All That Glitters Is (Sometimes) Gold: Why Attractiveness Influences Hiring Decisions
Earlier today, my OpenView recruiting teammate Carlie Smith wrote a post that responded to a few articles that suggested prettier people are more successful and hirable. For example, Inc.com recently published an article outlining research and data points that suggest that, yes, attractiveness can influence hiring decisions and lead to greater business success.
To her credit, Carlie makes a compelling argument against that suggestion. In her post, she explains that hiring decisions are — and should be — based primarily on fundamental qualities that make a great employee, rather than superficial ones that simply make someone nicer to look at.
And while I agree with Carlie, I have to be honest. Fair or not, I believe that highly attractive people tend to be more successful. And, whether we want to admit it or not, those people’s physical appearance, without question, tends to play in their favor when hiring decisions are being made. That’s not to say that unqualified blondies should all of a sudden be given promotions all over town. But I do believe there is a positive correlation between looks and overall success.
Let me explain.
First, I think human biology and nature come into play. We’re programmed to be attracted to, well, attractive things, right? So does our innate psyche makes us want to work with pretty people? Call me shallow, but I think it probably does. Now, I don’t think it’s fair to say that beautiful people are automatically successful (because that’s just not true), but it’s not unreasonable to suggest that they are exposed to more opportunities because of their beauty, which inevitably opens more doors and raises their likelihood of success.
Some of the aforementioned articles, including the Inc.com one, attempt to explore the true definition of “attractiveness” beyond physical looks. For example, attractiveness might be impacted by things like charisma, confidence, and leadership. In other words, someone that demands respect and has a contagious personality might be considered attractive, even if they aren’t what most people would consider stereotypically beautiful. I absolutely agree with that sentiment. I think we’re all naturally attracted to people that embody certain traits.
As for how that all ties back to hiring decisions, part of Inc.’s article on this topic included an example of interviewers forgetting about candidates that had some fairly obvious physical disparities (i.e., visible scars, birthmarks, etc.). By contrast, someone that possessed natural beauty and the traits of attractiveness listed above tend to really stick out in interviewers’ minds. After all, when a potential candidate’s main objective is to get an interviewer to like him or her, being nice to look at can’t hurt. And neither can exuding confidence or appearing strong-willed.
All of that being said, there is no way a hiring manager would say something like this: “Yes, let’s hire or promote him or her, because that person is smoking hot!” Although, if I’m being honest, I’ve heard statements that are pretty close to that before. Rather, what typically happens is that someone who is perceived as attractive could possibly make a deeper impression than their average-looking counterparts. I find this to be especially true in frequent customer/client facing roles like sales or account management.
So, does being a neck-breaker automatically make you a winner in the workplace? Nah, probably not automatically, but I bet it does put you ahead of the curve. Is that fair? Probably not. But as most of us have learned, life isn’t always fair.
Click here to read Carlie Smith’s counterpoint to this post.