When unemployed, it's easy to get out of a professional mind-set. But that is exactly the time to ratchet it up. From dressing to researching a potential employer, a job hunter's presentation either screams "professional" — or not. • "You have to look the part, act the part and talk the part," says Susan Leventhal, a career transition specialist for Broward County's Workforce One employment agency. Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun Sentinel
Rodrigo Garrido, 34, recently was laid off from his job in accounting for Perfumania, a retailer of discount fragrances in Sunrise. He sought guidance from Juan Pujol, a human resource professional with the Facilitators Group in Fort Lauderdale, who also teaches at Florida International University.
The professor, from whom Garrido was taking a class, advised modernizing his look with a lighter gray or navy blue suit instead of traditional black. Buying a new suit usually isn't possible for someone who is unemployed, but changing a shirt or tie can be less expensive fixes, says Steve Rose, sales manager for custom clothier Tom James Apparel in Deerfield Beach.
More recently, Garrido donned his interview suit and received additional advice from Rose, who gives dress-for-success presentations for corporations and organizations that serve job hunters.
Garrido looks good, Rose says. No signs of the mistakes others make: Not paying enough attention to their look before they walk into the interview. "If the interviewer is focused on your tie being (crooked) or your suit having a spot, it's going to take away from what you're saying," Rose says.
Men interviewing should avoid wild ties; socks should be darker than pant legs; and belts should match shoes. "Black pants and navy socks are not okay," he says.
For women, a suit or jacket over a knee-length dress is preferred; keep jewelry simple. "A white or off-white blouse, no ruffles or embellishments," Rose says.
Still, the dress-for-success rules don't always apply. Someone who does creative work such as advertising might wear something more trendy, points out Jacqueline Whitmore, who runs the Protocol School of Palm Beach and is author of an etiquette book, Business Class.
Creating a professional image goes beyond one's dress
"You have to demonstrate to the potential employer that you know him, how your strengths can address what they need," human resource professional Juan Pujol says. Pujol suggests the job hunter videotape himself answering practice interview questions. "See what you look like. Your body language, is it accentuating what you're saying?"
• Look the interviewer in the eye and remember to stand or sit up straight. Being professional "starts with a smile on the face, a firm handshake, and holding your head up high," career transition specialist Susan Leventhal says. After that, it's the answers you've prepared that make the difference in getting a job offer. "People come up short when they try to wing it," she says. "They cannot."
• Never take a cell phone call in an interview; leave your cell phone in your car or make sure it is turned off. "That's completely unprofessional," says author Jacqueline Whitmore. She says no one should text or take a call in front of a client or customer either.
• Record a professional-sounding voice mail message at home and cell phone.
• Make sure your e-mail address reflects your name or is professional.
• Follow up on delivery of your resume and cover letter with a phone call or e-mail. You don't want to be a pest, but show you're involved in the process, Leventhal says.
• After a job interview, send a hand-written thank-you note by priority mail, even if you also send an e-mail. "It shows the character you bring to the job," Leventhal says.