When looking for a new job, we all know that making a positive first impression is essential. However, few of us realize the key to making that first impression successful is our personal image.
Within the first two to 30 seconds that it takes to create that first impression, you may not have even said a word. More likely in those initial moments, you, the job seeker, are simply standing up to greet the interviewer and your entire first impression relies solely on your nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication is everything from your body language, facial expressions, tone of voice when you are speaking, and of course your personal image.
So how do you go about using your personal image to intentionally create a strong first impression? First off, do a bit of research. Investigate the company, see what they stand for, find out the details out about their mission, their values, and how the company is structured. Some companies even put a short video on their website, describing to potential employees what they expect in the way of dress and how candidates should present themselves.
Once you know about the company, research the area. Is the job you’re applying for in New York City or is it in Kansas City? Or perhaps you’re considering a position overseas. In that case, it’s crucial to understand the country’s culture before you jump on a plane or onto Skype for that interview.
Now that you know something about the company you are applying to, how do you know what to wear? There are four main areas of your personal dress to consider before you head to that interview: color, cut, level of the position, and reflecting the company’s wants and needs. Color and color psychology used correctly can be a powerful tool to communicate who you are as well as the type of professional you are. Simply put, in the color world, the deeper or darker the color, the more professional the color is thought to be, while the lighter the color, the more juvenile or immature the color is thought to be. So if you are going for a powerful, professional look, stick with darker colors and avoid pastels.
Now when it comes to which color to wear, this is where the cultural research really pays off. Western society and Eastern society each have different interpretations of color. Investigating the different color meanings will help you determine which color to wear for the message you want to send. A perfect example is the color red: in Western society red represents passion, where as in Eastern society, depending on the country and their culture, it can have a variety of other meanings. You want to be sure you’re speaking the color language of the company on the receiving end of your impression.
The cut of your clothes is crucial because clothes that don’t fit just say sloppy and unkempt. If you want to come across as the true professional that you are, you need to be certain that your clothes fit you perfectly. So go visit a tailor and see what can be done to ensure you’re reflecting your most polished, professional self.
Now when it comes to the level of the position and what the company wants, you have to temper this with who you truly are. Dressing in a manner that doesn’t reflect who you are on some level will end up making your outfit look like a costume. Typically, if you are applying for a position below management, a business casual look is acceptable in most areas of the United States.
Also consider the company’s style and approach to doing business. Does the company talk a lot about teamwork and innovation? If so, a business casual look may work in this environment across the board. However, if the company talks about long standing tradition and conservative values, then a business suit may be your best bet.
All the tools are out there and available to help you, the job seeker, put your best foot forward and maximize your first impression with a potential new employer. It’s up to you to put the pieces of the puzzle together. But if you take the time to do the research and apply the knowledge, you soon will be a job seeker no more!
Alison Craig is an author, a speaker, and the CEO of 3 Impressions, inc., an impression management firm. The 3 ImpressionsSM ideology of Craig’s, transforms individuals and corporations from a mundane, mainstream existence to a place that reflects a zealous, passionate, and free spirit with a distinctive and focused direction, leading to a life lived on a level unattainable to many. For more information go to www.3impressions.com.