Is Your Appearance Hurting Your Job Search?

Is Your Appearance Hurting Your Job Search?

Are your looks stopping you from getting hired? A recent AARP report noted older job seekers resorting to orthodontics, plastic surgery and more, in hopes that looking better will get them hired.  As we reported in “Do Looks Matter?”,  appearance is rated the third most important factor in hire decisions following qualifications and confidence.  That means confidently bringing out your qualifications should take you further than Botox.  But clearly, appearance is a factor.


As a job seeker, you are selling yourself. You are a package. Your achievements, credentials, experience and promise of future value are the great product inside the box. Your appearance and presentation are the outside of the box.  The box needs to effectively represent the great product that is inside, or at least not discourage people from considering the product.   Your presentation, communication skills and confidence are important parts of your packaging. Your appearance is also part of it.

Image Disconnect

Ann is an energetic, enthusiastic IT professional. At age 51, she will tell you she does not feel old. Her skills are up to date. She works well with people of all ages and has demonstrated her ability to excel. On paper she looks great.  In person, her seemingly untamable salt-n-pepper hair is worn in a style that was popular 25 years ago. Her eyes and much of her face are behind large round glasses. While a tall woman, her posture is slightly stooped. The disconnect between her abilities and her look is jarring.  The first impression she creates takes away her marketability for many people.

The Message Behind Your Look

When an older worker clings to a look that is dated, he or she may unconsciously convey an unwillingness to change and keep up. It’s not just older people who send messages.  When a young worker interviews with overgrown hair, facial stubble, dirty finger nails or torn clothing, the message may be that he or she doesn’t pay attention to detail or doesn’t care enough to do better. No matter how you choose to maintain you appearance, consider the message it may send to potential employers.

Quick updates

For better or for worse, how we look counts in all human interactions, and especially when job searching. Here are a couple of easy, painless ways to keep your appearance from harming your job search:

  1. Hair. Get regular, professional haircuts. If you’ve worn the same style for years, ask the stylist to update your look.  When job seekers ask if they should color their gray, I say “It depends how soon you want to get back to work.” Is it right or fair that we have to color our gray hair? No. But it’s also not a big deal. It doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive, and this advice is not just for women. Men should also consider losing the gray. There’s even a rumor President Obama has colored his away.
  2. Glasses. Wearing them is not a problem. But styles have changed. If you’ve worn the same style for a long time, it may date you. Unless you plan to get a new pair every year or two, consider a timeless style.
  3. Clothing. All you really need is one or two good quality ensembles that project professional looks. Ask a friend to evaluate what you’ve got. Assemble a networking or first interview outfit and a variation on it for second interviews. Sometimes all it takes is a few updated accessories to make an outfit look contemporary and professional.

You do not need plastic surgery, braces or a new wardrobe to get a job. But you want a look that matches your overall brand. If you’re trying to convey energy, ability to keep up and attention to detail, make sure your appearance matches.

Tell us, do you think looks matter when you’re trying to find a job? If so, what are you doing to enhance yours?

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