[#prolook]: Professional Appearance

Overview

This section tries to describe steps to help provide a professional appearance.

Some people may be inclined to object to some of the content on this page, feeling compelled to argue that the advice on this page is overly-intrusive. Some people may consider some of the advice on this page to favor a specific culture, and feel like supporting this culture would go against a different culture that some people find to be more preferable.

Some of the advice mentioned here may be representative of a specific culture. The author of this page is not trying to say that the culture presented here is the most ideal culture, nor is the author of this text trying to say that absolutely all of this advice should be followed by everybody at all times. Ultimately, it is the opinion of the author of this text that people should make some of their own decisions about certain aspects of their appearance, just like people should make some of their own decisions about what they put on their resumé.

However, just like a person should make smart choices about what is placed on their resumé and should be willing to accept the consequences of those choices that are made, similarly a person should make intelligent decisions about how much they wish to embrace a certain culture. Furthermore, when a person makes decisions about how much they wish to embrace a culture, it is good for a person to be willing to accept the consequences of the decisions that they make.

For instance, some people may feel like they should be able to dress however they want. However, if their appearance flies in the face of what the job interviewer believes are standard professional norms, then the job interviewer is likely to take such details into consideration before making a final decision or recommendation regarding whether a person should be hired for a specific position.

Consider what a typical customer would like to see in order to be impressed. What decisions would suggest that you are willing to take a job seriously? When considering this, don't try to compromise your vision by trying to instill your own values on what you think a typical “customer service representative” or retail “salesperson” should commonly be allowed to “get away with” on a regular day-to-day basis. Instead, think of some of the most professional ways that people present themselves.

For instance, if you were going to invest a major part of your life's income into the mortgage of a new house, you might wish to see a banker. If you were an older person who has already made a lot of money over the years, and you want to ensure that your financial investments will be useful to you for the rest of your life, you may wish to speak with a trustworthy “stock broker” or other “financial advisor”. If you were being sued, and your fate was left in the balance of a judge's decision, then you may want a talented lawyer to be representing your interests.

For such important decisions, you may want people who take their job seriously.

This page tries to go over details on some decisions that help to suggest that you would take the job seriously.

No mistakes

It is a good idea to find a mirror and look at your reflection before the meeting. Consider whether anything looks imperfect, and whether there is something meaningful that can reasonably be done about that before you leave.

As an example, if a person is going to wear a typical “man's” tie, it is good if the tie looks like it is “tied up” correctly. This involves the tie going around the person's neck. The tie should ideally fit invisibly under the person's collar, being rather unseen as it loops around the person's neck. In some cases, this might be a challenge, as a bit of the tie may leak out from under the collar. That might be fixable by taking the tie a bit tighter. That might actually just be a someone reasonable infraction from the ideal.

However, what might not be quite so tolerable is if a person buttons down their collar and the collar ends up going underneath the tie. This can be a relatively easy mistake to make. It is also a mistake that may be extremely noticeable. If a person doesn't notice this issue, an interviewer may think that the person did not check their appearance for perfection before leaving the house. Many interviewers may harshly judge such an action which the interviewers would consider to be a significant oversight/mistake.

Humans are imperfect and job interviews are known to be stressful. Interviewers know this and some may be rather merciful when it comes to small imperfections that may be rather challenging to avoid, such as stammering and stuttering during a job interview. (Such a defect might be judged more strictly for some roles, such as being a salesperson who is expected to deliver positive results even in situations that may typically be “high pressure” scenarios, but interviewers for many other positions may be more lenient about such things.) However, when it comes to a professional appearance, many interviewers will consider that to be something that could be largely controlled by a job interviewee, and so they may be much less lenient about decisions that the interviewer considers to be improper.

Scent

The most common advice is to avoid any sort of “strong scent”. Therefore, perfume (providing a “femenine scent”) or calogne (providing a “masculine scent”) should definitely not be done in excess, and many people may be just fine with not noticing such a scent at all.

