Small things matter at interview

May 4, 2010 by

Some time ago one of my colleagues was involved in recruiting a technical position for a client involved in the offshore oil business. I can’t remember all the details but I do recall what the recruiting company themselves told us: they thought it would be difficult to find what they were looking for. Hardly reassuring but a fairly typical way to start an assignment.

I need never have worried. My colleague, Paul, was a resourceful fellow and he came up with a number of people who looked to have the right background. One, in particular, looked to be a very strong candidate; Paul was very impressed with not only his background but also his personality and aptitude. I trusted Paul’s judgement and, sure enough, the feedback after the first round of interviews with the client was very positive. They also selected the same candidate as one of outstanding potential. Job done… or, at least, so we thought…

The second round of interviews appeared to be no more than a formality. The client was keen and the candidate was, in recruitment parlance, “gagging for the job.” Strangely though, after the second interview, there was a delay before we had any feedback. Despite numerous calls we could not get through to our contact, and calls were not returned.

Eventually, after many attempts, we managed to speak to the client and we were told that our ‘ideal’ candidate would not be offered the position. We didn’t understand: everything seemed to be right and, when the client asked us to continue with our research, they stipulated that we should find somebody like the candidate that they had refused.

What was the problem?

After we enquired further, applying a little more pressure than might be usual, our contact ultimately admitted that the MD had not liked the fact that our candidate wore an earring.

We were incredulous. Despite the fact that all parties knew this would be a difficult role to fill, the recruiting company were prepared to forego the ideal candidate on the basis that he wore an earring.

Our attire is a key non-verbal act of communication.

It is not for me to suggest that you should not wear an earring. Personally I have always enjoyed expressions of individuality. My suggestion, however, is that you be conscious of the effect that what you wear may have.

It may be worth thinking twice, before putting on your make-up or perfume, and considering whether you are normally more on the lavish or the conservative side. Are the lime green socks or the white socks the best choice for the interview? Is that Homer Simpson tie necessarily the right one for the day?

You are likely to have just an hour, or maybe even less, with an interviewer. It might be the right day to think carefully about the impact of the way you appear. It’d be a shame if you got rejected just because of something as vital to your job performance as an earring, your socks, or too much perfume.

Why would you give the interviewer any reason to doubt that you are the person for this job?

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