Look the Part: How to Make a Great First Impression at Your Interview

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We all like to think our shot at securing a dream job is solely a matter of our abilities. Unfortunately, this isn’t entirely the case.

A number of factors can influence your success in an interview, and whether or not we like to admit it, image and looks are two of them. This might sound superficial at first glance, but the way you present yourself truly does say a lot about how you see yourself. Employers want to know you are confident, take pride in yourself, and take yourself seriously, all of which can be deduced by an interviewer in as little as 30 seconds.

There are a few simple ways to maximize your odds of interview success. The factors below are all within your control, and they might just give you the edge you need to land the job!

1. Dress to Impress

It’s best to opt for well-ironed, formal, conservative clothing in the form of shirts, trousers, skirts, and dress shoes. Even if your prospective employer operates a relaxed, informal business, wear formal clothing to the interview. This will show you have respect for the business and want to be taken seriously.

Consider the color of your outfit as well, as the hue you wear can have a psychological impact on your interviewer. According to one study, black and blue are the best colors to wear to a job interview. Other neutral colors, such as brown and grey, are also good choices, as they are considered similarly sophisticated. The worst color to wear is orange, according to the study. While this color may denote creativity, it can also make your interviewer think you are less than serious. If you want to appear powerful, opt for a splash of red. Be careful not to overdo it. A full red suit might make you look more comical than professional.

2. Get Your Hair Done

Prior to the interview, trim your hair and touch up your roots, if necessary. Make sure your hair is neat, clean, and well brushed. It all comes back to self-respect, and showing pride in your appearance speaks volumes to a recruiter. Even if you’re the perfect candidate, your interviewer might pass if you turn up with greasy hair full of dandruff. Be aware that if you wear your hair in an alternative style or color, your interviewer might focus more on your head than your conversation.

3. Make Sure Your Smile Stands Out — for the Right Reasons

The quality of your smile can seriously affect your self-confidence and ability to build relationships. It can also have a huge impact on how others perceive you, which can hurt your chances of landing the job. One study showed that discolored teeth were socially correlated with low competence and untrustworthiness. A National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial research report also supports the theory that most people perceive a link between diseased teeth and weakness, impotence, and moral turpitude.

The state of your teeth will require a little more forethought than your outfit. Whether you want a quick scale and polish, composite veneers, or dental implants, you should get this sorted with your dentist far in advance of your interview.

4. Cover Up Your Tattoos and Take Out Your Piercings

Tattoos and piercings have become the norm, but this doesn’t mean every hiring manager looks favorably on them. In one study, 37 percent of hiring managers said piercings would deter them from hiring an employee, while 31 percent said visible tattoos would put them off an individual.

If possible, remove nontraditional piercings for the span of the interview and cover up any tattoos an interviewer might be able to see. It’s not worth the risk if the price you have to pay is your dream job.

5. Remember Your Body Language

Body language is really important when it comes to how people perceive you. If you walk into a room with a straight back and an outstretched hand, ready to greet your interviewer, you will be seen as much more capable than if you had shuffled in slightly hunched over and avoiding eye contact. When you act more confident, you are perceived as more confident, which is critical to making a great first impression.

When you are being interviewed, don’t slouch. Make steady eye contact and smile. Don’t touch your face or fidget, as these can be seen as signs of weakness or uncertainty. Mirror your interviewer’s body language whenever possible. This can unconsciously make them like you a little bit more, as they will feel you are on the same wavelength. Refrain from second-guessing yourself and your body language at every opportunity. It’s a difficult balancing act, but practice makes perfect.

Whether or not you flourish in a given role is entirely due to your skills and characteristics, but looks and first impressions do play a huge role in getting your foot in the door. Prior to an interview, along with studying the company’s website and history, consider how you will appear on the big day. You could give yourself a real advantage.

David Keenan is a dentist, keen businessman, and owner of Pembroke Dental.

By David Keenan