The New Reality: 95% Isn’t Good Enough Anymore

Woody Allen’s famous comment about showing up being 95% of success is no longer true.  In today’s job market, with hundreds of resumes pouring into companies for a single job posting, even if you’re in the top 5%, you could still find yourself competing with five or ten others for the initial job interview.  You may never hear from your prospective employer even though their ad had your name on it, simply because they are buried in responses.

While that speaks to the importance of a good resume, what happens if you are lucky enough to land an interview?  We are in the business of placing people.  We scour the world looking for the best matches of people for jobs.  One of the most frustrating experiences we have is sending a well-qualified candidate out for an interview only to have both of us come away empty.

What Happened?

Sometimes we are lucky enough to find out from the employer what sabotaged the candidate’s opportunity, sometimes we find out from the candidates themselves.  The overwhelming cause of rejection at the interview is appearance.  All the clichés apply to an interview situation:  first impressions are the key.  Think of it like a meal.  If you went to a restaurant and everything looked good until the meal came, and you noticed something about it that made you uneasy, would you continue to eat or would you be inclined to leave?  Maybe it was something obvious:  like the meal was served on a filthy plate.  Maybe the you saw a bug crawling on the server’s arm.  Maybe it was something less clear, but nonetheless you lost your enthusiasm for the restaurant and its food.
Whatever it is, if you suspect you’re going to have a bad experience now or later, you’ll probably want to get up and go someplace else.  Employers are no different.  The cost of a poor hiring decision can haunt an employer for years.  The slightest hint of something amiss about a candidate in an interview is all it takes for the employer to think, “next”.

California is Different

Duh!  That is another cliché as obvious as sunrise.  However, like sunrise, once you notice it you’re inclined to forget about it and get on with your day.  There are many things about California that make it unique.  People from all around the world and the nation are attracted here.  Again, like sunrise we all know that, and accept it unconsciously.
However, forgetting that fact in an interview can kill your chances as soon as you walk in the door.  Those tattoos or piercings that all your friends envy can tell an older person or someone from out of the area things about you that you never meant to say.  Whether what they think about you is right or not doesn’t matter, if you give them a reason to move on to the next candidate, they will.  Wear clothing that covers the tattoos.  Don’t show up with bones in your nose or bells on your toes.  It’s much better to find out about their attitude towards such things after you’re on the payroll.  If you color your hair, remember one natural color is best.
What’s Business Causal?
For all the shortcomings of the “Mad Men” era when the white shirt, tie and gray flannel suit for men and dresses and heels for women were the standard business uniform, it did make life simple at the closet.  Today is different.  What is business casual?
That is an excellent question.  Like many other things, it’s often easier to say what it isn’t.  For an interview, it doesn’t mean jeans and tennis shoes, for example.  Tee shirts are out too.  Make sure your shirt has a collar.
Slacks or Docker style pants are ok.  Be sure to wear dark socks.  Ladies don’t wear sandals or flip flops, even if they have heels.
Hair is another important area.  Men, it’s a good idea to get a hair cut before the interview.  If you have facial hair be sure to trim it before you go.  Ladies, if you have big hair, contain it.  Again, be sensitive to the diversity of California, not everyone sees things the same way we do.  Conservative dress and appearance reassure the employer.  You can always loosen up when you’re part of the team.  Come in for the interview too loose and you’ll never make the team
Remember it’s almost impossible to over dress for an interview, but under dressing will kill your chances every time.  Keep in mind we’re talking about interviews where we know the atmosphere is business causal.  For many office or light industrial positions you can expect business casual, but if you don’t know for sure, dress up from what we suggest here:  coat and tie for men, dress or suit for women.
Similarly, it’s safe to assume the higher standard for professional positions.  Remember if the competition looks better than you everything else being equal, the employer is going to look at you and move on.
If you are applying at a staffing office like Bolt Staffing, come in dressed as you would for an interview.  Take advantage of our experience.  Ask if what you’re wearing is acceptable.  We’re sending people out every day and we’re happy to advise you.  Just ask!
Finally, social media like Facebook and Twitter are amazingly powerful tools.  Like all tools they can work for you or against you.  This is a topic for an entire article, but for now let’s just say it’s worth your time to look at your page and ask yourself:  “is there anything here that says to an employer, “Next””?  Photos that may be innocent to you and your friends might say something entirely different to an employer.  Don’t forget to take a close look at the background and what it could say.
When in doubt, change your privacy settings or delete questionable material as soon as you realize you need to look for a job.  We’ve had people get all the way through the interviews, have an offer in hand and a start date only to get a call from the employer, “no thanks, I saw her Facebook page”.  Don’t be that person!
Remember, getting an interview these days is great news.  Don’t waste the opportunity by being thoughtless.  Every detail counts.  You want everything about you to say, “hire me”!
Eliminate anything that doesn’t.


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