What Not to Do, Part II: Always Be Prepared

Always be prepared. One really can’t really stress how undervalued this advice is. It is common sense, but often ignored at the most inconvenient times. Especially for a law student during interview season..

It was fall of 2009 and Alex had her eye on a mid-sized local firm with seemingly great people and a wide selection of practice areas. The brief and glaringly cursory on-campus interview had gone well. She had worn a conservative black suit, brought the right portfolio, and smiled and engaged with the two partners at exactly the right moments. They seemed to have clicked. So she was hopeful at the close of the interview, eager to visit the law firm and see firsthand to see if she would fit in with the firm’s culture.  

And here is when that undervalued advice could have and should have come in handy. When selecting an outfit during interview season in law school, there are certainly many options for women. For some women, the options means freedom….freedom to choose precisely how to control one’s image during those pivotal moments. For others, it is more like an irritating task- too many options can be overwhelming.

For a large, conservative firm? Black pant suit with low heels. A judicial externship with a judge? Navy blue skirt suit with a nice set of pearls. Internship within the legal department of a corporation? There is typically some flexibility and creativity allowed with this one- a work dress, blazer, and trendy heels might pass the test.

Then there is the hair. Hair up in a bun? Could give off an older and more mature vibe. Maybe a more free-flowing ponytail? Could make a 20-something look like a teenager. Or there is the obvious classic choice: half-up, half-down. Professional and feminine all in one! For those of us with short hair, this is an easy one. Brush through, perhaps a bit of hair spray or gel, and you are ready to go. 

Alex was certainly not prepared the day of her interview at the firm. Sure, she had done the requisite research the day before - including the firm’s recent achievements, practice areas, and memorized the handful of buzz words used to describe the firm on their website. But she had not picked out her outfit the night before. She left it to the morning of the interview. When she woke up that morning, she put on her navy blue skirt suit. She styled her hair in a half-up, half-down do, and grabbed her heels. She slipped them on, and was ready to roll out the door with her resume and cover letter nicely tucked in her portfolio. But her roommate Kiera stopped her on her way out.

“Alex, what are you doing? Isn’t this the big firm interview?”

Alex paused.

Kiera looked down at her freshly shaved, bare legs with disdain. “Shouldn’t you wear nylons?”

Silence. Moment of internal panic. Alex had forgotten about nylons. She was completely unprepared. She didn’t have any clean sheer nylons. The firm would certainly not be impressed if she showed up in her black tights, patterned grey knee socks, or leggings. The quick solution? Wearing her roommate’s flesh-colored thigh highs. Never mind that Alex had thinner legs than her roommate. It would have to do.

Upon parking near the firm, she interchanged between speed walking and jogging to get to the interview on-time. As she dashed through downtown, the thigh-highs began to slide down her legs. This was a problem. She knew they might not stay up throughout the interview.

Now, some firms have potential summer associates in one room, surrounded by 10 black and grey suits who pepper the law student for an hour. Some have the candidate stay in the room for one interview at a time, with various associates and partners who stroll in and out. This was the rare interview- walking from room to room to have one interview at a time. Lucky Alex.

Seated at the start of each mini-interview, she reached down with one arm to slyly pull up her thigh-highs. Thankfully, there was a desk between her and each attorney. It was subtle, but awkward. Distracting? She hoped not. The alternative- stockings halfway down her calves would be catastrophic.

Whew. Five separate interviews. Alex was still in one piece. She thought she was home free. Then the hiring partner announced on her way out he wanted to take her on a “tour” of the firm. They proceeded down the long hallway…stopping off at the library, the kitchen, …she felt her thigh-highs beginning to slide down her legs…Her heart was beating faster. She turned red. What would he think if he noticed them?…She could feel them getting precariously close to her knees. Alex froze. The hiring manager was walking in front of her now.  She grabbed them and yanked them up in one fell swoop. He turned around just as she stood upright.

He stared at her blankly for a moment, and then continued talking. Did he just see that!? She couldn’t do anything but smile at him and nod – active listening, Alex, she thought to herself. Just nod and act interested. Ignore the panic.

The interview finally ended. Alex rushed to her car. Sigh. Always be prepared, she thought to herself. She had definitely dropped the ball on that one.

Alex didn’t end up getting an offer from the firm. It may have been someone who saw her tugging on those stupid thigh-highs all morning. Or maybe she wasn’t the right fit for the firm. She will never know.

What Alex was reminded of is that when you really want something in life- why risk it?

Always be prepared.  

That way you have done everything you can to make sure something small….like pantyhose that don’t fit correctly-  won’t get in the way of that perfect job.       


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