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Average/Below-Average Looking People Can Earn as Much as the Attractive Ones

Research has shown that attractive people can not only charm interviewers (and thus get hired easier), they are also more likely to earn more as compared to those with average or below-average looks. Accordingly to a Wall Street Journal report, attractive people can earn 3% - 4% more than a person with below-average look. If such difference adds up over a person’s lifetime, an attractive person can earn up to $230,000 more than an ugly worker; even an average-looking person can make $140,000 more. Another relevant Wall Street Journal report also suggests that workers who exercise regularly can earn 9% more than those who do not.

If that is the fact (I believe it is), is it legal? Can employers do that?

Linchi Kwok and Otto
@SyracuseU Career Fair
To my knowledge, no law or regulation under EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) considers a person’s look as a protective class. It is true that people in general have an idea of what kind of person they feel attracted to, but there is really not a universal standard or criterion to “measure” how good a person looks. In addition, it is possible that attractive people make more money because of other factors. For example, attractive people might feel more confident about themselves and have a higher self-esteem, and thus, they can do a better job in selling products, service, and ideas to clients or their boss. It is also very likely that people going to the gym regularly would have a better looking body than those who do not. At the same time, they could also be healthier and better in self-discipline. Healthier and disciplined workers could also be more productive and thus earn more. Therefore, it is really difficult to draw a clear line that people get hired or promoted solely because of their attractive looks. On top of the alternative reasoning I mentioned above, there could be another possibility that people who earn more will pay more attention to their looks. They spend more money on beauty products and gym memberships. Therefore, they tend to look better than those who make less.   

Just last week, I was having lunch with several hospitality recruiters in Syracuse University’s Career Fair. I asked them to name one thing that is crucial in interviews as well as a student’s career but many hospitality programs fail to teach in classes. Guess what I heard? --- How well a student takes care of his/her look during the interviewing process and at work. Many hospitality companies set high expectations in employees’ grooming standards. It is reasonable that recruiters are looking for candidates who can dress according to the company’s guidelines, which is also supported by a qualitative study of mine

Regardless of the reason(s) why attractive people are easier to get hired or a raise, the important question here is whether people with average or below-average looks, as compared to the attractive workers, can grasp the same opportunity of getting hired or promoted. With some effort, I believe everyone can! Here are some examples:

  • Have a well-groomed appearance during interviews and at work.
  • Wear suits and professional dresses that fit a person well. According to some recruiters, it doesn’t matter if they are expensive designer’s clothes. If they do not fit, they will not look good on anyone.
  • Pay close attention to our body languages. For example, when we are having a conversation with others, it is important for us to put down what we are doing and look at the other person’s nose/face to show our attention.
  • Keep fingernails clean and in appropriate length. If fingernail polish is used, choose the conservative colors other than black, blue, or green. 
  • Do not wear tattoos or piercings, or cover them up
  • Do not wear perfume because others may feel uncomfortable with the smell.
  • Do not wear excess amount of jewelry (applied to both men and women). People do not need to wear engagement rings or wedding bands for job interviews. At work, one ring in one hand is good enough.
  • Do not wear more than one set of earrings at one time or huge earrings with exaggerating designs.

In the end, I have to admit that different industries or companies will have different expectations. It is also likely that more companies will allow employees to wear jeans, fit-flogs, or tattoos at work, but I argue that those who look professional at work can still earn more than those who do not. 

What are your suggestions? Based on your experience, have you ever seen anyone getting hired or promoted solely because of his/her attractive look?


The Art of Curiosity (about last year's Career Fair at SU)

Comments

  1. Dr. Kwok-
    You raise many issues that are relevant in today’s world of human resources. Although one’s attractiveness is not a class protected by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) an important question still remains in whether or not it is okay to discriminate against less attractive people. I agree with many of the points you speak of throughout the article. Good-looks is not a concrete, set in stone measurement and thus it would be difficult to judge whether or not someone is being discriminated because of their looks.
    While statistics may prove that better looking people earn more money than bad to average looking people, I find the statistics to people slightly skewed. I agree with you that people who go to the gym are not only more self-disciplined but might be harder workers as well. The fact that they are fit is not what makes them more money but it may be their attitude towards certain things. You also raise an interesting point that people who earn more money are able to spend more money on things that make them look more attractive such as beauty products and gym memberships.
    The important thing for us as future employees is that we need to make sure we look presentable not only while interviewing for the job but while working on the premises as well. How you present yourself when you first meet a future employer is often the first impression that employer will have on you, and can play a role in being hired or not.

