A good friend who is a CEO of a national corporation gave me a call last week and told me the following story: For the past four months they had been looking for a new COO. Their company scoured the nation looking for qualified people to fill the position. The field of candidates was soon narrowed down to the top four people. Arrangements were made to fly them into corporate headquarters. Before meeting the contenders in person, the executive team noted which candidates had the strongest background on paper and during the phone interviews, and ranked them accordingly. Arriving to the in-person interview, three of the candidates were dressed very well. They certainly looked the part of the role they were trying to fill. They had freshly pressed shirts, blouses, pants and skirts. Their shoes were polished and without scuffs. When the final and highest-ranked candidate walked in for the interview, the team was shocked to see the applicant wearing a t-shirt and slacks. When the executives met afterwards to discuss all the candidates, the conversation centered on the final candidate and the disappointment they had about their appearance. They discussed the three major problems with the initial front-runner:
CredibilityAs part of the interview process, all the candidates were walked through the office to meet various team members. The fourth candidate was not as well received as the other three candidates. Was it possible the other team members didn’t believe this individual to be a real contender? Perhaps they were a bit shocked to see someone so casually dressed and were momentarily distracted. Department after department showed that a similar trend emerged: employees did not care to engage with their potential new supervisor. Why could this be? They consulted with a few managers and the feedback was given that this person did not appear to be credible because the candidate did not look the part.
AttitudeOne executive member brought up the point that if the candidate could not put their best foot forward when it comes to dressing the part, what internal flaws would manifest after they were hired? The team agreed that this would be a real concern.
EffortIf the time and expense was not taken to look the part this potential COO was trying to fill, what other corners would this person cut when making business decisions? After the discussion was completed, the fourth candidate was no longer the front-runner and did not get the job. While this candidate had the best resume and background, it was not enough to save them from a poor in-person impression. The lesson this friend shared with me is true in many areas of life. For example:
- A person in the market to purchase a car would likely be turned off or pay less for a car that did not have a clean body or interior.
- Food packaging needs to reflect the quality of food within the package.
- When a student turns in an essay, the papers should be neat and crisp, not wrinkled and torn.
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