Could A Designer Purse Cost You a Job Offer?

Could A Designer Purse Cost You a Job Offer?This week we welcome back guest writer Christen Morgan who discusses how to dress for a job interview and what questions to ask yourself before making certain fashion choices.

Could a designer purse cost you a job offer? Well, according to an attorney who posed this question at a diversity conference I attended, it sure could. Do I think that this opinion should impact how you prepare for an interview? Well possibly, but keep reading to find out.

We typically all want to look our best before going into an interview, so it only seems logical to pull out your absolute best suit and accessories that serve to complement the image of perfection and professionalism you want to convey. Right? So what’s the issue if your absolute best includes a pair of Christian Louboutin’s, a Dolce & Gabbana blazer or a Hermes purse? Well according to the attorney I saw at the conference, this image could rub some people the wrong way. She stated that she was once conducting an interview for a legal intern position and the candidate came in with a designer handbag. She said that this accessory choice made her wonder why the candidate would even need a job in the first place. She said that this handbag communicated that the candidate was likely well off and therefore not particularly in need of additional income and as a result she did not offer the candidate the job.

Now if your head is anywhere near where my head was at when I heard this story, you’re probably wondering how something that seems so insignificant could impact your chances of receiving a job offer? I still struggle with trying to wrap my head around this question, however, I know that this scenario is a reality for many job candidates. Oftentimes what we look like, sadly trumps what we know, therefore, even if we look professional, we may rub someone the wrong way with designer wear or by simply not wearing something that syncs with an interviewer’s personal style.

So how does one avoid this fashion faux pas that could ultimately cost you a job? Research! I know that research isn’t necessarily fool proof within this scenario, as it may be a difficult feat to determine which wardrobe pieces serve to offend an interviewer on your panel. However, you may be surprised to know how much information you can acquire from looking into the culture of the firm/company you desire to work for and also looking into the background of each interviewer.

In your quest for answers, ask yourself:

1. What Kind of Job is this?

Is this a job at a conservative law firm or is it for an outward facing role in which you will be frequently interacting with corporate clients? If so, I doubt a designer purse would do much damage. Although in recent years a lot of firms have transitioned to a more business casual dress code, many firms still require business professional, high-powered attire and a conservative law firm would likely fall in this category. Additionally, if you will be frequently meeting with corporate clientele, your interview panel may actually be impressed with your higher-end wardrobe style, and it is unlikely that they would use a designer item against you, as such an accessory communicates the confidence that would bode well with a corporate client.

In the alternative, if you’re interviewing for a public interest position, a non-profit role or a plaintiff’s-attorney position, then I recommend leaving your Gucci purse at home. To add some context, the attorney at the diversity conference who I referenced earlier worked in a public interest role. Therefore, she said that the candidate she rejected would not fit into the culture of her organization. This is a key example of why it’s so important to know the ins and outs of the position you’re applying for. Not all public interest roles are laid back, but having an idea beforehand of which jobs may take offense to an affluent wardrobe item may be helpful.

2. Who is Conducting the Interview?

Finally, knowing the practice areas of your interview panel, as well as published articles they may have written and major court victories they may have secured, is very good information to piece together during your interview research. However, as you gather this information, also look into what extracurricular activities your panel may be involved in. You may learn that they are vocal about specific causes or you may simply find leads that help you to put together a more complete picture of each interviewer’s personality. Knowing this information will not only benefit you in the casual conversation portion of the interview, but it may also clue you in as to whether a designer wardrobe may be offensive to their personal cause.

After completing your research, if you’re still unsure as to whether a designer piece will be acceptable, I suggest not wearing it. The most important goal is to look professional, and you can certainly still achieve this without a designer purse. In the alternative, you could also choose to disregard these trivial roadblocks. Yes, you may miss some opportunities if your chosen style conflicts with the culture of a role. However, if you opt to stick with your desired style while maintaining optimal professionalism, you will inevitably find the position that’s just right for you.

Good luck!


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About Christen Morgan

Christen Morgan graduated magna cum laude from the University of Tampa where she received her B.S. in Criminology. She earned her J.D. from Emory Law School where she competed and served as an executive board member for the Emory Law Moot Court Society. Christen also served as a student representative for LexisNexis and also as a mentor for several 1L students offering them advice and a variety of resources to help them through their law school journey.

Christen previously practiced as a Foreclosure Attorney for a Real Estate law firm but has since then transitioned into a Real Estate Specialist role at a wireless infrastructure company.

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