Growing up, at home and at school, I have been encouraged not to judge other people by their appearances. I have been told that you cannot and should not try to judge a person by what he or she wears. Why then, I ask, was I encouraged to wear dress pants to my first job interview? Why did my junior high concert band wear matching outfits? Why do I throw out a T-shirt when I break a pen all over it? If we do not judge others by their appearances, why should we be concerned with the way we look ourselves?
I think the truth is that we do judge others by their appearances and we all know it. In grade school and even through university, we may have been led to believe that others are not judging us by the way we look. I feel the need to explain that we have all been misled. The people around us do judge us by our appearances. We are naive to imagine that they do not.
People make judgments about others because they are curious to know more about them. When I see someone in a reflective vest on campus I imagine that that person works for the university. When I see someone in shorts in February, I guess that person came from the gym. I do not think it is a terrible thing to do and I think we all do it.
In practice, we should all be aware that the way we look is part of the message we send to the world around us. Someone who looks at your appearance and makes an inference about you is not a terrible person. This is always important to keep in mind, but becomes even more so as you finish your degree and head out into the work force.
The people who conduct your interview for your first real job will almost undoubtedly be concerned with what you are wearing and how you appear. They will judge your organizational skills, your responsibility and your understanding of their operation by the way in which you present yourself. A hiring employer may see many candidates for each job opening. Just as you and I would, they need to try and learn as much as they can about the candidates before choosing one for the job opening. Of course, they will consider your qualifications and your responses to questions, but they will also be looking at the clothes you chose to represent yourself. This is an occasion when the observer wants to know as much as possible as quickly as possible. The observer will use what they see to try and understand you as an individual.
In an interview as well as in other situations, you should be aware of the importance your appearance plays. The way you look is part of the message you send to the world. Make sure it is the message you want to send.
Megan Denty is a fifth-year commerce student. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.