Personal Finance

How to appear more ‘attractive' to a potential employer

Singletary
Singletary

Surveys often find that getting up in front of an audience is one of people’s top fears.

I’m wondering if a job interview shouldn’t be ranked up there, too.

You need a job. And standing in your way is a process that has a lot of subjectivity to it. That’s scary.

Last month, my Color of Money Book Club selection was Private Notes of a Headhunter by Kenneth Heinzel. The author joined me online for a discussion about interviewing. Here are two important questions he didn’t have time to answer during the chat.

Q: How do you feel about dressing for an interview?

Heinzel: A recent study says that people who appear to be more attractive to employers earn about 20 percent more than people who have average attractiveness. In my experience as an executive recruiter, I found this to be generally true. “Attractiveness” is a relative concept, so let me break it down into four components: physical attributes (i.e., the looks you’re born with), grooming, attire and demeanor, essentially, how you present you in the interview.

Like it or not, legal or not, a bias toward attractiveness exists in business, and certainly appearance is critical in the interview process.

Dressing for the interview is business attire: Think conservative. Or if that word sends shivers through you, think “dress up, not down.” Guys, this means a suit or jacket and tie. Women have more leeway, but for both women and men, regardless of age, go for classically tailored, coordinated outfits, closed-toe shoes – no sandals or flip-fops – and neatly styled hair. You will never be looked down upon for dressing up. It’s a sign of respect for the interviewer and company involved. After you’re hired, you can always follow how others in the company dress.

If you want to see a company’s dress code before your interview, go there at lunchtime or at quitting time to see what people are wearing.

Tattoos, body piercings and extreme hairstyles, although currently in vogue, can be a big distraction to an interviewer/potential employer. Remember, they will imagine how their customers (or boss) would view you as a representative of their company. Unless you know for a fact this is the “look” the company is going for, minimize this distraction as much as possible.

Demeanor is the final part. Is your posture good, both sitting and standing? Good posture expresses confidence on your part. No slouching in your chair. Don’t mumble or speak too loudly when giving answers. Speak clearly and confidently. Don’t use slang. Never interrupt the interviewers when they are speaking. No gum chewing. Make sure you have practiced a firm handshake in advance. Always be courteous to everyone you meet.

Being conscious of the above factors, and changing your behavior to fit the expectations of attractiveness in the business world will help you advance in the interview process, and earn more money.

Q: What should job hunters do with older jobs on their resumes?

Heinzel:Ageism in the world of work is the most prevalent prejudice by far, affecting everyone at both ends of their careers. As with the attractiveness bias, it isn’t fair and it isn’t easy to prove. Still, there is a lot that you, as the job seeker, can do to mitigate this bias with your proven experience, maturity and strong work ethic.

In your cover letter, and in the interview, stress that you are mature, can learn quickly and possess lots of knowledge that younger people might not have. If the “older” jobs you had in your career are more relevant to the job openings today, you must show potential employers in the interview process that results you produced yesterday can be produced again today.

Review your resume and focus it directly on the job you are applying for, stressing the results from your past experience and relating them to one or more aspects of the current job. Have you been to school recently for more education and training?

Show value – that is, your strengths in terms of how you have benefited companies in the past and how you will benefit this company now.

Always remember this: The main reason companies hire specific people is that they are convinced they can help them make or save money.

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