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The Beauty Premium

Ever wonder why Shad gets so crowded in the evenings, or why you can always find runners and bikers circling the Charles? Is it to relieve stress, perhaps attract a future partner, or rather; is it to land that dream job? Like it or not, it seems that when it comes to landing the dream job, beautiful people have an edge.

A study produced by economist, Dr. Hamermesh of the University of Texas found that beautiful people are in fact more financially successful. The “beauty premium,” as Hamermesh aptly named his findings, exists in all industries, even those where beauty would not seem to matter. So, the question remains as to whether managers simply prefer to surround themselves with a pretty staff or whether there is evidence supporting a correlation between beauty and performance?

In some client-facing roles there is empirical evidence to support the theory that beautiful people generate more revenue, however this fails to support the fact that the beauty premium holds across functions and industries. In actuality, the more likely reason lies in our society’s bias about the correlation of beauty and job performance.

Hamermesh’s research found that beauty is most associated with the characteristics of health, good genes and intelligence. Mark Mobius of Harvard and Tanya Rosenblat of Wesleyan University support a different theory: beautiful people tend to be more self-confident and thus are able to convince employers to pay them more.

Obviously the evidence does not attempt to discount qualifications; rather it supports the differentiator between qualified candidates. So how do you prepare? Dress well to test well. The Office of Career Services encourages everyone to look good (wear suits even if your dream job has jeans as a dress code). When you look good, you feel good and will be able to exude confidence.

Ultimately, as ECs continue their job searches and RCs dust off their suits, the underlying message is twofold: look good and shake hands with confidence. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

November 17, 2008
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