Home > Environment, Theory > Good from afar, but far from good…

Good from afar, but far from good…

Julie Smolyansky, Playboy's "Sexiest CEO"

I’m not a sociologist and I haven’t done any scientifically sound research, but I think good-looking people have an easier go at career advancement than ugly people (I know, “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder”).  As a recruiter, can you honestly tell me that your own feelings about one’s looks doesn’t play into your final recommendation about a candidate? I’m not talking about charisma, or how they dress.  I’m talking about physical appearance.  I spent 13 years of my career with Deloitte and participated heavily in campus recruiting.  I can tell you with a great deal of certainty that the “better looking” students got internships and job offers. 

Does this bias continue after recruiting? Harder to prove, but I think it may.  Wally Bock, a Twitter pal of mine, reacted strongly to a Time Magazine article on his blog, Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership BlogTime suggested one’s looks could be a predictor of one’s success as a CEO.  Although the study supported this notion, I would agree with Wally that this is a stretch.  So for grins I looked at the highest paid CEOs of 2009 via CNN Money and aside from a few I can’t say many were fetching (man’s perspective, mind you.)  Then I looked at a gallery of Fortune 500 Women CEO’s at CNN Money and I think there was a bit more of a good looks factor going on there (man’s perspective, mind you.)  But I did this in all of about 10 minutes so none of this really means jack.

I’m hoping the workplace has matured enough to put physical bias aside; but I’m skeptical.    Do those who are soft on the eyes get a leg up?  Do those who make the stomach churn get looked over?  Are the physically appealing better leaders?  Are bad-looking people poor negotiators?  Do hotties get paid more?  So I’d like to know whether in your experiences as an HR professional, or as a citizen of Corporate America, good or bad looks play a substantive role in a career.

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  1. February 8, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Nice post. Whether we like to admit it or not, the reality is that people tend to judge based on physical appearance. There have been several times in my life that I have judged someone as “intellectual” or “not-so-intellectual” based on how they appear even before engaging in conversation. It is the halo-effect that no one wants to talk about.

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