Interview 101: How to Rock a Basic Black Suit
Many of Practical Paralegalism’s readers tell me they are interviewing for law firm jobs for the first time, as they start first, second or third careers. Others are interviewing for new jobs after economic layoffs, and some are trying to get back in the legal field after a long hiatus to raise a family or care for a parent. Most of them have limited budgets, and most want to stretch their dollars to the max by working with an essential professional wardrobe basic that many of them already own: the black suit.
Throughout my legal career, I’ve always owned at least one black suit, like this Tahari suit
from Overstock. It’s hard to go wrong with basic black, which is classic, elegant and figure-flattering. You can mix a black suit with a variety of blouses and accessories, dress it up or down, or create a look that’s ultra-conservative or a little bit edgy, depending on what you’re doing.
But how can you keep your basic black suit from appearing completely boring on that first interview? How do you walk that fine
line between looking dowdy (or worse, like a flight attendant) – or memorably professional, confident and modern?
You can brighten up a black suit with a sleeveless blouse in a color that flatters your skin tone. With so many of today’s designs featuring well-tailored twists, pleats or ruffles, you can find an inexpensive solid-colored top that adds an interesting design element to an otherwise unadorned basic suit and allows you to unbutton your jacket so you can show off the details – and breathe.
Depending on the neckline, adding either a modern take on classic pearls, such as this adjustable multi-strand necklace from Kohl’s
, or a small
pair of elegant earrings, provides that extra polish. (When in doubt I swear by my clearance-sale bezel-set diamond studs or my grandmother’s pearls, but whatever you do, avoid combining a chunky necklace with matching chunky earrings for law firm interviews.)
If you rock that simple black suit and score a second or third interview, don’t panic – or run out and buy more suits you can’t afford yet. You can wear the same jacket over a solid faux wrap or shift dress, or replace the pants with a black skirt and add a pretty print blouse. That pair of classic black heels that every legal professional should own can go with all of your black suit combinations – at least until you get that first paycheck.
If you haven’t interviewed for a law firm in a while (or ever), here are a few tips to make that first impression one of a competent, energetic and intelligent legal professional:
- Make sure your hair, make-up and even your eyeglasses are understated and classic, but flattering. (Ask some professional friends for feedback on your interview looks, especially if you haven’t changed a thing since high school.)
- Carry a classic purse or briefcase with well-organized contents – especially if those contents include your resume, references and/or writing samples.
- Keep fingernail polish clear or neutral.
- Turn your cell phone off before you enter the building.
Now go out there and rock that essential basic black suit!Related Post: What to Wear to a Paralegal Job Interview