The Beauty Conundrum and How It Plays a Role In Hiring

In this week’s Newsweek, Jessica Bennett reports on the results of a magazine poll regarding beauty and the roll it plays in the hiring process and the workforce.  Newsweek found that 57% of corporate managers surveyed believe that it’s more difficult to get a job if you are, let’s say, below the bell curve in terms of your looks.  61% of hiring managers surveyed said that it’s to a woman’s advantage to “show off her figure in the workplace.”  In other words, cleavage is the clincher for success if you’re a woman. Talk about a slap in the face to women’s lib!

The sad part about this is I am actually surprised the percentages are so low.  Clearly, Americans are more obsessed than ever in looking good. Plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures are spreading through urban populations like a contagion. Content may have been king, but now it’s Botox.

Unfortunately, the way you look does effect your ability to get a  job.  If you’re no adonis, you’ve got to try your best to look neat and clean and well put together when going on an interview.  Obviously there are laws against any kind of “visual” discrimination but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen behind the scenes.  I can’t tell you how many times, as a recruiter the subject of someone’s “beauty”– or lack there of –was brought up after meeting a candidate.  To be honest, it always made my skin crawl. ESPECIALLY when a co-worker was brash enough to tell the client that they need to meet someone  because on top of all their skills they were gorgeous too!

I do believe that the right clothing and the right attitude can help most of us shine on an interview.  Before you go on an interview, try to find out the culture of the company.  Time Inc. is mostly likely going to be pretty conservative while Google or Apple are going to be more casual-chic.  Dress to meet the cultural requirements.  Arrive early so that you are not overheating and sweating like Albert Brooks in “Broadcast News.”  Pop a mint in your mouth so your breath doesn’t smell like a deterrent that the government could use to wipe out Al Queda.

Appearances are so incredibly influential that I don’t think they should be a factor AT ALL when it comes to the prescreening process – ie., resumes and bios, etc.  The minute a potential hiring manager sees a photo along with credentials, the mind wonders away from what matters –your skills and accomplishments.  The hiring manager sees a sexy blonde, a stout brunette, a guy who looks like “Uncle Archie,” bringing up distasteful memories.

Yes, with social media and the Internet, it’s easier for people to find pictures of you online but the potential hiring manager has to work to do that.  Do I really need to tell you to watch what pictures you put in public domains?  I think I’ll end here…

Carpe diem…

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