How to Overcome Beauty Prejudice
By Jon Michail
She looks as though she has everything. That long, curly hair without a whisper of frizz. The cheekbones that could cut glass. The rosebud lips that never need Chapstick, the slim gangly limbs of a greyhound matched with perfectly rounded boobs and butt. Her eyes twinkle with warmth. She looks as though she has everything… but does she? Are looks really everything?
Countless studies have shown that the beautiful people are the ones who find it easier to get ahead in the world. They get the best seats in the restaurant, they get to cut the line at the nightclub. They get better job opportunities and they get paid more. They attract better looking partners and friends. They’re even more likely to be better athletes.
It would seem that the beautiful ones have advantages that the average majority don’t. Or do they?
According to Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson PhD, you can be too attractive for your own good, especially in the workplace. She tells a story of a beautiful candidate who missed out on an opening in a university program because the senior professor felt that the woman would make the rest of them feel as though “they weren’t pretty enough.”
This is interesting as we might well assume that people hold unconscious biases against those who are less good looking. But here we see conscious, thought-through bias, against a woman because of her good looks. And the motivation behind the bias of these highly educated, academically minded individuals was plain old jealousy.
Other reasons have been cited for not hiring someone who is deemed to be too good looking, including:
· Being a distraction. The opposite sex can’t concentrate on the job at hand.
You may think this consideration went out with 1950s housewives. When women entered the workplace in force, there was presumably no more reason to worry that their mad men would be falling for pretty, single secretaries.
However, it appears that this is still a concern to employers, and can negatively impact the chances of both sexes.
· Brains versus Beauty. Being too pretty means that they’re not very smart.
It’s an old stereotype, but stereotypes have a way of sticking with us subconsciously because they are so simple and so prevalent.
Such reductive reasoning may not be very fair, but it saves people an awful lot of time and effort when they can neatly pigeon-hole people rather than getting to know them better.
· Decreased corporate loyalty. “With their looks they could go anywhere…”
One of the reasons employers avoid hiring someone who is “over-qualified” for the job, is the belief that the employee will hold their job in contempt, and think nothing of jumping ship the second something better comes along.
So it turns out you can be over-qualified in the beauty stakes too – with the fear that when someone has the world falling at their feet, loyalty won’t be a high priority virtue.
· Jealousy. Would you hire a younger, prettier woman or a handsome man who might overtake you in the workplace?
There’s somehow this assumption that it’s socially acceptable to be a genius, as long as you are no more than moderately good looking. Or that a gorgeous individual can be forgiven for a little mental… vagueness. Of course, a good sense of humour will make up for any “deficiencies” in looks or brains. But when someone is a triple threat – beautiful, brainy, and personable – it tends to make us mere mortals feel a tiny twinge of jealous inadequacy.
· Negative personality assumptions. Beautiful people are more ruthless, heartless, self-absorbed, superficial.
In order to keep the green-eyed-monster in check, people tell themselves that beautiful people can’t possibly have the whole package. It isn’t possible.
Everyone has met someone who was beautiful and ruthless, gorgeous but vain – so it’s not that hard to convince themselves that these beautiful people were representative of their kind. That as nice as these people might seem, deep down they aren’t really good people. After all, no one can be beautiful and kind and interesting. They can’t have it all – it just isn’t fair!
· Unapproachable. Some beautiful people are just too intimidating to talk to.
However large a workplace is, it still tends to turn into a strange little separate world. Everyone knows getting along with their co-workers is important, but this is hard if we feel that they are somehow out of our league – too far above us in their own world of perfection for us to ever work together effectively as team mates.
It has been shown that, when hiring, the more adverse reactions come from those employers who were of the same sex as the candidates. After all, it makes sense that we would want beautiful people of the opposite sex around the workplace, for innocent flirting and pipe-dreams.
“It has been shown that the more adverse reactions come from those employers who were of the same sex as the candidates.”
But beautiful people of the same sex fall into a different category. Biologically speaking, they are our rivals in the contest of life. This holds especially true for those jobs such as sales, where team members are often competing against each other as well as other companies. Why hire someone who is more than likely going to surpass your own performance?
So, what do you do if you’re at the pinnacle of good looks? How do you hold your own when it comes to getting that dream job?
When it comes to that interview, go for an authentic yet professional look. Present like what they would expect in their position. First focus on how you will solve the organisation’s challenges and then focus on your qualifications and achievements. Be polite, disarming, and most importantly, let them know how you will help to achieve the business’s goals. If you are not sure, get the right coaching, I promise it will boost your confidence.
And if you’re the one doing the hiring, be aware of your own beauty prejudices. If Cinderella is the best person for the job, it would be extremely unprofessional to act like the Ugly Sister.
What’s your experience?
Jon Michail and his team at Image Group International partner with their clients to achieve breakthrough results with contrarian and disruptive ways to grow and monetise their personal and business brands. A veteran coach with a Who’s Who clientele, Jon is the CEO and Founder of Image Group International, an Australian-based corporate and personal brand image advisory and coaching organisation that conducts transformational seminars, workshops and one-on-one coaching in over four continents. He is recognised as Australasia’s No. 1 Image Coach.