Influence, Persuasion, and Personal Presentation: Why and How to Look Your Best When Interacting with Others

by Antonio on January 28, 2014 · 28 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Style

Are you intentionally making mistakes at work to make yourself look incompetent?

Are you purposely sabotaging your presentations?

Are you setting yourself up for failure as an instructor?

Hopefully, the answer is no.

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Yet the vast majority of men I see who want to be influential fail to master the three tips I’ll share today. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Men spend a lot of time, money, and effort learning to be more persuasive speakers and negotiators. And for good reason — mastering these skills can reap huge returns when it comes to business and personal success.

But what if there were something you could do that would dramatically increase your persuasiveness without any extra effort or training on your part?

Would you take advantage of it?

If the answer is yes, it’s time to start thinking more about your personal appearance and how it relates to the art of persuasion and influence.

Attractiveness and Persuasion

We like to think that persuasion is a matter of good arguments and compelling rhetoric — in part because we don’t want to believe that we can be swayed by anything less.

The research says otherwise.

There have been a number of studies in the last fifty years that demonstrate people’s tendency to be more persuaded by attractive speakers than by unattractive ones.

In 1979, Shelly Chaiken published a paper on her study of instructors in academic settings. She found that instructors rated as “attractive” by their students could generate significantly higher levels of agreement from their audience than ones rated as “unattractive.” Even more impressively, the study also demonstrated that students actually performed better when they had an instructor they found attractive.

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 Why Attractiveness Affects Influence

It’s a little disheartening to think that just being handsome can make people under your leadership perform better, or make audiences more likely to agree with your point of view.

Worth bearing in mind is that it’s not a one-way street. Attractive individuals tend, on the whole, to have an easier time in social situations than unattractive ones. That, in turn, encourages them to be more outgoing and social, which gives them more practice with their interactive skills.

But with that said, there’s also an effect on the viewer’s brain when a person is particularly attractive. Our brains are big into shortcuts. Give them a chance and they’ll save mental energy by categorizing people into simple, all-or-nothing terms like “good” and “bad,” or in this case, “attractive” and “unattractive.”

That gives us a tendency to take a broad, generalized assumption about a person, such as “he looks good,” and then ascribe that quality to specific judgments as well, such as “he’s probably a good teacher,” or “he must be a good father.”

This is called the “halo effect.” It was first studied in the 1920s by a researcher named Edward Thorndike, who had noticed that in military evaluations, officers who were ranked highly in some qualities were ranked highly in other, unrelated categories as well. Similarly, officers with low rankings in some categories usually had low rankings in others.

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What does a squared-away uniform say about a Marine?

Objectively, the results didn’t make sense. Unrelated qualities like physical fitness and mental attentiveness should, in theory, be randomly distributed. You might get one or two high performers very good at everything they do, and one or two washouts who aren’t good at anything, but in general people should be good at some things and not at others.

What Thorndike found, however, was that one strong positive impression — an officer’s physique, say, or his attention to neatness and punctuality — was enough to generate an overall “good feeling” that spilled over into the rest of the evaluation. Once the person filling out the evaluation noticed something good about an individual, he assumed that they were good at other things too. The result was true for negative impressions as well.

Studies have shown, with remarkable consistency, that the halo effect is real and has a statistically significant effect on people’s success, in everything ranging from education to politics to courtroom defenses (one study showed that attractive people received much more lenient sentences than unattractive ones, even when convicted of the exact same crime).

This effect comes into play when you’re trying to persuade, in any setting or situation. The more positive people’s first visual impression of you is, the more positive traits they’ll associate with everything you say. A 1975 study found that clothing had more impact on first impressions in social settings than the person wearing the clothing — powerful stuff when you’re getting up in front of an audience!

How to Dress to Persuade

It should be obvious, then, that anyone who needs to persuade — for a job, a cause, or anything else — wants to look as “good” as possible.

But what is “good,” in personal appearance?

