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Clothes Won't Get You the Job But We Worry It Might Cost Us One

January 15th, 2020

If you worry about your appearance before an interview, you're not alone. A new survey says most of us do. We spend at least an hour deciding on an interview outfit and still 54% of us worry there's some part of how we look that could cost us the job.

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The survey of 1,997 workers found 86% believe it's important to look attractive to an interviewer; 63% believe they've benefited from their appearance. Clothing and weight are two things both men and women worry about most.

As it happens, there's some truth to thinking appearance is a factor. Making a good first impression does help, researchers have found. No one wants to start an interview having to overcome a negative caused by inappropriate dress or a frumpy appearance.

But should it happen -- and it can -- don't despair. Another more detailed study of when interviewers form a hiring opinion tells us it occurs after at least 5 minutes; 40% make a decision about hirability after no less than 15 minutes.

One other finding from the recent worker survey to consider is that 86% of job seekers would prefer to be seen as competent more than likable. That's truer for men (69%) than women (58%).

Feeling that way would seem to make sense, and certainly no one thought incompetent is going to get a job offer regardless of how likable they may be. But with teamwork and collaboration so critical in today's workplace, hiring managers and recruiters are looking for talented people who are also a good fit with the organization and its people. In that way, likability does factor in to a decision.

It's important, therefore to spend at least as much time -- more even -- on how you present yourself as you do on what to wear. Check our article on the soft skills candidates need to demonstrate. The ability to communicate clearly and possessing emotional intelligence is what will decide which of two equally skilled people gets the job offer.

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