Does Your Appearance Have An Impact On Getting A Job?
According to Forbes magazine, when a woman puts on 64 pounds, her wage on average decreases by 9%. While on the other hand, the 'better looking' women, earn 10% more annually than those at the bottom of the 'genetic talent pool'. Age can also work against you when applying for a job. In fact, 73% of women believe that a youthful appearance has a positive impact on their job prospects, promotions and retaining clients.
Even something as trivial as height can impact your pay grade. Those who are vertically 'gifted', especially men, can expect to earn an additional $789 for every extra inch of height. That's me officially screwed then!
Too big to be employed
But why do employees believe that something as trivial as our waistline has an impact on our ability to perform on the job?
In a 2015 study, nearly half of recruiters said that they would be less inclined to interview an obese person. The reason for this? Employers perceive overweight people as '"less productive" and "wouldn't be able to do the job required", while a third of employers are concerned about the additional costs associated with accommodating an overweight person.
While some would argue that this generalisation is extremely dangerous. A person's weight gain can have several causes, rather than being down to a lack of self-control and laziness. Thyroid troubles, health problems, bereavement and eating disorders can all lead to weight gain; all of which don't correlate with an individual's work ethic or professionalism.
You could also argue that thin people are all more energetic, healthier and therefore better hiring choices. But what about heavy smokers for example? While on the outside they may be thin and seemingly healthy looking, they could in the long term, be less 'efficient' in the workforce. According to the Daily Mail, a smoker has on average, a week off each year from cigarette breaks, while taking a further five days off per year due to smoking related illnesses. Now, I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't hire people who smoke (recent ex-smoker over here), but do people who choose to smoke get greeted with the same concerns as 'heavier' potential employees? No.
Pretty people wanted
While it's arguably understandable for employers to be hesitant about hiring overweight people, what about general attractiveness? Does being 'pretty' make you more favorable in the eyes of employers? To some, effect, yes.
Anyone who has ever worked in the fashion industry, in particular, will have most likely experienced this first hand. Brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Burberry have been criticized in the past for only hiring model-esque employees, even for work on the shop floor. Which raises the question: why does being hot impact your customer service skills?
Discussing his personal experience working at Burberry, Tom* describes to New Statesman magazine, how he was required to have his photos of his face and body snapped during his application for a sales role. He further discusses the tyrant like focus on "appearance, being fresh-faced and clean-cut", while also noting that his sales colleagues were slim, tall and conventionally attractive.
On a similar note, an anonymous employee, who previously worked at American Apparel admitted that "we turned away a lot of competent people, based on the fact that they had too many piercings or just didn't quite look the part - that is, thin, well groomed and conventionally attractive."
Most shockingly, Abercrombie & Fitch allegedly have a system where the staff is placed into two groups, the 'models' who work on the shop floor, and the 'impact' team, who are kept out of public view, stacking shelves and working on the stockroom. Probably so no one can see their less than perfect faces, the horror! This elitist system has got the company in hot water in the past. A former employee took the company to court after she was forced to work in the stockroom. The employee in question was born with a missing arm, and so didn't fit with the company's strict 'look' policy.
Look, let's be real for a second. We know sex sells. That's why we see beautiful models appear on perfume ads. We as consumers subconsciously buy into that image and lifestyle, but this is taking it too far. At the end of the day, normal people *gasp* shop at these brands. As a 5ft 6 stocky guy, being served by beautiful, 6ft stallions would not make me want to buy from their shops. It would make me feel uncomfortable, and more likely to shop somewhere else that doesn't make me feel like a failure for not being perfect.
The 'beauty is beastly' effect
On the other hand, can being too attractive hinder your chances of climbing the career ladder? It sounds like the best problem to have, but being beautiful can have its drawbacks, for women at least.
A study released by the Journal of Social Psychology discovered that while good looks in general work to an individual's favor, they can be detrimental for women in typically male-dominated roles. In tech, financial, and engineering roles, the study suggests that "In these professions being attractive was highly detrimental to women."
But why? There's of course, preconceptions to take into consideration. In some instances, straight up jealously can be a factor. A study reported on by the Daily Mail, discovered that in instances where it is women performing the interview process:
You can't win either way, can you? While it is against the law to deny someone a job based on their gender, race, religion or sexuality, there is no law to stop employers favoring attractive people or those who fit with a certain image. I guess that is just the world we live in, and sadly it's unlikely to change anytime soon.
Have you had experiences where your appearance has helped or hindered you getting a job?