Dress, appearance, and grooming are the first things you communicate about yourself to others. Before you have a chance to speak, others notice how you look and accordingly form impressions of your personality and competence.

Some estimates indicate that as much as 65 percent of the hiring decision may be based on the nonverbal aspects of the interview.

So, how should you dress and groom for a job application or interview? The general rule is to be conservative in your dress and appearance and neat and clean in your grooming. The following 18 tips provide guidelines to help you make a good initial impression on the prospective employer. More details are given in The Ex-Offenderís Job Hunting Guide.
  1. Dress one step above the position for which you are interviewing. If you are unsure about this, check with people in your support group, your P.O., or others who might be in the know.

  2. Wear clothes that fit well and look neat, clean, and appropriate for the setting. No blue jeans, shorts, baggy or low-riding pants, sleeveless blouses, or baseball caps.

  3. Choose clothes with coordinated patterns and colors. Avoid wearing clothing that clash with each other.

  4. Select conservative colors, such as cream or white, navy blue, and dark brown.

  5. Avoid wearing excessive or gaudy jewelry. You want the interviewer to focus on you, not your dangling jewelry, which can be a distraction.

  6. Minimize the number of obvious body piercings. These are also distractions and raise questions about your decisions and lifestyle.

  7. Avoid excessive fragrances. One of the first things a prospective employer notices is your scent.

  8. Hide tattoos as much as possible. If you have them on your arms, cover them with a long-sleeve shirt.

  9. Make sure you have clean and trimmed nails and cover any obvious sores or injuries. Look like you can take care of yourself.

  10. Shower and use deodorant on the day of the interview. Bad body odor will quickly turn off most people.

  11. Wear shoes that are in good condition and are clean. Employers do look at your shoes as a sign of personal care.

  12. Keep your hair clean, trimmed, neatly combed, and in a conservative style. Avoid unusual or trendy hairstyles and colors. Men should avoid excessive facial hair.

  13. Women should avoid heavy makeup, over-sized jewelry, large handbags, excessively high heels, or showing a bare midriff or too much skin in any area.

  14. Avoid accentuating any weight problems with tight-fitting clothes.

  15. Brush your teeth and use mouthwash just before the interview. Bad breath is a turn-off!

  16. Excuse yourself if you have a cold or look ill on the day of the interview (sneezing, coughing, sniffling, watery eyes). Point this fact out at the beginning of the interview.

  17. Avoid chewing gum or smoking during the interview. You just donít do these things in interviews or while applying for a job.

  18. Always wear a smile. Employers like to hire happy and cheerful people.

SOURCE: Adapted from Ron and Caryl Krannich, Ph.Ds, The Ex-Offender's Job Hunting Guide (Manassas Park, VA: Impact Publications). Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.