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The Oracle

What should I wear to an interview?

updated on 18 March 2024

Dear Oracle

I've got a training contract interview coming up. I know I need to wear ‘formal/business attire’, but what does that actually mean?

The Oracle replies

Reading time: three minutes

First impressions are everything. As with most, if not all, interactions with a potential employer, it’s important to present yourself professionally. This advice applies to not only candidates who are preparing for training contract, vacation scheme or pupillage interviews, but also those who are attending a law firm open day or insight evening, for example. It also applies to interviews taking place virtually and in person.

When a solicitor or barrister is in court or interacting with business clients, they’ll be wearing smart attire. As a result, when you go for your interview, the best practice is to dress as though you’re already doing the job. However, you’re right that there are often more subtleties to this than you might initially expect – especially for women.

It can be easy to get the dress code completely wrong, normally by not being smart enough. Unfortunately, this will likely create a poor impression from the moment a candidate meets the law firm’s recruiter(s). 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) while working from home is acceptable to an extent, lawyers should always look professional when interacting with clients.

Therefore, graduate recruiters will expect you to look the part when you show up for your interview. You should wear a suit of some description – this 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’re comfortable in what you’re wearing.

Your clothes aren’t the only aspect of your outfit that you should consider. Showing your personality through appropriate accessories (think jewellery, nails, headscarves, ties and cufflinks) is also encouraged; dressing smartly doesn’t mean you have to lose your own sense of style! Hair should also be tidy and, if applicable, facial hair should 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. A charity shop trip could also prove worthwhile!

Finally, 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’re wearing. However, our advice is to always attend your interview erring towards the smarter end of the spectrum, and if you later get the job and discover the firm favours a more casual style, then simply adjust your wardrobe accordingly.

When it comes to interviews, or similar interactions, 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!