Looking good comes with a price [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]
(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) BEAUTY IS SKIN DEEP: It's been said that personal beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of reference. However, physical beauty is also a criterion for some employers, for better or worse. While above-average height, a symmetrical face and stick- thin figure have been attributed to fatter pay cheques, good looks can equally hurt people's chances of landing their dream job, learns Audrey Vijaindren.
OVER the course of a lifetime, an employee with above average looks earns up to three or four per cent more than his below average- looking peers.
However, a naive and youthful appearance may be a curse to one who's trying to fit into more masculine jobs, as some believe was the case of DAP candidate Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud, who was recently defeated in the Teluk Intan by-election.
While some swear that her good looks were the reason she was fielded, others are convinced this is the same reason she didn't garner the majority of votes.
Professional image consultant and Malaysian Association of Brand and Image Consultants (MABIC) president Wendy Lee said it was undeniable that since time immemorial, beauty sells.
"Even as babies, we're naturally attracted to things that are beautiful. Regardless of whether you're a guy or a girl, it always makes a person happier looking at someone who's attractive, fresh and happy, compared with dealing with someone's who is ungroomed, grumpy and dowdy.
"Having said that, in this day and age, being pretty or good looking doesn't cut it anymore.
"Beauty does open doors. But to make sure the door stays open, one must excel in other areas or the person must have something valuable to offer, like knowledge in certain fields."
Lee said Dyana's youthful appearance could have worked against her.
"Dyana's defeat in the Teluk Intan by-election could be because of her young and naive look and demeanour.
"As a politician, people yearn for someone mature and experienced. So, it's quite obvious that Malaysians still tie appearances to job descriptions."
Lee said the media was partly to blame for creating gender stereotypes, which take root in our psyche at an early age and continue into adulthood.
"Many films, advertisements and television shows highlight men engaged in physically demanding pursuits, such as sports, rock climbing, surfing and canoeing.
"They show young boys playing with action toys, such as trucks, robots and superhero figures. This depiction of men suggests that they are strong, adventurous and active, paving the way for them to get more masculine type of jobs.
"On the other hand, the same media shows young girls putting on make-up, brushing their hair and worrying about their appearances.
"Other advertisements show mothers serving meals to their families. Such depiction of women in such roles suggest that they are good only at performing household chores and taking care of their appearances.
"So, subconsciously, they are stereotyped by these traits when interviewed for job positions, leaving them with limited options."
She said the media was also constantly feeding the public with information that led to the public's obsession with how women should look and the type of jobs they were capable of.
"Nobody would bat an eyelid if Prince William were to wear different-coloured socks.
"But if Duchess Catherine were to appear without combing her hair, it would make headlines the next day."
Corporate Coach Academy chief executive officer Michael Heah said the obsession with beauty in the workforce was not just a local issue.
"This is not a phenomenon that is exclusive to the Malaysian work environment.
"People from many parts of the world subscribe to this strategy to attract customers.
"It is even more evident in sales and customer-related jobs, where the strategy of dressing up your worker has strong evidence of success. The reasoning is that the correct external appearance helps significantly in bringing in more sales, not much different than a prettily wrapped product, or an artistically renovated building.
"Whether we like it or not, we need to accept that people are irrational in their behaviour. It is often the case of emotions overruling the head.
"Marketers and business people know this and have been leveraging this human weakness for years."
Heah agrees that those who paid extra attention to grooming themselves might even land better jobs.
"There's a strong correlation between the two.
"The adage, first impression is a lasting impression, tells again how our filters and biases for nice things can overpower, whether we like it or not.
"Of course, those who are wiser will not be fooled or deceived by mere appearances but they are the minority rather than the majority."
However, there was little correlation between good looks and good performance, he said.
"There are people with beauty and brains, as much as brains without beauty. So many employers do not bother with this much if the job does not involve frontline service.
"Regardless of what kind of job it is, a sociable and friendly personality will always gain more points than one that doesn't bother to be attractive in this sense."
Although still present, prejudices against those who don't dress well were dropping, he added.
"More and more people in organisations are dressing down these days. Informality and casualness are seen to make people look more cool and approachable.
"Also, with more people becoming savvy, fewer people are jumping to the conclusion that appearances are everything."
Increasing your face value
SURVEYS have shown that many employers are willing to offer more to those who pay attention to grooming themselves, said professional image consultant Wendy Lee.
