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Your Appearance Makes All the Difference

How you look and how you conduct yourself tells others who you are. Personal grooming habits, appropriate dress, neatness, your smile – or lack of it, eye contact, even your briefcase impact how others perceive you. Common courtesies, a positive helpful attitude, and a kind word for everyone you meet will go a long way towards creating a favorable image. First impressions are indelible and will often tell others what they can expect if you are an employee of their company.

Even though a company may endorse casual dress in the work environment, it is not acceptable as interviewing attire. A suit is the required interviewing uniform (pants suits are acceptable for women.) If you don’t own a suit, buy one. Should finances be an issue, retailers such as Marshall’s, T.J. Maxx, Saks Off 5th, and other discount clothiers will offer a reasonable selection of appropriate apparel you can use for interviewing. It is a fact that your attitude, your behavior, and your performance is impacted by your appearance, the way you feel about yourself, and how others react to you. Since every employee is a reflection of the company they represent, the image you convey in your interviews will be a snapshot of what your boss can expect of you on the job. When you look and act professional it tells your coworkers, and everyone else you come in contact with, that you have pride in yourself and your appearance.

We suggest that both men and women wear either a dark blue or charcoal grey suit. Stick with solid colors, pinstripes, or muted plaids with appropriately matching accessories. White or light blue shirts and blouses are the best.

Women should wear low-heeled shoes (not flats or sandals) that compliment their suits, flawless flesh colored nylons (no patterns please), and carry a small attaché case, rather than a purse. Leave your purse in your vehicle’s trunk. Ask the receptionist for a place to hang your coat. This is not a time to be provocative or sexy so skirts should be below the knee. Don’t wear a dress. No frilly blouses or sheer fabrics. Your accessories will make a definite statement about you. Keep jewelry to a minimum and wear earrings that are tastefully conservative or no earrings at all. Stay away from colognes and perfumes. Nobody wants to smell your fragrances, and some people have allergies. Your goal is to appear self-confident, knowledgeable, and professional.

Men, your nails should be short – and clean. Hair should never be too long, and a beard or moustache should be short and properly trimmed. Shirts should be long sleeved with pointed-collars but stay away from French cuffs. Make sure your tie is conservative. A solid color, pinstripe, or polka dot tie that complements your suit is the best choice. Don’t wear a vest, and keep your suit coat unbuttoned to create a sense of warmth and receptivity. Wear only black, polished dress shoes with a black dress belt. Black socks only please. Your best choice is no jewelry except for a wedding band, and watch. A small but tasteful briefcase can tell someone a lot about you.

Remember a job interview is not a social occasion – it is a business meeting. A poor image, inappropriate behavior, or being perceived as someone who flaunts authority or convention will usually serve to eliminate you. You should bathe in the morning to eliminate body odor, make sure your breath is fresh or carry breath mints to use before you walk into the lobby. There is absolutely no excuse for arriving late, however, if you are delayed for any reason, call and let the interviewer’s secretary know that you are running behind and ask if it will create any hardship – but don’t exaggerate the time of your arrival. You should arrive at your meeting with a glow of enthusiasm and a mindset that you will achieve your goal and get the offer. Banish self-doubt and radiate self-confidence. Allow sufficient time to tidy-up, comb your hair, or gain your composure so you can arrive in the lobby 10 minutes before your scheduled interview.

How you conduct yourself is a reflection of your values and self-respect. Only you are responsible for your behavior. Leave your moods at home. Your mannerisms, how you to treat the secretary or receptionist, your ability to express yourself effectively, being able to demonstrate true desire or passion to do the work, respect of others, all are important in creating a picture of who you are. If an employer is going to interview seven applicants, statistically you have about a 14% probability of getting the offer. You can dramatically impact your chances for success by presenting the image of a person who others would want to have around. You want to convey an image of being self-assured, well-informed, and respectful of others.

- Lawrence Alter

Author Lawrence Alter is president of L.D.A. Enterprises, Ltd.; a Minneapolis based outplacement and career management firm. He is a recognized expert in career growth techniques and former columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Send ideas or questions via email to: LDA@EmploymentClinic.com. Website address: www.EmploymentClinic.com.

© Copyright 2009 Lawrence Alter. All rights reserved.