Milan Krpan’s Shoes

Mark Krpan

Jun. 19, 2022

My uncle, Milan Krpan was born in 1933. His family lived in a tiny, 600 sq. ft. house.

The house was directly across from the train tracks, in the village of Bizovac, Croatia.


While times were tough, the entire Krpan family took great pride in their work ethic, paying debts on time – and their appearance.


Milan eventually found work, 19 kilometers away, in the 'big city' of Osijek (pop. 50,000).

Every morning, Milan woke before dawn to make sure his clothes were perfectly pressed and his shoes – were spotless!


The walk from his home to the train station was just over a kilometer – not a big deal.

The problem was the village didn't have sidewalks or asphalt. Everywhere you looked, was mud!


To solve his dilemma, Milan enlisted the help of his younger brother, Petar (my father).

Each morning, Milan would wake Petar from his sleep and hand him his shoes.

They'd both slip on a pair of rubber boots and march across the road – to the train tracks.


Perched on one track, Milan skillfully removed each foot from its boot, sliding it into his dress shoe.

My father would return home with the muddy boots, while Milan would navigate a single track, like a tight rope artist, arriving at the train station, with his shoes in perfect condition!


What's the point of my story?

First impressions matter.


You see, when Milan was travelling into the city … as a villager, he was already at a disadvantage.

City folk could easily spot a villager in their midst (and being from the village wasn't considered a positive attribute).


While Milan couldn't change the fact he came from a poor family, he controlled what he could.

And, when it comes to interviewing, you need that same mindset, because first impressions matter!


Interviewers begin forming opinions (good or bad) within the first 30 seconds of meeting a candidate.

And trust me, that opinion isn't based on a candidate's ability to perform in a role.

Rather, it's formulated on things like; being on time, projecting confidence and one’s appearance.


In recent years, I've noticed a 'push back' of sorts … (generally from younger candidates) challenging the need to dress in a 'suit and tie' (or the female equivalent).


They claim company cultures are more relaxed these days and attire doesn't reflect ability.


While this may be true, they need to remember, they aren't part of the company, yet!


If you can't get past the interview, you'll never get the chance to demonstrate those abilities.


A wonderful candidate I placed in Montreal a few years back summed it up best when she said, “I dress for the interview, not the company culture".

Bottom line, control what is within your control to give yourself the best chance to land the job!


And remember, if Milan Krpan could arrive in Osijek every morning, with spotless shoes, there's no reason you can't do the same for your interview!