The importance of making a good impression

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a series focusing on the job-search and application process.

The old saying goes, “The clothes make the man.” People’s perception of how you look is a fact of life that’s certainly true, especially when it comes to presenting yourself during a job search.

More than just a suit or jacket and skirt, crafting a professional image before, during and after a job search helps you brand yourself as an employee companies can’t do without.

According to Kriss Soterion, a make-up artist and owner of Kriss Cosmetics in Manchester, “A job interview is a wonderful opportunity to practice self-care like never before. While the person interviewing you is assessing you from head to toe, you don’t need to be bold to be powerful.”

Susan Osborne, a licensed makeover stylist, image strategist and owner of Be Image Consulting in Manchester, said it’s important to consider the type of position you are interviewing first before deciding what to wear.

“Always dress one to two levels up from the position you’re interviewing for,” she said. “For example, if you know that the corporate culture is relaxed, casual — perhaps employees wear jeans — do not dress at that level, but dress more ‘business casual.’”

The fit of your outfit is perhaps one of the most important aspects of presenting a positive image.

“Make sure that your suit or your clothes fit your body perfectly. This is what goes a long way in having a clean, polished and professional look. Clothes that are too big or small give off negative signals as sloppy, lazy, unorganized and unprofessional,” Osborne said.

That also goes for having large wrinkles or stains on your suit. Both Osborne and Soterion stressed having clothes freshly cleaned and pressed prior to an interview.

For women of all ages, make-up is important, said Soterion, and “if you’re over 35, you need make-up, even if you’ve never worn it before. Time is beginning to show.”

She stressed balance, subtle colors and radiant skin should be part of any woman’s look for an interview.

“Women that wear make-up say something about themselves,” said Soterion, who also is the make-up artist for special events at CNN and is responsible for creating Hillary Clinton’s trend-setting look during her presidential campaign. “They show they are well-balanced and care about their image. But there’s a fine line. If you wear too much make-up, it calls attention to the make-up, not you. You want to look put together and professional, so they see you.”

Extra mileage

In general, skin should look fresh and glowing. The use of light-reflecting products can give skin a boost in brightness, said Soterion.

“You also want to brighten the eyes, as you will be making eye contact with the person you’re talking to,” she said.

For women, concealer is a must, said Soterion. It should be applied around the entire eye socket, not just underneath the eye, and should match the skin color, not be lighter.

“If the color is much lighter, it will make you look more tired, not less,” she said.

Mascara should be applied to the upper lashes and in a gray tint.

“Brown will make eyes look tired due to the red in the color. Black is too strong for an interview,” said Soterion.

Less is more, when it comes to color. She recommended sticking with neutrals for eye shadow, cheeks and lips.

“When you look at your make-up as a whole, you want to see balance. One feature should not dominate the rest,” said Soterion.

Eyebrows, for men as well as women, should also have a bit of attention.

“No ‘unibrow’ for either a man or woman. Women should have immaculately shaped brows,” she said.

Hands are also very important but often forgotten territory when it comes to grooming, they said.

Both Soterion and Osborne said nails for men and women should be clean and neatly trimmed.

“No polish is fine,” said Soterion.

Accessories for men and women can give extra mileage to a professional appearance.

“Assess what you already own and update your outfit with low-ticket items like a new tie, shoes, scarf or jewelry,” said Osborne.

A smart tote bag or briefcase and clean, appropriate shoes will complete your look, said the experts.

“Regardless of the corporate culture, companies still want to hire the most professional candidate for the job, and you’re appearance will go a long way helping you send the right signals that you’re the right person for job,” said Osborne.

Cindy Kibbe can be reached at