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Pretty People Need Not Apply

Marty Nemko said he prefers to hire "ugly" and encourages others to follow suit.

Marty Nemko said he prefers to hire "ugly" and encourages others to follow suit.

Do looks matter in the job market?

Historically, most of the research done on the subject says yes, looks matter. Recruiters and hiring managers, whether deliberately or by letting their subconscious rule their conscious, tend to hire more attractive employees. You like what you see and place more weight on the pretty people. It’s one of the intangible qualities that might help a manager decide between two employees, even if they don’t realize why they’re doing it.

A recent study by University of Florida professor Timothy Judge  reportered in Science Daily found that “people who were rated good-looking made more money, were better educated and were more confident.”

Marty Nemko, a columnist at Kiplinger’s magazine, doesn’t buy it. Nemko said he prefers to hire “ugly” and encourages others to follow suit.

Hire ugly. All other things being equal, I’d give the nod to an ugly candidate. It’s not charity: They have less value in the marketplace and can be hired less expensively, even though looks have, for most jobs, little or no bearing on job performance. I’ve found that, on average, ugly people are more likely to be kind and to work harder because they know they’re working at a disadvantage. And unattractive people are more likely to stay with me because they tend to have a tough time getting hired, in part because they generally don’t network efficiently. If I treat unattractive employees well, they’re usually very loyal.

Nemko doesn’t try to back up his advice with any sort of researcher data, just his gut feeling and experience. But there may be some wisdom in it. A researcher at the University of South Australia released a report in August that showed women were less likely to make a purchase from a sales clerk who was more attractive than they.

Perhaps we’ve known it all along. We’ve all heard the legend of the pretty girl who makes certain she’s the prettiest girl in the room by never befriending a more attractive woman, and Congressional staffers and correspondents tell tales of legislators who ensure the supremacy of their wit by surrounding themselves with less-intelligent aides.

The takeaway for job seekers is essentially not to sweat your physical appearance. There’s not much you can do about it, anyway.

Convey self-acceptance about your looks. Even if you optimize your looks, some people will still see “ugly” when they see you. Looks are an 800-pound gorilla in the room. If, however, you occasionally mention your looks in a self-accepting way, it will become less of an issue. For example, in a meeting, you might say, “Well, John, you’re the studly one. Maybe you, rather than I, should be the public face on this project.” Or when someone says, “I’m having a bad hair day,” say, “That’s one thing we baldies don’t have to worry about.”

(Ugly by ianduffy via Flickr, CC3.0)

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