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Why Your Clothes Shouldn’t Enter the Room before You Do

woman-dressed-for-business-outside-locationClothes and manners don’t make the man (or woman) but, when he (or she) is made, they greatly improve his (or her) appearance.[1]  Most would emphatically agree.  Don’t let your clothes shouldn’t enter the room before you do, especially before an interview, because you’re more important than your clothes.  Before you leave for work or for an interview, look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Is this the statement I want to make?”

When you create or modify your personal brand, personal appearance is critically important because you only have one opportunity to make a first impression. (It’s trite and a cliché, but it’s true.) Before you utter a word, you can be sized up and judged as to whether or not you are suitable for a position or promotional opportunity.

Presenting the appropriate appearance is essential as you search for a job or compete for a promotional opportunity. Your attire should send a silent but emphatic message that you’re the person to hire or promote.

What is appropriate? The answer depends on the industry, business culture, geographic location of the business, and the position itself. It also depends on the people who will decide about who will be hired or promoted.

If you like to dress like an entertainer, and you’re applying for a job as a teacher or a lawyer, or for a position in a conservative Fortune 500 company, leave the stage clothes at home. Entertainers rarely dress in a manner appropriate for traditional workplaces.

If you’re dissatisfied with your appearance and have been planning to address it sometime in the future, the future is now. Many major department and cosmetic stores offer free makeup makeovers.

At the very least, keep in mind that:

  • Whatever is worn must fit well and be neat, clean, and pressed.
  • Trousers must be worn at the waist and with a belt, if there are belt loops.
  • Socks must be worn, sneakers must not be worn, and shoes must be shined.
  • Open-toe shoes and sandals may be inappropriate depending on the industry.
  • Personal hygiene must never detract from your otherwise appropriate appearance.
  • Perfume, cologne, or aftershave in excess in the workplace can be problematic for people with allergies or sensitivity to smells or odors.
  • Tattoos and body piercings should be covered (unless you’re competing on American Idol or Hell’s Kitchen)
  • Vibrant, quirky hair colors, braids, dreadlocks, spiky hair and mohawks should be avoided depending on the industry.

In other words, before you open your mouth, your appearance speaks for you.  The objective is not to look like Boo Boo the Fool. If you’re unsure, ask someone.


[1] Henry Ward Beecher (U.S. Congregational minister, 1813–1887)



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multifaceted employment professional, author and lecturer