Your Personal Presence: Appearances Matter

It’s often the little things that count. Like it or not, first impressions matter. Our human brains size up people in less than 250 milliseconds. While character and communication skills are key, you won’t influence the people you wish to if your appearance telegraphs that you’re clueless. Whether you’re an executive up for promotion, an employee seeking more responsibilities, or a parent involved in community or team activities, how you look will open doors and put you in play. There’s a connection between looking good and feeling capable. When we look our best, we feel confident. And research shows there’s also a big link between our appearance and whether we are perceived as competent or not. People who look attractive and well-groomed are perceived by others as more capable, likable, and even more trustworthy. It’s not surprising, however, that colleagues, mentors, and even your best friends are reluctant to give feedback on how you should improve your wardrobe, hair, and grooming. Advice on appearances is difficult for anyone to give, even with best interests at heart. At work, it’s even more perilous to critique appearances, especially to women and minorities. Surveys can offer some guidelines as to what senior leaders expect. Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Talent Innovation surveyed 268 executives and interviewed 4,000 college-educated adults on executive presence, including appearance. According to senior leaders, there are five aspects comprising good appearance: 1. Being polished and groomed 2. Being physically attractive, fit, slim 3. Simple, stylish clothes that position you for your next job 4. Being tall 5. Being youthful and vigorous Polish and Grooming More than...