by Meridith Levinson

Extreme Makeover: IT Job Seekers May Need Appearance Upgrade

Sep 22, 2009

Mirror, mirror on the wall: Who's the best-groomed candidate of them all?

IT professionals turn to résumé writers when they need help fashioning a C.V. that will prompt employers to call them for job interviews. But their résumés may not be the only thing that needs a makeover. If they’re going on interviews but not getting any job offers, their appearance may need polishing, too. That’s the conclusion of a recent survey of 514 HR professionals.

The survey results emphasize the role personal grooming plays in one’s career growth and job search success. The overwhelming majority (90 percent) of HR professionals said that a job seeker’s appearance (whether he or she looks neat and clean) is most important to making a good first impression during a job interview. It’s more important than a firm handshake, they said. Well-groomed candidates project more confidence than candidates who don’t pay close attention to their appearance, according to more than 90 percent of respondents.

Meanwhile, candidates who show up for job interviews with a five-o’clock shadow, with grit under their fingernails, wearing wrinkled or dirty clothes, or with their hair in disarray come off as unprofessional and put themselves at a serious disadvantage. In fact, more than 50 percent of HR professionals surveyed said that candidates who show up for job interviews looking slovenly or unkempt give them the impression that they don’t want the job.

What’s more, well-groomed employees tend to be more successful than slovenly employees: 84 percent of HR professionals said that neat, clean employees climb the corporate ladder faster than employees who aren’t well-groomed. HR professionals estimated that 20 percent of their employees are slobs.

Lest you dismiss these HR professionals as superficial, know that many of the IT executives interviewed for’s Hiring Manager Q&A series say that candidates should always show up for job interviews looking well-groomed. (See What to Wear for an IT Job Interview?)

Harris Interactive conducted this survey online in June, for Gillette. Gillette’s interest in trumpeting the importance of personal grooming is obvious, but that self-interest shouldn’t dilute the salience of what the HR professionals who responded to the survey had to say. Some IT professionals believe that substance should always trump style in a job interview—that an individual’s personal appearance shouldn’t matter so long as he or she possesses the knowledge, skills and experience required to do the job. Those IT professionals need to realize that substance and style aren’t mutually exclusive and that the best candidates marry both.