By: Donyale D. Andrews, MBA/HRM
I remember it like yesterday…going into my first job interview.
I was a young girl nervously waiting to speak to someone about getting a summer job. My mom had picked out a sleeveless A-line dress that hit right at the knees with multi-colored flowers strategically placed from my bust to the hem, and I’d put on my best pair of pantyhose with my patent leather black church shoes. My hair had been sprayed and moisturized to perfection as my shoulder-length Jheri Curl gleamed in the sunlight.
The year was 1985 – many years before cable, internet, cell phones and camera phones. Many years before the click of a few computer keys would have given away the fact that I was only 15 years old and had just lied to my potential employer that I technically didn’t meet the required age limit, which at the time was 16 years old, to qualify for a permit. This was also many years before you were required to provide state or school ID, original copies of documents or school records. But with the mere swipe of a little liquid paper, my now doctored up birth certificate copy indicated that – yes, I did indeed qualify to work any job given to me.
I look back at that time and times after and noticed a pattern. If you wanted a job and wanted to be taken seriously, you had to put on your Sunday best and be casket-sharp! As well as, being incredibly smart, well-rounded, confident, and a quick-learner. We girls would be dressed to impress and the guys would all have on their best suits and ties with the little handkerchief peeking out of the breast pocket. When you saw someone dressed this well on any day besides Sunday, you automatically knew they were going to one of three places: a wedding, a funeral or a job interview.
My, oh my, how times have changed! I have worked many years as a human resource professional and have seen the clothing choices of many interviewees as well as how they’d conduct themselves once seated and awaiting retrieval from the interview committee.
Therefore, I believe this little insight and experience has given me permission to give a few tips to the job hunters of today.
Your appearance indicates to your new employer that not only do you take the interview seriously; that you appreciate the opportunity and would like to show the employer that you will put your best foot forward.
Let’s face it…life is all about perception and until people get to know the real you, they will focus on the “you” that they do know…your appearance, how you interact with them at the interview and how well you presented yourself. This ladies and gentlemen is what is known as a first impression, and you want it to be a good one.
So let’s discuss some of the common mistakes that I’ve seen on job interviews:
- The low cut blouse and short skirt – Ladies, please understand that you are going to interview for a job not hit up the latest bar or social scene. Make sure that your shirt is not so low cut that your cleavage says hello before you do. And please make sure that your skirt is an appropriate length. I’ve seen ladies come to interviews with skirts so incredibly high, their behinds were showing when they sat down and stood up. Talk about embarrassing as your male interviewer tries to quickly avert his eyes as you tug and pull trying to get your skirt under control.
- Shoes – Please wear work appropriate shoes! Do not come to the interview in shoes with heels 5-7 inches tall. Nothing is funnier to an interviewer than watching you wobble in and out of the interview room trying to remain steady on the stilts that you decided you look so good in. Men should wear dress shoes as well. I don’t care how much you paid for the latest Jordans; they never look good with a suit.
- Speaking of men…please wear a suit or a very nice shirt, pair of dress slacks, belt and possibly a tie. I cannot possibly tell you the number of interviews that I’ve sat in on where the man showed up in wrinkled clothes, jeans and tennis shoes, SHORTS, and even a sleeveless shirt. Also, please ensure that your pants are the appropriate size and you are not “sagging” and showing your underwear…no bueno!
- Tattoos – Make every attempt to cover your tattoos. In 1999, I interviewed a young lady who not only had incredibly large breasts that she displayed in a low cut blouse; but also the name “Michael” was displayed from one side of her chest to the next in a very vibrant tattoo. Although the blouse was cute, but not interview appropriate, it also had capped sleeves, in which I was able to see the names of all seven of her children on one arm and a pair of praying hands on the other. On each wrist were tattoos as well as the ring finger of both hands. I was completely distracted to say the least. And I still remember her tattoos 16 years later!
- Perfumes and colognes – Please do not over do it on the perfume and cologne. The smell should enhance, not over-power. Or if possible, try not to wear any at all. There are many people who are allergic to smells or have problems with scents and you don’t want that to be the first thing that enters the room before you do. When I was pregnant with my son, I couldn’t stand the smell of Drakkar Noir. Any man coming within a 5 foot radius of me would cause me to become sick to my stomach. Just keep that in mind when you interview. You just may be interviewed by a pregnant woman who can’t stand the way you smell! You don’t want your interview cut short because she can’t stomach being around you.
- Depending upon the type of job interview you are going on, pay attention to your personal grooming. Hair should be combed, neat and clean. You should be well put together from head to toe. Make sure your nails are clean and women should never go to an interview with long, exaggerated nail tips polished in a multitude of colors. Muted colors and an acceptable length are key. Remember, your interviewer does not personally know you or what you can do on the job yet, therefore your appearance and how you conduct yourselves on the interview is being evaluated along with your resume, experiences and education.
- Cell phones – In this day and age everyone wants to post where they are, what they’re wearing, and what they are eating. While you are waiting for your interview, make sure to turn your ringer off and put your phone away. Do not sit there playing around on your phone while you wait. I had an interview once where every four to five minutes, an employee of the agency passed me and said “Good morning!” I would reply in kind and continue sitting there waiting for my turn to be interviewed, practicing interview questions and my responses in my head. Well guess my surprise when each person who passed me and spoke that morning was a part of my panel interview! They were already checking me out before I’d hit the room. One interviewer even mentioned to me that one of the ladies mentioned how much she liked my outfit, which made each of them come out to see what I was wearing. Luckily for me, I was just sitting there patiently watching the activity go by.
- Once you become employed with the agency, make sure to remain dressing professionally. It is easy to fall in line with what everyone else is doing, but I can guarantee you that you will stand out if you don’t conform to what everyone else is doing and stay true to yourself and your goals with the agency.
Each of the tips mentioned here are simply examples that you should tailor your interview around. Depending upon the type of job you are applying for, many of these helpful insights will not pertain to you. They are just a few ideas to guide you on your quest to sustainable employment. I hope that you find it helpful to you or to someone you know who may be searching for that right job opportunity.
Donyale is the author of I Got Fired…Now What?! 100 Things to Do After You Are Fired; owner of Donyale’s Lash Emporium (http://donyales-lash-emporium.myshopify.com) and owner of blog, Divas and Dollas (www.divasanddollas.com). In her spare time she loves to read, and is dedicated to assisting in the employment of America’s unemployed citizens. You can visit and follow her FB page, I Got Fired…Now What?! for the latest updates in employment opportunities, tips and information.