Typically, many people are entirely unable to notice a scent that they present to others, even if such people are relatively able to notice some other scents. This may be related to a typical ability for a body to adapt relatively well to existing scents, and stop reporting to the brain about at least some scents. This guide urges people to not try to just rely on whether they believe their own scent is problematic. Instead, do whatever you can to neutralize any scent that may be likely, and thereby avoid potential problems.

body odor

Definitely, one scent that people definitely do not want to encounter is a scent of “body odor”. Such a scent can often unwittingly come from two sources:

  • a person's body
  • a person's clothes

Here are the ways to handle this:

body odor
soapy shower

Shower every day.

Use soap when showering. Typical “body soap” can be rather cheap.

For instance, at the time of this writing, a ten pack of “Ivory” bar soap could often be found for under $4 before tax. At just $0.40 per bar (which may last for weeks), that is less than 6% of a single hour of work, presuming the USA's federal minimum wage.

There are likely to be other “body soap” solutions, which might or might not be usefully more effective. However, usage of such Ivory soap is often going to be good enough if used regularly.

Any place where skin often touches other skin, such as am “arm pit”, may often be particularly prone to generating and/or trapping scent. For some overweight people, that could even include where a person's gut sags and then comes into contact with another part of the body. Make sure to aggresively target those areas with soap, every day.

avoid exercise

While regular excercise is generally recommended, realize that typically produces sweat which is often bad for odor. For salespeople who are often put in “interview”-like situations regularly, this might be generally bad advice, because frequently getting good exercise is typically going to be a desirable thing.

For those of us who have a “job interview” on a much less frequently basis, it may be good to try to avoid doing exercise on the rare occasion when there is an interview later in the day. So, if you can use motorized transportation instead of a more healthful approach, that may be worthwhile on those rare days when you have an interview.

deodorizer

In the opinion of the author of this text, a person might be able to get away without using any form of a “deodorizer” product if they sufficiently follow the other advice about handling “body odor” and the threat of odor from clothes, and don't engage in other activities that often lead to problems (such as sweating before or during the interview, which may often occur when exercising). However, in some cases (such as if sweating is inevitable), this may be helpful.

covering it up

Wearing a jacket may help. However, there are some potential issues with this approach. Wearing a jacket may induce additional sweat, which may make the matter worse. Whether that is true may vary based on factors such as climate, and different individuals.

clothes

For an interview, make sure that any clothing is clean, not having been worn a previous day after the last day that the clothing was washed.

Changing into clean clothes every day can avoid issues that may otherwise exist. Some people may choose to re-wear some clothing at least once before washing. This guide strongly suggests not doing that with the clothing that will be used for an interview. Also, doing that on a frequent basis might or might not lead to clothes commonly having a bad scent.

environment

Make sure that your home is routinely cleaned, using appropriate cleaning chemicals such as soap.

bad breath

The solution to this is to regularly practice good dental hygiene. Brush your teeth with toothpaste. Do this just before getting dressed up nicely. (Or, do this after getting dressed up nicely, but if you do that, be very careful not to drool/slobber/spit upon your clothing, including any dangling clothing such as a tie.) If you can, avoid eating until after the interview is complete. If “not eating” is rather infeasible, try to choose rather bland food.

This guide certainly recommends avoiding certain behaviors that may contribute to a detectable breath issue. Alcohol may be wise to avoid before an interview for reasons other than just the resulting “bad breath”, and breath can potentially be a way that a an interviewer can detect that a person was drinking alcohol before the interview.

Breath issues can often be done by following the above advice, including avoiding issues such as consumption of alcohol, usage of tobacco products, or even consuming flavorful foods or drinks. However, for some people with particularly bad dental hygiene, just brushing their teeth once might be rather insufficient. Naturally, the best recommendation is to engage in proper good dental hygiene. Doing that from the time that you turn in your materials (an application and/or resumé) may commonly be sufficient.

