Our choice of clothing causes others to make assumptions — sometimes correct, sometimes incorrect — about who we are. If you want to make the best first impression on a job interview or at work, let your clothing help, not hinder you.
(Photo Credit: Queenie & the Dew/Flickr)
It’s All About Your Shoes
Shoes are all the way down on the ground. While we are busy making eye contact and smiling, others are registering first (and sometimes lasting) impressions about us based upon our footwear.
A small study published by the British Psychological Society (BPS) indicates that not only are shoes important in first impressions, but some of the assumptions commonly made are incorrect. For example, people assume wearers of brightly colored shoes are extroverts. Shoe color, however, does not correlate with extroversion or introversion.
Some first impressions about shoes correctly correlated with the wearer’s personality traits. Practical and affordable shoes seem to be worn by agreeable people. Pointy toes and higher prices give the impression the wearer is less agreeable, as do brand logos.
People who kept their shoes in good shape were perceived as anxiously attached. Even so, probably not the best idea to wear worn-out shoes to a job interview just so you don’t look insecure. But to make the best first impression as an agreeable person, perhaps don’t bother with fancy shoes and instead wear something that looks comfortable and practical.
It’s More Than Just Shoes
Small changes in attire have been found to have big influences on first impressions. One study had participants rate personality characteristics of a man wearing a tailored, made-to measure suit and a man wearing a store-bought, off-the-rack suit. Otherwise, the suits were similar.
The man in the tailored suit was perceived as more confident and successful, and as having more money. The off-the-rack suit wearer was perceived as more trustworthy. While we all want to appear trustworthy, BPS points out that those who wear more tailored clothing to a job interview are seen as commanding higher salaries.
BPS also discusses that dressing “smartly” gives the impression you have influence over others. This is useful if you want a promotion or to be in a leadership position.
Putting It All Together
Conflicting pieces of information may make it even more difficult to figure out what to wear in the morning, and we certainly don’t want to create additional angst. Best practice is to first decide what type of impression you wish to make before choosing attire. For most offices, it may benefit you to wear well-tailored clothing and nice but practical shoes. You will come across as smart, influential, and agreeable at the same time.
Tell Us What You Think
What do you wear when you want to make a good first impression on somebody at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.