Tips for a Successful Job Search

In dressing for success you want to make sure you are what sticks in the interviewers mind, not something you wore that distracted them. While 90% of interviewers may never notice your plaid tie or ill-fitting coat, you don’t want to miss out on a great job because it distracted the interviewer for the job you really wanted. With this in mind, always choose your interview clothes to present a professional appearance and always err on the side of being more conservative with your clothing choices. Below are some suggestions based on years of experience and feedback. If you have questions about something in particular or need advice, we are always available.

For Men:

A Few Dos:

  • Always wear a suit or sports coat and slacks, and make sure they fit properly.
  • To be safe, choose suits in dark grey or navy blue (black can work too). Sports coats should be navy blue.
  • Always wear a tie, and simple ties with diagonal stripes in basic colors are best.
  • Shoes are brown or black dress shoes, polished and in good repair.
  • Belts must match the color of your shoes.
  • Choose shirts in white or very pale blue without stripes, checks or any other pattern.
  • Shave. If you have a beard, mustache or goatee, then make sure it is trimmed.
  • Clip and clean your finger nails.
  • If it is a hot or humid day, carry a handkerchief to pat yourself dry before your interview and remember to wear an undershirt to avoid sweat stains.

A Few Don'ts:

  • Never wear a polo or non-dress shirt to an interview.
  • Never wear a tie clip or other visible jewelry other than a watch, wedding ring or cufflinks.
  • Never wear a boldly pattered or plaid tie.
  • Never wear a dark shirt.
  • Stubble is never a good idea.
  • Never wear anything that is dirty, so check the collars, cuffs, ties and everything else for stains.
  • Do not wear cologne.

For Women:

A Few Dos:

  • Wear a conservatively fitting skirt or pants suit in a dark color.
  • Wear pantyhose if wearing a skirt.
  • Wear low, conservative heels or flats. This is not the time for platforms, stilettos, or peep-toes.
  • Wear your hair off of your face, and your make-up (if you wear it) natural & polished.
  • Have clean, “naturally” manicured or bare nails.

A Few Don'ts:

  • Don’t wear anything too tight or revealing. No mini-skirts or plunging necklines.
  • Don’t wear too much of anything- be it perfume, make-up, or jewelry.
  • Don’t wear anything that will distract from the professional impression you want to make. This includes red shoes, blue nails, large earrings, etc. There will be plenty of time to show your unique style and character ONCE you have the job and have proven yourself.
  • Don’t play with your hair, or flip it around during the interview. It’s very distracting and does not make a professional impression.

Legal Cover Letters

If you have met with us before, you know that we have some strong thoughts on legal cover letters. You can access examples in your student orientation handbook, a copy of which is available on Symplicity here. In general, remember the three paragraph rule:

  • Paragraph 1 – Who you are, who they are and why they matter to you. Show you know the firm and what it does. If you have a personal connection with the hiring partner or Agency, now is the time to drop that name.
  • Paragraph 2 – Kick the dog or pet the dog! Don’t tell them your honest, hard-working, diligent and trustworthy; give them an example of what you have done that shows your qualities.
  • Paragraph 3 – Thank them for the time, indicate what materials you have included with the letter and tell them you will call in a week to confirm they received your materials.

Non-Legal Cover Letters

Outside the legal arena your cover letter and resume may need to change to meet the standards and expectation of that industry. If you are looking at a non-legal opportunity, make sure to make the time to see us so we can help you craft your materials.

Many opportunities require you to submit a writing sample. It is important that the sample you submit be your own work, unedited by a professor, judge or another student. What an employer wants to know is how strong a writer you are. Good choices for a writing sample include your first year lawyering memo, a bench memorandum or order your drafted for a judge, or your law review article. If it was your lawyering memo, make sure to go back and edit it based on the feedback you got from your instructor. If it is something you prepared for a judge, make sure you have the court’s permission to use it as a writing sample, and that the employer is aware of this. If it is your law review article, make sure it is a draft you prepared, not one that was substantially edited and not one that was rewritten by someone else.

In all cases, the time to start working on your writing sample is sooner, not later. Writing samples take time to prepare and you want to have it ready to go when the right opportunity comes along.

Following up is key to any successful job search. In your cover letter we always tell you to close by telling the employer you will call in a week to make sure they got the materials. After an interview follow-up is even more critical. Within 24 hours you should send a thank you note (mail is the preferred method but email is become more common). In the note make sure you mention something specific and personal about the interviewer so they know this isn’t a generic thank you note.

If the employer asked you for more materials or you promised to send them something, do it that day if possible, and in all cases within 24 hours. If the employer critiqued your materials (maybe a typo in your resume?), then send them a revised version that day, even if they did not ask for it. When you do, let them know you appreciate their advice and that you wanted them to have the revised version in hand.

Even if you do not get the job, clerkship, externship or other opportunity, maintain the relationship. It is a small world and you will find yourself running into the same people again and again. So if you see them in the community: say hello, shake their hand and smile.

Don’t forget the staff either. Professionals in any business rely on their support staff to succeed. If the staff does not like you, there is a good chance you will not make the cut. So if you interviewed in a small office or a support staff person gave you a fair amount of help, send them a quick thank you note too.

Estimates are that 60% to 70% of jobs are never posted, but are filled by word of mouth. Because our loyal alums can be found across the region, in every state and in countries around the world, this network gives you incredible access to these un-posted opportunities.

When you ask for an informational interview, you are not asking for a job, you are asking the interviewer for their time and advice. By not asking for a job, they do not have an excuse to say no if they are not hiring and they feel no pressure to make an offer if they are. This makes it much more likely that they will take the time to meet with you.

Once you are in the door, if you impress them and they are looking to make a hire, they will let you know. Even more important, if you make the right impression they may refer you to people in their network. This might mean that you get a chance to have an informational interview with someone they know or that they suggest you as a candidate for a job they become aware of by word of mouth.


Contact the Career Services Office

Heather Spielmaker, Assistant Dean | 785-864-9257

Stacey Blakeman, Director | 785-864-0239

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