If you've been bad about dental hygiene, some possible workarounds may include:

  • Using mouthwash. Some mouthwash may have a flavor such as mint, and that might be somewhat effective in helping to replace a different and less desirable odor. Just make sure that you don't swallow it (which is bad for health reasons), and that you don't slobber upon your clothing, and that you spit it out in a decent way. (Spitting into a sink is generally best. Otherwise, doing so outside may be okay as long as it is done sufficiently descreetly and not leaving a mess that other people might be prone to walk in or see. e.g., where plants will soak up the liquid that gets disposed.)
  • Using a “breath mint”, and/or gum. In the case of a “breath mint”, make sure you have finished chewing and swallowing the item before you present yourself for the interview. In the case of gum, make sure you properly dispose of it before the interview.
foot odor

Shoes can often be a problem. Having at least two pairs of shoes, so that one pair can effectively “air out”, can be helpful.

Wear clean socks. Typically, simply starting each day with socks that have been appropriately cleaned (being brand new, or washed with soap) may be sufficient. In more extreme circumstances, finding a place (outside of the building where you will do an interview) to change socks shortly before an interview might also help.

tobacco

Similar to “body odor”, this can often come from two sources:

  • bad breath
  • clothing

The best recommendation that this guide can provide is to just avoid tobacco entirely. For those who choose to avoid that advice, at least try to avoid letting the tobacco scent be noticeable. Here are some tips on that:

bad breath

There is an entirely different section about “bad breath”. Consider the advice from that section. Filling your mouth with a different scent, such as a “breath mint”, might be helpful. (Perhaps some other drink might be helpful?) While avoiding tobacco entirely in life is something highly recommended by the author of this guide, it may be an especially good idea to avoid that before an important interview. So, do not try to relieve stress before the interview by smoking. If you smoke before an interview, a “bad breath” issue may be much more likely.

clothing

There may be little that can be done about this if you smoke while wearing the clothing that will be worn during the interview. However, here are a couple of tips:

  • Don't concentrate the issue. If you feel compelled to smoke in your car, do so with the windows down. Smoking while having the car windows up has been known to increase problems for some smokers.
  • Consider changing clothes. While a full outfit change may be rather infeasible, many professional outfits involve wearing a jacket. Some people have managed to get away with having a jacket that they take off while standing outside and smoking, and then putting the unscented jacket on when they go inside. A jacket might be able to effectively trap, and therefore hide, any scent that may exist. (Furthermore, the jacket might give off the scent later, when the jacket is not being worn.) Just make sure that when the jacket is not being worn, it is far enough away that it won't pick up the results of any smoker(s) exhaling.
professional appearance

What is considered to be professional will vary among some cultures. For instance, many leaders of nations around the world have adopted the “suit and tie” standard. However, some leaders of nations in the “middle east” have often adopted a different typical look such as wearing a kaffiyeh, which is a headdress that Global Affair Canada: Web Bank and Gaza calls one of the “symbols of Palestinian nationalism.” A kaffiyeh is a common item for men in that culture, while conservative women may be seen wearing a headscarf.

Without trying to suggest which culture a person should adhere to, this guide suggests that it is good to know what common cultural expectations are (particularly in the area where someone is planning to seek getting a job from).

First, this guide will present some typical standards from the mid-twentieth century. These standards were used in much of America at the time. Some people may consider some of this to be overly harsh, and may even be silly in some cultures (especially for some locations). Even if that is the case, this guide believes it is good for people to be aware of what the standards were, as many people will respect some strong adherance to such standards, and disrespect some deviations from such standards.

