Rutgers career specialists remind students to dress for success


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Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

Photo Illustration | Job recruiters look for students who appear well-groomed in their profile pictures, present themselves well on social media and are knowledgable about the topics in their chosen field.


Your greasy hair may be the reason you do not get a job.

In a recent study conducted by Jobvite, recruiters judged candidates initial photo before all other factors and 41 percent said the photo influenced their first impression.

Still, recruiters are not exclusively seeking professional headshots, according to the study, with only 18 percent of hiring managers viewing "selfies" in a negative light, a decline from last year.

When it comes to an in-person interview, professionalism is crucial. Sixty-two percent of recruiters look down upon candidates dressing too casually. Messy or greasy hair, too much makeup and facial stubble were found offensive by recruiters.

Students should present themselves appropriately for potential internship and employment opportunities across all types of interaction — in person, online and on social media, said Scott Borden, career education specialist at University Career Services.

“Creating a favorable and positive appearance is key in building an attractive and positive ‘employment brand,’ whether in person or online,” he said. “You won’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. Research, gather information and prepare accordingly.”

Academic training, work experience and school activities can help improve a students “career identity” and complement a traditional resume and cover letter, Borden said.

The digital world and websites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, can add value to students' online presence, create connections and open more opportunities to be “found” by recruiters, Borden said.

Blogs, for example, can highlight a subject matter expertise and help students stand out from the crowd, he said. But social media can be just as damaging as it is helpful to students looking for employment.

“Images of drug or alcohol activity, partying or sexual content can take you out of the running for potential employers and torpedo your opportunities before your employment search has even started,” Borden said.

Because social media is now integral to many professions, employers are more lenient with photos posted.

“Many employers do have greater tolerance for casual and interesting images that may enhance your image and show off parts of your personality or talents of yours, however, caution should be taken with what you share,” Borden said.

Borden suggests considering privacy features on social media or crafting a LinkedIn profile specifically for professional use.

Image, dress and presentation can differ depending on the employment industry, position and workplace environment, he said.

Some work environments may have more formal standards of dress and business etiquette, such as in finance, banking and consulting. Start ups, high tech and non-profit industries may be more casual.

“Physical presentation (for interviews, job fairs, in-person networking meetings) should reflect the norms and standards for the industry and position of your interest,” he said.

Employment recruiters are searching for students with knowledge about their strengths, interests and skills, Borden said.

“They would like students to be able to articulate why they are interested in a given company or position and discuss their experience, activities and academic training related to the company and position,” he said.

A students major, GPA or experience with a name-brand company are not always the recruiters main concerns, he said.

Recruiters are more focused on how students highlight their skills, activities, leadership and problem solving skills to show they have potential in being a valuable member of their team.

“Recruiters are seeking to ascertain whether a given student would be a ‘good fit’ for a position and for their ‘organizational culture,’” he said.

Many resources are available to students to help them improve their online image.

“Students can improve, refine and tailor their images by learning and becoming more aware of norms and standards in their given areas of employment interest, Borden said.

Crafting resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn and social media profiles, expanding networking efforts and developinging succinct, effective and specific answers to common interview questions can be helpful.

If students are unsure about the appropriate attire for an interview, they can ask a potential employer directly, Borden said. The Rutgers University Office of Career Services is also a place staffed with career development specialists who can assist student with this process.

Students can make appointments on the Career Knight website to visit a career development specialist at University Career Services, Borden said.

Appointments allow students to discuss self-assessment tools, internship or employment interests, exploration of industries, companies and positions, as well as to prepare and market themselves in-person and on-line for potential employees, he said.

“Remember, you always strive to make a positive first impression in employment oriented interviews and meetings,” Borden said.

Kylie Stewart, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, has had employees compliment her on her online image.

“In high school I was less conscious about the photos I post on social media,” she said. “Being in a university environment has made me realize the importance of an online image. I consider what pictures I post more than I used to.”

Stewart also prepares for an interview for about an hour longer than she does when preparing for class.

“I get ready to look my best because it definitely makes a difference,” she said. “It shows I take care of myself and am serious about the interview.” 


Noa Halff is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. She is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum.


Noa Halff

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