Look Like a Competitor

Make no mistake about it. At every stage of the job search process from initial inquiry and application to final interview, everything you do, say and write will be judged not only on its own but also as it stacks up against the other applicants.

Certainly your job skills and experience matter, but how you present yourself in person is equally important. Remember, it’s not how you see yourself, it’s how the decision makers assess you in comparison to the others in the hunt that will determine your success.

None of the advice I’m about to offer is rocket science. You’ve undoubtedly heard it all before. Yet, in spite of that fact, over the years I’ve been amazed at how many people showed up for a job interview with me who failed to groom themselves appropriately.


To ensure you compete equally or, better yet, stand out from the crowd, here’s a personal grooming checklist. Take action on each of these tips, so the decision maker has the best opinion of you.

  • Hair. Men, make sure you have visited a barber or hair salon recently. And “hair” also means eyebrows trimmed, neck hair shaved, nose hairs removed, facial hair groomed. Women, think professional rather than sexy for your hairstyle, and deal with unwanted facial hair with bleaching, tweezing, or waxing as necessary.
  • Odor. Body odor is an immediate turn off, so be sure to clean up—that means soap and water. Use deodorant, but nix any cologne, perfume, or scented aftershave. It also means attacking any bad breath issues by brushing your teeth and enjoying a breath mint before you arrive.
  • Clothes. If you dress one notch up from the norm for the job you’re applying for, you’ll look appropriate and as if you belong. Be sure your clothes are ironed, clean, stain-free, and odor-free.
  • Footwear. If you’re applying for an office job, leave the sneakers at home. Men, wear dark socks and make sure they are long enough so your calf doesn’t show if you cross your leg. Shoes should be polished. Women, comfortable pumps are your best bet, and nylons will complete a professional look.
  • Hands. Clean hands and trimmed and clean fingernails are a must. Just before you arrive rub in a dab of hand sanitizer—a considerate thing to do for yourself and the people you are meeting.
  • Posture. Stand up straight; it shows you are a confident person. Hunching indicates you are unsure of yourself. Similarly, sit up straight and lean forward to look engaged and interested. Don’t fidget.

Final advice: Your attitude going into the interview matters. Remember: You want the decision-maker to see you as a professional, and as the best fit of all the candidates to work at and represent her company.

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