Looking for a job is more than just about resumes and networking. It’s also about looking the part and complementing the look with the right body language.
Diane Klein, assistant director of internships at the Office of Career Development, said that people looking for a job should always dress up, even if they are applying at a casual company.
“When someone’s hiring you, you’re a product, and [he/she] wants to buy the best kind of product,” Klein said. “So you want to be sure you’re dressed for the occasion and you’re prepared for the occasion.”
Klein said it is better to be overdressed than underdressed.
“No one is not going to give you a position because you’re dressed too fancy,” she said. “[If it’s a casual company,] they may say, ‘Next time you come see us, you can wear jeans. You don’t have to wear the suit.’”
If the organization is more casual, slacks and a button-down shirt will work fine for men, Klein said. But for the most part, they should wear a suit and tie. Women should wear either a pantsuit or a skirt suit of appropriate length. Klein also suggested women wear pantyhose with skirts. The best colors to wear are dark colors such as blue, grey or black. Employers typically don’t like red or pink.
“Don’t wear anything too vibrant,” Klein said. “Dress up but don’t dress too loudly.”
Women should also wear comfortable high heels but shoes should be comfortable and practical.
“You want to be sure you’re comfortable,” Klein said. “You don’t want to wear anything too tight or revealing. Comfort and practicality are important but look good.”
Elaine Simmons, image consultant and president of Exclusive Corporate Image, a company that helps people with etiquette, protocol, body language and business dress, said comfort comes with wearing what you like.
“You want to dress as conservatively as possible. Find out what your personal style is and dress professionally,” Simmons said.
“Once you get in there, you’ll be able to give the impression that you have the qualifications to go the distance.”
Interviewees should dress one notch above the people at the office they’re interviewing for.
“If you’re going to the job site for an interview and everyone is wearing jeans, you want to wear khakis which are one notch above,” she said. “There is always power in a third piece. If a man is wearing pants and a shirt, adding a tie or jacket brings power to his presentation.”
Jennifer Reem, M.S., instructor of communication studies and communication program coordinator in the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, said jewelry indicates that someone is completely dressed because it’s usually the last thing someone puts on.
“Keep [jewelry] minimal but distinctive,” Reem said. “[Wear] good quality things but not things that are flashy or attract attention from you because your countenance is the most important thing in the interview.”
Reem suggested men who wear watches wear a nice business-looking watch and avoid wearing chains because some consider them flashy. Women should wear small jewelry, nothing too dangly or sparkly. A watch, ring, earrings and a necklace should suffice.
Reem said some make the mistake of either dressing too poorly or dressing up too much as if they are going to a nightclub: too glitzy, too much skin, too much makeup.
Klein said, “Makeup is important but you don’t want to look too loud. Keep it minimal but have enough so that you don’t look as if you just walked out of bed.”
But looking good is only part of your appearance at an interview.
Simmons said that almost 93 percent of our communication is nonverbal. In fact, 55 percent of a first impression is visual. The other 38 percent is vocal and seven percent is the person’s past knowledge and experiences. If you don’t give a favorable impression, it will take seven to eight more encounters with the person to reverse the impression.
Reem said that though people pay attention to words, nonverbal communication is less controllable, so people who perceive it assume it is true. “If you say one thing with your words, but your nonverbal communicates something else, people are going to notice that and believe the nonverbal more than they believe the verbal,” Reem said.
For example, Simmons said that crossing the hands and legs sends a negative vibe during interviews.
“It’s sending a closed gesture,” Simmons said. “People use it as a way of protecting themselves. It’ll mean to the other person that you have closed off. You might tell me something, but you’re not going to tell me everything.”
Looking away can imply that you are not being truthful.
“You can look away for a second or so just to gather your thoughts, but if you stay away too long that can give the idea that you’re not telling the truth,” Simmons said.
Reem said looking away also makes someone appear nervous.
“When you look a person straight in the eye, they feel uncomfortable not looking back,” Reem said. “It shows interests and attentiveness. But, it’s all right to look down when you have notes or the interviewer has given you something to read.”
Simmons said that one should not use too many gestures. Instead, show interest by tilting the head, smiling and sending the right message with your eyes.
“Visualize a triangle on the other person’s forehead and keep your gaze to that area,” she said.
“You’re sending the message that you’re interested in what they are saying. When you look below the nose, it becomes more social. The further south you go on someone with your gaze, the more intimate the situation.”
To maintain perfect posture, keep your back straight and your shoulders squared so that your diaphragm is stretched. Keep your feet planted on the ground. To keep proper posture when sitting, place your back against the back of the chair or sit at the edge of the chair. Make sure your hands are visible by placing them on your lap or on the table.
“Most of the time when you’re being interviewed, you’re being interviewed from the waist up, so whatever you do you want to make sure that that area is always perfect,” Simmons said.
Simmons said some women play with their hair, which sends a message that they are nervous.
“If your hair falls on your face, find something to pin it back so that you don’t have to keep moving it back or cut it so it doesn’t do that anymore because it becomes very distracting,” Simmons said.
You should also refrain from using slang, cursing and using vocal interruptions like “um.”
“You want to use proper language and finish your words,” Simmons said. “When people curse, they’re using adjectives that don’t mean anything in the place they put them. It doesn’t sound intelligent.”
Reem said sometimes people bring too many things to an interview. She suggested not using a briefcase or a purse. Instead, she suggested taking a leather notepad holder with only pen and paper, which looks official but is simple. Do not carry anything that jangles like keys.
“You want to be as clean cut and minimalistic as you can in that respect,” Reem said. “Most people don’t need a briefcase at an interview. If you have something that they’ve asked you to bring, bring it in a discreet leather-bound folder.”
Klein said, “You don’t want to give anyone a reason to say no to you and sometimes it can come down to appearance. Look orderly. Look put together.”