If you haven’t seen some of the recent headlines, a new study from the University of Kansas revealed that you can accurately judge about 90 percent of a stranger’s personal characteristics by looking at their shoes. So does this mean that if you pay more attention to your shoes, you can be a shoe-in for the job in your next interview?
It is a bit humorous to think about, but the truth is, we are all subject to many unconscious decisions on a day to day basis, and it is highly likely (no matter how many interviewers and recruiters might try to deny it) that an interviewer does, in fact, make judgments about a candidate’s appearance that they may or may not be oblivious to.
While most try to give a candidate a fair review and the benefit of the doubt, sometimes interviewers will look for any reason to knock a candidate out of the running, especially when there are many qualified candidates to narrow the field from.
The research made some interesting observations such as people with “attachment anxiety” or people that were most worried about their relationships generally had brand new and well-kept shoes.
This could actually be to your benefit in the interview setting because it shows that you do care about the interview and are concerned about the potential business relationship you are building.
Some obvious findings such as expensive shoes belonged to high earners, flashy and colorful footwear were the choice of extroverts, and shoes that may not be new but appeared spotless belonged to conscientious types, seem to affirm some judgments many may already make.
But there were some more surprising findings. Thinking about wearing ankle boots to your next interview? They appear to be a hallmark of a more aggressive personality.
Want to give off the vibe that you’re agreeable? Try throwing on some functional and practical shoes as these generally belong to this personality type.
And if you’re used to wearing uncomfortable shoes, you might just have a calm personality. We wonder which came first, the uncomfortable shoes that help aid your search for achieving calm, or the patience and serenity that aid in putting up with the discomfort of the shoes. Either way, if the character fits for the interview, flaunt it.
Aside from a person’s age, gender, income, and agreeableness, researchers also revealed that shoes could reveal a person’s emotional stability which is an umbrella term that includes a person’s fear of abandonment, rejection issues, and the ability to handle different kinds of relationships.
“Shoes convey a thin but useful slice of information about their wearers,” the authors wrote. “Shoes serve a practical purpose, and also serve as nonverbal cues with symbolic messages. People tend to pay attention to the shoes they and others wear.”1
It was noted by psychologists that on rare occasions some people will purposely select shoes in order to convey a particular public image that differs from their real personality.
This is probably the case in many interview settings, but it does give you pause to take a second look at the image you are constructing not just from your resume and your prepared responses, but from each article of clothing you put on, down to your shoes.
And if you’ve never cared before about the shoes you’ve thrown on for an interview, how much personal information are you revealing about yourself?
Because of the variety of styles and brands out there shoes can carry, they can give off many individual differences about the wearer, researchers concluded.
What are your thoughts? After seeing all the new research, will you put any more thought into the shoes you wear to an interview? And, are you wondering what your shoes say about you?
For hiring managers, will you be glancing more at a candidate’s shoes for the next few weeks with this new information, wondering how much is true? Or do you already take note of an applicant’s footwear and appearance?
Or is it business as usual and you’ll try to just focus on whether they can do the job and are a fit? Or do the shoes help fill in the overall picture of if they are a fit?
Whether you agree or disagree with the findings, sometimes science has a fun way of getting us all to think more about the conscious and unconscious decisions and snap judgments we make. So whether it’s shoes or jobs, it helps us to reflect on what really matters: finding the right fit.
Robin L. Rayburn is the Editor & General Manager of Interviewing.com. Robin was introduced to the recruitment industry in 2007 and her passion for people has never let her stray far from it since. In her spare time she manages her blog, RestlessPillow.com, tweets from @interviewingcom and @chitowntexan, and is always striving to help those around her who have a vision for success. You can also find Robin on LinkedIn and Google+.