Hiring managers often make judgments about you within a few seconds of meeting you for the first time.
That's why it's so important that you not sabotage yourself by making some mistakes with your appearance that could -- either consciously or unconsciously -- turn the hiring manager against you.
Here's a checklist that can help you make that critical good first impression:
- Clothes should be neatly ironed (front and back). Check buttons to make sure they're not hanging by a thread and hems are neatly done. Don't wear pants that are so long they're dragging on the ground (it gives a sloppy impression and hems can quickly get dirty). Skirts or dresses should be no shorter than mid knee. Shoes should be clean and shined, and women should avoid wearing heels that make them totter around like newborn colts.
- Don't carry a backpack or oversized tote. It's more professional to carry a nice laptop case, briefcase or handbag. Make sure whatever case you use is clean and in good repair.
- Your hair should be clean and neatly styled. If you can manage it, get a haircut two weeks before an interview, which gives you the best chance of looking well-groomed.
- No smoking. Try to avoid smoking before an interview, since it's likely an interviewer will smell it on you. Many companies these days will not even hire a smoker, and you never know the personal prejudices an interviewer may harbor against smokers.
- Keep jewelry to a minimum, and cover tattoos unless you're interviewing at a tattoo parlor. While the hiring manager may have a tattoo under his or her shirt, you don't want to take the chance that a tattoo will not be well received.
- Give yourself enough time before an interview that you can duck into a restroom and do a final check. Men should check their tie and their fly, while women should ensure there is no lipstick on their teeth or smudged mascara.
- Leave off the perfume or after shave. Again, a hiring manager may secretly dislike scents, so don't give him or her a reason to write you off.
- Brush your teeth. Most people won't forget this step, but some brush their teeth and then follow it up with coffee on the way to the interview. Try to only sip water before the interview, which will help keep your breath fresh.
- Don't chew gum.
- Turn off your phone as soon as you enter the building for your interview. You don't want to be caught playing Candy Crush before the interview or texting your BFF. It will also ensure no interruptions during the interview.
- While waiting for your interview, read an industry journal -- it makes a good impression and shows you as someone who is professional. Remember: You're under scrutiny the minute you show up.
- Have a clean handkerchief or tissue ready. Constantly sniffling or wiping your nose on your sleeve won't impress an interviewer.
Finally, when you're brought into an office for the interview, don't sit until the hiring manager directs you to a chair. Place your briefcase or purse beside the chair and sit up straight. Refer to the hiring manager as "Mr." or "Ms." unless you're instructed to do otherwise.
What other etiquette tips should job candidates follow?