I know, its not what your Mother taught you growing up. But the truth is, first impressions mean the world, and as “entry level candidates” we don’t have much in the way of experience for employers to evaluate our performance. Don’t think for a second they are non-judgmental; many heads of HR are more superficial than the cheerleaders from your high school days. What exactly are they evaluating you on? Your appearance, of course. Here are a few tips that go beyond the old manta of “Dress to Impress.”
1. Know Your Corporate Culture
My parents, as well as guidance counselors, always pressured me to dress for a job interview like I’m going to JR prom. While this may have been appropriate for the Mad Men-esque professional environment they grew up in, it’s not always the case for today’s workplace. Check out the website of your potential employer and see how the employees are dressed. Try and dress up one notch from them to show some humility, but don’t go over the top. If ┬áthe employees are pictured in front of their Mac Books in sneakers and t-shirts then wear a button down shirt tucked into khakis. There’s no need for dress slacks and a tie.
2. Be a Mobile Professional
It happens in movie theaters as well as job interviews; your phone rings. You fumble embarrassingly to mute it but its too late, the damage is done; the entire HR team knows your ring tone is the newest Lady Gaga hit. Do yourself a favor and take precautionary measures and set standard, office-friendly tones for your calls, SMS, and e-mail. It shows a level of maturity. Also, if you happen to own a tablet PC like an Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy, bring it along. I usually bring a notebook and pen to my interviews with prearranged questions that I “might forget” but really I want to show off my organizational skills and overall professional demeanor. Take it up a notch by composing them on your tablet PC, it screams “Hey, I’m organized and technology literate.”
3. Keep It Together
In keeping with the theme of an evolving, more down to earth workplace, evaluate the contraption you’re using to hold your Blackberry, iPad, Glasses Case, Resume and all sorts of other goodies. A briefcase screams “I’m trying to hard” while a backpack states “I’m not ready to leave college yet.” For men, opt for a messenger bag which has ample storage space but can easily be thrown behind your back, leaving your hands free for handshakes (or bows) and gesturing during the interview. Bonus points if there is a holster for your coffee mug/thermos, as it says you’re a battle tested office professional who already has a two cup a day java habit.