We may not think about the impressions we make with our appearance very often. Most people are pretty set in the way they dress, the way they wear their hair, and their taste in fashion. But during a job search, you meet new people more often and are reguarly creating a first impressions. Are your looks holding you back? Now may be a good time to take a deeper look.
As we reported in “Do Looks Matter?”, appearance is rated the third most important factor in hire decisions following qualifications and confidence. That means confidently bringing out your qualifications should take you further than plastic surgery. But clearly, appearance is a factor.
As a job seeker, you are selling yourself. You are a package. Your achievements, credentials, experience and promise of future value are the great product inside the box. Your appearance and presentation are the outside of the box. The packagin outside needs to effectively represent the great product that is inside. Or, at least, it should not discourage people from considering the product. Your presentation, communication skills and confidence are important parts of your packaging. Your appearance is also part of it.
Ann is an energetic, enthusiastic IT professional. At age 51, she will tell you she does not feel old. Her skills are up to date. She works well with people of all ages and has demonstrated her ability to excel. On paper she looks great. In person, her seemingly untamable salt-n-pepper hair is worn in a style that was popular 25 years ago. Her eyes and much of her face are behind large round glasses. The disconnect between her abilities and her look is jarring. The first impression she creates takes away her marketability for many people.
The Message Behind Your Look
It’s not just older people who send messages. When a young worker interviews with overgrown hair, facial stubble, dirty finger nails or sloppy clothing, the message may be that he or she doesn’t pay attention to detail or doesn’t care enough to do better. No matter how you choose to maintain you appearance, consider the message it may send to potential employers.
Like it or not, how we look does count in all human interactions, and especially when job searching. Here are a couple of simple and easy ways to keep your appearance from harming your job search:
- Hair. Get regular, professional haircuts. If you’ve worn the same style for years, ask the stylist to update your look. Young people should avoid bright or unnatural hair coloring. If you have long hair, keep it tidy and out of your face. Don’t have bangs that cover any part of your eyes.
- Glasses. Wearing them is not a problem. But styles have changed. If you’ve worn the same style for a long time, it may date you. Unless you plan to get a new pair every year or two, consider a timeless style. Don’t have smeared lenses. Clean them often.
- Clothing. All you really need is one or two good quality ensembles that project professional looks. Ask a friend to evaluate what you’ve got. Assemble a networking or first interview outfit and a variation on it for second interviews. Sometimes all it takes is a few updated accessories to make an outfit look contemporary and professional.
No one needs plastic surgery, braces or a new wardrobe to get a job. But you want a look that matches your overall brand. If you’re trying to convey professionalism, ability to be organized and attention to detail, make sure your appearance matches.
Do you think looks matter when you’re trying to find a job?