How clothes make the man and the woman more employable

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: July 11, 2011 - 9:22 AM

Guerrilla job hunters know that every search for work is really a sales campaign. And here's one thing every sales pro knows, yet too many job hunters have yet to discover: you can't get the sale if you don't look the part.

Guerrilla job hunters know that every search for work is really a sales campaign. You have to identify prospects (employers) who can buy (hire you), then sell them (get a job offer). Once you understand that you must sell yourself, it makes sense to study successful sales people. And here's one thing every sales pro knows, yet too many job hunters have yet to discover: You can't get the sale if you don't look the part.

To get the low-down, I interviewed two style experts for their latest and best tips, for men and women …

First, I talked to Andi Van Guilder, a managing partner at J. Hilburn Custom Men's Clothier (www.jhilburn.com).

Kevin Donlin: "What clothing trends should people be aware of now?"

Andi Van Guilder: "The trend right now is … there is no trend. Almost anything goes."

Kevin: "For men, going to a networking meeting or a job interview, either way, you want to play it safe and dress conservatively, right?"

Andi: "Yes, and one thing to remember is that fit is ultimately most important. You can have a very expensive, fashionable outfit, and it can be sabotaged by poor fit. For pants, fit includes the waist and the hem. If your clothes fit well and they're well cared for, it's going to speak volumes about you.

"Also, one of the things people don't think a lot about is color and authority. If you wear dark suits, a solid structured jacket, crisp and fine textures, lines that are very straight -- it's very authoritative."

Kevin: "Let's turn to women. What would you suggest for a woman to look more employable?"

Andi: "Conservative, simple jewelry -- polished. You can have some fun with your jewelry, but don't overdo it. If you want to wear a bold necklace, don't go with earrings. And I think playing with color can be fun, but be careful.
"If you want something more approachable, try softer colors, more separates, softer fabrics, more curved lines. For a woman, if she has a curved collar, rather than a square collar, she's going to be more approachable. A squared collar on a jacket will cast more authority."

Kevin: "Any final advice?"

Andi: "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have."

Next, I spoke with Gretchen Ditto, a Style Advisor and Business Image Consultant for Ditto & Co. (www.DittoAndCo.com).

Kevin Donlin:
"What suggestions would you give men and women who want to dress to impress in an interview?"

Gretchen Ditto: "Pay attention to what I call the Vital V -- the area the interviewer will look at most when you're sitting down. It includes your head, neck and upper chest. Your Vital V should be immaculate. That means no stains on the collar, little or no facial hair (men and women!), an updated tie for men, and not too much makeup for women. If you wear eyeglasses, they don't have to be expensive, but they should be current."

Kevin:
"Beyond style, when it comes to projecting a professional image to employers, what do you suggest?"

Gretchen: "Smile! It may sound simple, but it works every time. Even on the phone, interviewers can sense when you're smiling.
"Strive to be interested, instead of interesting. You can do this by listening more than you speak and by asking plenty of intelligent questions. This is especially important at networking events."

Now, here's a lesson on the psychology of clothes from author Napoleon Hill.
 

Hill writes of Edwin C. Barnes, who made a fortune selling dictating machines for Thomas Edison in the early 20th century. Barnes owned one of the most expensive collections of clothes imaginable, including socks that cost $63 a pair at today's prices, and 31 suits -- one for every day of the month.
 

Asked why he kept such a massive wardrobe, Barnes replied: "I do not wear thirty-one suits of clothes entirely for the impression they make on other people. I do it mostly for the impression they have on me."
So, make the right impression on yourself and your potential employer. Dress for the job you want -- and you may get it faster.

Kevin Donlin is contributing co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0." Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 20,000 people. For a free Guerrilla Job Search audio CD, visit MyNewJobHunt.com.

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