for everyone
  • hair notes
    • hair is not artificially colored to an unnatural color
    • hair should not cover one or both eyes. Doing so causes others to have a challenge making dual eye-to-eye contact, which is an unwanted challenge that should not be inflicted upon others.
      • With the old standard, this would apply particularly to women, because men simply wouldn't have hair which is long enough
  • no tattoos of any sort are being seen
  • shoes are “closed-toed” (so no bare toes nor socked toes are visible), and are not “tennis shoes” or similar, nor “sandles” or similar.
    • Professional “dress shoes” are preferred
  • No jewelry going through any body piercings of any kind, except for earrings on ladies (as noted in more detail later)
  • Since indoors ought to be heated sufficiently, hats should most commonly be taken off when indoors. Similarly, non-transparent glasses (such as sunglasses) may be acceptable outdoors, but should be taken off indoors.
for gentlemen
  • hair is short
  • no jewelry of any kind, except for:
    • a single wrist watch (worn on the left wrist). This is highly optional, and so may not be penalized or rewarded either way
    • tie clips, cufflinks, and other expensive add-ons that indicate going above and beyond to look really good. However, only if wearing a tie, and possibly only if wearing a professional “sports jacket”
  • a button-down shirt, with a collar. If the collar has button holes, then button the collar down, overtop of any tie worn.
    • better yet, in addition to a button-down shirt, wear a tie
      • better yet, also wear a “sports jacket”.
        • Even more points might be awarded for extras, such as a “tie clip”, lapel decoration (pin, and/or flower, possibly in a pocket), or cufflinks
  • a belt
  • No skin is seen above the socks and below the neck, except for wrists/hands.
    • short sleeves may also be tolerable in some cases where weather is sufficiently warm, although that will be less than the absolute pinnacle of professional dress
    • shorts will be an absolute “no no” for an interview or other professional situation, in most cases. However, some people may find such a deviation to be rather tolerable when the weather is truely very hot, although that will be notably lower than the absolute pinnacle of professional dress (even moreso than wearing short sleeves)
for ladies
  • covered shoulders
    • really, this applies to gentlemen too. However, it seems that in recent times, more ladies seem to try to get away with bare shoulders.
  • jewelry notes
    • A single small earring on each ear is certainly acceptable
    • a necklace may often be acceptable, if it is rather thin. Although, many people may find it more preferable to not have this.
    • a second earring on a single ear may be considered by some to start being a bit excessive
    • a very thick necklace, multiple necklaces, more than two earrings (or perhaps even more than one earring), large earrings may be considered excessive
  • bra straps not visible at all, including being noticeably visible through clothing
    • if wearing a dress that has straps, make sure those straps are somewhat thick, such as at least an inch thick, so that they don't appear to be “bra straps”

Since that time, some standards have let up a bit. A very noticeable exception is that many men do not wear ties at all, even salesmen in the business world.

Despite the relaxing of standards, if a person is very interested in getting a job, this guide recommends trying to dress professionally. The following guidelines are intended to provide what many people will consider to be a more lenient modernization of the stricter earlier standards, while still maintaining a large degree of professionalism. So, the following standards are largely a modification of the above guidelines.

