Wired for Success

How to fulfill your potential

Good looks will get you that job, promotion and raise

Beautiful people have the advantage in the workplace

Despite the sophisticated HR advances in hiring and compensation practices, it appears your appearance, and particularly good looks, still matter.

One expert, Catherine Hakim, a professor of sociology at the London School of Economics, and author of the book, Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom even suggests that professional women should use their "erotic capital" - beauty, sex appeal, charm, dress sense, liveliness, and fitness - to get ahead at work. Hakim is an expert on women's employment and theories of female status in society.

According to Hakim, the ''beauty premium'' is an important economic factor in our careers, citing a U.S. survey that found good-looking lawyers earn between 10 and 12 per cent more than less good-looking colleagues. Moreover, she says, an attractive person is more likely to land a job in the first place, and then be promoted. "Meritocracies are supposed to champion intelligence, qualifications, and experience. But physical and social attractiveness deliver substantial benefits in all social interaction - making a person more persuasive, able to secure the co-operation of colleagues, attract customers and sell products," she writes in a column for a London newspaper.

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Other research has shown that individuals tend to find attractive people more intelligent, friendly and competent than less attractive people. A University of British Columbia study found that people identify the personality traits of people who are physically attractive more accurately than others during short encounters. The study conducted by Jeremy Biesanz, Lauren Human and Genevieve Lorenzo, showed a positive bias toward attractive people. "If people think Jane is beautiful, and she is very organized and somewhat generous, people will see her as more organized and generous than she really is," says Biesanz. The researchers say this is because people hare motivated to pay closer attention to beautiful people.

A second study by Duke University researchers John Graham, Campbell Harvey and Manju Puri found CEOs are more likely than non-CEOs to be rated as competent looking. The team found that CEOs rated competent just by their appearance tended to have higher incomes.

A Tufts University study by psychologists Nicholas Rule and Nalini Ambady found a random sample of people could rte the competence, dominance, likeability, maturity and trustworthiness just be examining the facial photographs of CEOs.

Finally, researchers Elaine Wong at the University of Wisconsin and her colleagues at The London Business School examined the faces of CEOs and determined that CEOs with wider faces had better performing companies than CEOs with narrow faces.

So it seems that physical appearance is a significant factor in the hiring, compensation, promotion, and competence of executives, as much as we would like to think it isn't. 


 

Ray Williams is the author of Breaking Bad Habits and The Leadership Edge.

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