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Does your level of physical attractiveness dictate your job success?

Posted by: Lorna Blackmore
11/05/2017
It is common knowledge that an ironed shirt, clean teeth and brushed hair give you brownie points in a job interview, but does your success come down to much more?

In today’s world, the way you look and present yourself play an important part in how you are received; as a possible partner, friend and now, a professional in your career. However unfair it may seem, those who rate higher on levels of attractiveness have a better chance of being successful in a job interview, going further in their careers and even being paid more. This phenomenon is called the ‘beauty premium’, and sees attractive men and women gaining more success in their careers than their, shall we say, less photogenic colleagues.

Human beings are hard-wired to respond better to people who are more attractive, according to Dr Gordon Patzer, Founding Director and CEO of the Appearance Research Institute. “Good looking men and women are generally regarded to be more kind, talented, honest and intelligent than their less attractive counterparts.” This theory reflects upon the way a person is viewed in the workplace as well. Studies show that a boss who falls in the ‘good looking’ category is seen as more competent, collaborative and is considered a better delegator. Furthermore, anyone who is in a customer-facing, sales rep or CEO role is considered the ‘embodiment of the brand’ and a reflection of the business, so it makes sense that attractive people in these roles climb up their career ladder quicker, and are taken more seriously.

There are also downfalls to appearing too attractive however, as assumptions are often made about how a person got the job or people may question how skilled a good looking person is. In these cases, people may have to push harder to prove their worth in the workplace or in an interview, or strive to maintain trust and loyalty as a leader. This can ring especially true for women, who in today’s image obsessed world are expected to emulate what is perceived as beautiful in the media. “Whether it’s about our appearance or whether or not to assert ourselves, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t” says Bonnie Marcus, president and CEO of Women’s Success Coaching. A lot of companies see an attractive woman as a distraction; a rather sexist way of thinking, considering how far society has come in terms of equality for women in the workplace.

So how far do looks get you? It’s one thing to show up with fantastic genes, but unless you put your skill set forward into actions and behaviours than unfortunately good hair and a great set of teeth won’t get you very far. One critic of the ‘beauty premium’ is Adam Eyre-Walker from the Centre for the Study of Evolution at the University of Sussex. He argues that the theory is a culture phenomenon rather than an evolutionary one. “We are taught to look upon small women and tall men as desirable.” Height, amongst other factors such as symmetry in the face, good teeth and a slim/muscular physique are attributes that define an individual’s level of attractiveness in this day and age. “Our preference for attractive people has been culturally created and not hard wired in the human species” he continues. This reaffirms the idea that a person looking to further their career is better off depending on their skills and personality, which are longer lasting than looks.

Being genetically blessed can be useful and there is no shame in admitting that and using it to your advantage in love, life and even in the workplace. It may get your foot in the door and a second glance, but a person with a great sales pitch, brilliant communicative skills and a strong work ethic is much more likely to leave the right lasting impression.

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