Read an Excerpt
YOU’VE BEEN gainfully employed for seven years, performing your duties and responsibilities to the best of your ability. The positive evaluations throughout the years confirm this and have anchored your job security . . . or so you think. Youve attended every boring social and professional office function, even if just to stay within the good graces of the powers-that-be. It has never dawned on you that you would get the dreaded interoffice phone call from the boss asking, “Do you have a moment for me?” Even though you have about a zillion things to do, you answer in your most polite yet fragile voice, “Of course I do” and you scurry your way into her office while rehearsing how to remain cool, calm, and collected.
“Maybe I’m getting promoted?” you whisper to yourself while your heart is pumping at 80 beats per second. You knock lightly, and the familiar voice ushers you inside; as you enter, the gaze in the boss’s eye confirms every awful suspicion. It’s clear from her stance and her tone that there are extenuating circumstances that have driven her to execute this unpleasant task. You zone out as she gives her long-winded explanation. All you see are her lips moving, but the volume is on mute. Finally, you tune in just in time to hear her say, “I’m sorry to have to let you go.” It doesn’t matter that you’ve been given “a package,” or that some of your dignity’s been spared by not being escorted out the door immediately, or even that she apologized for having to do the deed. The fact is that from the moment you heard the dreaded words of termination, you felt frazzled, vulnerable, and destitute.
When she’s done, you haul yourself back to your desk, while resisting the urge to scream through the hallways, only to hear a reprise of the interoffice phone call in the office suite next door. In this instance, misery doesn’t love company. It just means one more person to battle in the dog-eat-dog world of interviewing, where potential employers will want to see it all: education, talent, experience, ethics, and image. As the new fish in the shark pool of statistics, it’s survival of the fittest. As you switch into survival mode inspired by fears of when you’ll see your next paycheck, even a simple manicure or shoe shine seem extravagant.
How do you ever go about persuading employers that you possess that certain je ne sais quoi that they’ve been looking for when you are now on a tight budget topped with a morale that’s in the dumps? Surely, your competition is bound to have a glowing professional and educational background. So what exactly will you have to do to leave a lasting impression on a potential employer who you’re hoping will choose you for a job?
Surprisingly, there is no single winning universal quality that potential hiring managers look for; it’s more of a multifaceted feature that each decision maker ranks according to his or her own perception and rules of scrutiny. Simply put, the intricacy of this element is based on how you choose to present the layers of what makes you distinguishable and unique: your appearance, behavior, and communication, otherwise known as your “image.” These three layers encompass your most influential interviewing vehicle, but the vehicle will take you the distance only if you load it up with compatible fuel. It is when you make these three layers compatible that you are most sought after. (Image is not to be confused with your genetically inherent identity traits [DNA], although these characteristics do play a role in how you shape your image. Your height, for instance, is a part of your genetic makeup. How you alter your height with shoes is part of the image you choose to create.)
While it may seem unrelated or unfair to be judged by the cover of your book rather than your contents, the truth is that assumptions about your capabilities, sophistication, pedigree, intelligence, and performance can and will be drawn based on your image. The good news is that you have exclusive control of creating the image you want to project. It may take some tweaking within one or more of your three layers, but when all three are harmoniously aligned you will appear at your best. And with a little time, patience, humility, and some good old-fashioned self-analysis, you’ll be able to achieve complete synchronization of your image.
Balancing the components of your image is an attainable and cost-effective way to gain a competitive edge while seeking a job. There is no premium for choosing appropriate colors, fabrics, textures, and silhouettes, nor is there one for exercising proper etiquette or communicating in a professional manner.
As an executive recruiter and certified image coach, I have guided thousands of candidates through metamorphoses that have been essential to their winning the interview wars. My counseling has helped individuals master the art of interviewing by using image as their most dominant asset. Let’s face it, selling one’s ability to do a job in as few as 20 to 60 minutes requires an entirely different skill set than actually doing the job. The sooner you’re in on the inside information, the sooner you’ll get that competitive edge.