The biggest hurdle in the job search process is the interview. To be more specific, it’s the face-to-face interview. I have heard of a few, but not many people, who have secured a job offer without a face-to-face. (Most employers want to see what they are buying.) Since this interview may be over Skype or Facetime I call it a “visual interview”.

Success in the visual interview depends on two things…

  1. What you say
  2. How you look

This post focuses solely on ensuring that you have the best look. Let me start by saying, there are so many factors that go into securing a job offer. Unfortunately, many of these factors are out of your control. That said, how you look is completely within your control. So let’s focus on what you can control and give you the best shot at receiving that offer.

Know your Professional Appearance Rating™ 

First, you should recognize that you have a Professional Appearance Rating™ (PAR).  Hiring managers make judgments about each of us based on our PAR.  Your PAR is based on four attributes:

1)      Your clothing

2)      Your grooming

3)      Your body condition

4)      Your body language

During the job search process, most people don’t ask that important question “what can I do to improve my look?”  When they do ask, the question is usually “how do I look?”  The most frequent answer is “oh, you look fine!”  That’s usually an answer given when someone doesn’t want to give you any bad news or doesn’t want to bother with explaining their true feelings about your appearance.

Unfortunately, most people won’t tell you when you have a low PAR.  Friends and family don’t want to hurt your feelings. But you have to get an honest assessment because here are some of the judgments people make about you based on your PAR…

  • Trustworthiness
    • Who wants to hire or work with someone they can’t trust? Nobody!  So if your appearance makes you appear untrustworthy, that’s a major strike.
  • Work ethic
    • People will ask…will you work hard? Will you be on time? Will you be honest?  They are using your appearance to answer these questions.
  • Self-esteem
    • How do you feel about yourself? You know the old saying “actions speak louder than words!”  Your appearance is your action.
  • Current/Up-to-date
    • This is especially important for Baby Boomers. Boomers are automatically tagged as being Luddites just by virtue of age.  You may be one of the most tech-savvy people in the workforce but it won’t matter if your appearance is sending the wrong message.
  • Energy level
    • This can also be a trip up Boomers. Hiring managers, prospects and clients may be wondering if you’ll have the energy to get the job done. Your appearance sends a “yes” or “no” answer to this question.
  • Cultural fit
    • The impression you leave on this question overrides everything else! You are less likely to get hired or get promoted, the Manager doesn’t think you are a cultural fit.

Crazy, right!  Are any of these things true indicators of your ability to perform?  Maybe or maybe not but it doesn’t matter, this is what makes up your PAR and what is being used to make judgments about your ability to perform.

So now you know what a PAR is and why having a strong PAR is important, let’s discuss ways to increase your PAR during the job search.

These seven tips apply equally to men and women, young and old. Although I can’t guarantee that using these tips will get you a job offer after every interview, I promise that if you use these tips, your appearance will never be the reason you don’t get the offer.

Here are my seven tips…

7.) Wear culturally appropriate clothing

Every workplace has a culture. If your clothing doesn’t reflect the culture, it will be noticed. In the past, there was an “interview uniform” which consisted of dark suits for both men and women. Those rules no longer apply.

My advice is to always ask your interview contact for advice on what you should wear to the interview. It could differ based on the company and those conducting the interview.

If you are unsure of what to wear, a safe bet is “business casual attire”. For men, this includes a collared shirt, slacks, sports coat and dress shoes. Women can wear a nice blouse, slacks or skirt, blazer, and semi-casual shoes. Business casual is a step down from a full suit and tie and a step up from jeans and sneakers.

6.) Wear proper fitting clothing

Styles change and if you can’t afford new clothes at least take existing clothing to a tailor and ensure the best fit. Remember, not too baggy and not too tight. Not too long and not too short. And definitely not too revealing.

The key point here is that it doesn’t matter if you are wearing a suit or slacks and a shirt. Or if your outfit is old or new. Correct fit is essential!

5.) Wear updated eyeglass frames

Eyeglass frames are like clothing…styles change and they should be chosen based on face shape, size and skin tone.

A few years ago a friend shared that she was re-entering the job market. After a few interviews, she was encouraged to buy some new frames and update her look.

There are several places to find reasonably priced and fashionable frames. Warby Parker, Zenni, and Costal are a few.

4.) Get a contemporary hairstyle

Neat, well-groomed and current are the key attributes for interview hairstyles. If you haven’t updated your hairstyle in several years, it’s time for a new “do”.  Men’s facial hair should also be neat and well-groomed.

3.) Avoid perfume and cologne

This is an easy fix! Just don’t wear perfume or cologne. Soaps and body washes are formulated with enough scent that you don’t need extra fragrance. Perfumes/colognes can be polarizing. People tend to either love or hate the fragrance. 50/50 odds are not great enough in your favor. Also, many people are allergic to certain scents.

During a recent workshop, a lady shared her experience with perfume. She told how after only a minute into the interview the interviewer asked if they could reschedule. She was confused and said “Yes. Is something wrong?” The interviewer replied, “your perfume is overwhelming me!” She told the other participants she left the interview and was never contacted to reschedule.

2.) Wear clothing with a slimming effect

Nobody’s body is perfect! We all suffer from bodily imperfections. However, there is a proven “obesity bias” which penalizes overweight people. Overweight job seekers should dress using visual slimming effects. Strategies to create this effect include wearing darker colors, wearing clothing with a tailored fit. (Many larger people think wearing looser clothing helps. In fact, the opposite is true. I’m not suggesting wearing tight clothing but clothing tailored to fit your body.)

It’s easy to say “just lose the weight!” Yes, that is a good thing. Believe me, I have experienced how hard weight loss can be. However, in the meantime, use the above tips to divert attention from your weight.

1.) Exude confidence

Are you exuding confidence? Not arrogance. People want to hire people who are confident in themselves. Signs of a confident person include the following traits…

1) Making direct eye contact

2) Flashing a smile. Research shows that a smile without showing too many teeth creates an impression of warmth and competence.

3) Offering a firm handshake

4) Using an erect stance when both standing and sitting

I highly encourage watching this video from Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk. Amy offers great advice on why and how to project confidence.

Use these seven tips to increase your Professional Appearance Rating.  We have many more tips to help you stand out from the competition.


Dressed Club is a member-based appearance advisory service.  Our Professional Appearance Advisers provide affordable, expert coaching in the areas of clothing, grooming, health and body language.  Dressed Club members make memorable impressions so they don’t miss opportunities.

Book a session here.

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