Personal story from recruiter Amos Tayts...

I’ll never forget the ‘60s sci-fi story about the world ending because of the leading characters’ dirty fingernails. It reminds me of a personal story from when I first started in the recruiting industry, better known as headhunting back in 1995.

A bright-eyed novice, I eagerly went that extra mile for my clients—literally. I once drove a client to his job interview because he lived almost three hours away and I didn’t want anything to compromise his chances.

The gentleman had recently emigrated from India. He was a highly-trained specialist for high-tech machinery used in the manufacturing process. There were very few Canadians at the time who were trained in this new technology—and none that lived in Toronto. We were both excited about his prospects here.

He was very well-dressed when I picked him up, decked in a black suit, a black tie and a freshly-pressed white shirt. To calm his nerves during the long ride over, I re-coached him on all the possible questions that he might encounter in the interview.

But I really didn’t need to–his interpersonal skills were exceptional. Both he and I had worked hard to prepare for this day. Nothing was going to stand in our way.

When we arrived at the plant, he got out of the car and made his way to the front doors. I watched him with the pride of a father sending his child off to school for the first time.

Then I noticed something: his pants were a little short and as he walked, a pair of gleaming white socks were exposed. I immediately called him back.

I knew that he would be frowned upon for wearing white sports socks to the formal interview. Yet, there was no time to go and get him another pair. The clock was ticking; we had exactly nine minutes to figure something out. What to do?

Suddenly, I glanced down and realized that I was wearing black socks. I quickly took them off my feet and handed them over. He put them over his white socks and sprinted inside.

Time passed slowly as I sat waiting in the car. A minute felt like an hour. Finally, he emerged from the building and headed towards me. Even from a distance, I could see a smile slide across his cheeks.

He made a great first impression on the employer that day. And guess what? He got the job.

My point is, if you want to make that lasting first impression, you need to think of everything. Wearing white socks with a black suit may not seem like a big deal, but it’s the little details that make all the difference.

You need to be aware of the existing standards and traditions of what is and isn’t acceptable in a particular industry. When in doubt, always err on the side of caution. I would recommend you dress to the nines for your first interview; you can always opt to go business casual if there is a second one.

If you want success, you need to dress for it.

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