The Rules about Dresses for a “Business Casual” Interviewing Event

The Rules about Dresses for a "Business Casual" Interviewing Event || CorporetteWhat are the rules for dresses in a business casual environment — and how do those vary if you’re interviewing, networking, or just working? Reader H wonders what to wear to a dinner reception/interview situation that has a business casual dress code.

I have a dinner reception to attend the night before a second/final round interview at a consulting firm, at one of their Midwest firms. Other attendants at the dinner will be employees from the firm including staff to partners, and also other candidates. The stipulated dress code is business casual. I have read your other posts on business lunches, and I understand you recommend trousers/pants. However, I almost always wear skirts or dresses. Could you give me some guidance in terms of what I can wear? Specifically, what kind of dresses or skirts would be appropriate? (e.g. sheath dress? pencil skirts?). Should I stick to solids, or are prints acceptable? What about colors? Should I keep it strictly neutral? As for tops, does it need to have collar? Are sleeves required? What about the sleeve length (is showing elbows ok?). Finally, should I wear a jacket, and if so, what type? Suit jacket? Slightly less formal? Is cardigan acceptable? Thanks for your help.

Wow — Reader H has a ton of questions here, so I’m going to bang out some answers, but (as always) I’m curious to hear what the readers say. A few things to note at the outset: obviously look at this dinner reception as an interview (or part of the interviewing process) since you’ll be evaluated in part based on the impression you make at this reception, and obviously the answer is going to differ a bit from region to region. That said, here are some quick and dirty answers from me… (Pictured: Theory – Betty Tailor Dress – was $295 now marked to $176.98 at Nordstrom (tons of sizes left in both indigo and charcoal).) [Read more...]

The Hunt: Charcoal Suits

The Best Charcoal Suits for Interviewing | CorporetteSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

Charcoal suits are one of the great basics for working women — particularly for interviewing. A nice dark charcoal in a seasonless wool can be worn with almost any color, but they look particularly great with white and pastel button-front blouses. Even though interview season is coming up, a lot of stores don’t have any gray suits available online as of this writing (e.g., Ann Taylor, Brooks Brothers, Reiss, Talbots), so perhaps check again in a few weeks if you’re on a personal hunt and none of the below fit the bill. Readers, how do you like to wear gray suits the best — with pastels? With jewel tones? Worn as separates? [Read more...]

Building a Wardrobe for Law School

How to Build a Wardrobe for Law School | CorporetteWhat clothes should you add to your wardrobe before you attend law school?  Reader N has a great question:

I am in my mid-twenties and will be starting law school this fall. I’ve spent my time since undergrad traveling (living out of a backpack) and working with kids (only wearing clothes that could get messy).

I’ve set aside some money to buy a new wardrobe for law school, but am looking for advice on what I should invest in that will be part of my wardrobe over the next three years. The school I’m going to is in a city that has a long, cold winter, and the sense I get is that the school generally has a preppy vibe. Any advice?

Good luck to Reader N!  I’m one of those people who enjoyed law school more than the practice of law so I think fondly of my years there — they were intense but fun.* We’ve talked about which bags are great for law school (way back in 2008!) but we haven’t actually talked about what to wear to law school.  I think this is a great question, and mid-July is a perfect time to think about it. Where I went (Georgetown ’03) people wore everything from business suits to sweatpants — one professor actually gave us a list of tips during our 1L finals week that included tips like “don’t forget to bathe.” So “laid back” can be an understatement, and I suspect a lot of your wardrobe will already work just fine for the classes themselves.

So instead, let’s look at what clothes you will definitely need for job hunting and networking, and focus on that instead. [Read more...]

The Hunt: Interview Tote Bags

The Best Tote Bags for InterviewingSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

It’s been a while since we did a roundup on interview tote bags, so I thought we’d do one now (see our 2012, 2011, and 2010 roundups here). I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: in my mind the perfect interview tote has structure (that it keeps if you set it down), is a muted color like black, and doesn’t have a ton of logos or other bling on it. In terms of size, I think it should be big enough to fit a file folder as well as whatever else you would normally carry in your purse, but not so big that you could fit a beach blanket or groceries in there.  In the past I’ve always preferred nylon to leather (much lighter weight) but I think readers have finally convinced me that the weight doesn’t matter that much.  (What do you think, guys?)  We’ve included some of the classics in previous roundups (such as the Kate Spade Maryanne line, most MZ Wallace bags, nylon Tory Burch totes, and Lo & Sons totes) so I’ll only include the newer ones in today’s roundup. Readers, what are the top qualities you look for in an interview tote? Have you made any great purchases recently? [Read more...]

How to Promote Your Friends Professionally

how-to-promote-friendsHow can you promote your friends and colleagues in a positive way? Considering all the talk from Lean In about how women should be more supportive of each other in the office, I thought this was a great question from Reader E:

I am an intern (waiting on bar results) at a small law firm. A branch office of my firm is hiring a new attorney for that office, and my supervisor asked me If I knew anyone who was looking. I suggested my friend A., who submitted a resume. Today I found out that the attorney in the branch office wants to interview A. This attorney also wants to talk to me, “candidly,” about A. I am confident in my friend’s ability, but I know this office has had a friend of a current attorney not work out. What can I say to promote my friend and what topics or traits should I avoid?

I actually think there is some etiquette involved when it comes to promoting friends and colleagues, talking up their accomplishments, and even helping them network. Here are some pointers, but I’m curious to hear what else the readers say:

- When suggesting your friend for a specific job: Ask A (let’s say her name is Allison) for a copy of her resume, and what she thinks her top three selling points are. I would then either a) write a short email attaching the resume, or b) swing by the hiring partner’s office, hand-delivering a copy of the resume, to say basically, “My friend Allison just applied for Position Y, but I wanted to bring you her resume myself. Allison is a good friend from law school; we worked together on law review and she won the moot trial competition. I think she’d be a great addition to the firm.  Please let me know if I can answer any other questions.” Note a few things about this: [Read more...]

How to Indicate a Sabbatical on Your Resume

sabbatical-resumeHow do you indicate a sabbatical or other gap on your resume, whether to smell flowers, travel, write, or more? Reader M wrote in, wondering:

So: any recommendations for indicating a sabbatical/career break on the resume? I am taking this time to volunteer (and travel some, but will emphasize volunteering) and I am proud of that. Face to face it has been easy for me to explain this. My job wasn’t working out, I had some savings, had always wanted to volunteer, and so I quit. How do you think I should indicate this current volunteering time on the resume?

Great question, because I think more and more people are taking sabbaticals. I’m curious to hear what the readers say, but some notes from poking around the Internet:

- “Sabbatical” can mean a lot of different things to different people, and hiring managers will raise an eyebrow at it [Read more...]