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Make Your First Impression Count

First impressions are made in the blink of an eye according to Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov in their ground-breaking research published in Psychological Science (2006).  Regardless of whether this is right, let alone fair, one-tenth of a second is all you get to create a favorable impression with a stranger.  And, as if to add insult to injury, the more time you spend with someone doesn’t change his or her impression of you significantly.

This research makes an important point about the need to “dress for success” and what steps candidates can take to ensure that the first encounter with a prospective employer is a positive one.  We’ve distilled the rules down to simple guidelines that everyone can remember.

DO suit up.

A suit communicates business and is the essential outfit for any interview or power meeting. However, all suits are not alike.  Dusting off the too-tight navy blazer from your cousin’s wedding or wearing a skirt so short that it reminds your employer of Britney in her “Baby One More Time” music video, probably isn’t the impression you want to create. Bottom line?  Make sure your suit fits and the colors aren’t distracting.

DO smile.

Harry Connick, Jr. insists you’re never fully dressed without a smile. Body language is another essential part of dressing for success. Smile, keep good posture and maintain eye contact. Confidence is the best accessory to any outfit. Your determination and hunger for success will shine through if your body language is inviting and positive.

DO be yourself.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!  Share who you are in subtle ways – color, jewelry, shoes, bags, are all great ways to show some of your personality. However, what my eighth grade English teacher said about commas, holds true for fashion — “When in doubt, leave it out.”

Finally, please make sure to look in the mirror before you leave the house and ask yourself what word pops into your head.  If the word is positive, you are good to go. If the answer conjures up an image that is negative or ambivalent, it’s time to head back to the closet.

You ARE in control even if it is only for one-tenth of a second!  Good luck.

P.S. Please check out our Pinterest page for work outfit suggestions for both men and women.  If you’re looking for more wisdom, albeit dated, you can check out John Molloy’s classic, Dress for Success, which was last updated in 1988.  Where were you in 1988?


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