CASE HISTORY: Jody, a recent college grad, landed an interview at a prestigious investment bank with offices on Park Avenue. Arranged with the help of her uncle, the interview was scheduled for a full day, with lunch at a high-priced restaurant. She wore a simple navy blue suit, limited her makeup and jewelry to the simple basics. While several of her interviewers were dressed much more “to the nines,” and much more to the casual, her overall appearance was one of simplicity, sincerity, and self-assuredness. Though her qualifications were not, in fact, outstanding, her appearance, her demeanor and her deference scored high. She got the job.
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LESSON TO LEARN: Though fashion isn’t an integral part of negotiating for yourself at work, getting hired is. Some even say that the first step in career success is literally “dressing the part.” And remember that “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” SkloverWorkingWisdom™ says it just a little differently: “When you negotiate the new job, you’re selling yourself . . . you’ll get hired and paid according to your perception of value.
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WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Experienced recruiters have shared these pearls of wisdom about effective interview attire:
- Wear Dark Colors. These colors tend to make the most positive first impression: dark blue, navy blue, dark gray or charcoal grey, with black trailing close behind. Dark suits – for both men and women – tend to convey authority, reliability and determination. Dark, though, doesn’t extend to shirt colors, where the rule is “the darker the suit, the lighter the shirt.”
- Limit Accessories. The more jewelry, gadgets, and other paraphernalia, the more distractions from your presentation of your unique human capital. Women should avoid dangling earrings, ankle bracelets, while men should limit rings and bracelets. And overly strong perfume or cologne is not said to be helpful.
- Keep Your Hair Back. Keep your hair off your face. Let your interviewers see your face, not your curls. Your wild curls may be your most endearing feature, but if you’re remembered for your hair, you won’t be remembered for your other qualities.
- Don’t Go Too Fashion Forward. Employers tend to have greater faith in those who dress conservatively. Attention to passing fads may suggest a lack of personal foundation. It’s said that women should shy from stiletto heels, while men should shun “power” red ties.
- Pay Attention to Detail. You may not notice your overstuffed briefcase, or your scruffy shoes, or your unpressed garment, but your interviewer likely will. Look at yourself carefully, because each potential employer likely will be doing just that.
Of course, acceptable styles will vary from company to company, and from industry to industry. Some recruiters suggest candidates review a copy of the potential employer’s annual report to assess the image they seem to convey in their photographs. Since appearance is a form of nonverbal communication, you must consider what your own appearance is saying about you. Remember that it’s your “perception of value” that counts most.
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