Business & Finance Medical Practice

Do Looks Matter For Professional Success?

Author: Dr. Rohini R

Over time, we may have observed that an attractive appearance paves way to professional success and formation of strong positive impressions.

This topic is complex and not black and white. Hence, I would like to keep it unbiased and scientific. 

While people like to believe that professional success is because of a combination of intelligence, talent, effort, drive, skill and engaging personality, research shows that success is skin deep and connected to good looks of a person. There have been numerous studies which demonstrate, that people who are more attractive are more successful when it comes to business, job interviews, clinical practice, court and workplace.

Research shows that appearance strongly influences other people’s perception of a person’s financial success, authority, trustworthiness, intelligence and suitability for hire or promotion. Personal appearance, influences a person’s chances for career advancement.

Studies show that good looks have a direct impact on salaries and promotions.  Good looks leads to about 9% higher pay for men and 5% higher pay for women than average looking people.  The way a person appears, dresses and carries oneself can impact a person’s ability to get hired, get promoted and make more money.  

Researchers have regularly concluded that the workplace, favors those who are very good-looking, as well as those who are tall, healthy weight and those who have a good smile and teeth. The more attractive a person, the easier it is for them to climb up the career ladder, researchers say. Good looks and potential are two keys of a much larger puzzle.

A psychological concept called “halo effect” has strong ties to beauty. Experiments have shown that attractive people are considered as more sociable, intelligent, dominant, warm, stable, mentally healthy and socially skilled than compared to less attractive people, as though an invisible “halo” were shining down upon the beautiful.

What does scientific research say? Are attractive people are more successful in life?

Numerous scientific research studies have found a connection between good looks and professional success   Results from various research done by economists and psychologists across the world show that:

  • Good-looking people earn more: Attractive employees are considered more capable and efficient by employers.  Employers pay about 5% higher salaries to attractive employees than over unattractive people.
  • Tall people earn more money: Taller people have higher self-esteem, which impacts their performance and professional success. 
  • Blondes earn more: Blondes earn about 7% more than non-blondes (in the west).
  • Attractive employees are more confident: Confidence translates into greater academic achievements, professional success and increased remunerations.
  • Physical attractiveness increases social and communication skills: which in return raises an employer’s assessment of the employee’s productivity and impacts the course of a person’s career. 
  • Attractive people are more likely to get elected to public office:  Research found both male and female political candidates who look better than their competitors are more successful. 
  • Attractive people get called for job interviews more often: Attractive appearance can significantly influence the success of an interview.  
  • Appearance of a company’s CEO is related to shareholder value:  Good-looking bosses were found to be more competent, collaborative and better delegators than their less attractive counterparts.  Good looking CEOs have a positive and significant impact on stock returns and the stock prices of their businesses is high.
  • Women who wear make-up: are considered to be more competent and earn at least 30% more salary than non-makeup wearing colleagues. 
  • Attractive teachers can teach students better: Students learn more and retain more information from attractive educators. 
  • Attractive doctors create positive impressions. Attractive doctors earned on average up to 10% more than their less attractive counterparts.
  • Studies show that patients are less likely to follow advice of overweight or obese doctors. 

What about in India?

Most of these results hold good in India as well. However, in India, attractive people are considered less intellectual (especially in the case of women) by colleagues, teachers, seniors and family. However, it has been found that attractive people do get further ahead with clients and public, when you take into account entrepreneurs and doctors in private practice or those in the race to top mangement in MNCs, etc.

What does being attractive mean?

The age old saying of “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” may be true here. In a professional setting, being attractive is different from the unrealistic beauty standards set by the media. You are not required to look like a supermodel, have the perfect body, facial structure and skin.

Being attractive when it comes to professionals, comes down to the following, based of several surveys conducted across the world:

  • Your overall appearance, pleasant you appear and the way you carry yourself.
  • Your style (Being well dressed with a neat hairstyle)
  • Being true to yourself – maybe your style is quirky and unique, but if you can pull it off with confidence, that can make you look very attractive.
  • Confidence
  • Communication skills
  • Personality
  • Good manners
  • Emotional intelligence

Personality and confidence are major contributing factors. People with a great personality, communication skills,  positive attitude, warm smile, empathy and emotional intelligence are often considered attractive. 

What can you do to look attractive?

A person planning on achieving professional success would benefit by make oneself as attractive within reasonable limits.   Few pointers to look attractive include: 

  • Maintaining personal hygiene and cleanliness. 
  • Maintaining ideal weight: Going to the gym at least three times a week to lose excess weight and ensure that the body is toned. 
  • Dressing for Success: Wearing properly pressed formal wear clothes that fits perfectly is likely to create a positive impression.  Clothing norms to be followed in a workplace (based on results from surveys conducted across the world) include:
    • Always follow the dress code. 
    • Don’t show too much skin. 
    • Avoid jewelry that is too flashy or obnoxious. 
    • Don’t wear shorts. 
    • Don’t wear wrinkled clothing. 
    • Never wear dirty clothes. 
    • Wear appropriate shoes and accessories. 
    • Wear clothes that fit well. 
  • Getting the right hairstyle: Get the right cut and style that suits one’s facial features. 
  • Boosting your confidence: There several factors that can bring down one’s morale and confidence. This could be because difficulty communicating, social anxiety, weight and skin issues or mental health. You may take steps or seek support to find solutions and help you feel more confident and boost self-esteem.
  • Attitude: A positive and confident attitude elicits trust.
  • Getting enough sleep will avoid having dark circles and prevent looking unhealthy or haggard.  
  • Using positive body language and facial expressions. Positive people have high self-confidence and self-esteem and are considered to be physically attractive than people who are negative and pessimistic.

To summarize, looking attractive comes down to looking sharp and not sloppy – People who appear sloppy in a workplace give off the impression to clients that everything about them is sloppy. 

Whilst attractiveness is not the be-all and end-all, it does play a significant role in achieving professional success, based on scientific research and surveys conducted.

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