By Erica Tew, CPRW
Recently, the question of tattoos and piercings at the interview arose and we debated what was appropriate. We stuck with the conservative approach as general guidance: always cover up best you can in a professional outfit, and possibly remove any facial piercings. The goal is to be remembered for what you said, not your appearance.
However, there is another layer to this subject I would like to address. Before I delve into it, I want to share a few ground rules. I do not think under any circumstances should you show a tattoo that is religious, political, or offensive (lewd imagery, foul language, or gory/violent) in any way. I also think facial piercings should be on the smaller side, to not take too much attention away from your words.
Personally, I am a fan of tattoos and piercings. I think the creativity and skill involved in a well-done tattoo can be really beautiful. I have a few of my own and have even weighed the interview appearance question on whether or not an industrial piercing or a nose ring should be removed. In my conservative workplace, a small nose ring is becoming very common, but I still tend to cover the industrial with my hair down.
Depending on your company’s culture and attire, tattoos or piercings may be acceptable, or even welcomed. For example, there is a common belief that you should never trust a tattoo artist that doesn’t have any tattoos of their own. It happens, but it is really difficult for an artist to make it without some of their own. Places that typically do not mind tattoos could be laborious jobs such as warehouses or shipyards. In retail, many shops welcome their staff to be creativity and display their own artwork; not minding tattoos or piercings.
What you may not realize though, is many of our corporate sectors are tolerant of tattoos and piercings as well. Some universities where you may be working independently can be accepting. Small businesses, startups, and other employers can be a mix- but my advice is, when possible, to simply walk into the building before applying. See how the employees and managers dress. Note any tattoos or piercings and reflect manager norms in your own interview attire. Even if the employees have visible tattoos or piercings, but the managers are more conservative, you are safest with dressing on the conservative side for your interview. Some companies may not mind tattoos or piercings on employees, but when promoting an employee, they may prefer someone who more closely reflects executive style choices. Dress for the job you want, at the company you want.
Overall, researching the company culture will be most important when determining your interview appearance. Although tattoos and piercings are increasingly accepted, many companies still want employees to reflect their corporate brand at all times, and a tattoo may clash with that brand. If you really love a company and aren’t sure of their policy, it’s best to err on the side of caution, and cover up. If you have further questions, please leave a comment below!
When you make it to the interview, you want to be on point. Prepare answers ahead of time that show situations, actions you took, and results to respond to many behavioral questions. Research the company: the company culture, mission, news, and services, can help you relate your skills in a way that shows benefit to the hiring manager. The interview will go even smoother if you follow this advice:
1. Silence your cell phone
Most people will say to shut off your cell phone or leave it in the car. However, if you use it to schedule appointments, you may want it handy if asked for a follow up appointment or date for a second interview. If your phone does go off, it’s not an immediate “fail.” It all depends on how you recover. Don’t look at who is calling; just shut it down and apologize immediately to continue.
Sure, interviews make everyone nervous. It may be a combination of nerves and adrenaline, but researching and practice will help build your confidence before the interview. If you’re too worried about how you sound or are constantly wondering if you relayed everything you wanted to say, your face may not read that you’re someone who is excited about the opportunity. Take a moment, breathe, and smile right when you shake hands. If this is a phone interview, smile as you talk as well. Your voice transforms when you’re smiling and makes you sound more enthusiastic and engaged. Plus, everyone likes being around a friendly person. Would you want to work everyday alongside someone who constantly keeps a serious face on?
3. Don’t talk money or benefits
Unless specifically asked by the interviewer, do not be the first to bring up pay or benefits. Save these questions for the job offer. The interview is a business meeting where you and the employer are trying to see if you will be a quality match for the position. Show that you can do the job and you want to work for the company. It can be a major turn off if a candidate doesn’t use this time well, but rather just asks how much they would make. If the interviewer does bring this information up first, research average salaries from Department of Labor’s Labor Market Information website. Always provide a range for salary to avoid being too expensive or underselling yourself. For more information on Salary Negotiations, see George’s post.
4. Speak clearly and avoid the “Yeahs, Ummms, and Likes”
If you need to briefly pause and think about your answer before responding, take the time to do it. The interviewer may need you to be a representative of the company, and depending on how you present yourself, speech included, your casual way of speaking may be off-putting. “Umms” and “Like” are fillers that can be reduced by practicing your answers beforehand. I am guilty of the “Yeah” abuse, but in an interview, the answer is always “Yes”.
