What do red sneakers have to do with responding to job listings? A recent study suggests that nonconformity can help your job search but only under very specific conditions.
To test out the premise that dressing down could increase social status, researchers did a number of experiments. In one scenario, a woman posed as a consultant at a seminar at Harvard Business School. When she wore red sneakers, the corporate executives she was instructing assumed she charged higher fees and had more prestigious clients.
The conclusion was that violating the dress code or other norms may give you an edge as long as people believe you already have enough clout to break the rules, you’re in a situation where there are clear rules, and your conduct is seen as deliberate.
Even if you’re going to keep wearing your best suit to your next interview, there are other ways to make a little individualism work for you:
Divulge some personal information. Regard small talk as an important part of the process. In a crowded field of applicants, employers will be more likely to remember you if you mention something distinctive. It’s even better if the details are designed to illustrate qualities important for the position.
Brag gracefully. In most settings, you probably feel conditioned to avoid crowing about your accomplishments. When you have limited time at a job interview, you need to be able to talk about your strengths directly and comfortably. Rehearse until you get it down right.
Accessorize tastefully. As this study shows, appearances matter. Invest in a signature piece that makes you feel like a winner. It could be flattering eyeglass frames or a vintage brooch.
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