1. Be Free of Imperfections

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Can you spot the imperfections that different clothing exaggerates or masks on the same man?

To persuade, be meticulous.

Be meticulous about your hair, be meticulous about your shoes, be meticulous about your clothes. Everything counts.

Your goal when you prepare for a persuasive speech or sales pitch is to eliminate imperfections.

A tuft of hair out of place or a scuff on your shoes may not seem like much, and realistically, most people won’t consciously notice something minor like that, but their subconscious mind is still picking up the visual signal of asymmetry, and that tells the back of their brain that something isn’t quite right. The result is a vague, indefinable and off-putting sensation that the viewer won’t even be aware of — but that will be coloring his or her judgment of you.

Our brains evolved to use basic bilateral symmetry as a sign of good health and development, so they easily pick up on anything that deviates from that pattern. Always strive for a symmetrical look — or, when you break it, for a firm and deliberate asymmetry. A bright splash of color on one breast from a pocket square is fine; a faint stain on one lapel is not.

Remember that humans can generally only pay attention to one thing at a time. Our brains and our eyes are good at focusing, but bad at interpreting multiple stimuli at once. If you give people something out of place to focus on, they’re going to zero in on it. Thinking about how your tie doesn’t go well with your pants takes up the brain space they should be using to consider your message.

When you think about it, even things that we recognize as major gaffes aren’t much more than small details done wrong. Showing up at a presentation with your fly unzipped is, in practical terms, a flaw in maybe 1-2% of your total appearance. The rest of your outfit looks just fine! But we all know how big of a difference that one little zipper out of place is — it’s a deal breaker, guaranteed.

Things that logically have nothing to do with your intelligence or with the value of the message can still leave people thinking that you’re unconvincing. So take the time you need to get everything just right.

Aim for perfection. Go for the extra slow shave, the just-right-for-you hair product, the shoeshine in the airport. They end up mattering.

2. Be Well-FittedTailor-measuring-tall-man-clothing-400

The neat, crisp outline of well-fitted clothing serves the same purpose as painstaking attention to detail — it removes subtle asymmetries from your overall image.

You’re never going to look as attractive as you can if you have loose folds of cloth sagging off your body. A too-tight fit is just as bad, since it wrinkles and bunches when you move, so aim for a fit that’s close to the skin, but not restrictive. Click here for a refresher on how a suit should fit.

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Pay attention to your proportions here as well, especially if you’re outside the average build for a man. It’s easy for details like the pockets on shirts and jackets or the length of cuffs to get pulled far enough away from “normal” that the look is off-putting if you’re unusually large or small.

Part of this is avoiding off-putting imperfections. Another part is evolutionary — human brains like straight-limbed, well-proportioned bodies. They look like strong leaders and capable providers. When you look like that, you become the sort of person that other humans instinctively want to have in their group. The urge to fit in with you — and to agree with you — gets stronger.

Having clothing adjusted to flatter your body as much as possible encourages that eagerness to agree with you. If your posture and your outline has already convinced the audience that you’d be a good guy to keep around, you’re halfway to convincing them of anything else as well.

A little tailoring goes a long way. Plan on having the majority of your clothes adjusted by a tailor who knows you well. The differences are subtle, but the cumulative effect is impressive.

3. Be Dressed Up, Not Dressed Down

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Finding the exact level of formality can be tricky, especially if you’re speaking in a casual or non-traditional setting.

More than one politician has gotten himself in trouble by showing up at a soup kitchen or a disaster shelter wearing a tailored suit and an expensive silk tie.

In general, when attempting to persuade, you want to err on the side of looking like you dressed up for the occasion, not dressed down. Lean toward the more formal end of what your audience will be wearing (but not too much beyond that).

There’s a very simple reason for this: you’re trying to influence, and therefore your clothes should be the clothes of an influential man. The halo effect will kick in for you once again, making people much more receptive to your words and ideas.

