No Second Chance at a First Impression
By: Mary Mulvihill Ed.D., Executive Director, Grace Institute
You may have the best credentials in the world. However, if the first impression you give to a potential employer is a poor one, your chance for the job may be over before the interview begins.
Jacqueline Peros, founder of JMP Image and Style, is an expert in the area of making a great first impression. "Studies have shown that most people form opinions about others within the first moments of meeting them", says Ms. Peros. "Much of this is based solely on visual appearance. As a result, it is critical to your interview success to project a favorable opinion immediately".
But how? Ms. Peros recommends following a few basic rules that will guarantee proper interview attire. For men, a dark suit, dress shirt and tie and laced up shoes. For women, a skirt or pant suit paired with a blouse or thin knit sweater and pumps (no taller than 2 " inches), are appropriate. Jewelry should be elegant and simple. Dangling earrings and bracelets should be left for weekend outings. Always err on the conservative side, however, adds Ms. Peros, "you may inject your personal style through your selection of accessories such as scarves, handbags or shoes for women and ties and cuff links for men". But cologne and perfume should be kept at a minimum or not worn at all. Jewelry should be simple and classic (no hoops, dangling earrings, etc.) and hair should be neat and unfussy, preferably pulled back. Ms. Peros continues that if investing in a new suit or a pair of shoes is not an option, be sure the suit is impeccably tailored and pressed and the shoes are polished to perfection. "Nothing screams 'I don't care about my look' ", she says "more than an ill-fitting jacket, pants top or outerwear. As they say, the devil is in the details".
Now that you've got the style down, let's turn to professional etiquette. Catherine Palmiere, President of Palmiere Career Services and CEO of Adam Personnel, Inc. and Adam Temporary Services, Inc., is an expert voice of experience on what it takes to make a great first impression, and to get and keep the job. "With competition so steep, more and more companies are evaluating candidates not only on their work accomplishments but on their dress, attitude, communication and listening skills". These are the 'soft skills', or, as Ms. Palmiere calls them, 'intangibles'. She feels that it is important for employment candidates to possess more than what they can offer on paper - and being able to present themselves properly both at the interview and later in the workplace is key. She notes that when meeting potential clients and candidates, she has observed a certain "casualness in how people speak and present themselves which does not serve them well". Proper attire, punctuality, preparation for the interview in the form of researching a company in advance and sending a follow-up thank you note after an interview are important pieces of the process.
"Soft skills really do matter", Ms. Palmiere adds. "The job hunter who possesses these skills is more likely to get and keep a job... even in a recession".
For over 100 years, Grace Institute has provided tuition-free, practical job training in a supportive learning community for underserved New York area women of all ages and from many different backgrounds. In the tradition of its founding family, Grace is dedicated to the development of the personal and business skills necessary for self-sufficiency, employability and an improved quality of life.