By Farhan Shah
First impressions are incredibly important, more so in job interviews. As you walk into the room, your interviewer (orinterviewers) is already forming pre-conceived notions about you based on your appearance, even before the obligatory handshake.
According to a study done by Princeton psychologists, people form first impressions about you almost immediately in the blink of an eye, about a tenth of a second to be exact, and longer exposures do not necessarily equate to a different or better impression.
Before your mouth has opened, your interviewer has already sized you up, so make sure your interviewer has not mentally removed you from the shortlist even before you present your case.
According to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 73% of employers would not hire slovenly, smelly or dirty employees so if you come in to the office smelling and looking like something the cat brought it, you can forget about a job offer.
There are 3 parts to your appearance.
According to international business dress expert Barbara Pachter in the book “Job Interview for Dummies”, you have to “send a message through your clothing and be aware of the details.”
This means that the clothes you wear send a signal, and subsequently a message, to your interviewer. An outfit that is one size too big looks unprofessional and tells your interviewer that you cannot be bothered to put in effort in the way you look, which might also translate to your future job performance.
Shoes are also an important part of your outfit. A well-put-together outfit can go to waste if your shoes are grubby or dirty. Your interviewer will notice your shoes, so make sure the pair that you have on are clean, polished, and in good condition.
For men, another clothing faux pas you can commit are ankle socks. Although these are highly fashionable, they do not belong in the interview room. Nothing turns off an interviewer more than seeing hairy, exposed flesh when you sit down and expose your ankles. It tells the interviewer that you cannot differentiate between the boardroom and the beach.
For women, gratuitous shows of flesh should be avoided like the plague. “Sexy isn’t a corporate look. Low-cut tops that expose cleavage draw attention to this body part and are not appropriate in the office,” Joyce Kennedy writes in Job Interview for Dummies.
After your clothes are taken care of, it is time to groom yourself. Focus on the parts that will be visible to the interviewer, which includes your facial hair and nails.
No interviewer likes to see visible nose hair protruding out of your nostrils. It becomes an unpleasant distraction and will result in your interviewer thinking about how best to trim your hair instead of listening to you expound your career achievements.
As for your nails, make sure digits are trimmed and buffed. Unsightly talons indicate to your interviewers that you are oblivious to details and might be prone to careless mistakes in your work. For the ladies who put on nail polish, ensure that your nail polish is not chipped because it sends the same signals, that of not noticing details, to your interviewers.
In the case of stubble, it is largely dependent on the position that you are applying for. If you are applying for a creative position, the interviewer might not pay any heed to your 5 o’clock shadow. However, if you are attempting to score a corporate job, it’s best to be clean-shaven.
Now that you have picked out the perfect outfit and made sure your hair and nails are in tip-top condition, don’t forget the olfactory factor. It’s not just about what the interviewer sees but what the interviewer smells as well. Unfortunately, in sunny Singapore, being located so close to the equator results in excessive sweating for some, and with it a malodorous side-effect.
If taking an air-conditioned taxi is not an option for you, accommodate some time (about 10 – 15 minutes) in your schedule to clean up in the washroom before you enter the interview room. Stow deodorant and cologne in your bag as well so that any unsavoury smells are taken care of.
Ensure that your mouth is not reminiscent of dead fish. Gargle mouthwash and drink lots of plain water before you head out. That will take care of any last vestiges of halitosis. Nothing turns off an interviewer more than being assaulted in the nostrils by any unpleasant odour. They will start to think about how they will have to work in close proximity with you every day, for as long as you stay with the company, which might not be very appealing.
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