For most of the Western world, that usually means a suit or blazer-style jacket. The V-shaped chest opening and squared shoulders speak to our subconscious minds of power and influence — and as an added bonus, they flatter the male physiology too, making you look more dominant.

Don’t be afraid to look a little more dressed up than the people around you. That’s your way of showing them respect. Subconsciously, they’ll assume that your ideas are important too.

There’s a practical element here as well: it’s much easier to correct being “overdressed” than under-dressed. If you show up somewhere in a tie and jacket and you realize that absolutely no one else there is wearing anything nicer than a casual collared shirt, it’s not that hard to slip off your jacket and tie, roll up your sleeves, and fit right in.

If you show up in blue jeans and a work shirt and find everyone else wearing suits, that’s a lot harder to correct for. So err on the side of dressing up more than everyone else, and shed accents or layers as needed to bring it back down if you really feel out of place.

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Be Attractive. Be Persuasive.

If it sounds irrational to you that something so unrelated to your other merits can have such a powerful effect, don’t worry — you’re not alone.

The halo effect is just one of many seemingly irrational ways that the human brain processes external stimuli. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

Most people, if they really think about it, can recognize at least a few times when they’ve let a public figure’s appearance or charm affect their perception of other, unrelated issues.

It’s why Hollywood celebrities so often get away with extreme behaviors that would be off-putting in others — we already have a perception of them as larger-than-life characters (since that’s how we see them in their on-screen roles), so it seems “okay” for them to behave that way on the streets of Los Angeles as well.

So yes, it can be hard to believe that something as simple as wearing nice clothing can actively improve your powers of persuasion. But have a little faith in the science and in your own understanding of human nature.

It’s not a magic charm. Just having a good suit isn’t going to make people agree with everything you say. For one thing, there are a lot of other guys out there in good suits already, so you have lots of competition for people’s attention!

But you can create a positive first impression by being neat, by having the attractive outline that well-fitted clothing brings, and by looking just a little more dressed-up than the men around you. That edge might just be enough to tip the scales in your favor and get you the job, the sale, the votes — whatever it is you need from other people.

There are limits to the effect, certainly. Even a very well-dressed man isn’t going to be listened to if he’s shouting about the aliens in his head. But a well-dressed man speaking calmly about reasonable-sounding ideas is much more likely to be believed than the same man giving the same speech in a sloppy outfit.

Watch a Video Summary of This Post

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Written By:
Antonio Centeno
Click Here For My Free BookThe Seven Deadly Sins Of Style

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 William Morris January 28, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Great article, Antonio!

Dress to impress, dress for success!

2 Nikola Gjakovski January 28, 2014 at 8:29 pm

There is no first impression twice, so we better suit-up for the first! Having my first job interview soon. This helped me a lot!
Thank you!

3 Sebastien January 28, 2014 at 8:37 pm

I recently started dressing more business like at work. Two weeks after changing the way I dressed I got a promotion at work. This video hit the nail on the head when it comes to being well dressed for the part.

4 Steve January 28, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Couldn’t agree more. As a cleric in today’s world, I’m required to “dress up” to a variety of settings, from vestments and suits on a Sunday, to slacks, sweater and collared shirts for informal meetings. It’s easy to over or undershoot; you want to be taken seriously, yet not to be seen as stuffy or unapproachable. Every detail will be seen and will matter, even if not commented upon. Good grooming is paramount!

5 Gary January 28, 2014 at 9:27 pm

I would highly recommend the book “Dress for Success” by John Malloy. It is geared toward salesmen, but in a sense no matter what your career you’re selling yourself as someone who is competent and capable.

I first learned of the book in the mid-seventies, in a Time magazine article. A lawyer was representing a nightclub owner and had told his client to wear his best suit. The man showed up in a yellow suit. The judge took one look at the client and said, “Counselor, if you and Mr. Banana Skin are ready we will proceed.” The attorney got a continuance and got the man out of the courtroom.
The rest of the article went on to describe the way lawyers should dress, and that their dress would vary depending on their location in the country and the juries they would be addressing.
The book was very interesting, and pointed out that people do make judgments about you by the way you are dressed. The important thing is that those assessments are largely unconscious.

