How much do you consider the way you present yourself when you are going for a great job opportunity? Your presentation of yourself as a potential employee and representative of a company might be the single most important consideration you should make! But it isn’t just about the way you look or talk. Every article of clothing you wear, any personal belongings you bring with you, from bags to notes to devices – they all figure into the snap judgement that will most likely make or break your candidacy.
In fact, a 2010 study by Barrick, Swider, and Stewart (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20718533) concluded that initial impressions do have an influence on the ultimate decision. You may have an hour to talk, but if you don’t nail the first few minutes, you could find yourself behind the eight ball in the process.
Here are some ways you can gear up properly to ensure that your first impression is one that will lead to an offer.
1. Start from the bottom and work your way up – get your shoe game tight.
It is often said that when sizing up a person, people start out looking first at shoes. Your choice in shoes say a lot about what kind of an employee you might be. If your shoes are old and scuffed-up, it says, “I don’t take pride in how I present myself.” A bad pair of shoes will ruin a great suit or any outfit. If you’re wearing trainers for a job interview, it says, “I don’t conform.” That could be a good thing or a bad thing! If you’re applying to be a Brand Ambassador for a fun, high-energy brand, a stylish pair of tennis shoes might be a great choice. Not so much if you are applying to a corporate hospitality position! Your shoes WILL say something to an interviewer, so decide the message you want to send and ensure you have the right kicks for the job. But whatever you go with, they must be immaculate. Dirty is never the right message for any job.
2. You can say a lot about yourself by the bag you carry.
First off, having any bag implies that you have things in it, which says “I like to be prepared for anything.” I’m never a fan of showing up without one, if only because showing up with nothing says, “I have nowhere else to be right now.” Is that an attractive quality? I don’t think so. Professional people carry professional bags. Carry one that matches your chosen attire. You look goofy carrying your grandpa’s old briefcase wearing a smart casual ensemble. Conversely, your old high-school backpack doesn’t match your suit very well. A smart and slim shoulder bag or briefcase are universal and rarely look out of place!
3. What’s in your bag?
You didn’t seriously show up to an interview with an empty bag just because I said so? How dumb are you going to look when the interviewer asks if you have a pen and you don’t have one in there? Remember what was in Kramer’s briefcase when he briefly worked (without compensation) at an office? Three sleeves of Ritz crackers. Don’t be that guy or gal. You need a pen and a professional-looking notepad. You don’t have to go crazy and buy a leather-bound journal. I think old-school legal pads look sharp and unpretentious. Make sure you unwrap it from the plastic before you go in, and just for laughs, tear some sheets away from it. As an interviewer, I can tell you just bought this stuff and again, I want to have the impression that you often have occasion to write important things down. Other things to have? Print out the job posting and description and have MULTIPLE copies of your resume. Don’t wait to be asked if you have these things. Having them says a lot but your interviewer may not ask, so instead be proactive and advertise, “I am prepared and am taking this seriously.”
4. Things not to have in your bag...
... or at least things that you should not take out of your bag, include phones, tablets, and laptops. Your phone should be off and out of sight. Your phone on the table is a distraction and you want to give the impression that 100% of your attention is on the interviewer. Don’t take notes on your phone or on a laptop; handwriting appears more serious and thoughtful, and takes any guessing out on the interviewer’s part of whether you’re texting or emailing during your interview! If you’ve got a slim tablet and a boss stylus, I’m giving you the green light to go that route, just put it in airplane mode to keep any notifications from popping up.
5. Last pro tip – whatever you do, be memorable.
A great way to do this is to give a very simple personal business card from the jump. I am impressed by folks who take themselves seriously as a professional. In any job, I want to work with someone who takes their personal brand seriously. Get yourself some non-generic cards. They don’t have to be colorful or crazy, and they shouldn’t be a business card for your current (or a previous!) employer either. Put your name, any social handles you are active on and would want to be seen by an employer, any recognized qualifications you might have (some companies, like WSET, have sharp-looking graphics you can use to advertise your certification on a business card!), and something fun like, on the back, “good for one free cup of coffee, anywhere, anytime.” I would remember someone clever like that and so would you. Slap that sucker right down on the table and start a conversation.
Now go forth and gear up and get that next job you deserve!
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