When I go to see a certain downtown client I always park at the hotel parking lot next door. Then I take a short cut through the lobby on my way to my meeting. It’s nice hotel with a variety of clients and it’s always interesting to people watch a bit and see whose coming and going.
The other day I noticed a woman in a red suit sitting in a chair. She was erect and alert in her seat – obviously waiting for someone. She had “job candidate” written all over her. Sure enough, a man in a business suit walked towards her and reached out his hand. I heard him say, “Lisa? Hi, I’m Bob. Thanks for making time to meet with us today.”
(Situations like this always intrigue me because as someone who has done a lot of recruiting, I have had hundreds and hundreds of occasions to walk into the lobby to greet a candidate. Each time I think, “Please let them live up to their resume/phone screen!”
I watched her stand to greet him. I admired her great haircut – a sleek black bob that complimented her bone structure and skin. It was professional and attractive on her. She wore a white stand up collar blouse with her suit. The suit itself was the perfect shade of red – not too bright and not too dull. It attracted attention without stealing the show. She had an expensive looking black leather attaché over her shoulder, and did not clutter her look with an additional purse. Well done! I love seeking a candidate pulled together like that!
But as I watched her get up and follow him to the meeting, my heart sank for her. Why? Because Miss Lovely Suit was mincing after Bob in a pair of pointy-toed mules with kitten heels. Ack! Why do I consider this choice of footwear a disaster for Lisa?
1. It is impossible, I repeat, impossible, for any woman to walk with confidence and energy in this particular style of shoe. When you are on a job interview, you want to exude confidence and energy. But every woman will walk with either the mincing tip-toe or a form of lazy shuffle when wearing teeny-heeled mules.
2. The mules contradicted the classic suit and chic attaché that Lisa was carrying – she sent mixed signals about whether she intended to be professional or playful. That may be an okay persona at happy hour after work. It’s probably not the best strategy in a job interview.
3. They were too obvious. The “barely there” shoes stood out as a deliberate attempt at fashion tacked onto an otherwise basic professional look – by default they became the (unfortunate) highlight of her outfit.
4. They were distracting – to Lisa and to Bob. Lisa was obviously concerned with keeping her shoes on her feet and not wobbling too much when she walked. Bob apparently realized that Lisa was having trouble keeping up on the slippery lobby floor because he distinctly slowed his pace to match hers. I am willing to bet that at this point he was now thinking about her shoes and not about her resume.
Bottom line: Lisa’s footwear demonstrated lack of judgment. This is not a good image to exude on a job interview.
Lesson: Wear sensible shoes on job interviews because you never know how far (and on what terrain) you will be walking.
Does this mean that I am against fashionable footwear? Absolutely not! I’m not saying you need to wear hiking boots to work. But the last thing you want is to be so consumed with thinking about how you are walking that you can’t focus on the conversation. Therefore, any footwear worn to work must meet the tests of being professional, and providing a stable platform for walking. (Note: flip flops do NOT meet these tests!)
Consider my friend Sarah for example. Sarah is chief legal counsel for a large corporation. She is petite with long, curly red hair and freckles. She loves to dress fashionably and is partial to wild print blouses and Paris Hilton style sunglasses. She is also one of the smartest, most professional women I know. When I met with her the other day she was wearing a cream colored pantsuit with a black, cream and red shirt. As she sat down I saw the shoes – gorgeous red patent leather sling backs with a 3” modified chunky heel. Fabulous!
But why do fashionable shoes work for Sarah and not for Lisa?
1. Sarah’s shoes had a back on them which kept them on her feet when she walked.
2. Her shoes also had straight (vs. kitten) heels so Sarah didn’t wobble when she walked.
3. Because she was wearing a pantsuit, the shoes were not the highlight of the outfit – instead they were a pleasant accessory, noticed only by those close to her when she was seated. Knowing Sarah, my guess is that she will not wear them with skirts.
In short, Sarah’s shoes met the tests of being professional and providing a stable platform for walking. Again I say, fabulous!
So before you leave for that job interview, ask yourself, “Can I walk a mile in these moccasins (or heels!)?