Brand you

23rd January 2009 at 00:00
Dress to impress, don't sell yourself short. You should be your greatest asset, says Jane Mather

Take a good long look at yourself. What does the way you dress say about you? What impression are you trying to make, or need to make?

Everyone knows that you need to prepare before going to an interview: reading up on the advertised role and finding out as much as possible about your potential employer. But what's going to make you really stand out as an exceptional candidate is the way you look, act and carry yourself - your own personal branding.

Personal branding is all about deciding what impression you'd like to make, or need to make, on a day-to-day basis, and then changing your image to achieve this.

It's essential that you send out the right messages about yourself at interview. People buy people. You might have the best record and experience, but if you show conflicting signals, then the panel will start to question your real ability.

A face-to-face interview is an opportunity to tell people about yourself in many ways, not just verbally. Small changes to your appearance, such as wearing your most flattering colours and clothes, can greatly enhance your image.

Here's how to create that positive impression when going for an interview:

1. Consider what impression you want to make - enthusiastic, charismatic, knowledgeable, sincere - and ensure your body language reflects this. For example, an enthusiastic and energetic person is likely to smile when they enter the interview room, hold their head up and make eye contact. Casually entering the interview room with shoulders slumped says that you don't care and are unprepared.

2. Beware of nervous habits. These will distract the interviewer, who will be unable to pay proper attention to what you have to say.

3. Ensure your overall look is authoritative. One way to achieve this is by wearing a dark suit and a high contrast shirt; the more contrast there is between your suit and your shirt, the greater the positive visual impact you are likely to make.

4. Use colourful jewellery or a tie to draw attention to the face. The area from your neck to the top of your head is known as your "influencing triangle", and this is where you want the attention of the interviewer to be.

5. Ensure your handshake is firm without being too firm; no one likes a "dead fish" handshake, but equally the bones in the hand should be left intact. When shaking hands, your arm should be at a 90 degree angle.

Jane Mather is a senior manager in the business restructuring department at BDO Stoy Hayward LLP, an accountants firm. She is also an image consultant.

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