Let’s be real—the job market for young professionals doesn’t seem fantastic right now. But you can use your style to make sure you’re not another statistic.
While your dad, with his golden bachelors degree, got himself a seat in an executive office right out of the education gate, your fate, despite having the same piece of paper on the wall, isn’t as certain. Don’t get me wrong, a post-secondary education can be a great pursuit and even a stepping stone to a more lucrative career. But now, more than ever, a degree is only one of several factors that will help you land a job in your dream field. Things like previous work experience, extra-curricular activities, and personal interests all play a role. But an important factor that often gets overlooked is how you appear to a potential employer.
It might sound superficial, but you can use personal style to your benefit when trying to land a job or career. And whether you’re trying to a make a big career move in the corporate sector or trying to land an entry-level sales position, make no mistake about it, these philosophies apply to everyone. Here’s why.
Judging a book by its cover
When applying for a job, keep in mind that employers are likely reviewing applications from many candidates, interviewing a fraction of those, and seriously considering maybe a fraction of those. Because of the sheer number of applicants for one position, employers can often make hiring decisions based on superficial reasons like appearance. While this might seem unfair, having this knowledge will allow you to set yourself apart during the interview process.
Although we have no control over our genetics, our style choices are a different story. By dressing well, you can make a great first impression before you even open your mouth. Don’t let a colour clashing shirt-tie combo leave a bad taste in your employer’s mouth. If you don’t know where to start, my advice is keep it simple and make sure what you’re wearing fits you well. Take every opportunity to impress an employer, including with your ability to make savvy style choices.
Attention to detail
Every employer wants to know that their candidate has an attention to detail and makes decisions with intention. We can really dive into the style nitty-gritty here.
Are your jacket sleeves showing some shirt cuff or does it look like you borrowed it from your dad’s closet? Do your pants just graze the top of your shoes or are you dragging excess fabric behind you like a bride on her wedding day? What about your shoes? Avoid any scuffed or cracked leather by polishing your shoes regularly. Then take your outfit to the next level by matching your shoes to your belt and watch strap. Remember—it’s all about the details. While your interview outfit can say that you know how to take control of your appearance, it can also be reflective of how you will treat the job you are applying for. Take advantage.
Flex your emotional intelligence
Having good style shows that you understand that your appearance affects the way people perceive you. It shows that you know how to use the context of your surroundings to inform your style decisions. The adage “dress for the job you want” comes to mind here. Don’t show up to your corporate interview in a tuxedo (think: Brennan and Dale from Step Brothers). And don’t show up in a polo and jeans either.
Context is key. The guy applying for a sales position will make a great impression wearing a pair of chinos, a neutral button down shirt, and loafers. The lawyer trying to make associate should opt for a traditional charcoal grey or navy suit, white shirt and a tie with a conservative pattern.
Take it one step further by assessing how your employer is dressing and adapt accordingly. Does your employer like to show a little flair in his outfit with a bold patterned suit? If so, spice your outfit up before the cocktail reception with a cool accessory like a pocket square. You’ll immediately stand out from the rest of the pack and it might even give you a great conversation starter if you catch your potential boss’ eye.
And when you land the job like the stud that you are, your boss wants to know that he can take you places and you can make him or her look good. This is mutually beneficial so play along. By keeping style in mind when you choose your attire, your boss can rest east knowing he can put you in front of a client or work acquaintance, and you get to reap the reward of being brought to events to socialize and network.
Just as employers are looking for positive attributes of candidates, they are also looking for any reason to remove one from contention. Dressing for the occasion can provide you with that certain je ne sais quoi that will land you a call back. Don’t give employers a reason to leave you off their short list. Nail your first impression from the get-go by looking sharp and exuding the confidence knowing that you look sharp.