5. Dress Appropriately
You can never go wrong with a button-down/blouse and dress pants/conservative skirt. This rule can be modified from company to company. Some company cultures prefer very professional attire. If that’s the case, then suit jackets and ties should be worn. Everyone can benefit from having at least one great suit in their closet. If the office is more casual, perhaps replace the dress pants for some khakis. Research the company and try to match what the manager would be wearing. Ask ahead of time if you think you may be touring any facilities that may require boots, a hardhat, or similar special circumstances. In general, I don’t know of a time where shorts, flipflops, sweatpants, anything low-cut, or anything revealing could be considered acceptable interview attire. Try on your outfit ahead of time to ensure proper fit, and remember: you want to be noticed for what you said, not what you wore. For more on this topic, check out Uriela’s blog post about appropriate interview attire.
If you have questions or concerns about these suggestions or anything related to your upcoming interview, please drop us a line in the comments below!
[All gifs thanks to giphy!]
All of us at CT Career Guidance want to provide helpful information to those local and far. To better address any concerns, we want to hear from you! Tell us your job search questions/topics of trouble in the comments below or over email and we will tailor our next posts to respond to everyone.
Important note- please leave any employer information anonymous so as to not hurt any chances while searching. Thanks so much. Hope to hear from you, and we hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday!
or How I learned to stop slouching and power pose my way into self-confidence
By Uri Allen, CPRW
I want you, for a moment, to think of the most powerful, brave and courageous superhero you know. Close your eyes for a moment and envision the character. Pay attention to their stance, their posture, their pose. Perhaps they have their hands on their hips, standing up straight, chin held high. Maybe they are flexing their muscles. How much of their image of strength and heroism is portrayed by their body language? What does their body language say about them? Body language is one of the most integral parts of how we as humans communicate to one another. How we sit, stand, look and gesture can say so much more than words can and when you are “ing-ing” (job searchING, interviewING, networkING), your body language can convey messages to potential employers and colleagues, such as your level of confidence…or lack there of. But did you also realize that your body language can also convey messages to your own brain? Researchers have been studying the various ways our body language affects the biological processes in the body and brain and evidence has been suggesting that “power posing” actually has some real effect on the way the brain responds to stressful situations, including things like interviewing. According to Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy, and Andy J. Yap, researchers who conducted a study on power posing concluded that:
“…results of this study confirmed our prediction that posing in high-power nonverbal displays (as opposed to low-power nonverbal displays) would cause neuroendocrine and behavioral changes for both male and female participants: High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern. In short, posing in displays of power caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes, and these findings suggest that embodiment extends beyond mere thinking and feeling, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choices. That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications. (Carney, Cuddy, Yap 2010)”
So, what exactly is “Power Posing” you might be asking yourself. Power posing is exactly what it sounds like…standing or sitting in a powerful pose. Think Superman or Wonder Woman. Assuming a powerful stance can, according to the study, increase feelings of power and confidence by preparing your brain and physiological systems to get ready for a stressful situation. This can be wildly helpful for someone who is a nervous or not-so confident interviewee. By triggering the brain to be prepared for a stressful situation and simulating feelings of power and confidence, the nervous interviewee can begin to overcome feelings of apprehension, nervousness and lack of confidence, all of which could be problematic during the interview process.
I’ve actually used power posing myself and have found that it really shifted the way I felt both physically and mentally. Some time ago, I had an interview for a promotional opportunity for a position that I had really wanted (I’ll save you the suspense…I didn’t get the position) so I was incredibly nervous. and in fact, it was the first time in years that I was nervous for an interview. After all, I taught other people how to interview! But nevertheless, I was a nervous wreck. I had been hearing a lot about this power posing theory so I decided that I had nothing to lose but my nerves by trying it out so I went into the bathroom before my interview and closed the stall door behind me and power posed for a good 3 minutes. I held these poses and concentrated on wanting to exude the confidence these poses represented in my interview. I focused on feeling powerful and brave. Soon my nerves were replaced with confidence and I was able to have a fantastic interview. So while I didn’t get the job I learned something valuable that day…I learned how to overcome my nerves with a simple (and fun) technique.
