Within the opening moments of a job interview, your first impression is made. Controlling that impression is often a matter of personal style.
Let’s talk about that one question we ask ourselves everyday: What am I going to wear? This question is never more important than it is on the day of a job interview.
Yes, yes — your personality and skills matter, too. However, if we’re talking about first impressions, your appearance is what your interviewer will notice first. It can go a long way in showing that you’re ambitious, knowledgeable, and most importantly, a great fit for the company.
Walking into an interview for any job can be intimidating, particularly if it’s a dream job or a company you believe in. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and — let’s be honest — a little queasy as you arrive at the office. A million questions flash through your mind: What will they ask? How will I answer? What is the right answer? Will I be the right fit? Can I really succeed in this role? Will I like my new boss?
However, there are steps you can take before you even leave your house to minimize your pre-interview stress and maximize your control of the conversation to come. Remember: Confidence looks good on anyone.
Here are five ways to prepare to get the job you want:
1. Do Your Research
Get to know the company you’re interviewing with — not just its products, services, and customers, but also its leadership. Who are they? What’s their story? What do they do? What did they do prior to this? What articles have they written? What are they sharing on LinkedIn? What causes do they support? Why do they do what they do?
Be sure to research the company culture as well: What are the company’s values? What is its reputation in the marketplace?
2. Know Your Story
Your resume bullet points outlining your professional goals and achievements are important. They helped you score the interview in the first place. But in my experience, many people fail to capitalize on another critical element of the job search. In fact, it may be the most essential factor in getting that coveted offer letter: your story.
Who are you? What is your personal brand? What do you bring to the company as a leader and team member? Answering these questions helps you formulate your story — and telling that story sets you apart from the other candidates walking through the door.
Telling that story also starts in the closet.
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3. Shape Your Style With Intention
First impressions, as we’ve already acknowledged, are critical. What you wear can send immediate signals about how trustworthy, knowledgeable, and competent you are before you even mutter a word.
The most important thing to remember when choosing an outfit for an interview is the story you want to tell in the interview. So ask yourself: What story do I want to share today? How can I use my outfit to guide the conversation effectively and successfully? How can I establish a sense of trust and authenticity so that the interviewer really listens to what I have to say?
What you wear should reflect your own personal story and style, but it should also align with the company’s brand. In doing your research, your should have seen some images of the leadership team. Let those, along with your story, inform your style choices.
4. Prepare Your Own Questions
You are interviewing the company as much as you are being interviewed! What you learn about the organization is just as consequential as what it learns about you.
Researching in advance allows you to formulate thoughtful questions that prove your authentic interest in the company and create a genuine dialogue with your interviewer. Thoughtful questions are a great way to stand out from the other candidates in the process. After all, employers want engaged employees who are excited to come aboard. Good questions are also invaluable in gathering the information you need to decide whether you really want to work for this company.
5. Change Your Mindset
Interviewing can be stressful, nerve-wracking, and exhausting. Changing how you think about the interview — and what you say to yourself prior to walking through the front door — can alleviate that stress.
It’s a simple tweak, but the effect can be powerful. Instead of heading to the front desk with the belief I am here, change the order to Here I am. Believe in yourself. Own the room. Start the conversation you want to have.
Above all, remember that going in for an interview is simply the opportunity to have a conversation and explore whether you and the company are good fits for one another. A dream job isn’t just about the job title, the benefits, and the product — it’s about joining a strong culture that aligns with your values.
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Janel Dyan is a well-regarded executive brand strategist and expert on how to build a story to achieve brand alignment for both company and leadership success. She founded Janel Dyan, Inc., (JD) in 2014, which provides transformative brand strategy and style consultation to high-visibility clients across various industries. Her work has been seen by millions through public experiences at Fortune 500 companies, the United Nations, and the World Economic Forum, among others. Dyan also runs Beyond Us, which provides opportunities to build confidence in women through a platform for sharing clothes with other women who are ready to take the next step in their professional lives. Dyan resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two sons. Her book, “Story. Style. Brand.” is available now on Amazon.