Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Dress for Success Today

by Dave Kerpen

I'm warning you: Based on conversations about this topic at my office, you may find this post to be controversial - you may totally disagree with me. You may even find it to be trivial. But with nearly 1.8 million college graduates this month to soon be looking for work, this seemed as good a time as any to talk about a question that's not so trivial to anyone looking for work:What should you wear to a job interview? And then once you have a job, what should you wear to work?
When I interviewed for my first real job after college, at Radio Disney in Boston, Massachusetts, I went into the interview in a full suit and tie, dressed to impress, or so I thought. Unfortunately, it was a hot September day and I was fifty pounds heavier than I am today. And unfortunately, I had a bit of a sweating problem back then.
I thought I had aced the interview. In fact, I did ace the interview. I received an offer via a phone call from Peggy Iafrate, who would become my boss and one of my early mentors the very next day. Concluded Peggy:
"We loved everything about you Dave and can't wait for you to start. Well, just about everything. Please, oh please, lose the jacket and tie."
I got the job - but not because of what I wore - in spite of it. Through most of the years since then, I've been fortunate enough to be the boss, and help set the dress code for the office, and it's always been a casual or business casual setting. I've also interviewed dozens if not hundreds of job applicants, and I've seen many men and women dressed uncomfortably formally - (and a few dressed uncomfortably informally.) Conventional wisdom says to dress up formally for a job interview. But I disagree. Through the years I've come to this conclusion, truer today than ever before:
At a job interview, you should dress comfortably and (at most) a little more formally than the rest of the office.
At a job interview, you're trying to show the organization that you'd fit in there. If you show up dressed casually and everyone else is dressed more formally, you won't fit in. That's the easy part that everyone gets. But equally true is the converse: If you show up as a man in a three piece suit or as a woman in a formal pantsuit, and everyone else there is casual, you also won't be fitting it. If a job applicant to one of our companies comes in a suit and tie, it shows that he didn't research the culture of our office - and it counts as a strike against him. Why take that risk?
Two years ago, my daughter Charlotte had a boy in her class who wore a suit and tie to school every day. It was a second grade classroom, and yes, at first, I thought Trevor was adorable. But eventually, I came to believe that his parents were doing him a disservice by letting him go to school like that every day. He didn't fit in, and on hot days with no air conditioning in that classroom, he couldn't have possible been comfortable.
Do you want to be a Trevor, at a job interview or beyond?
So what's the solution?
Before an interview, ask people at the office what the unofficial dress code is. Then come in, wearing comfortable clothes, and dressed similarly, (or just a little bit more formally) to what everyone else is wearing. You'll fit in, and you'll be comfortable and confident throughout the interview.
Remember, too: It might seem like the interview - and getting the job - is everything - but in the long run, it's just the beginning. You want to work at an organization where you'll fit in and feel like part of the family for a long time - after all, you spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else.
If you like to dress casually, do you really want to work somewhere where formal wear is expected? If you like to dress up, do you really want to work somewhere where most people dress down?
The best solution?
Decide what dressing for success means for you- and then find an industry and organization where - at the interview and beyond - you can be comfortable, successful, and fit in with the corporate culture.
Want to work in a suit? Interview at organizations that'll support that.
Want to work while dressed casually? Interview at organizations where that's the norm.
Want to work at home in your underwear? Luckily for you, more than ever before, there are telecommuting positions and work-from-home positions available. But in that case, it's probably best to get a bit more dressed up for your interview.

Monday, May 6, 2013

6 ways to kill your chances in an interview

By Susan Ricker, CareerBuilder Writer
From applicant tracking systems to appropriate résumés, there are more than enough hurdles to overcome before getting a job interview. The interview itself might be the biggest challenge for some job seekers, who leave having no clue how it went. 

CareerBuilder surveyed hiring managers to find out what's going on in job interviews and why a promising candidate may not get picked. Six factors contributed to why interviews go badly for some, and while these mistakes may not seem substantial on their own, the job market is still too competitive to allow these simple errors to slide.

When asked to identify the top mistakes made by job seekers during interviews, hiring managers reported:

Mistake No. 1: Appearing uninterested -- 62 percent of employers
Tip: Body language and how you respond to the interviewer's questions may be sending a different message than what you mean. Be attentive during the interview, sit up straight and make eye contact with your interviewer. Take your time responding to give thoughtful answers that convey your interest in the position.

Mistake No. 2: Answering a cell phone or texting -- 60 percent
Tip: As soon as you enter the site for your interview, turn your phone off and put it away. While it may be tempting to use your phone while you're waiting or leave it on silent, don't risk your chances of getting the job because you wanted to check your phone. Focus your attention on the interview.

Mistake No. 3: Dressing inappropriately -- 60 percent
Tip: While what you wear on the job will vary by industry and company, the standard and most appropriate look for a job interview is a business suit or "business casual," a collared shirt and dress pants. You should look and feel professional so both you and the interviewer can focus on your answers and not on your clothing.

Mistake No. 4: Talking negatively about a current or previous employer -- 58 percent
Tip: Interview answers can walk a fine line between showing your appreciation for past employers and asserting that the current job opportunity is preferable. Stay positive during your interview and concentrate on how your past roles have prepared you for the current role. If you did have a negative experience, keep your answer short and end on a positive, such as what you learned from it.

Mistake No. 5: Failure to make eye contact (72 percent) or smile (42 percent), bad posture (38 percent) and a weak handshake (28 percent)
Tip: While interviews can be stressful and nerve-wracking, do your best to appear confident and friendly by preparing for your interview and practicing your answers ahead of time. When you're adequately prepared, your confidence and smart answers will wow the hiring manager.

Mistake No. 6: Not providing specific examples -- 34 percent
Tip: When answering your interviewer's questions, remember that they're trying to make a smart business decision about whom to hire. While you may think that you're the most creative, capable and task-oriented candidate, it's best to provide quantifiable proof of your worth, such as how much new business you brought in or the top ways you saved your company money.

What else can job seekers do to prepare for interviews? "A job interview can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences out there, so it's important to plan and practice," says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "Have a friend run through a mock interview with you, asking questions you think will come up and some curve balls you're not expecting. Thoroughly research the company ahead of time, and draft responses that incorporate your accomplishments. The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to run into mishaps."