A couple of weeks ago I was happily pounding away on my keyboard at a coffee shop and making a pretty good dent in a project that was due by the end of the week. I’m usually very focused in these settings; so much so that I might not ever hear what other people around me are saying. But, a few feet away I overheard a man and a woman talking. I’d normally block that out or just continue working as I absorb the white noise, but I noticed that people kept walking into the coffee shop to sit down with this man and woman. By listening a little closer, I discovered that they were conducting interviews.
In the course of the two hours that I was sitting there, four different candidates came and went. I don’t know much about the position they were looking to fill, and I didn’t really pay much attention to the interviews as they were going on. What was most interesting to me were the comments that the interviewers made after each interviewee had left the room. Although they seemed to give some weight to the substance of each candidate’s answers to their questions, they also relied heavily on their impression of the candidate’s appearance. Something that I overheard the man say after the last interview really stuck with me. He said, “Yeah, he may be alright, but with the flannel shirt and the scruffy beard, I can’t really tell if he’s going to take it seriously.” I think that sums it up pretty well: if you want to be taken seriously in a meeting, dress the part. Look professional, act professional and you will be perceived as a professional.
Sure, it’s a different generation and it’s now totally acceptable to have job interviews in more casual settings li
ke coffee shops. But you still need to present well, because the interviewers probably know nothing about you besides what you choose to show them.
I think the problem is that we idolize the Mark Zuckerburgs of the world who wear graphic tees and hoodies to work and dropped out of college to make their millions. I don’t have anything against them, but they aren’t necessarily role models. Those guys are outliers. There’s still sometime to be said for professionalism. Presentation still matters.
Oh, yeah - guess which candidate that the interviewers decided to call back? The one who dressed in business attire and handed them a hard copy of her resume in a neatly organized folder.