Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

I just got back from Career Services' "Looks Can Kill" tips session on dressing for interviews. At the end, there were free botox injections and breast implants. No, just coupons. But seriously, if the color of my belt buckle, or the type of collar on my dress shirt is really making the difference, I have bigger problems to worry about. I expected to either be the only person at this presentation, or to be sitting among people not normally let out during daylight hours -- but it was actually pretty crowded, with some people having totally legitimate questions about what kinds of shirts or shoes or whatever, and some people just there because they thought it would be entertainingly ridiculous. They got their wish.

I took notes, so I wouldn't forget anything. I actually left about ten minutes before the end, though -- I was having a bit of difficulty keeping a straight face (as were many people), and when the "internationally certified image consultant" (who exactly certifies these people is unclear) said that men should remember "to stand straight, but not too erect," I really did think I was going to lose it.

The presenter started with an analogy -- when we see bruised tomatoes in the supermarket, we don't buy them because we think they won't taste good. And firms won't hire us, therefore, if we don't look good, because they'll think we won't work good. Or something like that. Lesson from that analogy: cover your bruises.

She advised us to incorporate our "inner selves" into our images. That's why I'm planning on using my intestines as a necklace. She told us about a friend of hers who was never getting any promotions because she wore clothes that were too tight and skirts too short. This was "inappropriate for where she worked." She worked at a brothel. She advised doing "research" -- going to a firm's offices beforehand and spying on what people are wearing. This seems totally absurd. She said that women and men respond differently to dress: women do not want other women to "outdress" them, and men do not want women to wear any clothes at all. She advised buying the most expensive suit you can afford, because "if you crumple a $3000 suit, it does not stay crumpled." In addition, if you light a $3000 suit on fire, it does not burn; if you spread peanut butter on a $3000 suit it does not stick; and if you try and pay your rent with a $3000 suit, you will soon be homeless. But your suit won't be crumpled.

"Shop with a list," she advised. "Socks, pantyhose, applesauce, cereal, cufflinks, onions, dress shoes." And "try before you buy." Just because you're a size 10 shoe does not mean you're a size 10 shirt, or a size 10 suit. Just because you take a 54 extra fat from one brand, doesn't mean you're not a petite extra small in another. Buy things too big, not too small -- "clothes can be taken it, but not taken out." Insightful. Shop with another person... and that other person's credit card. Do not believe salespeople. Look in the mirror.

Wear a neutral color (clear?). A lightweight fabric -- "wool is good for all four seasons, except when it's hot." Oh, you mean summer. And you should make sure the clothing fits "correctly." Thanks. Make sure buttons are sewn on properly. Do not pull the strings or your suit may fall apart. A $3000 suit will, however, put itself back together again. If your pants fall apart, do not staple them closed. Shoes shouldn't be more than 3 inches tall. Ties shouldn't be more than 3 inches long. Socks shouldn't be more than 3 inches thick. You should have two shoes, no more, and no less. Shoes need to breathe. High heels are risky if there are cobblestones in the office lobby.

Keep jewelry simple. For men, a set of pearls. For women, a neatly trimmed beard. How would she describe interview clothes? "Like being out on a date... going to church." But Catholic priests should avoid wearing the beanies and sailor suits that this might imply. If the pockets are sewn up so it seems like you can't open them, don't open them. "Suits without pockets are more formal; but if you already have a suit that has pockets, don't worry, you don't need to remove them." That was the first time I couldn't stop laughing. "Your jacket should definitely have armholes." That was the second. "Single-breasted versus double-breasted is especially an issue for some women." That, childishly enough, was the third. "Don't wear clothes that make you look like an alien." "Women have more choices than men as far as zippers." They can be open, or closed, depending on the message you want to send.

Go shopping with the shoes you will eventually be wearing. They make great companions. If you have a three-button suit, button the top two. Unless the top button is located under the lapel, in which case only button the middle one. Unless there are vents in the back. In which case button the bottom one. Unless the buttons don't align properly. In which case buy a new suit.

In terms of color: you want to match your own degree of contrast. If you have dark hair and light skin, wear a light shirt and a dark tie. If you have dark hair and dark skin, wear a light shirt and a light tie. If you have light hair and light skin, wear a dark shirt and a dark tie. If you are Michael Jackson, wear a bag over your head. If you are Monica Lewinsky, don't wear a blue dress.

Men shouldn't wear makeup. Collars should only be worn with shirts and not alone. The soles of your shoes should not have holes. The souls of your shoes should be pure. No neon colors. Red, white, and blue combinations may send the wrong message. Especially if you're interviewing with an overseas firm.

"And, finally, I want to talk about non-verbal communication." I didn't think there was much to say about that. Maybe in sign language? Grooming: "hair should be neat. Women, you can wear your hair down -- as long as it's clean." She really did say that.

I'm all set now that I've been through this vital training. I know that I need two shoes, not just one, and I should polish them to a shine and wear them on my hands. And wrap a tie around my neck, zip up my fly, and buy some polyester socks. I can't wait for the interviews.