Interview Advice

Interview advice for the professional woman, including what to wear for interview attire, from skirt suits to high heels. Please be sure to check out our Guide to Interview Suits!

The Hunt: Interview Tote Bags

Sure, 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.

This week, we were inspired by a question from a reader:

Hi gals – thanks for the great blog, I’ve come to rely on it as I prepare for fall law firm interviews! Thanks for all the timely posts. I have a slight emergency – would it be possible for you to do a post on appropriate interview handbags? I’m looking for a structured bag in a lower price range (i.e., ideally less than $200) but still professional and nice enough to make a good impression. Also – I stupidly bought a dark gray pinstripe suit and a dark brown suit – no chance there’s some kind of bag that would look good with both, right? If not, I’m looking for both a black and a brown bag, so suggestions for either would be GREATLY APPRECIATED! I don’t know how you find all the great sales and styles that you do, but I’m always impressed! Thanks in advance -Amy

For interviews, we’ve always taken tote bags. You can get these in a range of prices — from affordable to break-the-bank — but they’re all kind of the same. Keep in mind that nylon ones will wear less well (but in the beginning it’s fine) whereas the leather ones will be heavier once fully loaded (less pliable, also). [Read more…]

Yet ANOTHER poll: Should women unbutton their suits to sit?

should-women-button-their-suitsShould women unbutton their suits’ blazer buttons to sit? Given all the discussion whirling about interviews, we though we’d take another poll, because we’re really not sure of this answer, either.

Should women button their jackets when standing, and unbutton them when sitting? We’re aware it’s proper form for men to do this, but have always been unclear for women. Our thoughts: some women’s suits aren’t meant to be unbuttoned, and some are (including the suit pictured above, BOSS Black ‘Janna’ Wool Blazer) — because of that it’s probably more preference than etiquette. We would suggest that if you go with suits in the latter group, though, that you follow the rules men follow, and a) don’t button the bottom button, and b) be aware of how it drapes when you sit — if it looks dumb, unbutton it.


We’ve done extensive research on this (fine, we checked Wikipedia and a few books lying around the office) and didn’t find an answer.

Suit(s) of the Week: The Basics

Since interviews are starting, we’ll stick with that theme and show you some great suits for basics. 2016 Update: check out our updated guide to women’s suiting brands.

J.Crew offers wool gabardine and Super 120s wool, which means it’s made with wool yarn that has been twisted more often than regular yarn and is therefore stronger, more durable, etc. Available in both pants and skirts. In our experience, J.Crew clothes tend to fit better on girls who are more straight than curvy. Price range is reasonable, around $300-$400 for a suit. Below: Super 120s Victoria Jacket, available at J.Crew.

Ann Taylor has some nice triacetate suits. Yes, they’re polyester, but they resist wrinkling, drape beautifully, and generally wear well. If you’re curvy, Ann Taylor suits may be some of your best bets. They’ve got numerous selections in both pants and skirt suits. N.B. that, in general, a pencil skirt seems more professional to us than an A-line skirt, but work with what looks best on you. Price range is around $325 for both pieces, although you can occasionally find sales of 20-30% off. Be warned, sale shoppers — it’s hard to find all pieces of a basic suit on sale if you wait for it to go 50% or more, so don’t hold off too long. Below: Triacetate Pocket Mid-Length Jacket, available at Ann Taylor. [Read more…]

Poll: What Color Hose Is Correct For An August or September Interview?

interview-hoseAh, interview week. The time when stress is running high at business schools and law schools, the time when everyone’s wearing suits in uncomfortable heat, loitering about awkwardly in hotel lobbies, and wishing they were still in flip flops and ripped jeans. Today’s important question is thus: Assuming you’re wearing a black suit, what color pantyhose is appropriate for an interview in this time of year?Personally we tend to wear off-black… but a friend of ours told us years ago that she thought any dark hose said “evening” way too much, so she preferred to wear nude hose. But nude hose on us always looks like we’re trying to fake a tan, and it just isn’t flattering…


What BRAND of pantyhose have you guys had the most luck with? What’s the most you’ve ever spent for a pair of pantyhose (and how’d it turn out)? Tell, tell, in comments. Pictured above: SPANX ‘All the Way’ Sheer Support Pantyhose

Missed an earlier poll? Take ’em here…

Reader Mailbag Part I: What To Wear on Interviews Generally

What to Wear To an Interview: Women Lawyers Edition

Ellen Parsons took interviewing seriously… so should you!

2016 Update: We still stand by the advice below, but you may also want to check out our frequently updated Guide to Interview Suits!

Wow, it’s the start of the interview season already for those of you still in law school. Good luck! Stay tuned; we’re going to (try) to do a lot about interview tips and a guide to women’s suits. Immediately, though, we have this question from a reader named Summer:

I am a 3L law student looking to buy a nice conservative suit for interviews. I am also a big fan of corporette! I have looked around malls and nothing seems to be nice enough. The only thing that I have found in my size online is Talbots. I also ran across the site Do you think this site is legitimate? Do you have any other recommendations?

Thank you so much for your kind words! We’re not familiar with the site, but we wouldn’t recommend going with a custom suit for a big interview unless you already had a relationship with an amazing tailor. Our best advice with interviewing for conservative jobs is that the entire goal of your interview wardrobe should be to take the focus off your appearance and put the focus where it should be: on your mind, your accomplishments, and the way you carry yourself. You can show your personality, your taste, your quirky sense of humor — whatever! — later, after you’ve got the job. That said, we might suggest adhering to some simple guidelines when buying clothes for interviewing. [Read more…]

Reader Mailbag: Lawyer-Turning-to-Publicist Needs Interview Advice

This week, we have a question from Alexa, who is apparently thinking of fleeing the corporate life for something more creative.

Question right up your Corporette alley – after years of working in BigLaw, next week I have an informational interview with a PR agency. So what do I wear??? And where do I go buy? Am I thinking a Theory suit? Or should I try something less… severe than a black suit? A neutral suit of some kind? Where are those? Help!!

Youch, good questions. Our advice here is to go with something that oozes confidence — and yes, that probably will be a black or gray or navy suit. You want to look:

  • polished, put together, not an embarrassment to the client
  • professional (not upstaging the client)
  • creative enough to write press releases and come up with new angles
  • totally capable and in control of the situation

All this — but for the “creative” part — is exactly as it was for your BigLaw interview. So yes, we would say go with a power suit. For the “but I’m creative too” vibe, however, go with some interesting colors beneath the dark suit. Pair a yellow blouse with purple heels, for example, or wear royal blue jewelry with an orange bag. You want to show taste and discrimination with creativity — work in your comfort zone and be confident in what you put together. If the PR company happens to represent any of the brands you’re wearing, all the better. [Read more…]

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