6 Burnes January 28, 2014 at 9:36 pm

On December 23, 2013, the New Yorker ran an article called “THE POWER OF THE HOODIE-WEARING C.E.O.” by Mathew Hutson which presented an over view of essays, research, and thoughts on the way in which Silicon Valley culture has changed our views of “dressing for success”. The hypothesis is that dressing down communicates status–communicates that one is so important, one does not have to play by the rules.

Do you think this mindset is a passing fad, and that classy appearance will ultimately prove to be a timeless indicator of success, or do you think that there has been a fundamental shift in how our society perceives both success, and successful people?

7 Kyle January 28, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Depending on the setting, showing up in blue jeans while everyone else is in suits can be an opportunity. The contrast is going to draw attention to you. With confidence and tact (and an acceptable reason for being in jeans), you can use that attention to extend your influence and leave favorable impressions.

8 Mike Dino January 28, 2014 at 11:17 pm

I think is very important to be clean and dress up; Also I think is more important to know how to dress to the occasion, like if you work in some factory and you are an engineer like in my case, I can not go in suit, but I can go in kakis or something that looks nice and presentable also on Fridays is a jean day, all the engineers and administrators go in jeans. If any presentation or something like this comes orotund well thats a different story, but I think is very important to see the occasion.

9 Jason January 28, 2014 at 11:42 pm

I personally think that if you wear a hoodie before you actually have success, than it’s not going to do anything for you, even in Silicon Valley. It would be like, look at that random dude over there, who could be any wannabe tech guru. But I do think that if you wear a hoodie AFTER you have success, it can make you seem more impressive and powerful, since it shows you have so much sucess to don’t have to play by the rules anymore. I think it shows you’ve arrived. But I wouldn’t wear it BEFORE you’ve arrived.

10 Danny M. January 28, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Adopting these principles has really helped me to stand out in the typical college classroom and, I believe, has dramatically altered my chances of success. Before reading AOM I dressed like a typical college student: Jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers. Now I consistently wear better fitting and more presentable clothing. I immediately began to see a shift in the way fellow students and even professors related to me; now that I “dress like a TA” (to use the words of one of my buddies), professors seem to assume I am one of the top students in the class! If you’re still in college, do yourself a favor and heed the advice of the article above — you’ll feel “more grown up” and find your behavior shifting to match your appearance.

11 david January 29, 2014 at 12:43 am

Burnes: thks for that article
Kyle/mike: completely agree

Gen X/Gen Y have been marketed to millions of times since we were kids… and can smell a ‘sales guy’ trying to persuade us a mile away…

I speak for myself… but anyone who comes across as too polished is hard to trust (Mitt Romney could have been elected if he learned this one lesson)

12 Dann Anthony January 29, 2014 at 6:13 am

Great piece.

Paul Shaffer made much the same point, in song..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQ305q1bxI8

13 Kent Sanders January 29, 2014 at 11:36 am

Antonio, what an excellent article. Thanks for sharing some great tips. I have struggled quite a bit with how to dress in my profession as a college teacher. At my school, the older profs often wear suits and ties, while the younger ones don’t (and sometimes wear jeans). The older profs tend to have a more lecture-based style of teaching and is more authoritative, and the younger ones have a more relational style of teaching and influence.

The same trend has been happening in the evangelical church world for a while, now, as well. Pastors are much more likely to dress down on the platform, and have adopted a more relational, easygoing style of preaching/teaching.

I wonder if the dress of the leaders/teachers in these situations has had an unintended effect on the students/congregation — i.e. a loss of authority and influence.

