How much does appearance matter? I Googled the phrase “appearance matters” and came up with 6,520,000 results.

Clearly, appearance matters a lot in the world. And it matters a lot in the job world. Adding “job” produced the very interesting result that the first several pages of search results are devoted largely to the topic of how appearance matters in job interviews.

One study showed that appearance mattered even more for applicants with less-than-stellar resumes. Here’s a quote from the abstract:

Results indicated that attractiveness had no impact when the quality of the application was high but that attractiveness was an advantage when the application was mediocre. When the résumé quality was average the attractive applicant was evaluated more positively than the control, no photograph, applicant; an attractive photograph boosted the evaluation of a mediocre application. (emphasis added)

The lesson? Do the best you can with what you have. Use the various tools to help you put your best face forward.

  • Dress professionally. Suits. Ties. Pressed shirts. Pantyhose – without runs – with a skirt (unless it’s summer, and then shaved legs – if you don’t want to shave your legs, wear pants!). No stains. Demure colors. Check to see how people in your industry dress, especially the people you admire in top spots.
  • Be well groomed. If you can, get a professional haircut. If you color your hair, get a touch-up. Eat a breath mint before the interview. Some makeup helps women. If you have dry or flaking skin (man or woman), use some moisturizer. Give yourself a manicure – men included (polish optional).
  • Have a professional-looking photo on LinkedIn. You can take your own photo or have a friend do it. A face shot, full-on preferably, with a plain background is best. This is critical because employers and recruiters often look at your LinkedIn profile before deciding whether to interview you.

These simple things will help you make a positive first impression.

Source: Watkins, L. M. and Johnston, L. (2000), Screening Job Applicants: The Impact of Physical Attractiveness and Application Quality. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 8: 76–84. doi: 10.1111/1468-2389.00135