    Sam C

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think that limiting your applicant pool to those that you find more appealing is somewhat arrogant. Being found attractive may go along with being a well groomed individual but they shouldn't at all be classified together if an interview is being conducted and the decision is based on the "attractiveness" of the person. Having worked as a bank teller, I am completely understanding of hiding tattoos, no tolerance to wet hair, watching your body language, as well as limited jewelry and nail polish. But none of these criteria ever mention that the person behind the desk has to be attractive. To ever base a wage on a person's looks is disgusting. -Emily Gould

    ReplyDelete
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  4. Dr. Kwok, we talked about this topic in depth in class and it does raise many issues in the HR department. It is extremely unethical to be hiring and paying salaries based on looks of employees, but it is not considered illegal. Since it isn't illegal there is no way for EEOC to protect these people and their jobs. So many of what recruiters looks for is actually based on solely looks. As you mentioned above, looks are a prevalent part of our society, especially through the work force when people are supposed to act a certain way. I do agree that people who work out and follow a healthy strict life style have more self determination and motivation, which could mean they are better workers but not necessarily. I think the problem with hiring and promoting based on looks is that you could be completely wrong about the person. HR departments should keep a more open mind when it comes to scenarios like this, because you should never judge a book by its cover. In my opinion, attitude is a hugely important aspect in how people perceive you. If you have a happy optimistic view in the workplace you will be viewed better and have more fun with your work. It is important for a new employee to give the company the best first impression they can, and not just based on looks!

    -India Kessler

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dr. Kwok, this blog addresses several important issues that are becoming more and more significant in the world of employment. I think you made an important point when you said that regardless of dress codes and hygiene, the issues is "whether people with average or below-average looks, as compared to the attractive workers, can grasp the same opportunity of getting hired or promoted." In contrast to this, I think it is important to promote proper dress code, hygiene and well-groomed hair among people that have already been hired. Overall, the application process shouldn't involve physical appearance until the person is hired.
    -Olivia DeSalvo

    ReplyDelete
  6. Being well dressed and well groomed is different than having average - below/average looks. The idea that employers would not hire an employee based on their features is just wrong even if it is not something protected by the EEOC. When discussing the interviewees dress and cleanliness, I feel as though it is reasonable to expect them to be dressed appropriately. If a person does not come to an interview dressed well, then how would they show up to work on a daily basis. I believe it is crucial for the applicant to look their best and give the employer a great first impression.
    Jen Kaplan

    ReplyDelete
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  10. I think that people who are considered more attractive than others is due to there physical appearance. Everyone has different "taste" but the people who dress nicely and are groomed well will come off looking more attractive than those who do not clean themselves up well. In this case I do think that people who groom themselves should be getting paid/ or earn more than those who do not groom themselves. I think this because it shows that those people actually care about themselves and how they come off in a professional setting. Personally, I would rather work with someone who is in good health and looks well groomed. However, I do not think this is saying attractive people make more than less attractive people. There is no standard for what is attractive and what is not.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Although I agree that appearance is important and should be considered when being interviewed, I don’t agree that it should be such a huge deal. I mean, everyone has heard of the term “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I believe that professional attire is a given when you are going to an interview and every job requires a different dress code, so to have one generalized list of how you should look is inconsiderate.

    Many companies these days have a more laid back and casual ambiance, i.e. Google, and I feel that slicked back hair, a full suit and a briefcase will make you seem too uptight for the job. I’m not saying that you should go to an interview looking like you had too much fun at the bars last night because looking decent is still very important. The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to do some research before going to the interview because sometimes, there is such a thing as being overly dressed.

    -Cindy L.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Dr. Kwok,

    I believe you raise two great points in this post.
    1)Hospitality companies can set their expectations high regarding employees’ grooming standards, but it still does not guarantee them a spot in the company.
    2)Even though there is research that shows that “attractive” people tend to earn more compared to those with average or below-average looks, it still does not mean that their qualifications are higher.

    Therefore, my insights on this issue are similar to yours. One does not have to have "average or below-average looks," but they need to have character. I believe that the way you present yourself is one the most important factors during interviews and recruitment. It would not be the best if you came in with crumbs all over your mouth or tissue paper lingering on your shoe. No one will take you seriously. Hence, though you may not appear to be "perfect" in the eyes of one recruiter, to another you at least exceed your own expectations and maybe even theirs. All hope is not lost.

