Look the Part
There are some things about an interview that you cannot control Appearance is not one of them. Consider conservative very carefully.

The key word for all business interviewing (regardless of the position you are seeking) is conservative. An applicant can never go wrong displaying conservative demeanor during a job interview. Proper planning beforehand can help make the experience easy, beneficial, and almost pleasant However, lack of planning will be recognized immediately by a competent interviewer.

An important part of the pre-planning stage is appearance. Studies indicate that an applicant's appearance is the most important part of a first impression, created during the first few minutes of a job interview. The fact is, if you provide a positive first impression, you will be considered for the position a high percentage of the time. On the other hand, if you provide a negative first impression, you will be rejected for the position a high percentage of the time. These percentages vary, but remain consistent with that age-old saying: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The first impression is based primarily on appearance, and secondly on communications skills and basic interviewing practices. There are other principles that come into play here, as well. Employers believe that people are more productive when they are dressed well. Further, an applicant should dress for a position as if applying for a job one or two steps higher than the one being interviewed for. Many years ago, these theories could have been ignored or argued. Hiring was accomplished by evaluating proper education, skills, work experience, or any combination of the three. But in today's society, with the incredibly competitive marketplace, the criteria of impact packaging has toppled any previous standard of hiring. Yet, there are applicants who sincerely believe that the way they look is not terribly important and that their appearance does not truly affect their changes of getting a job, as long as they are qualified. Only minor preparation takes place for some people in the appearance arena, and this is a mistake. Upon polling interviewers, it was found that at the outset of a job screening (usually the first three minutes), several things unconsciously occurred. Many interviewers noted that the first items observed in that three-minute time frame were whether the applicant was the same or different from him/her.

  • Is this applicant male or female?
  • What is the approximate age of this individual?
  • What is the ethnic background of the applicant?
In other words: Is this person the same gender as I am, near my age, and of my same race or ethnic background? These thoughts or observations are not negative or positive - though at first glance they may seem to be. They are just unconscious observations. This thought process occurs without the interviewer even realizing it. Unfortunately, there is nothing an applicant can do about such facts, not even for the perfect position. However, the next question - or observation - offers the applicant some control. What about this person's appearance? In addition to the actual physical appearance, a physical presence must also be maintained as part of the conservative interview package: poise, eye contact, confidence, and smile. Wear basic, conservative clothing for interviewing. Though a positive trend in society might be to dress according to the most recent fad, just one conservative interviewer can make the practice a risk for the applicant. Although a conservative interviewer might make a negative judgment due to an applicant's trendy clothing, a chic interviewer will usually not make a negative judgment if the applicant is dressed conservatively. Conservative behavior is respected across the board.

Make an effort to wear what you feel good in and something that you feel looks good on you. When you feel good about your appearance, it will show in the way you carry yourself and your overall performance. Choose colors and styles that accent your personality, but never wear clothing that is too flashy. Women should reject low-cut clothing. Men should avoid too-short pant legs, outlandish ties, and clothing that does not fit appropriately. Party clothes and blue jeans are not acceptable - no matter what. After you ready yourself for an interview, take a long look in the mirror. Women should not have runs in stockings, poorly applied (or too much) makeup, excessive jewelry, or glittery hair accessories. Men should not have stained ties or wrinkled shirts. Employers are very good at making connections: sloppy appearance often equals sloppy job performance. Basically, common sense is required. Ask yourself: Is there a slim possibility that what I'm wearing might make a negative impression on someone? Take into consideration the time needed to affect the perfect appearance. Once accomplished (before the interview), you will be better equipped to handle the other intricacies of the process without worrying about the physical judgments being made about you.


At a job interview, even one of the following items can negatively affect that first impression:
  • Chewing gum or smoking
  • Physical habits such as tapping fingers or clicking pens, bouncing legs or shuffling feet
  • Messy or unclean hair
  • Negative body odors or strong cologne/perfume
  • Visible tattoos
  • Torn or patched clothing
  • Unusual hair, such as lettering cut into it, spikes, bleached, odd colors
  • Too much jewelry or jewelry attached to odd places visible on the body (such as nose piercing)
  • Worn or unpolished shoes; gym shoes
  • Any form of poor grooming
Written by: Dinah Courtney
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