The Executive’s Toolbox: Executive Appearance

An executive’s appearance, and the importance it has to career progression, is often under-estimated, much to the detriment of many executive careers.  This is regrettable as it’s not tough to master.

Even in today’s casual and often virtual environment executive appearance is still so important it’s rare for an executive to be hired without a face-to-face interview.  For example, a company I was working with grew so quickly that ten executives, who would have client facing roles, were needed in short order.  More than a hundred candidates whose resumes met the requirements based upon their experience and technical qualifications passed through two telephone interviews to insure they had the qualifications necessary to be successful on the job, including at least fifteen years in executive level positions.  Following successful reference checks the remaining candidates were flown to the city where the job was located to complete what the company called behind closed doors the “don’t show up goofy” interview as the final gate.

The company was wise to take that approach.  At least 25% of those who had the qualifications, experience, interview skills, and references didn’t have a professional appearance.  The company knew its brand image would be impacted if executives who didn’t have what was perceived to be an executive appearance were selected for those roles.

Let’s examine four facets of executive presence:

To thrive professionally it’s essential to make executive choices regarding your health.  Your nutritional choices, the amount of sleep you get, whether or not you exercise, and your lifestyle contribute to your health and your ability to perform as an executive.

Basic grooming is expected of an executive in most companies, and can be the topic of break room chatter when an executive violates basic grooming standards.

Basic wardrobe selection and care is the third facet of executive appearance.  An executive’s wardrobe doesn’t have to include $800 suits; however, clothes that are clean, appropriate for the work environment, well fitted, and not dated are expected.

The fourth facet is the most important, yet the one least talked about – executive presentation.  The manner in which you walk into a room, the banter in which you engage, your overall attitude toward your colleagues and subordinates overrides anything else that you do.

As you see from the four facets I’ve described, executive appearance isn’t a beauty contest and has little to do with your good looks.  The good news about executive appearance is that it’s totally within your control.  The even better news is even small changes give you the confidence necessary to work on those areas we all have that require more effort.  Just pick one and get started.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released in early 2017.