Looking Cool Isn’t Always Cool When You Interview

by Kelly Brewer (’07)

Effectively presenting yourself during interviews can be crucial to a successful job search. Companies often look beyond a winning resume and decide if they will hire you or not based on your appearance, self confidence and how well you present yourself to the interviewer. There are steps to take before and during your job interview that will help you present yourself with energy, confidence and professionalism.

Who would you rather hire?

Before your job interview, prepare the clothing that you will wear. Make sure your clothes are clean, pressed, conservative and business-like. Also, make sure your hair and nails are trim and clean. Your attire should be appropriate and well-fitting. A two-piece matched suit is always the best choice for both men and women, in navy, gray, or black. If you are still having trouble deciding what to wear, always err on the side of caution and dress more professionally rather than casual. Dressing nicely and appropriately is a compliment to the person you meet.

As for tattoos and piercings, it is best to take out any piercings that are visible, with the exception of one or two minimally sized earrings per ear for women, and typically no earrings for men. Tattoos should not be visible to the interviewer. Something to keep in mind: From your point of view, a tattoo, facial piercing, or orange spiky hair may be a personal statement, but if it turns off one customer or client, an employer will not want you to work for them.

Ironically, research indicates a candidate’s handshake—which has no visual impact—came out higher on the influence scale than the more in-your-face attributes such as body piercing, obvious tattoos, and unusual hair styles. A dry, firm handshake reflects a strong personality and is what most employers are looking for. Limp, sweaty hands are definitely a no. This is the first body language in the interview that your interviewer will “read.”

That doesn’t mean new college graduates should feel free to sport mutton chops to an interview, nor does it mean that an employer will automatically nix a candidate who has an ankle embellished with a butterfly.

The following points will help you present yourself as effectively as possible and exude confidence:

  • Don’t let the employer’s casual approach cause you to drop your manners or professionalism. Maintain a professional image.
  • Don’t address the interviewer by his or her first name unless you are invited to do so.
  • Don’t chew gum or smell like smoke.
  • Don’t take cell phone calls during an interview. If you carry a cell phone, turn it off during the interview to be sure it doesn’t ring.
  • Be aware of your non-verbal behaviors—sit straight; smile as often as you can; maintain eye contact but don’t stare the interviewer down; lean forward without invading the interviewer’s space; sit still in your seat; avoid fidgeting and slouching.
  • Don’t be shy or self-effacing. You want to be enthusiastic, confident, and energetic, but not aggressive, pushy, or egotistic. That fine line is important. If you think you may be trying too hard to sell yourself, you are probably crossing the line. Instead, pull back; be confident, reassuring, and calm.
  • The last impression is almost as important as the first impression and will add to the substance discussed during the information exchange. Therefore, when the interviewer concludes the interview, offer a firm handshake and make eye contact. Depart gracefully.

These steps may not ensure you’ll get your dream job, but they will help you interview with poise. You will demonstrate that you are genuinely excited about—and ready for—the next step in your future.


1 comment so far

  1. Natalie on

    This website should not advise that “a two-piece matched suit is always the best choice”. This is the most stereotypical interview outfit and will not make you stand out in the crowd of interviewees unless it is done right and uniquely, or better yet, not at all. (Men, sorry, I guess you guys have no other choices, really) but women do.

    For instance, the last interview I went on, I wore a beautifully fitting white long-sleeved blouse with a little bit of a large collar, which I layered a (wonderfully fitting) black turtleneck pullover sweater vest on top of, and I pulled the white collar of the blouse out over the black turtleneck. It was STUNNING, with dark tailored slacks and sleek black heels to boot.

    Needless to say, I looked professional, elegant, smart, aaaand fashionable… it gave me great confidence, and of course I got the job!

    Happy interview-outfitting!

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