Professional Appearance is a concept that I feel is important to understand. There are numerous parts to this that some tend to over look. The way one dresses, the first part of the interview process, thank you notes, and following up are the most missed factors.
Working in Workforce Development helps me help others who are having a difficult time gaining employment. I have found it shocking to see that when some people are filling out applications they are going in either jeans that are half way down their rear, low cut shirts that are close to exposing the chest, or shorts. I have tried to impart on the participants that you dress in business casual or dress one level above the job they are seeking. They way you dress is the first thing that the interviewer sees and this is the first impression that needs to be set. Walking in with confidence and a strong handshake does not help if you look wrinkled, disheveled, or are wearing inappropriate application or interview attire. I tell the participants to come dressed ready to be sent to a business to put in an application and yet there are still days I would not send any of them out.
Most individuals feel the interview process starts when the hiring manager retrieves the interviewee. That is not true. It actually starts when you walk into the facility. Your first interaction with the individual that is behind the desk labeled reception is where the interview starts. The receptionist is the first line of eyes and ears for the hiring manager. There are often times that people show for an interview, sit in reception and talk on their cell phone, or are just rude to the receptionist. What individuals fail to know is that often the receptionist will report the behaviors to the hiring manager. I have noticed the Vice President of our company sitting behind the desk answering the phone and transferring calls. When you walk in for an interview, you have no idea if the individual answering the phone is the one who is going to interview you or even someone higher up.
Another part of this is individuals think it is o.k. to show up 30 minutes to an hour early. I keep reminding the participants that 10 minutes is appropriate, maybe 15 would be o.k.. I remind them that the interviewer set the time because they have a busy schedule and do not need to have that schedule interrupted due to their showing an hour early. Although showing up late is just as bad.
In today’s society, it seems that the words "Thank You" have fallen off the grid. Someone opens the door for you and often times you just walk through and do not acknowledge that nice gesture. I grew up in a family that made it a must to say please and thank you. So why is it hard to send a thank you note to the individuals that spent their time and energy to help you and to interview you. The one way to stand out in the mind of an interviewer is to send a “personalized” thank you note. When I say personalized, I mean that if you heard the interviewer say something like, “oh I notice you are from Colorado, I love Colorado, I love to ski” Then in the thank you note make sure you mention that connection and wish them happy skiing. It is also important that if you had a pleasant conversation with the receptionist, or if they were helpful in giving you some of the low down of the company, or just giving you information, it is impressive and well noticed to send that individual a thank you note also.
The final piece to this professional appearance is the follow up. Most people go to an interview and then sit by the phone waiting to hear. There is an ethic that goes with following up. The first follow up is the thank you note, then one should wait a week and either place a call or send an email (which ever is the form of communication previously established) and here is an example of one that I sent via email.
“It was very enjoyable meeting with you about the Counselor position with ‘Insert Company name here’. The job seems to be an excellent match for my skills and interests. The family atmosphere you described confirmed my desire to work for company. In addition to my enthusiasm, I will bring to the position strong detail oriented writing skills, assertiveness and the ability to encourage others.
I appreciate the time you took to interview me. If there is anything else you might need from me please do not hesitate to ask. I enjoyed meeting with you and look forward to hearing from you regarding this position.”
Waiting for the phone to ring and not being proactive in the follow up and job search is one thing that is often overlooked. I would suggest a week after an interview make one last contact, then move on to the next interview.