Looking the Part


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I don’t know his name and he wasn’t trying to be profound. A man who worked for one of my colleagues always showed in a shirt and tie with a simple explanation: “if you look business, you is business”. His grammar was faulty, but his reasoning was letter perfect and so is its timing as young folks head into the job market, either to start careers or to find summer jobs.

There are a lot of cheap shots taken at today’s youth, questioning their work ethic and their intelligence. I have more faith than that in young folks. Frankly, everyone who is my age needs to have more faith in you than that for obvious reasons. I want them to succeed, which makes the following useful information. If you’re among the job-seekers, clip this article. If you’re the parent of one, do the same thing. Make several copies. Put one in your wallet. Tape another to refrigerator. Put another on the dashboard. Refer to it often. This speaks to the biggest hurdle in getting a job – the interview.

I have been interviewed and have done the interviewing, so take this as it is intended – friendly advice to help you be hired. Some of the points listed will sound silly, but each has happened. None counted in favor of the applicant

  • Don’t bring an entourage. No parents, no friends, no significant others, and definitely no children. Just you. If someone gave you a ride to the interview, have them wait in the car.

  • If you have a cell phone, be extra sure that it is turned off. Better yet, leave it in your car or with the person who gave you a ride.

  • Remember the man I mentioned at the beginning? First impressions count. Ladies: no micro skirts, no low-riders, and no bare midriffs, no visible thongs. Trust me, ladies; too much skin will not get you respect. Gentlemen: pull your pants up to your waist and tuck your shirt in. Best bet is a shirt and tie.

  • Cover all tattoos. The people interviewing you don’t care that body art may be trendy, and chances are that their customers won’t, either.

  • Pierced noses, eyebrows, and tongues are not a good idea. Limit piercings to one in each ear for females, and none at all for males. After you get the job, you can always ask what is acceptable; some workplaces are more lenient but your focus here is to get hired.

  • No unnatural hair color or off-the-wall styles. Blue streaks, purple highlights, and pink tints will not help. Also, be sure it’s brushed. Most workplaces don’t ‘get’ bed head. Come to think of it, I don’t get it, either. After you’re hired we can talk about it.

  • If you’re not sure how to address the interviewer, sir and ma’am always work. Yo, bro, dude, and man do not. Please avoid ‘like’, ‘whatever’, and ‘you know’ as much as possible.

  • Offer a firm handshake before and afterwards, thank the person for their time, and look them in the eye.

  • Answer honestly, even if it’s to say that you don’t know. No one knows everything. Are you willing to learn?

  • If you’re seeking a summer jobs, accept that it will probably involve nights and weekends. If you have legitimate extracurricular conflicts – sports or band practice, volunteer activities, etc – say so and also offer a way to work around them. Being involved makes you look responsible.

  • Finally, no gum, no toothpicks, no lollipops, etc. I’ll just say that you would be amazed.

    Chances are your first job will not be glamorous. Nonetheless, someone will be paying you to do the work, so remember the following three truths. First, jobs exist because there is work to be done; no work is beneath you. Do it well and you’ll move up. Second, be pleasant to be around; no one wants to work with crabby people. Besides, your boss today may write you a letter of recommendation for a better job tomorrow. Third, no one owes you a job; be on time, work hard, and show your employer he made the right decision. Good luck.

    Alex Lekas is VP / Corporate Communications for an Internet services company, and father of two college students, both of whom he hopes will get hired.

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