    -Helen Peng

    ReplyDelete
  13. Dr. Kwok raises some very important points in terms of how to appropriately dress and look when trying to get a job or internship. But I also believe that your looks shouldn’t determine how qualified you are for a position. I agree that looking professional is a must. It is very important to be well groomed for an interview and for a working environment, but something that has always bothered me about employers was the idea of tattoos being frowned upon. I understand that it can look somewhat unprofessional depending on what your tattoo is of, but I also feel like some tattoos are nothing for employers to frown upon or let be the decision factor if someone gets a job or not. I feel that if you are qualified for the job, you should get it.

    -Lizzy Pannucci

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is an interesting topic and I believe that in the hospitality looking professional is a standard and so grooming yourself to make an impression is needed to provide respectable customer service. However, good lucks do not determine the person's ability to excel in every or any job.

    As I read your blog post Dr. Kwok, I can't help but think about how biased many industries can be when it comes to hiring people. Let's take a look at the retail industry and the modeling industry. These industries hire young and attractive people to market their company or model their clothes. Although everyone has a different level of attraction for looks, retail companies like Aldo shoes inc. or Abercrombie & Fitch all of their retail agents and models are young and attractive.

    Yes, they have a target market but they are not opening the field up for people in their 30's to work who actually wear their brands. I had a friend who had an interview for a clothing store and he was well over the age of 25 and made it to the group interview where he was the oldest in the group. He unfortunately didn't get the job but he made it to the finals. His competition were people in the age rang of 18-21. This only shows to me that industries as such are looking for "young and hip" because thats whats attractive to consumers who they target.

    -Christine D.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I believe that people’s appearance at interview and work very importance. Once during a conference, a registered dietitian shared her tips of getting an internship. She mentioned that a student of her, who had a very high GPA, lots of volunteering experiences, excellent recommendation letters, who was believed can pass the interview easily, turned out to be rejected immediately. After the interview, the dietitian even received a phone call from the interviewer explained the reason. The only reason that the student was rejected was because she worn a pair of flip flaps to the interview. When asked about the reason why she did that, the student argued that it was her best pair of flip flaps, “they have sequins on them”.

    To me, a person’s appearance can reveal a lot more than just his/her look, it also shows the person’s characteristic, attitude, health condition so on and so forth. At interviews or work place, people’s appearance can reveal how much they understand and respect the working industry, and what role they are playing in it. Those characteristics are exactly what the employers are looking to see, and that is why the appropriate dress code and appearance are very importance at interviews.


    Jie Ren NSD314

    ReplyDelete
  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is such an interesting topic and I have to agree with some of the points you made. I have seen this happen before at a place I worked at. There was a managerial position available and they hired from within. Out of the four people that interviewed the one that received the position was better groomed and had no tattoos or piercings (the others did). Granted I don't believe this is the only reason he got the position, but I think it played a role in their decision process. That also has more to do with grooming standards than actual looks of a person. Although, I agree with what you said - that attractive people are usually more confident in themselves and therefore automatically more likely to be picked out of the interview process. I don't know if it is actually possible to prove this information based on looks, but think of the wealthiest person you know. I know when I think of that they are better groomed, more fit and attractive than others I know; they are also the most confident. If you take pride in who you are and your appearance then I think your confidence can override your attractiveness. I believe it is the confidence that would help attractive people make more money, not their looks. –Amber Jones

    ReplyDelete
  18. You made many interesting points in this post. I am personally not surprised by these statistics and quotes. Appearance is everything when it comes to business, so how an employee looks reflects on the company. It also demonstrates, as you stated, commitment to a healthy lifestype and represents discipline. The qualities that are associated with being fit are characteristics that managers and employers would want in the work place such as hard working, committed, and healthy, among others. Their attitude will also be reflected by their appearance because, in our society, overweight or unpolished people are viewed as lazy. I worked at a gym for several years, and my boss decided himself that he had to lose weight because no one would want to come to a gym where the owner was overweight. His image was reflecting on the company, and the business even though it had nothing to do with the quality of the gym.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I find that in the real world, people who are more attractive tend to get the job. This is evident in social media as well, such as movies, tv shows, ect. I agree with the point made about more attractive people being more confident overall. This is a huge part of why more attractive people tend to get the job. If you see a tall, beautiful woman waltz into an interview with confidence and determination, she will obviously get the job over the next girl who is less-attractive, more heavyweight, and does not have the same boosting personality. It is unfortunate that society works this way, but it is almost unavoidable. I believe that a less-attractive person can easily get the job however if they radiate the best personality and best version of themselves that they possibly can. Even though employers may tend to chose the more attractive or more physically fit candidate, it is evident that if you put your best efforts forward and show self-confidence and perseverance, you will get the job. I personally believe that attitude is everything, and having a good attitude will help you get through everything life throws at you.
    - Kayla Cord, NSD 314, Spring 2013

