This is “Prerequisite 3: Poise”, section 2.4 from the book Job Searching in Six Steps (v. 1.0).
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The way you dress, carry yourself, and physically behave also communicate your job potential. Your nonverbal communication either supports the things you say and how you say them, or it undermines you. If you are an articulate, well-spoken person but dress in a sloppy manner, slouch, and fidget, then your actions belie your verbal communication. Therefore, poise goes hand in hand with communication as a fundamental prerequisite for your search.
What you wear to different job search functions signals neatness, professionalism, and understanding of general business protocol. A business suit in a dark neutral color is the standard. Black, blue, brown, and gray are neutral colors. Some industries and specific companies within industries dress more casually, so it’s important to consult an experienced person in the specific industries and companies that interest you for the most relevant guidelines. For example, in media and fashion, your dress is a signal of how much you know and can fit into that field. A dark suit would be too bland and look out of place at a fashion-forward company.
For general functions, such as career fairs or professional mixers, stick to proper business attire. Even if there are a range of dress options in attendance, it’s best to be more formally dressed. In addition, most job seekers look more professional and put together with a business suit. You probably will carry yourself more professionally, have better posture, and be more alert in a business suit than in casual attire.
If you are attending an event or an interview where business casual is stipulated, this is still neater and more formal than casual attire. Khakis rather than jeans, dress slacks and a sport coat for men, and a sweater set for women are some examples of business casual.
Here is a checklist of things to remember about dressing professionally:
If you have a great suit but you slouch, that is an incomplete package. Good posture, steady eye contact, and a firm handshake are additional fundamentals to the job search process. Even if you think this is common sense, don’t assume that you will be 100 percent put together once your search starts. If you are not used to dressing professionally and interacting with people in a formal business context, then you may have a weak handshake or poor eye contact and not realize it. Before you get busy with interviews, see if you can attend a business event just as a practice run.
Here is a checklist of things to remember about carrying yourself professionally:
You might look great, carry yourself well, and speak eloquently, but you also communicate with physical gestures and other nonverbal cues. Pay attention to how you use your body during conversations and meetings. You might find that you can’t sit still for long periods of time or that you use a lot of distracting hand gestures. You might be too still and miss opportunities to accentuate points with a nod of the head or finger movement.
Some recruiter pet peeves include the following:
Start practicing good manners now so these habits are ingrained behaviors before your job search.