It may seem insignificant, but your shirt or skirt, your tie or lack of one can cost you a job.
That’s the word from over 100 hiring managers and Human Resource professionals representing employers from St John’s to Vancouver and ranging from modest mom-and-pop operations in Northern Ontario to billion-dollar Bay Street corporations.
The DiversityCanada Foundation, the publisher of this handbook, went straight to the source. We asked employers what advice they would give job seekers if they could provide only three tips.
Almost universally, employers said candidates must dress appropriately if they are to have any hope of success.
It may seem an obvious point, but the managers indicated a significant number of people they interviewed over the years have torpedoed their chances by showing up in jeans, in soiled or rumpled clothes, or with too-trendy hairstyles.
Why do employers place so much emphasis on appearances?
It’s not at all that they are being shallow or picky, suggested Anne Sowden, president of the Toronto chapter of the Association of Image Consultants International. She pointed to studies conducted at Harvard University which showed that within 30 seconds, a person is able to judge someone’s competence within about 80 per cent of accuracy.
“Whether we like it or not, people make decisions about us and our abilities based on the way we look,” Sowden said. “Our appearance is one of the most powerful nonverbal communication tools we can use. The image you project can affect your ability to inspire trust and confidence.”
So the message is clear. Your job interview attire cannot be whatever is hanging around in the closet on the big day. Employers want to see that you have given thought to the clothes and hairstyle you choose to show up with for the interview.
You CAN dress to impress if you remember these three words that many employers said they look for in a job candidate’s appearance: Clean, Appropriate, Neat.
What is appropriate varies from business to business, of course. So job candidates have to educate themselves on what their potential employer would approve of, said Linda Lewis, chair of Ryerson University’s School of Fashion.
Lewis noted that because of the influx of immigrants into the Canadian workforce, employers have become more accepting of people showing up dressed in non-Western styled outfits that would be acceptable in workplaces in other parts of the world. However, she warns that many employers may frown on a person who is not of a certain culture adopting these styles simply to be fashionable.
“You have to investigate the culture of the company,” she said. “Look at the corporate reports or brochures to see the image they project. If you can, go down to the office and walk around. Get to know the environment.”
Such an approach falls right into line with the two other most frequently suggested tips from employers.
Hiring managers and employers were quite consistent in emphasising that candidates do their homework before coming in to talk about getting a job.
The second most popular tip was that candidates research the company. The third was that job seekers fully understand and ensure they are qualified for the position for which they are applying.
More tips that come directly from people who do the hiring:
– Remove unnecessary jewellery (eg tongue, nose, eyebrow piercings)
– Be pleasant
– Give the impression that you can handle yourself
– Have confidence in yourself
– Show initiative
– Have a real interest in what you say and in the questions you ask
– Have a positive outlook
– Act professional
– Make yourself personable
– Have good composure
– Be willing to WORK!!!!!
– Be polite!
– Use proper English
– Express yourself, be responsive
– Be alert
– Shake hands firmly and make eye contact
– Be yourself
– Be mindful of your body language
– Keep your answers concise and clear
– Leave bad language at the door
– Don’t come looking untidy or with strong body odour
– Don’t wear strong perfume
– Don’t come dressed in jeans
– Don’t be sloppy
– Don’t have blue hair
– Don’t be assuming
– Don’t just sit there meekly
– Don’t have the “know it all” attitude
– Don’t talk in slang
– Don’t oversell yourself or act like you know more than you do
– Don’t be shy when speaking
– Don’t act arrogantly
– Don’t be fidgety
– Don’t lead the conversation
– Don’t start off by making demands
– Don’t be late for the interview
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