Looking the Part

  • Posted by: Chaloner

This week’s blog post is written by Chaloner’s Jenn Saldarelli. Jenn is a senior associate at Chaloner and has spent a decade in executive search. She has led searches for mid- and senior-level communications and marketing professionals for non-profits, Fortune 500 organizations and PR agencies large and small.

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking: have you researched the company? Have you thought about what you want to ask? And, have you decided what to wear? That’s right, putting thought into your physical appearance is an important mode of preparation. We know that your credentials, experience, and personality can get you a job, but it’s just as true your physical presentation can lose you a job. This week I’ll go over some simple but important tips to help you get interview-ready.

When it’s perfect, we won’t notice.
Usually perfection is followed by accolades, but when it comes to dressing perfectly for an interview, you want to look so good that there’s nothing to comment on regarding your appearance— that way the focus can go where it belongs: your experience. This means that looking good for an interview isn’t so much about looking like the most glamorous or handsome version of yourself, but instead looking clean, pulled together, and sharp.

Don’t save it for the day before.
You want your clothes to be flattering and well-tailored. Don’t assume that an outfit that worked magic for you three years ago will do the same today. I remember one candidate who flew across the country to interview with a company, only to find out the morning of the interview that the suit he had packed was too small. Another candidate once told me that she laid out her interview outfit a few days before but didn’t try it on until the morning of the interview and realized her blouse was nearly see-through. Don’t leave it to chance, for the sake of your appearance but also your own comfort.

Go light on the extras.
Jewelry, make-up and nail polish are all nice touches, but shouldn’t be the main event. If you walk in clanging with too many bracelets, with eye shadow straight out of a Vegas show, or neon orange nail polish, you’re going to distract from yourself. Go very gently with – or completely without – perfume and cologne. You don’t want to run the risk of the scent of your cologne lingering longer than you do.

Use video to your advantage.
What about your appearance when you’re interviewing via Skype? Most of the same rules apply. Not only do you need to look professional but also make sure the space you’re in looks professional, too. Plan on doing your video interview in a quiet spot; in places like coffee shops the noise is out of your control, and can be very distracting. It’s best to do the Skype in an office, or if you’re going to do it at home, do it at a table against a blank wall. It’s awkward to interview a candidate when you’re looking at their bed or messy family room in the background—or if family members are going to interrupt. Lastly, test your technology beforehand so you know it works. Make sure your web camera is aimed at you at a flattering angle. While we want to know a lot about you, we don’t need to see the inside of your nose!

Dressing professionally communicates to your potential employer that you’re put-together and responsible, but it also should make you feel comfortable. We perform our best when we feel like ourselves.