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Attention Workforce: Appearance Matters

Have you ever notice that the roles of high powered executives and successful business leaders are almost always depicted by tall and strikingly attractive actors, both in the movies and on TV? Well, a slew of recent studies and surveys prove that a pleasant personal appearance does in fact directly correlate to success. Hollywood, it seems, got this one right!

 It’s a fact: those genetically gifted with long limbs and symmetrical facial features earn up to 9% more than their average-looking counterparts. But before you start consulting with plastic surgeons and dermatologists, there are some simple and relatively inexpensive steps you can take to better your appearance and potentially pump up your position and your paycheck.


Rick Wilson of Rice University studied “Fiscal Attraction” and measured the effects of good looks on the success of the subjects. Respondents stated that those who smile are considered more trustworthy than those that do not. The research further suggests that TRUST is a quality coveted in leadership roles.


Numerous studies have indicated that people distrust those with facial hair, feeling that they are “hiding something.” And results from a recent survey of more than 500 HR professionals indicate that 84% of respondents agree that well-groomed employees climb the corporate ladder faster than those who are not well-groomed.


Dress for success. Now more than ever, companies want their employees to contribute to the image of their firm by dressing the part. Last year, UBS launched a trial dress code. Some of the guidelines included: wearing classic shades of blue, black and gray; replacing worn soles or heals of shoes; avoiding jewelry of religious theme and selecting simple, white shirts with a modern cut. Of course, not everyone needs to dress like a banker to be successful. But the take-away here is valuable — look like a leader and one day you may be one!


Your mother was right! Harvard Business School’s studied “Power Posing” and found that subjects who sit or stand in a powerful position not only give the appearance of strength, they psychologically feel more powerful, successful and “in charge”.


According to the American Economic Review, “Women who wear makeup earn up to 30 percent more than those who ‘can’t be bothered’.” Indeed, in business, details count. And, like it or not, we are all being judged by the effort we put into our personal appearance. Makeup should be applied with a light touch, to enhance best features and camouflage our “less perfect” ones. Along with cosmetics, women should use restraint when wearing strong perfume, dramatic nail polish and garish accessories.


A recent study by The Journal of Applied Psychology found that skinny women had larger paychecks than their average-sized or overweight female counterparts. Furthermore, an Ohio State University study concluded that, “Although medical research shows being overweight is dangerous to one’s health, this research … finds it is also dangerous to one’s wealth. The net worth of the obese is roughly half that of those with normal body mass.”

Over the past 16 years, I’ve coached thousands of job seekers on the value of looking pulled together and professional. Many jobs have been lost by qualified candidates who did not make positive first impressions. In this precarious market, everyone in the work force should consider updating their look and trying to be the best they can be. Competition is fierce. Skill and talent are, of course, of paramount importance. But if two highly qualified candidates are vying for the same position, the more polished candidate has a distinct advantage.

The above facts and figures don’t lie … and neither does the mirror.

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