Appearance Matters

Posted on 16/12/2015 by Duane Cormell

What determines whether or not you get a particular job? In my opinion, the most important things are the content of your CV, the quality of your experience, what you say at interview, and frankly whether you and the company are a good cultural fit. I was therefore intrigued when I found myself uncontrollably nattering almost exclusively about appearance to my younger brother when I was offering him interview advice during his recent job search.  The point is, whether we like it or not, appearance does matter and first impressions, in particular, count for a lot.

According to a study by psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, first impressions are formulated in just one-tenth of a second. I’m told that the implication of this is that we will effectively be dismissed or labelled negatively in the mind of the person we’re meeting for the first time if that first impression isn’t a good one.  So there it is, you need to ensure that you are well-groomed and dressed appropriately for an interview. Failing that, you run the risk of undermining your whole job application.

Assuming you buy into all of the above, the issue for you then is deciding what constitutes appropriate interview attire. A lot has been written in recent times about the necessity or otherwise of workplace dress codes, particularly the need for men to wear ties. Whatever your view might be on this, it is effectively irrelevant to my mind as far as interviews are concerned. I can’t claim to be an expert on dress codes across all professional disciplines but, regardless of whether or not formal workplace dress codes ought to be deemed an archaic thing of the past or an entirely necessary evil of the professional world, I do know that formal dress shows interviewers that you are taking your interview seriously. It also follows that the more smartly dressed you are, the more confident and positively you feel about yourself, and therefore the more likely you are to perform well at an interview.

Whilst smart casual and dress down has increasingly taken hold amongst workplaces within the creative industries, I still think that an interviewer will want to see business formal at an interview, irrespective of the nature of the job in question. For men, that means a full suit and tie, whilst ladies should opt for either a smart dress and blazer or full suit.  Appropriate footwear means black or, at the very least, dark-coloured shoes. It is a must that they are polished and look well-maintained. And altogether avoid overly bright colours and patterns, whether on your clothes or shoes.

Of course, there isn’t just your clothing and shoes to think about, there are other considerations. For example, with the exception of an umbrella or a professional file or bag, you really should not be carrying anything. Things that often leave interviewers particularly unimpressed include candidates walking into the interview room with a takeaway coffee cup or their sweaty gym bag; it just gives the impression that you are far too at ease. It is probably best not to wear overly strong perfume or aftershave either, especially if you can’t draw the distinction between a scent for a Saturday night out and one appropriate for the office. And you can leave the faux gold fashion watch at home too.

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