By Jon Michail

We asked Elizabeth Hanson, owner of a successful consulting company, if she thought image really was everything when it came to business. She said:

I remember when we were interviewing for a new sales manager. My receptionist had just called to say she had an emergency at home, so I opted to cover the front desk for her for half an hour. I quite enjoy it – it gets me in front of our clients and out from behind my computer!

Anyway, our first interviewee of the morning came in. He had the qualifications, the experience, and was dressed very well in a nice suit with polished shoes, the whole deal. He introduced himself and I told him that his interview time was likely to be delayed if he didn’t mind waiting.

“I was about to tell him who I was when he interrupted with an exasperated sigh and said, “Oh hell, do you think someone could have called me? I’ve put myself out to get here on time and now you tell me I have to wait? Brilliant.”

I was so startled by his rudeness that I decided to hold my tongue and see if our candidate had anything else to say. I wasn’t disappointed.

“Do you think you could get me a coffee?” he said. “Between you and me I’m a little hung over.”

“Really?” I said. “That’s no good.”

“Well, it was pretty good last night. Went to this party, amazing DJ, loads of gorgeous girls…” and then I kid you not, he looked me up and down and said with a wink, “you would have fitted right in.”

I was literally biting the insides of my cheeks to keep from retorting when he actually snapped his fingers and said, with what he obviously thought was a charming grin, “Now what about that coffee? Chop chop.”  

It was about then that my tardy receptionist came running in and said, “I’m so sorry Ms Hanson, thanks for covering for me.”

“That’s not a problem.” I said, before turning to the interviewee and saying, “I’m Elizabeth Hanson, the owner of this business. And your interview is over.”

His face went red, then white as he deflated like a pricked balloon and slunk out the door.

Elizabeth concluded with the following:

“At first glance he had the right image, Yes, he had the credentials and the grooming. What he didn’t have was the right attitude and that was what was most important to me.”

Elizabeth was right. Creating a successful image means turning a great first impression into a favourable lasting impression. Wardrobe and grooming are important because snap judgements are made within the first instant of meeting someone.

But demeanour, manners and personality are even more important. A good haircut doesn’t mean you can get away with being a sleaze. And just because you can afford an expensive suit, that doesn’t mean you can be overbearing and arrogant to lesser-paid staff.

A successful image is a complete package, inside and out… a holistic reflection of the real YOU.

Have you had similar experiences? Please share…

Jon Michail is Group CEO of Image Group International, an award winning author and recognised Australasia’s No 1 image coach. Image Group International supports executives, entrepreneurs and their organisations to become iconic and monetised leadership brands.

He has been a  regular commentator in international media including ABC, CNN, NBC, Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Success, The Financial Review and Vogue.

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