Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dress to Impress

Spring has finally arrived and with this change of seasons comes a whole host of personal changes as well. For many young adults the prospect of job interviews is looming. There are job fairs sprouting up like so many daffodils and taking advantage of every possible lead is of paramount importance. However, if one dresses inappropriately, which is a predominant trend these days, you are definitely going to be eliminated from the competition right from the start. Getting into the right frame of mind is a very wise move if one is serious about job placement. Dressing the part will aid one immeasurably to that end.

Recruiters are the first gatekeepers for entry into many companies. The first impression one forms with them can be very important. Learning and executing a proper handshake, making appropriate eye contact ad engaging intelligently with these folks can make a big difference – in fact it can make THE difference. Part of the image one creates is how one dresses. Here are a few guidelines to assist and hopefully help tilt the tables in your favor.

For men:

1.     Be immaculately clean – including your hair and nails. Get a haircut – avoid looking unkempt.
2.     Wear clean pressed clothes that fit properly.
3.     Dress for the job you are seeking.
4.     Shine your shoes.
5.     Wear a necktie – preferably hand-tied – if at all possible.
6.     Your shoes and belt should be the same color.
7.     Your socks and trousers should match, if possible.
8.     Wear a light colored shirt, not a dark one.
9.     Tuck your shirt in all the way.
10. Remove all piercings and earrings. Conceal tattoos.
11. Consult with a trusted friend if necessary

For women:

1.     Dress conservatively.
2.     Do not wear clothing that reveals your body parts.
3.     Wear tasteful jewelry such as earrings, a pin or brooch, a ring or two, and a necklace.
4.     Remove all piercings from face and conceal tattoos.
5.     Wear clothes that fit - not a size too small.
6.     Wear comfortable, clean, low-heeled shoes.
7.     Arrange your hair neatly and with care.
8.     Apply fresh nail polish.
9.     Resist theatrical make-up.
10. Consult with a trusted friend if necessary.

In response to a previous column on wardrobe building, a reader commented that no one would spend $2000 on a suit. Although I strongly disagree, one can find bargains if one tries. I have made many purchases on eBay, as well as many second hand shops, discount outlets and thrift stores. The bottom line is that image does matter. There are many, many more image consultants than there are etiquette consultants because there is a greater perceived need. Image is often conveyed through one’s trappings.

Carrying on from the formal blue suit and black shoes, which are essential to any businessman’s wardrobe, fashions do shift and no longer are brown suits worn exclusively in the country. Many men feel more comfortable in less formal clothing and this is becoming more and more accepted. My traditional eye will tend to gravitate to a dark suit for business, but there are plenty of jobs – most in fact – where a less formal look is just as appropriate.

The same basic guidelines apply no matter what one wears. Be sure your clothes fit properly, are clean, and suit the job. Many people like adding a bit of flair to what they wear, and I am all in favor of that. The guideline in that case is to switch out one piece of clothing, not the whole outfit. For example, a pair of socks, a necktie, a shirt, or a pocket square would add a great accent and show off one’s personality. Be careful not to change all of those elements at once though and wind up looking foolish.

Keeping a professional image is one of the most important elements to being successful. That applies to all jobs. It also applies to all job interviews. The job market is highly competitive today. Many people competing for the same job have virtually identical skill sets. The skills therefore are not going to always be the determining factor of who is the successful candidate for the job. Corporate image is critical. When you apply for a job or even are visiting a recruiting fair, attention to sartorial detail should not be overlooked. Dressing for the part not only gives you an advantage of making a more favorable first impression, it also puts you in the right frame of mind.

Remember the saying that one never gets a second chance to make a first impression; but always be mindful that one always has a chance to make a good impression.