How do I look? Tips for a great first impression!

Despite it being an incredibly strange time in for the world around us, we are approaching summer. High School seniors and college students are graduating, albeit virtually, but graduating nevertheless. The time is quickly approaching where many young people will be looking for work. However, in a post-shutdown world, the job market may be tougher than ever. So giving yourself a leg up could mean the difference in getting a job or not. However, these tips aren’t just useful to recent graduates; they are a helpful reminder to anyone in the job field.

Let me share with you so personal life experiences on the subject. In college, I was taking a film course. As a part of our final grade, we were broken into groups, tasked with coming up with a movie idea and pitching it to the professor with all the ins and outs that come with that. The day of the presentation began, and the lone female in our group did our sales pitch. Afterward, when discussing the presentation, the professor asked why I had not been the one to do the action pitch as I had been the unofficial group leader until that point. I told him in the real world if we were doing this pitch to a stranger, I felt like I wouldn’t make the most persuasive presentation for our project.

For context, at the time, I had long, shoulder-length stringy hair, an unfashionable goatee, and proudly dressed in Goodwill grunge. I explained to him that I knew my appearance could hold back a real investor, so our group let the clean-cut girl next door, TV journalist hopeful do it for us: my words, my plan, her overall aesthetic. The professor commented that he had never seen someone so self-aware of how their appearance could impact them professionally.

It stuck with me. He didn’t argue with me. He acknowledged what I had always feared to be true. Your appearance could keep you from a job. No matter how qualified you are, you have to be prepared, from head to toe. Outside in.

Here are several easy to follow guidelines on making a great career first impression.

Know the position, the company, and the career field.

Expectations for interview appearance and attire vary based on these criteria. If you’re interviewing in a super casual work environment, you can get away with wearing business casual attire (slacks, blouse, and flats). However, if you’re interviewing at a large corporation for a management position, you are almost always safe with a suit.

Always err on the side of overdressed. Translation: wear a suit.

If you aren’t sure what to wear, and your research yields few precise results, wear a suit. It’s better to dress up than to dress down for a job interview. Your future employer will most likely be impressed that you took the time and energy to invest in your interview appearance.

If you wear a business suit, be sure it’s clean, pressed, and well-fitting.

Clean up.

Don’t sleep late on the morning of an interview. Take a shower and practice good hygiene in every way. Clean hair, nails, and teeth let your interviewers know that you take pride in your interview appearance as well as minor details, this gives them the confidence you’ll take pride in the work you’ll do for them if hired.

Don’t overdo it.

Skip heavy doses of cologne and perfume, and avoid flashy jewelry, sparkly eyeshadow, dangly earrings, bold neckties, colorful patterns, and fun socks. These are all great ways to demonstrate your personality in everyday life, but skip these accessories when dressing for your interview. Neutral colors and subtle patterns or solid colors are better choices for suits and clothing items. When choosing jewelry, shoes, and accessories, think classic.

Put the focus on you, not your appearance.

By taking the previous tips into consideration, you’ll allow yourself the freedom to relax. This will help potential employers to focus on YOU, not your appearance. You won’t be fidgeting or fighting your outfit. Instead, your future boss will notice your skills, your ability to work the room, your great laugh, and your attention to details when answering questions and responding to others.

You never want interviewers to remember the way you fixed your hair on the day of an interview. You always want them to remember the reasons you listed for why they should hire you.

Remember that if you’re not comfortable and confident, you can’t focus on the content of your conversation with your future employer.

Choose clothing and accessories you feel entirely comfortable and confident wearing. If you feel constrained or awkward, it will show in your facial expressions and body language. You want to appear alert, focused, and grateful for the opportunity to be interviewed. If you’re thinking about how tight your jacket is, whether your pants are going to rip when you stand up or sit down, or how large the blister is on your right foot while you’re touring the job facility will show.

Some offices have stringent dress codes. With state jobs, non-profits, or jobs in the religious sector, there are often restrictions on hair color or facial hair; these are also things to keep in mind when researching potential employers. If you feel defined by your brightly colored hair or your long beard but know the company doesn’t allow that, it might not be the right fit for you. Never go into a potential job looking for a fight. While every job interview you go on might not result in getting hired, it is best to go into every interview with the mindset that these people could be your potential bosses and colleagues. Making a great first impression goes a long way. If you think these tips or suggestions don't make a difference or aren't real I can personally attest at interviews I have been told I would need to shave (I used to keep constant stubble) and I've been told that pants that are too tight at the bottom of the legs weren't really appropriate.

Sometimes finding a job is hard enough as it is, don't make it more difficult for yourself by not taking it seriously.

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