When Job Hunting Your Image is Everything (Part 2)
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When Job Hunting Your Image is Everything (Part 2)

This column is the second of a 2-part series discussing an aspect that most job seekers ignore, the image they project to employers.

Part 2: The second hardest part is getting them to fall in love with you.

A stunning first impression was not the same thing as love at first sight. But surely it was an invitation to consider the matter.” – Lois McMaster Bujold, writer.

Lois’s words remind us that a positive first impression is a prerequisite for someone to consider if you’re worth falling in love with. For the sake of this column, I’m using the term “love” broadly. 

Congratulations! You passed the employer’s vetting of your resume, digital footprint and, most likely, phone interview. Now you’re sitting in reception waiting for your interviewer to meet you.

Now’s the time, or rather when you were choosing what to wear to your interview, to heed the advice I received years ago from an executive of the company I was working at, “What others think of you determines whether or not you move forward.”

All these years later, I still remember his words. Right or wrong, people judge your character and professionalism based on their first impression of you.

Do you appear to be…

  • someone who can be trusted?
  • someone who’s easily approachable or rather to be avoided?
  • someone who’s a member of their tribe?
  • someone who’s confident or timid?
  • someone who’s competent, intelligent, and presumably educated?
  • someone who’s well-mannered?

Have you ever asked yourself this uncomfortable question: How do people probably perceive me when they meet me for the first time?

TRUTH BOMB: Often, hiring decisions are based more on a person’s social fit than on their skills and experience. Being seen as easy to work with is a massively underrated career skill. 

There’s no one right image. There’s no good or bad image. Instead, there’s an image that either supports or doesn’t support your career and personal goals. Your image matters in your professional and personal life because it helps you advance. 

The physical image (READ: nonverbal communication) you project comprises of:

  • Your appearance (nonverbal communication)
  • Your behaviour (verbal and nonverbal communication)
  • Your communication (verbal communication)

Imagine your interviewer walking into the reception area and seeing you for the first time. Your image should make people like you and trust you as soon as they see you. Do you think your image, your first impression, attracts people? Do you think your image makes people want to spend time with you and have a conversation with you? 

  • Based on your appearance, do you seem likeable? 
  • How does your appearance make people feel? 

Image matters because it’s about trust. It’s your responsibility to take responsibility for the way you are perceived. You’re the only person in control of the first impression you make and your ongoing image. Your outer presence reflects your qualities; therefore, it’s imperative that your appearance supports the message of authenticity, honesty and reliability.

Looking good and feeling good is a recipe for success. Confidence in your appearance leads to self-confidence. More importantly, your interviewer’s initial impression and gut feeling—all hiring decisions come down to “gut feel”—about you will be positive, as opposed to them thinking, “This person isn’t going to work out. I’m wasting my time interviewing him.” More than once, upon meeting a candidate for the first time and noticing their appearance and how they greeted me, I said to myself, “This is going to be a short interview.”   

When it comes to making a positive first impression, keeping your appearance clean and neat is essential, as well as greeting your interviewer with a smile, a firm handshake and making eye contact—body language that indicates you’re self-assured. Your goal is for your interviewer to focus on you and your skills, not your clothes, grooming and mannerisms. 

Your appearance is your interviewer’s first glimpse of your judgment skills. For example, if you’re applying for a high-level managerial job in the financial industry where tailored suits are the norm, showing up in anything less indicates either poor knowledge of industry expectations or a disregard for established professional image standards. Likewise, if you’re interviewing for a job as a hospice nurse and show up in a vintage evening gown, you show you don’t understand the environment you’d be working in.

Your choice of attire exhibits that you’re serious about landing the job and understand and respect the company’s culture. Don’t kid yourself; your overall appearance, along with your communication skills and mannerisms, will be used to determine if you’ll fit easily into the workplace dynamics you’ll be working in. 

TIP: Every company has an unofficial dress code—an unsaid uniform. Research what the unsaid uniform is for the company and position you’re interviewing for, and dress accordingly.

As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, being perceived as a fit is the key to getting hired. Therefore, you should project an image that communicates that you’ll fit seamlessly into the company’s culture. From the moment your interviewer meets you, you want them to begin considering whether they’ll love having you as an employee. 

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Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send Nick your questions at [email protected].

Nick Kossovan
Nick Kossovan
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send Nick your questions at [email protected].