updated on 15 February 2022
I've got a training contract interview coming up. I know that I need to wear formal/business attire, but what does that mean?
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First impressions are everything. As with most, if not all, job interviews it’s important that you present yourself professionally at your training contract interview, assessment centres or other parts of the recruitment process. Remember, that this advice applies to interviews taking place virtually and in person.
When a solicitor or barrister is in court or interacting with business clients, they will be wearing a suit. As a result, when you go for your interview, the best practice is to dress as though you are already doing the job. However, you’re right that there are often more subtleties to this than you might initially expect – especially for women.
Some people, sadly, get the dress code completely wrong, normally by not being smart enough. This will likely create a poor impression from the moment a candidate meets the law firm’s recruiter(s). City lawyers are business people and law firms’ clients expect their lawyers to look the part. Part of the job is projecting the image of a trusted adviser; not in a stuffy, Dickensian, bowler hat kind of way, but clients expect to see someone credible. While wearing our so-called ‘comfies’ (otherwise known as pyjamas) over the past two years working virtually has been acceptable to an extent, lawyers must always look professional when interacting with clients.
Therefore, graduate recruiters will also expect you to look the part when you turn up to your interview. You should wear a suit of some description – that could be a blazer/jacket and a shirt, with trousers or a skirt, or a suit dress. Comfortable yet smart shoes are also recommended; it’s so much easier to focus on feeling confident when you are comfortable in your clothes. If you want to wear heels, that’s up to you – but it’s by no means a necessity.
Your clothes are not the only aspect of your outfit that you should consider – for example, ties, bags, headscarves, facemasks, necklaces and watches. Make sure you choose subtle items that won’t detract from you acing the interview! Hair should also be neat and, if applicable, facial hair must look professional.
You don’t need to worry about forking out on a bespoke outfit – there are plenty of good, reasonably priced options to be found on the high street.
Finally, it is worth noting that the dress code may vary slightly from firm to firm. For example, you might turn up to your interview to find that the office attire is more casual than what you are wearing. However, our advice is to attend your interview erring towards the smarter end of the spectrum, and if you later get the job and discover the firm to favour a more casual style, then adjust your wardrobe accordingly.
When it comes to interviews, it’s always better to go for fully formal business attire than underdress. If you’re accepted onto a firm’s training contract, you might also want to revisit this advice for your first day or until you’re told otherwise.
In the words of bestselling author Austin Kleon, “dress for the job you want.”
Good luck with your interviews!