I work in public relations, so my life pretty much revolves around making things (and at times, people) look good. I understand the importance of image and how it relates to perception. To advance in your career and achieve your goals, I am a firm believer in investing in “personal PR.” Sharing my top five tips below on how to make a positive impression:

1. Dress To Impress.

You’ve heard this before, it’s nothing new; yet if everyone has heard it, why is this not being followed?
Let me tell you: dress for the job you want, not the one you have. It’s true. People are watching (and they are judging) even if you think they are not.  If you would have to change outfits for an interview, and it’s a hassle, do it anyway! Think of everything from your earrings to your shoes. It all matters, believe it or not. I once had a boss tell me (after I was hired) that I looked the part. I was both flattered by this and surprised at the revelation, and I have never forgotten it. While I had the competencies to do the job and 
excelled in other areas, my presentation was a key factor to being hired. I also recall another time when two candidates were being considered for an assistant role, and both were equally strong. When deciding which to decline, it came down to one candidate’s neon orange nail polish (obviously inappropriate for a job interview).

2. Let’s Face It.

I know some women think they don’t “need” makeup. I honestly don’t understand these ladies. Maybe if your name is Gisele or Gigi, but in most cases, the answer is YES, you actually do. Even if you have flawless skin (lucky!), makeup creates a finished look, a bit more polished of a presentation. If you have a big interview, definitely take extra time. If you need help in this department, do not be shy—that’s what the pros are there for. Reserve a makeup application at the Laura Mercier or Chanel counter of your Nordstrom, Neiman’s or Bloomingdales, and you will be happy you did. Same goes for hair; if I have an important event to attend, the first thing I try to do is reserve a hair appointment. (See you soon, Drybar!)

3. Social Media 101.

Depending on the settings on your social media accounts, your posts may be public for anyone in the world to see. That means prospective employers; your current employer; your boyfriend’s mom (and basically anyone) can gain a lot of insight about you simply by checking out your social feed. If you think employers are not taking the time to check your social feed, think again. This is often the first thing they check.  What does your page show? If it’s a lot of party pics with visible alcohol or smoking, you may want to rethink sharing those (you may want to rethink smoking, too, but that’s another story). Same with pics that could be considered scandalous, or if there’s a “selfie overload” on your feed; you may like to think that people are not making judgments based on what you choose to share, but I would beg to differ. Consider setting your accounts to private unless you primarily share professional content and photos that would not be considered offensive or perceived negatively by an employer.

4. It’s a Small World After All. References for the Win.

When interviewing, have at least three references with you, printed out and available to present if asked. Or, you may wish to be forthcoming and present them to the hiring manager before being asked. This shows you are taking the initiative and that you are prepared. The same boss I referenced in No. 1 (yes, this boss taught me a lot!) not only checked all the references I provided, but she also did some digging and inquired to people whom she figured might know me. She was right, they did know me (it’s a small world after all!), and I am fortunate I was on good terms with all of the “off-page” references that were approached. Along these same lines, everyone can be considered an unofficial reference. The saying “never burn a bridge” is true: always stay in contact with previous supervisors and colleagues. You may never know when you could use their help in providing a character reference.

5. Put it On Paper.

When interviewing, don’t assume that the hiring manager has printed out your resume and has thoroughly read it. Always come prepared and with your documents ready to go in a nice portfolio. This shows you have taken the added effort, you are making a presentation, and you are not showing up unprepared. Also, it is important to follow up with a hand-written thank you note. I am a firm believer in the power of thank-you notes! Especially in this digital age, a hand-written note sets you apart. Even if you’ve been interviewing and did not get a job offer, I recommend still sending a thank you note. It shows you have grace and class, and may benefit you down the road should your paths cross again.  Hand-written thank-you’s should be heartfelt and convey gratitude while referring to the specifics (whether it’s the time one took to meet with you and consider you as a top candidate, or for the lovely gift). I once attended a wedding (a costly wedding due to out of state travel) and after receiving a thank you card months after, the card was blank, other than the couple’s names printed on the inside. It was not signed, and there was no personal note. To me, that came across as thoughtless. Always personalize the thank-you note as much as possible so that is has more meaning.

Dana Lauren Berry is a public relations professional currently based in Florida.