CHS Careerist: What to Wear to Informational Interviews
Sep 18, 2013
I started reading your blog about a year ago and absolutely love it! My question is about what to wear to informational interviews and informal meetings. I recently quit my job at a New York law firm and relocated to Boston with my husband. Many of my friends and colleagues at my old firm were kind enough to send me some of their Beantown contacts. I am in the process of setting up a series of informal coffees with midlevel attorneys like myself and as well as some more senior partners. What do you suggest I wear to these meetings? I’m leaning towards wearing a full suit for meetings that take place at a firm or with a senior attorney and business casual for more informal coffee meetings. Any advice would be much appreciated.
When you move to a new city or want to transfer into a new industry, informational interviews are critical. They expand your network, educate you about the quirks of your new arena/area and put you in a position to meet people who may become your future employers/coworkers. But just because these aren’t formal job interviews doesn’t mean you can become a slouch in the wardrobe department.
Informational interviews usually take place in the person’s office or at a nearby restaurant or coffee shop. I think you’re right on track with how you should dress, as a suit or suit separates should be worn to interviews with senior people at the firm, and more relaxed professional dresses or separates should be worn when meeting mid-level staff off site. Here are a couple of sample outfits.
Left side, Earrings: Juliet & Co Grey Pearls ($20) Ring: Pandora Liquid Ring ($55) Top: Mango Pleated Blouse ($50) Shoes: Ann Taylor Perfect Pump ($128 +30%-Off) Jacket: Scotch & Soda Lurex Blazer ($235) Skirt: Telegraph Pencil Skirt ($138 + 25%-Off) Coat: Burberry Mid-Length Trench ($1,295) Bag: Tory Burch Dome Satchel ($550)
Right side, Tights: Topshop 120 Denier Tights ($16) Shoes: Land’s End Allaire Boots ($110) Dress: DvF Raquel Dress ($175) Necklace: Belargo Station Necklace ($100) Ring: bombom Celestial Ring ($198) Bag: ASOS Croc Constructed Bag ($68)
In Office Interviews. Instead of a full suit, I went with structured separates. The jacket is from Scotch & Soda, makers of the most stylish tweed and boucle jackets on the market. (I also like this collared number with zip sleeves.) I paired the jacket with a simple blouse and a longer pencil skirt.
For the shoes, I chose the unfathomably comfortable perfect pumps from Ann Taylor that are now re-stocked and 30%-off, no code needed. I bought a pair of these this summer and they are tied for the most comfortable high heel I’ve ever worn.
I also added a trench because it completes the look, and looks great slung over your arm. If Burberry is out of your price range (mine too), J.Crew has their Icon Trench for 25%-off right now and the Gap has a nice, serviceable trench for $128 plus 35%-off, code GAPFALL.
I kept the jewelry simple and the look in a neutral color palette, since you don’t know where a meeting with a senior partner could lead. I would also suggest wearing nylons just in case. (I like Donna Karan Nudes for a sheer nylon that won’t make you look like a Hooters waitress.) And you should probably wear your hair down, a bun might look too severe with such a structured outfit.
Informal Interviews. Meet-and-greets with potential colleagues usually happen over coffee of lunch off-site, so a suit isn’t really necessary. But you never know who you might run into or be introduced to, so it’s important to choose an outfit that is more relaxed but still professional. For this, I chose a simple dress in a classic shape and a pair of high-heeled tall boots.
I liked this DvF dress quite a lot when I tried it on in cobalt. Some readers aren’t crazy about the front seam on the dress, but I didn’t find it to be too noticeable. And I went with the boot for a more dressed down look, but if boots don’t feel right to you, switch them out for a round-toe pump like the Ann Taylor shoe.
For the jewelry, I chose a gold and dark metal mix. I love the necklace, it’s very Olivia Pope but with a hint of edge. If you’d like something similar for less, try this Anne Klein ‘Fireball’ necklace with gold details. And how great is this structured bag? The shape is so unique, and you just can’t beat that price.
Transitioning your career to a new industry or a new place takes effort. You need to make the time to meet with people who can help you grow your network and expand your opportunities. Sitting at home in front of the computer sending resumes isn’t going to get it done. So jump on LinkedIn and see if your current colleagues know people who they can introduce you to, and then go out and make those connections. And the right outfit can help you make a great first impression.