    ReplyDelete
  20. I think it depends on the field of work whether or not appearance matters. For example when I was visiting colleges and learning about their different nutrition programs I was more hesitant to learn from instructors who were overweight. If they cannot follow their own advice how do they plan to get other people to? To me it shows they do not practice what they teach and may not be as passionate about the subject. In a field like nutrition I think it is important to be in shape and look healthy, the more fit and attractive you look the more people will want to take your advice to look like you. I am inspired by my nutrition professors at SU who very clearly take health seriously and practice it in their daily lives.
    -Erin Castle

    ReplyDelete
  21. I would be outraged if it was blatantly obvious that someone got hired just because they were attractive or if someone didn't get hired just because they were not attractive. However, this probably isn't usually the case. Most people subconsciously judge people all the time. I bet if someone walking by a restaurant were to see an attractive person working, they would be more likely to go there. I even have a friend who tips pretty waitresses more money, even if they weren't given the best service.
    The more attractive person may appear to take care of themselves more and therefore may take care of work more. However, there are also a lot of people who don't really care what they look like but can be passionate about their work. Although, there is also a level of professionalism that must be met... you must not look completely sloppy at work. There is a balance to be achieved.
    This article is very interesting and I will pay more attention to this now.
    -Emily Kratz

    ReplyDelete
  22. I believe that confidence is the key factor in image situations. It makes sense that some people who are attractive and take very good care of themselves might have more confidence than people who don't. However, if someone who isn’t considered attractive shows the employer that they are the best person for the job, then I feel that there is a very likely chance that he/she will be hired, regardless of how they look. This does, however, depend on what kind of job the person is being hired for. For instance, if somebody is being hired for a job position as a model or actor/actress, then obviously how they look will play a big role in whether they are hired or not. With an exception to those types of jobs, I feel that ability and experience should definitely be the top priorities in the hiring process (with also the consideration that the person shows up to work/interviews in a presentable manner).

    Danielle Marino
    NSD 314

    ReplyDelete
  23. I would like to comment on this topic, as it seems very interesting to me. First what I don't understand is how they could do any relevant studies that compare peoples attractiveness. This is such a debatable issue and there are so many ways to characterize being attractive. I think to most employers they don't look for a physical attractiveness, but a professional one. This being someone that is well groomed well dressed and looks presentable to represent their company, as you somewhat mentioned. I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, we can all pretend we don't judge people by their looks, but the truth is we do. We are by nature judgmental the appearance of others. I think if an employer does not hire someone because they are not physically attracted to someone, but I don't think this happens very often and if it was to happen who would want to work for that employer? Another point I would like is that I do believe the opposite of this may happen more often. If a woman is the Director of a company and finds herself to be attractive she may not hire girls that she finds more physically attractive than herself. I have witnessed this a few times and believe this is equally wrong, so while I'm not sure if I trust the sources or information claiming less attractive people make less money, I do feel it is such a debatable subject that there really is no answer. Amanda Vadala

    ReplyDelete
  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  25. I believe that "attractive" people are more easily hired and may get paid more due to a few reasons. As this article mentions, people who work out and take care of themselves may present themselves with more confidence, thus making them better at their job, not just "better looking". If an employer is in a position where he/she has two candidates with great qualitites and equal experience, why wouldn't he/she hire someone who carries themself in confident and attractive manner. After all, most businesses run on money and I think that some people are willing to pay a little more money for an experience that is easy on the eyes. For instance, relating back to Hooters, would you really want to see a less-than-attractive lady in the uniform with a lack of self confidence coming to your table or would you prefer the attractive, confident, and smiling waitress? I think it's pretty obvious who I, even as a female, would prefer to give a tip to.