For everyone
  • Tattoos have become more widely accepted. However, if they can be hidden, then that would be preferable.
  • Piercings ought to be not worn during active work hours (especially for “food service” positions)
  • On a day-to-day basis, other jewelry has become more acceptable, even including a man wearing up to a single small earring per ear. However, implementing the older standards would still be recommended during work hours. Signs of piercings, such as an indentation in a man's ear, is far more acceptable than it used to be.
  • For men, longer hair is more tolerated. However, it should be bundled. For instance, have it be in a ponytail. If you can even manage to largely hide the long hair, by stuffing the long hair behind a back collar, that may be even better.
for gentlemen
  • For men, longer hair is more tolerated. However, it should be bundled. For instance, have it be in a ponytail, rather than spread out in a less controlled fashion. If you can even manage to largely hide the long hair, by stuffing the long hair behind a back collar, that may be even better.
for ladies
  • ladies have much more flexibility.
    • Many ladies have expressed that they find the additional flexibility to be a source of additional stress because they feel pressured to achieve perfection, and they believe they have an obligation to utilize all their resources including every amount of flexibility they have.
    • This guide suggests simply choosing some sort of look that gives off the impression of being professional, and treating a job with seriousness. Consider a very professional look. Then, consider how much flexibility you would like to use in order to feel more comfortable, ideally without crossing the line of looking unprofessional. If in doubt, remain more professional for a job interview.
      • Then, after your first day on the job, consider lightening up to whatever degree you feel comfortable with, trying to never cross the line of being “unprofessional”
      • If you aren't yet feeling comfortable with a certain degree of lacking professionalism, then the safe thing to do is to maintain a higher degree of preossionalism. However, in most jobs, especially after time, many women will start to feel some greater flexibility. In the end, women typically end up with notably more flexibility than men. For many professional men, their amount of flexibility is whether to wear a sportsjacket and a tie, or to be less professional by just wearing a button-down shirt but not having a tie on. They can also enjoy some choice in what color of button-down shirt they wear. However, women can easily get away with a much wider range of non-revealing styles.
      • The advice from the author of this guide, to women, is to enjoy the greater flexibility that is available. Let it be a source of comfort. If you're not feeling comfortable because something would seem too casual, then continue doing things in a way that seems comfortably professional. But as you feel more comfortable with a workplace over time, especially as people recognize valuable contributes that you make, utilize available flexibility as it becomes comfortable to do so.
      • No matter what choices you make, some people may disapprove. Understand that is a reality, and so don't fret too much about trying to appease absolutely everyone. Just meet the standards of people whom you are expected to impress (which may be a standard you're rather unfamiliar with initially, but which you may become more familiar with over time).

Some people may feel that one or more aspects of the above are too restrictive to comply with other cultural expectations. This guide recommends giving consideration to how important it is to have a job, and whether that is more important than preferring some cultural preferences. Upon giving such a consideration, some people may cling onto a specific preference (which might be widely seen as cultural or religious) rather than follow a specific standard. This guide does not wish to try to suggest a specific final decision that would be right for everybody. However, this guide does suggest that people give such matters some thought, and make decisions intentionally, rather than failing to measure up just because a person never bothered to consider the consequences that were likely because of a specific decision. Consider what the consequences are, and then decide.

anti-wrinkle tips
  • First, some clothes are marketed with a feature of being wrinkle-free. If some clothing really does have such a feature, getting clothing with that feature may be helpful
  • The next two anti-wrinkle tips may help reduce the amount of wrinkling. The reduction may eliminate wrinkles or reduce them to a less noticeable amount, perhaps to a suitably acceptable. However, in areas of very high professionalism, the only acceptable result may be the level of perfection that can be achieved by properly using an iron.
  • Eliminating any folds (like what naturally happens in a dryer) and then properly folding clothes (artificially) while they are still rather warm, immediately after a dryer finishes, may result in less wrinkles caused by clothes being folded in a random, uncontrolled way (like what naturally happens in a dryer).
    • If you are away from a dryer when it finishes, then re-running a dryer for ten or fifteen minutes may be an effective way to get the clothes warm again.
  • Hanging up large items (shirts, and possibly slacks) in a bathroom, while taking a shower, might lead the clothes to being exposed to steam, which may help
    • This doesn't have to be extremely hot steam. Simply the amount of steam that tends to cover up mirrors may be rather sufficient to try to achieve this effect.
    • Just be careful not to splash shower water on your clothes. A couple of drops are likely to evaporate into non-visibility, but if the clothes get very wet then they may be uncomfortable, and possibly even visibly wet later (depending on how wet they get).
mannerisms
  • Eye-to-eye contact should be made as heavily as possible with as many interviewers as possible. This means that if there is just one person, meaning that a one-on-one interview is occurring, eye-to-eye contact should be approximately constant. Obviously a regular amount of blinking will be tolerated. Other eye excursions should be brief and likely infrequent. (This is a key reason why people with long hair should keep their hair off of their face.)