First impression thoughts and opinions are an unsightly reality of the society we live in.  I’m writing this post because I believe it’s relevant for women to remain continually aware of how much they can and cannot control.

I follow a fun blog called Corporette that’s geared to women in the corporate world and it has decent fashion ideas and advice.  Recently, there was a post called Diamond Rings and the Working Girl.  The article was about what size diamond ring is appropriate to wear in an office and what about wearing diamonds on a job interview?

I posted the article on my Facebook page with a comment, "Regarding wearing diamonds to an interview: DON’T. I don’t recommend any rings. Strand of pearls or necklace, a watch if you wear one and that’s it.”

I received well over 50 comments and most of the comments were from intelligent women who vehemently disagreed with my comment. The women were saying they wouldn’t work or interview with a company that made hiring decisions based on what type of jewelry they wore or what their marital or financial status might be.  And that companies should do a better job of educating hiring managers.

They were missing the mark.  I was not referring to unethical companies, untrained hiring managers or even jewelry – it’s deeper than that.

Perception is reality so why not make the first impression of you be your real power:  your experience, your accomplishments, what you know and how good you are! Control the focus of the interviewer so that it stays on YOU without distractions. Wear diamonds and even a wedding ring on an interview, and here’s an example of an interviewer’s possible interpretation or first impression (conducted by a human being who will have subjective thoughts and biased opinions creeping into his or her thoughts) :

  • Diamond engagement ring.  “Will probably need time off for the wedding and honeymoon.”
  • Diamond ring with wedding band.  “Wonder if there’s a maternity leave in her future or little kids at home?”
  • Gigantic diamond ring with wedding band.  “Hubby must earn a good living so she doesn’t need this job.  Probably high maintenance who will whine or quit if she can’t have her way.”

This is not about shifting company culture or its leadership, it’s not about training our leaders to make employment decisions solely based on skills and experience, it’s not about whether you work for a family-friendly company, and it’s not about hiding who you are or being disingenuous.  This is my point:

“You have the power to outsmart and control what society has created in human nature by circumventing unfair judgments that others may make about your lifestyle or character.”

Put this particular gender issue behind you by taking control. Don’t bellyache about wanting to be judged solely on your skills and abilities and then leave yourself wide open for a critique that can be 100% off base.  If your personal life (married? children?) is none of your interviewer’s business then keep it that way during the interview.

Is this fair?  Of course not. Is this real? Yes. Will you ever know about it? Nope. Get the job on your own merit, keep the focus on YOU and wear your bling after you’re hired.

I hope that you’ve realized this isn’t about jewelry or big boobs or surrendering. It’s about successfully and positively controlling how you are perceived by others.

Bring it.  I'd love your thoughts.

Views: 6158

Comment by Marcia Tiemeyer on March 31, 2011 at 11:50am

Kimberly, I agree with your post.  I make judgements every day that control who I submit to a job, based on how they look and the way they talk.   My hiring managers are going to do this to my candidate, so I have to look at candidates with my hiring managers eyes.  I'm a baby boomer myself, so I am sympathetic to other boomers looking for IT positions.  However, I'm probably more critical of my boomer candidates than many other people in my business are.  Many complain about age discrimination and the fact that they are being passed over for younger, less experienced candidates.  In my opinion, it's less age descrimination, and more appearance discrimination.  When a candidate comes in for an interview looking tired and and slow, you can't blame an employer for hiring someong that looks more energetic and ready to work.  I tell candidates quite bluntly to get a new suit, invest in one current fashion outfit for interviews.  Get a good hair cut, trim and color beards, check for hair in places that shouldn't be there, wear makeup, and watch your posture .  You can't turn back the clock but you can look like you are aware of the time. 

Comment by Mat von Kroeker on March 31, 2011 at 11:53am

Unfortunately, it also "works" the opposite way.  How many hires have all of us witnessed in our past or present (of any given position-- C level and down) where the person presented, or "sold" themselves in the interview, with all ring's, shoes, suit, hair, verbiage, charm--- each and every duck in a row--- and turned out to be a complete and utter bust--- in some cases, a joke of epic proportions.   I've experienced this "phenomenon of corporate judgement" so many times it's pathetic-- therefore, I will never judge someone on purely superficial reasons again.  A giant ring??  What??  A dusty shoe?  Give me a break.  Good luck firing the tap-dancing blowhard you just hired draining your payroll of 10 grand a month.  They live by the phrase "A sucker and their money are soon parted." --  know the in's and out's of corporate HR and the law, and will sing for thier supper (aka, manipulation) at every turn when pushed in a corner.

I look at the "take me as I am" viewpoint from candidates as what it is:  Honesty. Integrity. Forthright---  regardless of a hair out of place, or the color of thier jacket.

