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The Oracle

How to dress to impress at an interview

updated on 24 July 2018

Dear Oracle

I've got a couple of training contract interviews coming up. Obviously, I need to wear formal/business attire, but what exactly does this mean - especially for women? 

The Oracle replies

Like it or not, when you join the legal profession, you join a world that requires a certain conservatism and level of conformity. When a solicitor or barrister is in court or interacting with business clients, he/she will be wearing a suit. As a result, when you go for interview, you should dress as you would expect to be dressed if you were to get the job. However, you’re right that there are 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, which creates a poor impression from the moment they meet the recruiter. City lawyers are business people and their clients expect them 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. Looking professional does not simply mean investing in a decent suit - although this is certainly the first step. You have to think about your overall presentation. For men, that means arriving either clean shaven or with a kempt beard, having clean, neat hair and not being covered in crumbs or looking like you've been up all night.

For women,  a suit – either trouser or skirt – is equally fine. Likewise shoes - heels are fine, but if they aren’t your thing , a smart pair of flats will serve just as well. Hair can also be up or down, as long as it is smart - looking like you have made an effort is key; being comfortable while doing so will help you feel confident.

You also don’t need to worry about forking out for a bespoke suit - 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. However, we suggest that the safest way 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. Good luck in your interviews!