14 Danilo Gateau January 29, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Excellent article. I’ve heard something similar to this while I was in college during 200. I learned that attractive people tend to get better jobs, higher pay and earn more respect. They are also more likely to become leaders instead of followers. Their overall the quality of life is usually better than the next guy.

15 Dan January 29, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Referring to both Jason and Burnes’ comments:
You both communicated exactly what I was thinking throughout the article; the internal pull between ‘fake it till you make it’ logic and bringing your own set of dress rules to a meeting. I lecture at college and have found that, whatever I wear, students are more interested in what I have to say. And yet, for difficult lectures with less-ideal classes, I find myself donning more traditional ‘tutor-ish’ clothing, even swapping contact lenses for glasses. But trust me, given my personal dress abilities, I inevitably arrived looking like the bastard-child of economy and the 1980′s. Still, this approach always coincided with a successful class. It leads me to wonder whether the importance of dress lies in the level of self-confidence: perhaps no matter what we are wearing, if WE feel that it is appropriate, then it gives us that confidence. A kind of circular loop of cause and effect, but one that shows the importance of paying attention to what you wear.

16 Nick R January 29, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Antonio, congrats on your great article.

I agree about appearances. It is important to look your best whether it’s a causal day of a button down and jeans, a formal day of a 3 piece suit and neck tie or a day of gentleman like leisure in A Sports Jacket and polo shirt.

Keep up the good work

17 Michael January 29, 2014 at 9:31 pm

Although I generally agree there are a number of times where this is completely wrong in our modern high tech world, I’m going to give a few examples.

The suite, lets face it folks you mentioned in the article that people look at you and see someone just like them, and this is true in many ways. If you are looking to fit in, be one of the crowd, go ahead and wear the uniform. That’s what it is a conformist uniform. If that is the message you want to send great, it sends the message I am just like all the other drones in this office, I will fit in, I won’t make waves, be innovative or spectacular. The article further highlights this, when you say he looks just like me, the things he is about to say should seem reasonable. Again is this really your goal? Are you shooting for a lifetime of middle management mediocrity? Never stretching, always under the thumb of the corporate machine?

These people do not end up driving innovation, creating new companies, changing the status quo. These conformists are often invisible, yes you’ll be safe and look like all the other suits and be completely forgettable.

Now for a few examples;
During an interview with outdoor retailer Cabela’s which I thought was going well I had on my best sharpest suit and power tie. This was 20 years ago and a time when more people would normally wear a suit to an interview. Half way through I was excused to explore the little town of Sidney, NE where they are headquartered for lunch. I was repeatedly asked by people I met who had died. Finally, an older man asked if I was in town for an interview at Cabela’s because he knew there were no funerals that day in town. He said loose the jacket, tie and roll up your sleeves and you might get through the rest of the day. When I came back to finish the interview I was met with a sigh of relief. The interviewer told me they were ready to let me go because of the suit, I just was not going to fit in with them.

In Seattle years later I was coached to go to an interview in jeans and a button down shirt with casual brown shoes to a very successful high tech company. I fit in perfectly and got the job.

Yes this is evidence that you should dress for the job, and good tailoring can come in often. However, in both of these examples it would have been seen as pretentious.

In another interview I was asked if I played golf regularly as most executives do, I said I enjoyed it but had not had time for it in many years. The CEO said great he was concerned that my perfect suite and other details meant I was all about the money and status and not about the work, he said my answer on golf clinched the interview because he could tell I put work first, not status or trappings of success.

The truly successful set their own standards, stand out from the crowd, look for ways to set themselves apart, not merely conform.

Yes look and symmetry matter, good looking well built people have proven easier lives, less stress, and fewer road blocks, and it is proven. I’m not that guy, but I’ve had a great career by doing the uncomfortable, by being willing to make tough decisions, to work hard and be smart. And no one has ever suggested I dress well or am good looking, I’m neither. But I do dress to play the part, yet my creative and independent nature require me to set myself apart from the crowd, not be part of the herd and never be a sheep, it has severed me well across my career and personal life.

