How-To, Professional Presence, Videos

Look Your Best to Get the Job You Want

Friday night I was at the movies and my cell phone buzzed.  Racing out of the theatre in the middle of a great movie and into the hall corridor, the call was from a local TV reporter with whom I’m developing a relationship.  She wanted to interview me for a story, and would be happy to meet me at a coffee shop to do the shoot.  I explained how we were at the movies, that I was not dressed appropriately to appear on camera, but that as soon as the movie broke, I’d be happy to make myself appropriately presentable and meet with her and her cameraman.

This is the story that aired several times over the weekend on NBC Bay Area:

The interview was brief, yet wide-ranging.  I thought it’d be cool to share some of the back-story of what didn’t get to air in the news story.

If you’ve been called to interview for a job, someone’s reviewed your resume.  But you never know if the person who’s interviewing you has scrutinized your resume, or how soon before the interview, especially at a large company.  The bottom line is that you and you alone have to be more memorable than any other smart and qualified candidate.  A resume alone does not prove that you’re memorable, but the way you carry yourself through the interview does give the interviewer a certain perception about you.

The high unemployment rate is cause for people to consider career reinvention as a way of finding employment and fulfillment.  When shifting from, say trucking to high tech, it’s important to understand the culture you’re shifting into, and adjust your appearance accordingly.  Get invited onto a high tech campus for lunch with a friend to see what the atmosphere is like and people watch.  If you’re moving into a retail environment, it’s very easy to access this space so you can identify what qualities are crucial to your own success there.

We also talked about how retirees are returning to the job market and are challenged by being over-qualified, or over-experienced, but are being interviewed by people half their age.  Oh, if looks could kill – an interview, it would be when a mature person looks mature.  Maturity matters in terms of how to carry one’s self, but you don’t want to dress like mama matron at a job interview, or at work when most everyone else is younger than you.  The best way to avoid ageism is to be contemporary looking and be aware of what interests the younger employees at your workplace.  Younger employees will see you as more all knowing because of your experience and because of your continuing interest in what’s new and happening.

Our attention also turned to what people could do to maintain a good image if they were on a strict budget.  The face is always the start and end of everything I think of with clients.  So if someone has a limited budget, I’d suggest making sure the hairstyle is up-to-date looking, and reflects their personal style.  For women, wearing the right cosmetics – the right kinds, the right colors, and the right amounts, is very important.  Seeing the dentist and having nicely polished teeth is very important, too.

So it’s not that the credentials, and the degree, and the resume don’t matter.  They do.  But once those are looked at and placed back into a folder and stacked on someone’s desk, it’s just you, and how you carry yourself during that interview that has a lot to do with getting the job and not leaving any money on the table that should have been yours.  Can you afford to ignore how others perceive you?

Designing and managing your image is the secret science to your success.

Joseph Rosenfeld helps professional men, women, and corporate workgroups create effective visual brands. Visit for details.