In the Concise Oxford Dictionary, image is described as "the
character or reputation of a person or thing as generally
perceived." A first impression based on nonverbal communication
goes a long way in influencing this perception. Within seconds of
meeting you, based on a single observed physical trait or behavior,
people will assume to know everything about you. Furthermore,
according to research by Dr. Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, appearance
and body language account for 55 percent of an invaluable first
The Relationship Between Image and How You Are
Because light travels faster than sound, you are seen before you
are heard. This is why, before even uttering a word, your visual
image will say a multitude about you as an individual (your
perceived level of intelligence, competence, affability,
self-esteem, confidence, power, beliefs and success) and about the
organization you represent (its philosophy, culture, and standard
You constantly send out silent messages providing clues to
existing and potential clients and colleagues. Based on these
clues, they take their cues, e.g. consider you
for a job or promotion, consider buying your organization's
products and services, and so forth.
"I work in a field that is devoted to assessing people," states
Kathryn Ricker, 30, Statistician, Educational Testing Service,
Princeton, NJ. "One of the concepts we talk about is known as the
'halo effect.' That means that if we know certain positive things
about a person, we tend to have a generally positive impression of
that person, sometimes even in spite of evidence to the contrary.
What I'm realizing is that the halo effect also extends to a
person's appearance. I think that is why a positive first visual
impression is so important. If someone is nicely dressed and looks
well put-together, we have greater confidence in his or her
abilities even before he or she has said a word. If that is the
case, why not always have your halo looking its shiniest?"
The Relationship Between Appearance and Interview
Employers are severely irritated by inappropriate dress, mumbling,
and even poor handshakes by job applicants. A recent study,
conducted by an employment law firm, Peninsula, asked businesses in
the United Kingdom what interview habit they found most annoying.
More than 25 percent were upset by unsuitable clothing or
Pamela Monticelli, 50, Senior Recruiter for Sovereign Bank in Tom's
River, NJ, believes, "Especially in the financial industry, which
tends to be a more conservative environment, what a lot of the
younger people don't understand is that we are looking for someone
to represent the company. So your appearance is not just
representative of you; you will also be representing the company
the way we want it to be represented." She adds, "I have raised
four teenagers and every one of them has, at some point, gotten a
piercing or tattoo and has said that 'if I am are going to work for
XYZ Company they need to accept me for who I am.' My children need
to understand that at some point they might have to modify their
appearance to fit into a professional environment. While companies
believe in a diverse environment, you also don't want to offend
The Relationship Between Clothing and How you Perceive
Besides being an external cue affecting the response of others
toward you, clothing is an inner cue affecting your self-image.
Feeling good about how you look can make you feel good about
yourself, thereby increasing your personal presence.
We all likely have experienced the emotional high of a successful
clothing purchase, and when met with validating compliments and
supportive attitudes from colleagues, our overall energy level is
given an even bigger boost.
Karen Dixon, 42, Supervisor, The Mercadien Group, Princeton, NJ,
indicates, "Dressing in a professional yet stylish manner can give
you a tremendous feeling of confidence that is exhibited to others
through your attitude and actions."
The opposite is true when we just don't feel right about how we're
dressed. The observer meets the ensuing negative energy in kind,
potentially causing a further drain to our self-image.
The Relationship Between Clothing and Behavior
Jackson Lewis, a law firm that specializes in personnel issues,
polled more than 1,000 human resource executives who had
implemented a dress-down policy. They reported a 30-percent
increase in flirtatious behavior, contributing to an increase in
sexual harassment lawsuits.
When you wear more powerful looking clothing (e.g.
professional business attire, a suit, darker colors, and so forth.)
and clothing that is appropriate for your profession, it changes
your mindset, switching from "relaxed mode" to "professional mode."
This positive change in attitude is reflected in body language and
behavior (e.g. better posture, firmer handshake, maintaining eye
contact, sticking to business, and so forth.), giving you greater
The converse is true for more insignificant or inappropriate
clothing choices, such as washed out colors or informal ensembles
where more traditional clothing choices are the order of the day.
Without you even knowing it, people will take the liberty of
interpreting what you are saying via your body language and will
judge you and respond toward you accordingly.
The Relationship Between How You Dress and Your
An indifferent professional image (which spells an indifferent
attitude) can cost you valuable clients, adversely affecting your
professional goals and your organization's bottom line. However, a
well-defined and consistent professional image
can improve the perception of your professional abilities, which
will increase your potential to attract and hold on to clients.
When you to aim to bridge gaps between your personal image and
corporate image, there is a positive impact on business
relationships, plus you increase your ability to build
rapport and fit with the team. You can then start
contributing to your team's success and ultimately to the
attainment of your own professional goals.
Emily Oswald, 22, Account Manager, TrailGraphix, Washington, DC, in
her first job out of college, states, "My mother always said you
don't dress for the position you have. You dress for the position
you want. After three months with my company, I was promoted. Out
of 300 people in my company, and out of 35 other account managers,
I am the youngest one. When I meet with clients, who are typically
50-year-old attorneys, I always dress more professionally. There is
nothing comfortable about wearing a suit and heels, but it does
affect how you carry yourself and how you are perceived. Dressing
professionally has definitely helped me move up quickly in my
company. The first impression, and the second and the third, are
The Relationship Between Dress and Success for Working
While appearance for men and women can be a key to their
success, a survey by Women Work! found that 75 percent of the
respondents believed that appearance at work affects how women are
perceived by others more so than their male counterparts. Nearly 80
percent of the respondents said that clothes, hairstyle, and makeup
can make a significant difference in their perceptions and
confidence that a woman has the skills and knowledge to perform her
The Relationship Between Local Culture and Global
Markets differ not only from country to country, but also from
state to state and town to town. Where on paper the same dress code
policy applies, employees often find that when they have meetings
at or are transferred to another branch of their company, they face
dress culture shock. This leads to time wasted in
confusion and awkwardness. However, global, cutting-edge
organizations understand all too well that employees are an
extension of their corporate brand and that, regardless of where
they set up offices, it is vital that this corporate brand is
expressed uniformly throughout the world to promote team spirit
among employees, and to maintain a consistent image that projects
the company's standards and culture. Bridging the gap between
employee image and corporate image is imperative not just locally,
but globally too.
The work world demands making a great first impression and keeping
it. To communicate more intuitively day-to-day, start by
understanding appearance psychology and non-verbal communication
techniques. Doing so can lead to greater professional and personal
success. If you don't believe us, then perhaps you will believe
Mark Twain, who said, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have
little or no influence on society."