Maria Hutter wants you to look good when you go for a job. She might even take you shopping.

Hutter, a former financial professional at JP Morgan Chase in New York, says it isn’t what you look like, it’s how you present yourself that will determine how people see you.

Hutter worked in risk management at JP Morgan Chase. Eventually she tired of the “7:30 meetings and 14-hour days. It would have been a wonderful job,” she says, “if I was still living in Manhattan.”

And still single. But by this point Hutter was married, living in New Jersey, and had three children. “It became a quality of life issue,” she says.

So the Queens-born Hutter, who had earned her bachelor’s in finance and economics from CUN, and her MBA from Pace, with considerable financial assistance from JP Morgan Chase, left to start Lasting First Impressions, a job skills and image consulting firm, in Pennington.

The image consulting part comes from Hutter’s interactions with friends in New York’s fashion industry. It also comes from her own observations in the corporate world. “I started paying attention to which folks were getting those promotions,” she says. “I noticed the way successful people look.”

In short, image is everything when an interviewer has nothing else to go on. Hutter found that a lot of career coaches focused on written and oral communication. None, however, focused on looking right for the part.

One of the problems, Hutter says, is that a lot of people, particularly those who will not be dealing with customers, will misinterpret the phrase “casual office.” They will think that since everyone wears jeans at the office, it’s OK to go to an interview in denim. One tech candidate, in fact, planned on wearing shorts and sandals.

As the job market gets ever more competitive, the difference between being hired and not could be something as basic as appropriate dress. Qualifications and credentials being equal, employers who have one job to fill will find something to break the tie, and often it will come down to the professionalism of one candidate’s appearance, she says.

Hutter offers a telling example of the power of looking polished. In early October a man being indicted for robbery in New York City came to court wearing a good suit. His cuffs removed, he milled around in the crowd and then quietly walked out the courtroom door. He then asked the security guard how to get to the exit and was politely pointed toward escape.

Police caught him soon after, but the man’s carriage says a lot.

All, of course, is not about dress code when it comes to landing a job. There is still the matter of the resume, for which Hutter offers advice.

“One thing I never want to see on a resume is ‘Enjoys golf, hiking, and travel,’” she says. “We all do.”

Better to add some community service, especially if you have been out of work. Employers can forgive your not having a job, but they are leery of people who have done nothing between paychecks. Get involved — or, better yet, get in charge — of community projects. “That tells an employer, ‘This person is a doer,’” she says.

Lasting First Impressions LLC, Box 277, Pennington 08534-9998; 609-462-5455; fax, 609-737-2415. Maria Hutter, president. www.lastingfirstimpressionsllc.com.

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