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NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION,

For example, you’ve applied for a position as a junior designer at XYZ Agency, a large and prestigious firm, where you’ve been invited for a first interview. Your “purpose” is to succeed at the interview and your “audience” is an interviewer from personnel who needs to choose a few applicants to send to the art department for a second interview. Your attire should send the message that you are a good fit for the position, but your audience (the human resource person) doesn’t work in the department to which you’re applying. How do you dress for your audience? When in doubt, present yourself in a neutral manner, which would be casual business attire. Flashing your personal idiosyncratic style advertises your self-absorption, which is an undesirable trait to employers and clients. In other words, they won’t want to hire you if you look like you care more about your own needs than theirs. Like typos and inaccuracies on a resumé or proposal, potential employers and clients use clothing and accessory mistakes to cut you from the list. Yes, yes, we know you’re creative and express yourself through your appearance. And we’ve heard that the designers in the art department at XYZ Agency all dress down, up, or over the top, and you want to show that you belong. But you don’t belong . . . yet. You’re still on the outside trying to get in. Showing a little respect for the process and boundaries goes a long way. Besides, if you’ve done your homework and researched the agency (see page 111), you might have found that XYZ Agency serves some corporate clients and other clients who require or prefer business attire. Although you are applying for a junior designer position, dressing in casual business clothing sends the nonverbal the message that you have the potential for attending meetings and making presentations. That message could be just the one that tips the scale in your favor in a job search. Pay attention to your grooming too. Steve Adolf advises you to “get a manicure before an interview. I interviewed two applicants with 3.8 GPAs and great portfolios. One had chewed-down fingernails. That showed her nervousness. I hired the other one.” You’ll notice that there is no mention of your present personal style here. While some of you may have cultivated a personal image as a student that will generally serve you well in business, some of you will need a makeover (in some cases, an extreme makeover) for the professional world of work. New York City designer Mirko Ilic´ warns, “When you wear baseball caps to an interview or aren’t neat in your appearance, you lose credibility.” Use sound judgment about the image you project. It’s also a good idea to ask for feedback from people you trust who are already employed in positions like the ones you are seeking.