Friday, September 9, 2011

Always Judge A Book By Its Cover (¡Haz click aquí para Español!)

We’ve all heard the old saying...."Don't judge a book by its cover"; a metaphorical phrase meaning "you shouldn't prejudge someone, by their outward appearance".

Well, I'm here to tell you that's just about the worst advice you can get (especially when it pertains to the workplace).

How many times have you picked up a newspaper, magazine or a book, just because of the eye catching front cover?! You wouldn't even think twice about what’s "inside", if not for that attention getting first impression.

It’s the same for all of us.
Whether it’s at a job interview, networking event or the office…you are always being judged and admit it – you’re also doing a lot of the judging!
Don’t feel guilty – there’s nothing wrong with that.

“A picture is worth a thousand words”.
How we present ourselves (clothing, hairstyle, accessories, perfume/cologne, etc.) is pretty much on target about who we are as a person.
Before one word comes out of your mouth, the person directly in front of you has made a dozen assumptions about who you are based on how you look. And before you say, you shouldn’t “assume” – forget about it. A person’s assumptions/perceptions are their reality (regardless of what’s true). So, don’t try to debate it.

The best course of action is to be aware of people’s prejudices based on their observations and take the necessary steps to manage your image.

1. Dress to impress: It is important to dress appropriately for the occasion. I have met with students who visit a newsroom; some are right on – leaving their usual school wardrobe of jeans and a shirt behind, opting for a suit. And then there are the students who are better dressed to hang out with their friends (and that’s being kind). The students who dressed professionally gave me the impression that they understood (and valued) what a rare opportunity it was (to visit a news station and learn first hand about careers in journalism from experienced veterans). They commanded my attention and instantly earned my respect.

2. Dress for the job: If you have an ambition to move up the ladder within your company - make sure you look the part. When you first look (and act the part); you’re sending a very clear signal to your supervisor that you are ready (or on your way) for more responsibility. You want to stand out and not blend in with your peers (almost camouflaged).

3. Don’t dress to distract: When attending an interview - be sure to wear something that is uniform (solid colors always work best), appropriate to the office environment. Don’t wear anything distracting (you don't want the interviewer to be consumed with thoughts of -- "what was he/she thinking when they put "that" on this morning"?).

Especially challenging for women are accessories. You might feel comfortable in your favorite earrings and necklace, but the interviewer might not. And for the men - some places are more casual than others...that might mean tie optional. For both – take it easy on the perfume and cologne. I use to work with a great reporter who bathed in cologne; sometimes making my eyes tear!

4. Less dress is not more: Unfortunately and unfairly (and women in particular know it too well), too often the 300 pound gorilla in the room is "sex". Many men allow their imaginations (and ignorance) rule their thinking. So, my advice is – don’t feed the beast. It's been my experience that less is always more when it comes to ladies fashions. And by "less", I mean show less.

Listen – I strongly believe what matters most is what’s in-between our ears and in our hearts, but the truth is that before anyone can get to know us – they see us. Treat yourself like merchandise – a product that you carefully craft and market wisely. Remember, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

As always – feel free to ask questions and leave comments.
Below are some links for more information and advice on how to dress for success.

And consider following my blog (



  1. Hugo, love the advice your giving out. Excellent article.

  2. Thank You, Claudia! I'm happy you find it useful :)

  3. Great article Hugo, Too many people today don't put enough emphasis on the way they look "in a good way" and as bad as it sounds, people do judge you before they get to know you so you should always act and dress for the best first impression. Love the advice!