I’ve recommended power posing to my clients in the past and many have used the technique to prepare for interviews or job fairs and have said that they have seen a change in the way they approach situations that have made them nervous in the past. Next time you are faced with a situation that sends your nerves into overdrive, try power posing! Strike a powerful pose for a few minutes when you need that extra boost or do it every day to grow those feelings of confidence and power! Have you tried power posing? If so, let us know how it worked for you!
For some more information on Power Posing:
http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html (Awesome TED talks about power posing with Amy Cuddy, one of the researchers from the study mentioned)
Mastering the art of dressing for the job you want
By Uri Allen, CPRW
Have you ever heard the saying “You should dress for the job you want, not the job you have”?
I want to first start off by saying, this blog post does not advocate wearing a cape to your next interview but there is evidence that shows a direct correlation between what we wear and how these choices impact how people perceive us. And this perception is more than clothing-deep. What we choose to wear is a big part of how people size us up. Depending on what someone chooses to wear, people can make all sorts of first impression assumptions about things from their socio-economic status to their cultural roots to their level of business professionalism. So while you may have that winning hand-shake and perfectly polished résumé, if you come to a job interview at an accounting firm dressing more like you are going to a nightclub in Miami during spring break, you’re going to have a bad time. I’m surprised at how many people just don’t get the concept of looking the part. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional, you have to look the part. Here are a few tips to keep you looking sharp and avoid any potential outfit blunders during the job search and interview process.
When clients ask me what they should be wearing to an interview, I often ask them, “Well, what is the culture like? What is a normal day to day look for the company?” If they are unsure, I direct them back to doing some research on the company. Figure out what the cooperate culture is, stop by for a visit, ask people who you may know that already work for the company and use that information as your guideline. Once you figure out the baseline for appropriate dress for the company, a good rule of thumb is to always dress one step above the baseline during an interview. So for instance, a construction worker may, on the job, wear tee-shirt and jeans. So an appropriate one-level up for an interview would be jeans and a nice collared shirt with a tie or a sweater or blouse for the ladies. If the baseline is business casual ala polo shirts and khakis, nice pants and a button down and tie for guys and nice pants and a dressy shirt for a woman. The only exception would be if the dress is business and in that case you would dress business. So in a nutshell:
If Casual, Business Casual
If Business Casual, Business
If Business, Business
Don’t wear clothes that are too tight, too small, too sloppy, too big, too revealing or otherwise. You don’t want to be referred to as “the guy in the really tight sweater” or “the girl in the REALLY SHORT miniskirt” after your interview. You want the interviewer to notice your skills, not your cleavage and beer belly. When was the last time you saw someone with their muffin top hanging out of their too-tight clothing and thought to yourself, “well, there goes a professional”. Yea, I’m going to guess…never. On the other end of the spectrum, clothes that are ill-fitting or too big most of the time look sloppy so if your interviewing outfit is now too big, it might be time to get a new one. Try your outfit on before the interview and make sure it fits. Think of Goldilocks…just right!
Another thing to remember is you are going to an interview, not Ibiza. What you might wear to the club probably isn’t appropriate to wear to an interview no matter how fancy it is. Leave the flashy nail polish colors and snake-skin shoes at home. Those sparkly pumps might look boss in backlight but in the office of your potential boss, they are probably more distracting than anything else. Also, leave any noisy accessories at home…the watch that beeps every hour on the hour or the chunky bracelet that jingles can all be incredibly distracting during an interview. Remember, you want the employer focused on you, not your accessories. Cover up any tattoos the best you can if they aren’t a widely accepted part of the corporate culture. Some places are totally cool with your ink but if you aren’t sure, err on the side of caution and cover-up that tattoo. Try to avoid any super-bright colors or loud patterns as those can also be distracting. Muted hues, pastels, neutral colors are always a safe bet.
Interviewers are like cats…easily distracted by things like shiny objects and noises. If you even think that it can be distracting, save it for something other than your interview. Use common sense and if you really can’t figure out what to wear, websites like Pinterest and their professional dress boards can keep you in the loop of what to wear in an interview. If you need access to clothing for an interview, organizations like Dress for Success can help (and organizations like these are not just for the ladies anymore!). Remember, non-verbal communication is a huge part of making a great first impression. Don’t let poor clothing choices say anything bad about you.