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Uncomfortable truth: why it pays to look good at work

Date

Melissa Stanger

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Experts say attractive people also tend to have desirable personality traits, like higher self-confidence.

Experts say attractive people also tend to have desirable personality traits, like higher self-confidence.

Studies have shown that attractive people are usually hired sooner, get promotions more quickly, and are paid more than their less-attractive coworkers.

Attractive people earn an average of 3 or 4 per cent more than people with below-average looks, according to Daniel Hamermesh, professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin and author of the book Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful.

Researchers have studied the concept of beauty as a factor in a person's success over and over again, and in multiple ways. Beautiful people tend to bring in more money for their companies, and are therefore seen as more valuable employees and harder workers, according to an article in Psychology Today by Dario Maestripieri, a professor of comparative human development, evolutionary biology, and neurobiology at the University of Chicago.

A door-to-door insurance salesman is better able to sell to customers who find him attractive, says Maestripieri, because the customers will be more likely to buy if they think it will increase their chances to have sex with him. Maestripieri calls this principle “the pleasure of dealing with good-looking people.”

“Good-looking people are more appealing as potential sex partners,” Maestripieri says, “and [so] other people choose to interact with them, to spend time near them, talk with them, buy insurance from them, and hire them as employees.”

Hamermesh, however, believes that it's not just the sex appeal that makes attractive people more successful. He writes that attractive people tend to have desirable personality traits, like higher self-confidence—likely a direct result of their good looks—that appeal to employers.

“Beauty may just reflect self-esteem. Perhaps people's self-confidence manifests itself in their behaviour, so that their looks are rated more highly, and their self-esteem makes them more desirable and higher-paid employees,” he writes. “Another possibility is that beauty and the attractiveness of one's personality are positively related, and that it is the general sparkle of one's personality, not one's beauty, that increases earnings.”

Researchers at Rice University and the University of Houston also conducted a study on beauty's effect on success. They limited their study to how facial appearance affects excellence in a job interview. The study found that people with facial blemishes and “disfigurements”— birthmarks, scars, blemishes — were more likely to be rated poorly by their interviewers. The interviewers tended to recall less information about these candidates', which negatively impacted their evaluations.

“The more the interviewers attended to stigmatised features on the face, the less they remembered about the candidate's interview content, and the less memory they had about the content led to decreases in ratings of the applicant,” said Juan Madera, a professor at the University of Houston and co-author of the study.

Even with the bias against the less fortunate-looking, Hamermesh says there are still ways to succeed despite one's looks. “First, don't go into an occupation where looks matter a lot,” he says in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. "Don't be a TV broadcaster; be a radio broadcaster. Don't be a movie actor. Most important, go into fields that you enjoy, and that you have an advantage in doing. Accentuate your strengths, and try to avoid those things where you are relatively disadvantaged.”

Business Insider

 

34 comments so far

  • Of course it's the case although an employer would never admit it directly. It's also applicable to more than just employment; attractive people tend to benefit in life generally.

    Commenter
    S
    Date and time
    October 08, 2012, 11:42AM
    • So, give up on that promotion is what you're telling me . . .

      Commenter
      Dom
      Location
      in the Den
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 12:17PM
      • Ive also noticed a tendency for people to hire or give higher performance/potential ratings to those who like like themselves (or look like how they perceive themselves)

        Commenter
        Melbournite
        Date and time
        October 08, 2012, 12:34PM
        • This really is a no brainer. Any female that has chosen to apply for work as a secretary, personal assistant, receptionist or high end sales will attest to how important "looks" are. Not necessarily being "pretty", but looking presentable, confident, hair and make up done nicely and wearing appropriate and acceptable clothing that suits the job you are applying for. You may be qualified for those jobs but if you do not "present" well then you aren't going to get a second interview. Men do not escape this either, they too have to "look the part" for the job they choose to apply for. The laughable part of this article is telling people to not choose a career in film because they might not be "good looking enough". Social standards of what is attractive change, talent over a pretty face is preferable for any one in any industry. Make up and special effects can take care of the wonky nose or shonky teeth for Hollywood. Just as a secretary with a smile and efficient manner will negate any of his/her physical features.

          Commenter
          Edge Burner
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          October 08, 2012, 1:06PM
          • There are plenty of ugly movie actors...
            Don't know why that should be on the list as a no go for ugly people.
            Confidence is a good one. Many people use a show of confidence to cover up their incompetence. Confidence can therefore be a good indicator of potential incompetence. Not exactly a good trait for an employee.

            Commenter
            The Sloth
            Date and time
            October 08, 2012, 1:30PM
            • Hmm, then I must be doing something terribly wrong to get a job when I'm a big-chested blue-eyed blonde with a science degree, seven years industry and government experience, and haven't been able to find a new job for the past three years...

              Commenter
              Sydney Chick
              Date and time
              October 08, 2012, 2:01PM
              • Hmm, please send your resume to bigchestedblueeyedblondewithasciencedegree@jobs.com i'll take a look, please include photo

                Commenter
                Mounty
                Date and time
                October 09, 2012, 10:49AM
              • What sort of science ?

                Commenter
                enno
                Location
                sydney
                Date and time
                October 09, 2012, 2:32PM
              • @Mounty

                Just love it...

                Commenter
                Amused
                Location
                Sydney
                Date and time
                October 10, 2012, 10:15AM
            • *waits for the amusing comments* :)

              Commenter
              Lynz
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              October 08, 2012, 2:38PM

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