If you want to be successful, dress the part

Career & WorkplaceInterviewing

It’s an old adage, and it’s true: there are no second chances when it comes to first impressions. Your interviewer will make on-the-spot judgments about your capabilities within the first few minutes of meeting you, based almost entirely on your personal appearance. Negative initial impressions will be difficult if not impossible to reverse during the interview, even if it goes well. The clothes you wear to the interview say so much to your potential employer: how well you’ll fit in, if you pay attention to little details, and whether you understand professionalism, to name a few.
Many of these recommendations can be summed up as common sense (hopefully)– wear clean, tidy looking clothes, dress professionally and conservative, go for understated over bold. The right clothes might not guarantee you a spot with the company, but the wrong clothes almost certainly will disqualify you. The way you dress for your interview should send a loud message that you will fit in with the company culture and that you understand what it means to be a team player. When planning your interview outfit (preferably days in advance in case repairs need to be made or items professionally cleaned), reference this checklist to ensure that you are dressed for success.

Yes, we know all of this, but lately I’ve had questions from clients that make me think a refresher course is needed.

  • Go with a simple, well fitted suit every time. For men, wear a dark suit with a light shirt and silk tie; for women, a suit or a dress and jacket combination work. Even if the corporate culture is laid back, you still need to dress for the interview as if you really are going to an interview.
  • Consider wearing blue, preferably navy. To many, blue symbolizes calm, trustworthiness, and confidence. Otherwise, stick to the business neutrals: black, gray, beige, brown.
  • Dark dress shoes are best. Ideally, men should wear black lace ups with dark socks. Women should wear low heeled, close toed pumps. Ladies, this is not the place to try out your new stilettos.
  • Wear something you’ve worn before and you know you look great in. You want to exude confidence and know you’ll be comfortable.
  • Go easy on perfume, cologne, or aftershave. It can seem obnoxious and in a worst case scenario (your interviewer is sensitive or allergic) they can derail the interview altogether. You don’t want to leave your scent on the person’s hand when you leave. Ick.
  • Trimmed, styled hair and groomed nails. If you can, get a professional cut before the interview. A fresh cut will also make you feel more confident and put together. Men, make sure your 5 O’clock shadow isn’t showing.
  • Go easy on the jewelry. Less is more.
  • Pay attention to detail. Everything should be clean, hemmed, ironed, and look well put together.
  • Bring a light briefcase or small portfolio; make sure it is in good condition and does not clash with the rest of your outfit.
  • Lose the gum, cell phone, MP3 player, and other distracting items. Do not bring a drink, even coffee. Nothing says,”Please don’t hire me”  like slurping your non-fat, Caramel Macchiato while texting your BFF. Keep pockets empty to avoid the sound of jingling keys and change; this will also keep pockets from unattractively bulging.
  • Cover tattoos and take out piercings, even if you are already aware that workplace policy allows them.

Stick with these simple tips and you’ll do just fine.

Dressing for Career Success (and what NOT to wear)

Career & WorkplaceErin's Musings

I recently commented on the ‘What Would Dad Say’ (jobdig) website where GL Hoffman wrote the interesting post,  “Someone should Say it, so it might as well be me”.
The post was about Megan Joy from American Idol. GL wonders if she was booted off because of her singing, or because of her arm tattoos. Of course I had to reply to that. What was she thinking? She is a beautiful girl, but has this tattoo that runs the entire length of her arm. If not a career in music, who in the world would hire her? Don’t get me wrong. I think some body art can be really beautiful. I’ve seen some tattoos that have wow’ed me. I remember when I was about 20, my girlfriend and I wanted to get tattoos (this was before all the rage, mind you, so we thought we were crazy rebels!). We had just broken up with our boyfriends and wanted to celebrate our independence, I guess. Can’t remember the exact reason now, except that we wanted to get one. (Young, silly and free).
When I told my open-minded mom this, she said: “Well, as long as you can live with it when you are 80 and it is saggy and faded, go ahead. And don’t forget, if you ever plan on getting a job in the ‘real world’, employers will discriminate against you.”
The last part really hit home. Well, both parts did, but I knew that when I was done with college I would have to go out and get a “real job” and didn’t want to wreck my chances by getting a tattoo where a prospective employer might see it.

Whether we admit it or not, covering oneself with tattoos/piercings/body art DOES affect our chances of being hired. I know I am probably angering some folks reading this, but it’s true. I know that any of my executive clients would think twice about hiring someone with tattoos crawling up the neck or one of those gigantic ear things in their ears. I don’t normally think of myself as ‘narrow minded’, but I know when it comes to appropriate dress in the workplace, we need to be as professional as possible.

True, some companies embrace or support body art, but most don’t. Companies strive to maintain a professional front, so hiring someone with a stud through their tongue or in an eyebrow goes against everything the company is trying to do.

Keep in mind when deciding on your next tattoo that you may end up NOT working at the job you want because of your appearance.