Image Crisis – What do employers expect?

In today’s competitive employment world most people are interested in “standing out” from the crowd. But, think again when it comes to the image you present to your prospective employer. What are they looking for? What does their culture support? Will the image you present blend in – or standout, and which is best?

The answer is really “both”. Yet, how can you possibly standout and blend at the same time? And what does that mean when it comes to your “image” anyway? Simple… research! From the employers point of view the fact that you have taken time to research your fit and taken steps to be sure you blend with the culture is what will help you standout. So, how do you make this trick happen?

Research is the single most important thing you can do before gracing the doorway of your prospective employer. Check their website – what’s the look? Formal, casual or somewhere in-between? Be sure to view the online photos of the top executives- what’s their look? Are they all in suits and ties – or polo shirts and khakis? And if casual, what area? Is it the Engineering, IT, Finance? What area will you be interviewing in? Many employer websites these days have a specific area with information to help candidates get to know the environment before they arrive.

But, don’t end your research there. Check the newswire and read articles, view photos. Network and find out what others know about the culture. If local, take a drive to the company and park near the door. See what the people who are coming and going are wearing. If you’ve got a recruiter by all means “ask”. But, also ask if the recruiter has ever met personally with the individuals you’ll be meeting with. Keep in mind that often recruiters have never set foot on the premises, let alone met with the client personally. They may have done all their work via phone conversations.

Also, if you’re in communication with the Human Resources Professional check on what they believe is appropriate attire and if there are any expectations you should be aware of in advance. What’s the impression this will leave with them? You prepare in advance and pay attention to details. And please, the question is not “What should I wear”? This will sound insecure and nervous nelly. Instead, simply say, “Are there any specifics that you’d like me to plan for in advance? Any particular attire you would suggest or will there be any presentations expected? This will allow for a free-flow of conversation.

The idea behind all this research is – you want give the employer the “feel” that you already work there. If it is a casual organization and people are in jeans and polo’s, you are going to be uncomfortable in a three-piece suit, shiny shoes and tie included. Impressive yes; but remember you want them talking about how well you will fit in and not “He was fine, but the suits got to go”. In other words, don’t leave them talking more about what you wore to the interview than about what a great fit you’ll be. Don’t balk at this – I bet you can probably bring back a memory right now about someone you remember who walked into an interview clearly out of sync with the company. Right?

Women should remember what would take away a good “blend” too. Low cut shirts, high thin heels, anything extreme or loud (patterns, colors, jewelry). And here is a piece of advice that stands for both men and women; don’t wear any fragrance the day of your interview. You never know whether the person interviewing you has allergies or may just be repelled by the scent. This can end your interview before it even gets started.

So, with all that said – whether you’re interviewing in high tech, or vogue fashion – research, research, research and remember, blend so that who you are will standout.