Suits are for funerals and followers most of the time.

18 Rob Bird January 29, 2014 at 9:36 pm

@Burnes

I don’t think so. Look at Face Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg has a very popular book and is a huge influence on a generation of women. Look at how she dresses and presents herself.

Now look at Zuckerberg and how he dresses. Who takes him seriously? Every time I see a picture of him it looks like he is about 10 minutes away from showing up to a frat party.

19 Jaredd Wilson January 30, 2014 at 10:15 am

So, if they found attractive teacher got their students to learn better, and attractive people were rated better…then evaluating teachers based on their performance and student achievement should experience a synergism of bias towards attractive teachers? I think I’m screwed. (I’m a high school teacher).

20 mat January 30, 2014 at 11:12 pm

@Jared I’m a HS Music teacher and loved your post

One response was spot on the money for me: the way we dress directly relates to our comfort and confidence thus we should dress to our best comfort/confidence and thusly our success. As a teacher, my job is to engage students well and I’ve built my classroom, I believe, in a way that harbors respect and solid work ethic. I do not believe that dressing in a vneck sweater and dress pants would have helped. I guess it all depends on the situation or more yet, the individual. I’d love to see a time when we could wear jeans all week long and support it with button down shirts, v neck sweaters, sport coats, etc.

We’ve gotten to a world where the pants rule the uniform. And to make a generalizing statement that productivity and effectiveness is directly related to appearance is like saying the most modern looking car is the most reliable.

For me, my comfort (with taste of course) is more related to my productivity than a tie. I think too many people put a standard on dress to say that the company will work better if we all wear khakis. CCorrect me if im misunderstanding but would productivity be better if your employees were comfortable yet not slobs of course? Would john in sales feel a little better if he could sit without a mandated neck tie and chinos and opt for a collared button down shirt, nice jeans, dress shoes and belt to match?

I’m not trying to argue the point, just playing devils advocate.

21 Stone Rockerfeller January 30, 2014 at 11:20 pm

As well as looking good, it’s also important to smell good. Take a shower, and use some cologne. Use deodorant, and use breath spray liberally. No one wants to be around someone who smells bad.

22 Stephen February 1, 2014 at 6:48 am

Re: the hoodie CEO.

The other side is not only whether you *are* important enough to give that impression but also whether you *want* to give off an impression of being so important that rules don’t apply to you.

It may be how people-who-are-multi-billionaires impress people but it’s a difficult place to make friends from.

23 Emmanuel M'M February 3, 2014 at 5:29 am

I am very guilty of imperfections. I have been following Antonio’s blog for a while and this year, one of my goals was to revamp my entire wardrobe. Starting with the shoes. Buying a pair of casual shoes this week!

24 Jay February 4, 2014 at 6:56 am

Never judge a book by its cover!

Is an adage as old as the advice has been ignored – forever. I see one of his key points – clothing fit – daily and have to say I’ve seen people wearing nice clothing that did not fit and it looked horrible. I work in IT and the two biggest turn-offs are poorly fitting clothing and out of shape people in them – even for the lack standards of the IT world. Regardless of the clothing, if you are really out of shape, you have a steep hill to climb. The reality is, we judge and are judged many times a day. It’s up to the individual to determine if it’s worth the extra effort to look more appealing (to others or yourself).

25 Gabe February 9, 2014 at 7:27 pm

An example of just how true this is came to me while reading this; in high school, I would usually dress pretty loosely (cargo pants, hoodie, etc.) One day, however, one of my teachers told me we would be visiting a college the next day and asked me to dress nicely. I took her meaning a little over board and wore a full suit. I noticed, while walking around campus, that people paid a lot more attention to me. If I smiled at them, they smiled back. If I held a door for them, they made it a point (even if they were on the phone) to turn and thank me. This happened much less often when I dressed “normal”. Not saying it’s a good thing, just saying it works.

