Who you are speaks so loudly, I do not hear what you say

Who you are speaks so loudly, I do not hear what you say

As an athlete, your coach may praise you for getting down and dirty and sweating like a pig as a demonstration of commitment to athletic excellence. And you may be spending a lot of time dressed in athletic shorts, T-shirts, white socks, and sneakers, all appropriate for practice and casual conversation in the dorm—and all inappropriate for meetings with business professionals.

The famed American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, had deep insight into how first impressions deeply influence people’s reactions when he said Who you are speaks so loudly I do not hear what you say. That is, from the moment people first see you, they are making judgments that will shape how they react to you when you begin to speak.

Grooming and employment: In fact, 95% of the employers interviewed said a jobseeker’s personal appearance affected their opinion of that applicant’s suitability for the job and 91% said they believed dress and grooming reflected the applicant’s attitude towards the company.

So it is critical that you make a positive first impression by paying particular attention to how you present yourself to people who could influence your career positively.


What not to wear In particular, beware of imitating the styles of pro athletes or celebrities you might admire, including ostentatious jewelry, body piercings, large visible tattoos, 6-button suits, unusual hairstyles and make-up, loud colors, overtly sexual or faddish clothing, blue jeans, tank tops, and casual footwear, such as flip flops, sneakers, platform shoes, or shoes with 4-6” heels.


Open the link below to see some of the outfits athletes have worn that placed them on a top 10 list of bad taste.




Grooming Guidelines


Instead, use the grooming guidelines below as a way of making sure you meet the highest expectations of the professionals with whom you will be meeting.


  • Body: Cover tattoos, remove or conceal body jewelry and piercings
  • Perfume and cologne: Use light scents, very sparingly
  • Fingernails: Clean and trimmed.
  • Teeth: Freshly brushed
  • Breath: Clean, with no hint of tobacco, alcohol, coffee, or other strong odor. Throw out gum prior to a meeting. Avoid meals with onions and garlic.
  • Antiperspirant: Apply after showering the night before the meeting and again after showering the morning of the meeting for maximum protection


  • Jewelry: Limited and tasteful. It should not draw attention from your face. Appropriate jewelry would be a small band, such as a wedding, engagement, or school ring, and a professional watch. Women might wear a thin necklace or pendant, a single bracelet and small earrings that do not call attention to themselves. Avoid large, bright or gaudy jewelry or jewelry with a religious symbol.
  • Make-up: Women should wear light, natural looking make-up
  • Hair: Neatly combed and trimmed, recently cut and shaped.


  • Clothing: Neatly pressed that morning or the night before. Men’s pants should be long enough to touch the top of shoes. Male athletes should consider buying Italian cut suits if their chests are 8 inches or more larger than their waists for a proper fit. Men should wear long-sleeved shirts. Women should wear skirts or dresses that stop at or below the knee. Be sure to empty your pockets of change that could rattle or large items that would bulge from your pants.
  • Shoes, socks, belts and stockings: Should be relatively new, polished, and leather, and black, brown, or cordovan, with a matching belt and socks. Loafers are often viewed as inappropriate. Women should wear closed toes shoes, preferably with 1-2” heels. Men should wear socks that are calf length and women should wear stockings without runs.


When networking contacts observe that you took time to make yourself meet their highest standards for making a positive first impression, they will see you are a person who is taking them and the meeting seriously, a key step in gaining their trust and serious attention.


Following the checklist above before an important meeting will give you confidence that you will make a positive impression and will build your confidence for the interview.


  1. View the slideshow at the following link to see a corporate presentation on good grooming habits.


  1. When you attend a job fair, make a point of noticing how the interviewers and job candidates are dressed and groomed, noting both positive and negatives examples.


tclark administrator

Thomas Clark, PhD, President of CommuniSkills and Professor of Management at Xavier University, has been a writing and oral communication consultant for a wide variety of businesses including Procter & Gamble, “the business writing capital of the world,” where he has led over 500 business communication workshops. He has also taught workshops for other Fortune 500 companies, including General Electric, Microsoft, Nestle, AK Steel, General Cable, Mars Petcare and Kellogg. He has published three books on business communication and one on career strategies. He has been honored with two Teacher of the Year awards at Xavier, and The US Small Business Administration has recognized him with three national awards for teaching excellence in the field of entrepreneurship. He earned his doctorate at Indiana University and is certified as an instructor in both Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability. Richard Zaunbrecher, BChE, MBARichard Zaunbrecher, BSChE, MBA, Vice President and Director of Communiskills’ Boston office, has a diverse background that allows him to understand and give constructive feedback on a broad range of business communication issues. He first learned sound business communication principles at Procter & Gamble, the business communication capital of the world. He has worked with CommuniSkills for 25 years and has taught both oral and written communication skills to a variety of businesses including Microsoft, Safeway, P&G dos Brazil, Gillette, AliCorp, Credit Suisse First Boston, Coca-Cola, Citibank, Viacom, Clorox, KPMG, General Electric, Union Central Insurance, Clarica, Allstate, and Prudential Insurance.

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