    -Shelagh Ramsden
    NSD314

    ReplyDelete
  26. This topic is very interesting! I think it is true that many hospitality companies are seeking employees who are more "attractive". I understand this, since the most important part for hospitality work is communicate and interact with customers and guests. If you dont have a "attractive" appearance, it would be a little bit hard for you to work later. For example, the company has two employees, one is good looking employee and the other is not that attractive but has a great personality, the customer would definitely go ask the attractive one for help at first. However, if this good looking employee does not a great personality, he/she would "lost" customers too. So, i think to work in the hospitality field, you need to both look comfortable(here I mean professional, clear and fresh look, not your appearance) and have a great personality or community skills with your customers.
    NSD 314---Di Yang

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am certain that high self esteem, high self confidence and perceived attractiveness are often tied together and that one reflects the other but that looks are not the only factor that determine your worth as a person or as an employee. Although good looks cant hurt I also believe that a successful and shrewd employer would put just as much weight into your verbal skills, knowledgeabilty, skill sets(etc.) and to how you carry and present yourself.You would do well to look into the company that you are applying at beforehand, find out how others typically dress for the position you wish to attain, and dress accordingly. Show up groomed as befits the job. Your resume, previous experience, optimism, and qualifications will also impress and are also a key component of the interview process. Show them why they need you and what you can bring to the table. Let your enthusiasm show.
      That said there can also be times when being overly attractive can be a disadvantage. For instance if your a female looking for a job in a conservative business office you will probably want to focus on keeping your outfits, make-up, and clothing more subdued and simple without focus on sexuality so as not to be seen as the "bubble headed blonde".
      In the end I think there are many variables that go into your ability to obtain a job with professionalism being most important!

      Delete
  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  28. While I do not want to believe that more attractive people get hired more easily and make more money because of their looks, I definitely see this being an issue and happening. Because it is hard to necessarily say “being attractive” is the reason someone is being hired, it is never, or almost never used as a discriminatory act. I think a lot of this has to do with being “put-together” well. Someone may not be the most beautiful or handsome person one has ever seen, but may know how to clean up nicely. I think it is important to remember that how one looks and dresses is the very first impression someone gets and it is important to express a little bit of oneself in the way one looks. Also, employers may immediately assume that better-looking people have higher self-esteem and confidence. While this may not be the case, from the outside to the employers, there is only so much they know and this helps to make their decision. Most times, I think employers want to hire people who know how to look nice, regardless of if the applicant can win the next beauty pageant or if he or she is average but know how to dress and look clean.

    R. Herbstman

    ReplyDelete
  29. I think that this is a great post and it is something that is overlooked by many young adults who are going into an interview. I understand that people who dress nice and present themselves better are more likely to get a better job or get paid for but I do not agree with the fact that if a person is more attractive or thinner than they should receive a higher salary. What makes a person more beautiful from the next? No one in this world has the authority to tell others that someone is more beautiful becasue beauty is based on personal opinion.

    I attended FNCE this fall and during one of the sessions a woman was telling us about how she interviewed a young girl for a position at her company. The girl was dressed in a slick black pant suit and all her credentials were amazing. The woman planned on hiring her the next day. The young girl then thanked the employer and walked out the door. In that instance the employer said goodbye and looked down at the young girl as she was walking out and realized she was wearing cheap flip flops. The woman explained to us that even though the girl was very bright, and would be a great contribution to their company she could not hire someone who didn't dress themselves respectively for an interview, becasue this showed that the girl wasn't serious about her interview and might not take her position in the company serious as well. Overall I do not agree that how good looking a person is should depicts their salary but I do think how they present themselves could be a deciding factor in hiring them. - Alyssa Resnick

    ReplyDelete
  30. I think this is an excellent topic of conversation because there is no right or wrong opinion. I personally believe that physical attractiveness is an asset just like a good personality or sense of humor. Interviewers look at the individual as someone who represents their company. If hired they will become a member of their team and represent them when in public or at the work place. I believe that whether it is subconscious or not employers will look favorably to more attractive people than to below average people. Weight status is an issue also. If you are interviewing for a job that has a lot of physical activity or hands on work then the employer may not think you the best candidate. Also weight status can reflect your personality. Someone who is at a healthy weight and make the time to cook their own meals and work out then they prove to have a better work ethic which will translate into their work. Having said all this the steps listed in the above article can go a long way for the any job candidate. Through good health practice and awareness of your body and appearance anybody can be successful.

    Frank

    ReplyDelete
  31. Don’t say if a company would hire an applicant by his/her appearance because besides the recruiters no one would know why the recruiters say yes to this applicant. We are in a society that judging people by appearance, we all know we should not determine a person’s ability from how he looks. But honestly, how many people can do that? Making a decision only because he is hard working and have outstanding experience than the others? I doubt. We all like beautiful thing/people, no wonder people would treat people that look better nicer. Therefore, in the interview process, it’s critical to leave a good first impression to the interviewers.


    ---Zishen He, HPM 314

    ReplyDelete

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