Does image matter in an image business?

The Center for Talent Innovation just surveyed 4,000 male and female executives, asking how the two genders react to workers who dress in a polished, professional manner as opposed to those who, say, look more like Johnny Depp after a weekend-long binge.

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The results are interesting, but not surprising:

– Both genders agree good grooming is a must.
– Both genders agree it's more important for a man to be tall and thin (which can't be good news for roly-poly, job-seeking little guys).
– Arrogance is seen as a bigger sin for women because it's 'associated with sexual impropriety' and suggests the executive 'has an inflated opinion of oneself.' Talk about a double standard.

Male and female executives alike agreed the biggest communications blunders were:

– Making racially-biased comments.
– Making off-color jokes (Note: I may have erred on that side on more than occasion).
– Someone who cries (Amen. Save it for the pillow when you get home).

The survey is especially timely since an entire new crop of college graduates is about to enter the workplace.

Over the years, I've had first-hand experience with good, bad and just, plain ugly Peppercomm wanna-bes. And, when I say good, bad and ugly, I'm addressing their personal grooming, not their attractiveness.

One day, our reception area became a positive beehive of activity for a few, brief moments. Why? Because a fairly attractive, but oh-so-scantily-clad young woman (think: Madonna, circa 1990) was waiting to be interviewed. Needless to say, the guys loved it. But, our female employees were appalled. So, guess who was thanked for coming in, but sent packing faster than one can say Material Girl?

On another occasion, a gum-chewing, torn jeans, mandals-wearing dude strolled in to interview for an account executive position. Since Peppercomm embraces a business casual dress code, we gave the guy an initial pass, and brought him in for interviews. But his aloof, arrogant attitude matched his fashion faux pas and he, too, was given the bum's rush.

Finally, a middle-aged, impeccably groomed business executive in a three-piece suit arrived to interview for a management supervisor spot. His attire told us immediately that he hadn't taken the time to conduct due diligence on our firm (i.e. our dress code). Since we are adamant about checking, in advance, to determine whether a client or prospect's dress code is business formal or casual, we almost always discount someone whose appearance reflects a laziness in his or her preparation. The Don Draper clone was also handed a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

While it may not be a complete show-stopper for job prospects, appearance, attitude and grooming are an intrinsic part of one's current and future success (and can spell the difference between success and failure).

Take the time to research an organization's dress code and culture BEFORE arriving for an interview, new business presentation or kick-off meeting with a new client.

Oh, and while there are exceptions to the rule, I'd advise you to also remove the nose ring and cover as many tats as possible before arriving at a prospective employer's office (unless, of course your tattoo displays Peppercomm's way cool new logo and tagline. That might generate an immediate offer AND a signing bonus).

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