professional black pencil skirt

In contrast to trousers, skirts are traditionally more feminine. Thus, a skirt can help you stand out and build that perfect first impression.

In my experience, jobs which typically prefer more feminine candidates tend to involve:

  • dealing with external clients
  • coordinating between multiple teams
  • training or mentoring

Society associates femininity with accommodating, polite, and patient personalities. All of which are needed for the tasks above.

One added bonus of dresses and skirts is its uniqueness. If you’re interviewing for a position in a male-dominated workforce, there’s a high chance that majority of candidates will show up in the same boring suits. Skirts and dresses offer room to be a little creative with your outfit and can be a breath of refresh air for a sleepy interviewer. This could help you stand out from the crowd and be more memorable.

Comfort is key

Despite all these micro fashion strategies, being comfortable and confident with your outfit is a hundred times more important than perfecting your first impression.

I know friends who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a skirt, while others feel more confident wearing one. Of course if you don’t have a preference, a strategic choice between wearing skirt or pants could certainly be beneficial.

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