Prospective employers form impressions about you the moment you walk into the room for an interview. And several studies have shown that how you dress and walk, your grooming and facial expressions – and even your weight – can help or hinder your chances of clinching that job.
Researchers say that if your overall look creates a good impression with an interview panel, you are likely to be listened to with a higher expectation of your skills. If not, you may have to work twice as hard to gain the panel’s trust and attention.
In April 2015, researchers from University of Pennsylvania in the US published a study in the journal, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. They found that obese people were widely regarded as being less competent than people of average weight in the workplace, thus hindering their chances of landing the job.
Another study, conducted a decade earlier by New York University, arrived at similar findings. In that study, researchers found that a woman’s weight gain resulted in a decrease in her family’s income and a decline in her career ambitions.
However, fat is not the only factor that affects your chances of getting your dream job.
A study conducted in 2011 by the University of Houston and Rice University, also in Houston, discovered how facial scars or flaws could result in discrimination during job interviews.
Researchers found interviewers were so distracted by facial marks that they were vague about the candidates’ qualifications and skills, yet remembered their facial disfigurements. This, concluded the researchers, negatively influenced the evaluations of the applicants.
Sinazo Mboye, a life and business coach at Khazimla Coaching in Midrand in Johannesburg, said while snap judgments were often discriminatory and unnecessary, “physical appearance matters when one goes for an interview, because the way you look can help or hinder your success in getting the job”.
“A prospective employer would have gone through your CV and is now looking forward to meeting the person behind it. The moment you walk in, you create an impression of who you are through the clothes, accessories and makeup you are wearing,” Mboye says.
“Based on what they are seeing, they will make snap judgements. So, it is important to look presentable and neat with minimal accessories and make-up.”
Yoni Titi, the chief executive officer of Yoni Titi Human Capital Evolution – a firm specialising in executive placements and contingency recruitment – agrees with Mboye.
Titi says physical appearance plays a large role in deciding whether a candidate is suitable for the job.
“It is the unspoken truth that happens in the recruitment process. Clients [employers] are looking for a package – physical appearance, qualification, skills and social attractiveness,” she says.
“A study conducted a few years ago showed that visual, vocal and verbal cues are the three aspects employers notice, with more than 50% focusing on the visual.”
Titi says a good CV is just a foot in the door.
“How you look and present yourself plays an important role in whether you are offered a job.”
While not looking presentable and neat often hinders one’s chances of being hired, being too beautiful is also a contributing factor – especially when it comes to women.
A study published in the Journal of Sociology and Social Work last year found that pretty women were often discriminated against in the workplace because of their looks.
Researchers noted that there was a perception that attractive women were incompetent and “their success has been related to their attractiveness rather than to their ability”.
Titi says while this is not common, it does happen – especially in the corporate world.
“Women battle with the appreciation of other females who are beautiful and attractive. Some view it as a distraction; others see it as a threat because of their own insecurities,” she says.
However, she adds, being beautiful can be advantageous as managers are prone to seek employees who are socially attractive.
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