26 Lee February 12, 2014 at 5:40 am

Zuckerberg only has influence because he has money. Nothing about how he looks says “trustworthy”, but he can buy his way in with his chequebook. A bit like most lottery winners – their success took no discipline, so they carry on with same basic attitude.

And as for the poster “Michael” above, calling men drones for conforming in suits…its stable conformers who make communities and families, whilst the innovators tend to break them. Maybe consider that next time you’re full of the “big I AM”.

27 steve February 17, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Lee the cloth don’t make the man, and if it ever did fool anyone be it the fool who follows vanity. As soon as he opens his mouth all doubt will be removed if he’s a fool or not, and if he as anything to add to the table; nothing will hide that. I personally wouldn’t listen to him anymore than anyone else.

Anyway for me a person whos overdressed just comes off as trying to hard, or insecure to me I will be able to tell if he’s sincere, or fake whatever he’s wearing.

I only care about the sweet peotry if its a goth with a mohawk or the well dressed business man it doesn’t not matter.

Obviously of course dress the part for whatever your doing but don’t turn paranoid, or narcissistic over it, and for the love of god don’t look down on people, or make them conform to the materialistic capitalist game your playing like the rest sadly.

Futhermore our granparents managed just fine with the limited cloth selection, they didn’t have time to mess around with the small things. Look at gandhi right.. he walked around in flipflops, and abraham lincoln was ugly.

Kind regards

28 Diocletian March 30, 2014 at 5:46 pm

In 2000 I was living in Las Vegas, NV. I attended a job fair showered and cleanly shaven but deliberately dressed below “casual” (scuffed shoes, faded jeans slightly frayed at the inseams, polo shirt frayed at the collar, etc.), and with hair shampooed but in need of a trim. However, I came equipped with years of experience and success in my profession. I approached a booth of a prominent company in my profession and greeted the sharply-dressed representative to schedule an interview after the fair. He looked me over disdainfully and haughtily replied that I was dressed “inappropriately” for an interview. He tugged at his silk tie to indicate what I should be wearing around my neck, and he tugged proudly at his suit jacket as he “taught” me how I “ought” to be dressed in his presence during an interview. He agreed to make an appointment with me for an interview and admonished me to be sure to “be dressed properly” for it. I felt no shame as I took my leave of this supercilious ass and conceived of a plan for the interview that I was sure would make an unforgettable impression, if not teach him about where his priorities out to be, namely on the competence and proven abilities of a prospective employee like me, and not on sartorial perfection. Three days before the interview I went to a Salvation Army store and bought a nice two-piece suit, a pair of dress shoes, a white dress shirt, and a belt, all smaller than my and the haughty fool’s size, and a polyester tie. The entire wardrobe cost $34. I neatly packed the clothes inside a box and paid a local courier $25 to deliver the box to the interviewer’s one hour before the time of my interview. Inside the box was my note that introduced the interviewer to my suit for him to interview and my request that he call me to inform me if my suit got hired since he had made it obvious to me at the fair that he was more concerned with how one dresses for an interview than he was with one’s skills and ability to do the job. Several hours later, while I was away from my phone, he left a very sarcastic and verbally abusive voicemail. I made a copy of the voicemail and sent it to the CEO of the company, admonishing him that any more calls from anyone from his company would constitute harassment and elicit a lawsuit, and advising him to contact my attorney if he wished to discuss the matter further. I never heard from that fool again, nor did the CEO contact my attorney. I have made 5 similar deliveries over the past 13 years, and the gratification that I derived from each delivery never faded. I have since been hired as an independent contractor in my profession, at a 6-figure amount, and I dressed as “casually” for the interview for that position as I had for that job fair. I have never owned a suit, and I never will, for what really matters is not conforming to anyone’s sartorial expectations but being competent and productive. Any business owner or representative who is more interested in how you look than what you can do competently is not worth your time.

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