"A study that was aimed at testing human resources personnel on whether they would pay someone more if they were to see different photos of them - one groomed and the other not - showed that HR personnel are indeed willing to pay those who are groomed eight to 20 per cent more.
"Of course, we are not talking about someone having natural good looks, but those who take the effort to be well groomed.
"This makes sense as how you groom yourself says a whole lot about you as a person. It's a sign of respect for you as an individual, and for the person whom you will be working with. Wearing matching shirts and ties, for example, says you are someone that pays attention to detail. Putting on lipstick takes only a few seconds, but it gives one a polished look that says: `I'm healthy, alert and ready to take on the job'.
"When a person joins a company, he or she is a representative of that company. As a boss, you'd want someone who looks polished and professional, who is able to carry the brand and image of that company.
"I recall a lady boss telling her staff: `I don't pay you to look like you just crawled out from bed every morning. So, make sure you look healthy, smell nice and wear a smile to the office every day'."
Although it was a plus point to have above-average looks, it was certainly not the determining factor in landing a job unless looks were part of the `selling' process, Lee said.
"Unless one is required to sell cosmetics or skincare products, physical appearances are never a deciding factor. Not everyone needs to plaster make-up. But being well-groomed can make or break a deal.
"The basic idea is to look fresh, healthy and happy. This translates to a person having a strong sense of self awareness and confidence.
"And that correlates to a person's job performance as well. The perception is always if you can take good care of yourself, you can take extra care of the job entrusted to you."
Research, published in the Wall Street Journal, suggests that a few extra pounds or a slightly larger waistline affected an executive's perceived leadership ability as well as stamina, she said.
"How does one end up being overweight, unkempt and sloppy? It certainly doesn't happen overnight. The very fact that you can accept being unkempt and sloppy, shows where your standards lie.
"In the words of motivational speaker T. Harv Eker - how you do anything, is how you do everything. How you take care of your self will be equivalent to how you take care of your work.
"Besides that, your physical health affects your mental state and stamina as well. I had an overweight ex-colleague who constantly had health issues. One day, it would be gout, the next day, it would be high-blood pressure. At meetings, especially after lunches, bosses caught him snoring and dozing off.
"It made such a bad impression and affected his performance."
Lee said those who were not born with a face like Aishwarya Rai or Tom Cruise should take advantage of the exposure principle.
"Research show that the exposure principle increases our face value. It states that the more often you are seen with people, the more attractive and intelligent you will appear to them.
"Take care of your hair. It is very distracting to have your hair covering your face. There is a reason newscasters need to have their crowning glory groomed to perfection. Dark hair roots, baby hair, oily hair and split ends all display a lack of self-awareness.
"The same goes for the type of headscarf one uses. Gaudy colours and too much bling come across as tasteless, distracting and unprofessional.
"Take care of your teeth as they tell a tale about you. If your teeth are yellow and you look like you just ate, your face value will take a plunge. So, do everything possible to keep your teeth pearly white.
"Pay attention to your eyes, they are the windows to your soul.
"The clearer your eyes, the more attractive you will appear to be.
"Make sure you get enough sleep. If you have bloodshot eyes or dark eye rings, reach out for your concealer."
ACCORDING to a 2013 study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the United States, chief executive officers with attractive faces tended to have better stock market performance in their first days on the job and also after merger and acquisitions. The companies' stocks performed better after the CEOs appeared on television.
FIVE years ago, a study found that earnings dropped as women's body mass indexes went beyond 23, which falls within a normal weight range by the way.
Being beautiful pays
ACCORDING to recent statistics, an attractive person will have a 72 per cent chance of receiving a callback after an interview, while an unattractive person has only a 62 per cent chance.
IN 2006, another survey found that people who were more attractive in their youth were less likely than their peers to commit crimes several years after finishing school.
It has been shown that the bottom 15 per cent of women in the looks department received four per cent less pay than average- looking women.
For men, the bottom 15 per cent earned 13 per cent less than average-looking men.
Professors who were rated "hot" made six per cent more.
Evidence shows that being beautiful can hurt a woman's prospects in getting masculine jobs, such as building contractor and miner. When asked to sort photos of men and women for jobs, subjects in a 2010 study tended to put beautiful women into more feminine jobs, like secretarial positions.
Several studies have shown that height is one aspect of people's looks that is associated with higher earnings.
A University of Florida study showed that each additional inch in a worker's height added around US$790 (RM2,530) in annual pay.
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