Dressing for an interview
Whether we like it or not, first impressions are extremely important. If you are applying to a vacation scheme or a training contract, the interview will most likely be the first time you find yourself speaking to your prospective employers face to face. Presenting yourself in a professional and respectable manner on the day of the interview is just as important as arriving at the interview well-prepared and knowledgeable of the company.
Do I need to wear a suit for my training contract interview?
You will be expected to dress smartly for your interview, and a suit is the ideal attire. The law firm is assessing whether or not you would make a good solicitor at their company, so they will definitely consider the way you choose to present yourself. This is because you will eventually be dealing with clients who are paying your firm considerable sums of money—and in return, they are expecting their lawyer to appear professional and responsible.
You might not yet have an appropriate wardrobe, but you'll have to dress smartly every day of your training contract.
How smart do I have to be?
We've established you need something that resembles a suit—so a jacket or blazer with a shirt, and suit trousers or a skirt. You might want to be creative and unique, but a colourful suit is not the way to go. Stick to black, grey or navy. Once you've bagged the contract, you can see what your colleagues wear and decide if it's worth mixing it up a little. The same goes for ties, socks and headscarves—go for a dark, neutral colour and keep the novelty ones at home for the time being. Opt for a white shirt buttoned to the top. If you decide to wear a skirt (you don't have to!), keep it knee-length and wear tights.
Shoes should be smart and discreet. A pair of smart flat shoes that do not cause any discomfort is ideal. Please note, heels are also not obligatory and do not opt for trainers.
If you need to bring a bag, make sure it looks professional and keep it as small as possible. Make sure you can close your bag properly—the interviewer doesn't need to see a disorganised mess of tangled headphones and chewing-gum wrappers.
Keep make-up and jewellery to a minimum. The impression you leave should be from your interview answers, not your external appearance.
You don't need to wear a waistcoat, top hat or a pocket-watch, as these might be pushing the smart attire a little too far...
What about my actual appearance?
There aren't any specific rules about hairstyles, but you'll need to keep it neat rather than fashionable. The same goes for facial hair—you can keep it if it looks professional, but maybe the beginning of your legal career isn't the time to see if that patchy stubble will turn into a Gandalf beard. Essentially, you want to make it look like you made an effort for the interview.
Do I need to spend a lot of money?
You don't need to run off to a designer boutique, but your training contract is the beginning of your legal career, and the way you dress for your interview is the way you'll be dressing every day. So it's worth investing in a few outfits now. You'll be able to upgrade your wardrobe once you finally get your hands on a salary, so for now, stick to pieces that are versatile yet professional.
But no one else is wearing a suit!
Your colleagues may dress in a more relaxed way in smaller firms or when they are not dealing with clients. However, this will only become apparent once you've started your contract and have become part of the team. Although you may feel more comfortable dressing in your usual attire, you are unlikely to leave the same impression had you dressed smartly.
Think of it this way: you're trying to convince your interviewer that you'll make a great solicitor one day. If you look like a solicitor, you're halfway there.
Selection & Assessment