Comment by Amber on March 31, 2011 at 11:54am
Judgments based on appearance (and hundreds of other things) happen all day, every day, by everyone. When that judgment gets someone negative treatment or response, it is extremely upsetting. Is the reaction, or even acknowledgement, the same when it gets a positive result?
Comment by Wil Wolf on March 31, 2011 at 11:59am

Kimberly:

 

Thanks for your honest insights.  It's called admitting there is an elephant in the room and talking about it, whether we like it or not.  Dealing with it can lead us all to success. Kudos.

Comment by Alan on March 31, 2011 at 12:08pm
I thought it was interesting that most men preferred to hire a woman with girl next door looks because they were generally smarter, worked cheaper and the precieved they would be easier to manage. (Flirting works) Woman prefer to hire woman because they were more organized, they knew how they thought and would be subordinate. Interestingly the women in the study preferred to work for a male because the male could be controlled and the man would allow them into the and see the workings of the inner circle of senior management which they thought a woman boss wouldn't. Having said that I also had a hiring manager who hired on team sport participation - actually the one's who won awards. I guess you never know what will work so give it everything and say you're and individual in both thought and action and let the chips fall or go in with the cookie cutter approach and say you're subject to group think but will do whatever it takes to get it done. What is valued most?
Comment by Ilona Jerabek on March 31, 2011 at 1:09pm

Great post, Kimberley, and kudos to you for having the guts to state a politically incorrect reality.  And the reality is, unfortunately, that people form conscious and subconscious opinions based on the few cues they get when interviewing, and the interpretation is often different based on gender ... like it or not. Sure, gender roles are changing, but gender stereotypes, like any other stereotypes, do have some base in reality.  They are cognitive shortcuts all, and I really mean all, of us make to be able to survive.  Some are just nasty, some are negative, some are positive (all gay men have a good fashion sense, Asian are good students), some are useful (if a groups of teenage boys with pants hanging at their knees approaches my car in a deserted parking lot at night, I will lock my car and drive away, and am not ashamed to admit it), some are not.

 

If a man wears a  wedding ring, a lot of people will think "Good, he is a family man; that means stable".  If a young woman wears a ring, it foreshadows a maternity leave.  Of course it's unfair.  Of course it's double standard.  But the reality is, if you are a young woman who just got married, it is quite likely that you will be taking a maternity leave in the foreseeable future. Maybe not for a year, but certainly for at least two months. If you ONLY want to work for a family-friendly company that is perfectly OK with giving you time off during parental leave and then for the next 10 years whenever your kids get sick (i.e. without warning and without notice, so someone has to be immediately ready to step in and do your job), then by all means, wear your ring and all.  But keep in mind that there are not so many companies where everyone (including the hiring manager or HR people) thinks like that. As for the rest of businesses, once you are hired, most companies are not heartless and will accommodate you if they can. There is a reason why employers are not allowed to ask about your marital status before they hire you, and the reason reflects this reality. So why jeopardize your chances of getting a good job if you can avoid triggering the stereotype in the first place.

 

If anybody is interested in the results of our study on gender roles, you can read a summary here: http://corporate.psychtests.com/pdf/pr_gender_study.pdf

Comment by Mark Bregman on March 31, 2011 at 1:40pm
I agree with you, and wince when I say that.  Basically, candidates have to meet the interviewer at the INTERVIEWER's model of the world, biases and all.  Fortunately, jewelry aside, the same advice about attire and demeanor apply to both genders, but women are at a disadvantage in that they have more opportunity to be judged, because there is more potential variety in their choices in appearance (jewelry, makeup, hairstyle, figure, etc.).  I hope someday this changes, and women will really be equal as applicants and once employed!
Comment by Erica Valle Tozzini on March 31, 2011 at 1:41pm
Kimberly - I had to read your post a couple of times, as IT IS thought-provoking...My first reaction to it was a little negative, as I thought "Well..if I can't even wear my wedding ring, this is taking things a little too far: I know my value and my commitment to my job, I don't need to hide who I am". But then I got it - I saw I was missing the main point which, unfortunately,  is true: first impressions are important, and they are the ones that make you get the job. If you want to be perceived as a hard-worker, you need to put some thoughts not only in what you say but also in your physical appearance. Thank you.
Comment by Nick Tubach on March 31, 2011 at 3:03pm
Good post, Kimberly.  I think you hit it spot on!  Anyone offended at the mere thought that a first impression of them can be negatively impacted based on their jewelry needs to take some time to reflect about their own biases.  Biases are formed with life experience; the good, the bad, and even experiences you might think are irrelevant.  Biases help form ones perceptions, and as we all know, perception is "reality", even if the person being perceived doesn't agree. 
Comment by Kathleen Smith on March 31, 2011 at 3:20pm

Kim

Thanks so much for the great points.

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