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Planning Retirement Online

A Guide to Job Searching in Later Life

Part 6 - Image

DonWilde2.jpg (9403 bytes)I suspect that everyone reading this section is aware that – to some degree – the image that you present, the impact that you make, may affect the outcome of any interview. But do you realise just how much? The following two facts come out of a number of different research studies:

Firstly, 90% of the judgement that we form of another person is created within the first 4 minutes of meeting them (and based, believe it or not, on 400 different signals). Secondly, that opinion of the other person is based only 6% on what they say, 30% on how they say it, and 64% on how they look. So however well you answer all the interviewer’s questions, if your appearance and body language – particularly in the first few minutes – do not create the right impression you may well fail.

Conscious image - the way that we dress, do our hair, apply make-up, add accessories. This will create an immediate impression, and whilst in some respects this can cause uncertainty for us (eg what is a suitable dress code for this interview?), in other respects (eg clean clothes, hair etc) the appropriate course is obvious.
Some tips:
  • Dress as you would expect to for the job itself, but “smarter”. If the position is a shop-floor one, then clean shirt and slacks, or even jeans, is appropriate. If you expect the job to require a suit, then wear your best.

  • Try to apply some colour check to what you are wearing. Some colours can look nigh on awful against some skin shades or other clothing items – check out with your partner or a colleague that you look good in what you want to wear.

  • Obvious, I guess, but make sure that what you are going to wear is clean, ironed, and not reeking of curry, smoke etc.

  • Try to avoid wearing a hairstyle that partly covers your face, so that you look more “open”, and – if in doubt – have it cut slightly shorter rather than longer than usual.

  • Neither men nor women should overdo the cosmetics or the jewellery – a little of both is fine but overmuch can create a negative impression

Unconscious Image – the aspects conveyed by gesture, demeanour, tone of voice.

  • Always seek to go into an interview feeling good about yourself – this will result in you sounding positive and projecting well.

  • Don’t ignore the old training course chestnut of “eye-contact”, particularly in a 1:1 situation. It is not necessary to glare at the interviewer, just to engage him/her with a relaxed look for, say, 30% of the time. If you have trouble looking people directly in the eye, fix on a spot in the centre of the forehead.

  • Try to develop a firm and positive handshake if you have not already got one – there are many subscribers to the principle that “you can tell a lot about a person by their handshake”.

  • There are those who would suggest that you adopt a relaxed but immobile position in your chair. Trouble with that is that if your body is very still your voice will tend to behave in the same way – ie monotonic. So project some feeling and enthusiasm by a degree of hand movement and facial gesture, and with variation in tone of voice.

  • Try to control any distracting mannerisms that you are aware of - whether fiddling with pencils or hair, starting every sentence with “um” or “err”, crossing and uncrossing legs etc. If you don’t know what your mannerisms are, ask a colleague!

  • Remember the importance of the smile, a friendly manner, attentive (and apparent) listening, all of which will come naturally if you manage to relax and feel in control (of yourself, not the interview!!)

If you manage together all the factors – both conscious and unconscious – outlined above, then your ability to answer the questions correctly or appropriately will be less critical to the outcome!

Don Wilde, the writter of this Guide, has many years experience in outplacement and career consultancy, latterly on a self-employed basis but prior to that within the IT industry. He has experience in a variety of human resources, business and project management, and staff development roles.
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