With a background as a human resources director turned business & career coach, I have interviewed hundreds, possibly thousands of people throughout my career. The huge contrast between how different people dress for their professional life never ceases to amaze me.
There was this one time that I was interviewing someone for a high level VP position. A role that would require them to manage over $50 million dollars in annual business and lead a team of more than 200 people. This candidate came highly recommended from a personal friend of mine who was very keen at identifying talent. I was confident that this was going to be an outstanding candidate!
The gentleman showed up to the interview timely and prepared, he answered questions beautifully, he was knowledgeable and innovative in the way he thought and spoke, but he was not winning me over.
The reason? I could not get past the way he was dressed. He was wearing a very ill fitting suit that was completely outdated and frankly worn out. His shoes lacked all sense of style and again appeared overly worn and his hair was not freshly cut, it looked like he was a month past due for a haircut with little to no effort made to comb or style it.
My heart broke for this man. I knew that if I sent him on to interview further that my own judgement would be questioned. But he seemed to have the stuff to do the job. A dilemma for sure.
It matters how you look.
In fact, it matters a lot. Statistics prove that people are rated more competent just based on appearance. In other words, the more buttoned up, professional and stylish you are, the more competent people will think you are, even before you answer a single question or do a day’s worth of work.
This is especially important for those of you that are building your own business. You are your brand and you are in essence what people are buying when they do business with you, especially in the beginning when you don't have a reputation built up yet.
Think dressing well is only for "important" days, think again!
Many of us get “comfortable” in our roles (me included) and we may even let things slide (yup) when it comes to dressing like the CEO. But be warned the way you present yourself is not only for interviews or big meetings.
You may think that you have already proved yourself, that your boss and others in the organization know that you’re capable and a high level contributor, so why can’t you be a little more casual at work or dress more comfortably?
Perhaps you are running your own business. Do you see wearing what ever you want as a perk of being an entrepreneur?
Well, I would advise against it if you want to get that promotion, raise or big client in the future.
Your ability to influence others is compromised when you forget to pull your look together. Your day to day appearance is a powerful tool in helping you seem credible. It turns out that “dressing for the job you want, not the job you have” really is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to help you get ahead.
The man I mentioned early...I did pass him along for further consideration, but I also had a conversation with him about how he presented himself and that if he was to go on further interviews he would need to be more polished and professional in his appearance. I think he appreciated the feedback because he took it and got the job!
Women vs. Men, there is a difference.
There are some stark differences in how women and men show up in the workplace. Men have a certain uniform of sorts and as long as they are properly groomed, their clothes are tailored correctly and they have relevant and well kept shoes, they are usually doing ok!
Women however, are subject to an entirely different set of challenges, with so many varieties in work wear. Depending on the industry you’re in or the type of work you’re doing there are many options for the ladies! This can be a very good thing, but also paralyzing, since limitless choice makes it harder to choose at times. And having a broad range of acceptable wardrobe choices can also lead a person to go out of that range without realizing it, until they show up at the meeting or event either under or overdressed. (Been there, done that, got the T-shirt and wore it to work on the wrong day!)
There is also the time factor that women have when it comes to presenting themselves for the work day. Clothes is just one piece, hair, makeup and nicely manicured nails all take time. Lots and lots of time!
This quote from Tina Fey has stuck with me since the 2015 Golden Globes…
”Steve Carell’s Foxcatcher look took two hours to put on, including his hair styling and makeup. Just for comparison, it took me three hours today to prepare for my role as a human woman.”
How true is that!
Whatever your business or career goals are, consider the way you dress as a tool you have in your control. You are completely and totally the one who decides how you're going to show up each day.
There's a reason why sayings like these exist:
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
Dress for success.
Look the part.
Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world :)
Thank you for reading!