As an image consultant, part of my job involves advising business men and women on how to dress successfully. Recently, I was interested in reading about a manager within a large recruitment business who told one of her team members that perhaps he shouldn’t interview new operations staff, such as admin, call centre members or ground staff, in his best suit with cufflinks and all the other accessories, for fear of looking too dressed up, thus scaring the candidates.
This got me thinking: Is there a belief out there that we should be dressing down when we are providing others with a valuable service? I think not!
Surely, the said interviewer should wear his best suit with all the trimmings. No matter what level the candidate, they need someone or something to aspire to, and it can begin with the recruiter who can convey a sense of authority, provide a valuable service and pass on knowledge to the candidate during the interview process that may never have been learned otherwise.
It also poses the dilemma of what to wear if you’re being interviewed for a role that does not require wearing a suit. Should we be dressing for the job we want and not the job we have? What is the suitable attire to wear for an interview or within the business world at large? The words of the inimitable Mae West come to mind: ‘I’d rather be looked over rather than overlooked!”
First impressions do count. Our image is visual shorthand. It is not about vanity but identity. Within 10 seconds of meeting someone, we have decided fundamental things about them and their lifestyles. Rightly or wrongly, it’s what we do. We stereotype people on what we see. We believe what we see more than what we hear. 55% of the impact we create is based on how we look, 38% of what people think of us and 7% on what we actually say. How we look could be the clinch that seals a vital contract or job. Not only this, but if you dress to impress, the other person gets it. It can even be seen as a compliment! Sense says that a person who dresses smartly and is clean and tidy will be considered to be the same in their business and work environment, whether the perceiver is an employer or a consumer.
So what is the appropriate dress code? If it is a formal setting, then a smart, well fitting and pressed suit is definitely the order of the day. Being appropriate for your situation is imperative, and if necessary, you must adjust. For example, many politicians are now wearing navy suiting instead of the traditional black or dark grey, because while still maintaining authority, the colour navy is seen as more approachable. Bill Gates is not a particularly sharp or elegant dresser, but as a CEO of a hugely successful company, he always wears a suit. Sometimes, it is the subtle things that make the most difference. For example, the end of a man’s tie should always sit at the top of his trousers. Wearing high contrasting colours will help create the illusion of power and authority – dark suiting with a white shirt and a red or burgundy tie. The colour red reflects in the lips, making them look redder. This subconsciously draws people to your mouth and to the words you are speaking.
Considering all of this, it is still important that our clothes feel like a second skin and that they compliment our personalities. If we look good, we’ll feel good and ultimately perform better! All this said, I can only conclude that image – what we wear, how we behave and how we communicate – is vital if we are to pursue a successful and fulfilling career.