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Is the interviewing process really a "beauty contest"?

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Is the interviewing process really a "beauty contest"?

Postby Dave Jensen » Sat Feb 11, 2006 11:06 am

John Mastro gave a great comment in another thread about the fact that he believes the interviewing process is no more than a beauty contest.

I guess in many ways, this is correct. Companies parade a number of people through and choose one of them for an offer, much like winning a contest of some sort.

What is your opinion of how much % of the decision is based on "looks" vs. "job fit"? The term "looks" can be applied to all those superficial items, such as appearance, dress, mannerisms, etc. The "job fit" aspects are that person's science, ability to do the job, techniques, etc.

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Is the interviewing process really a "beauty contest"?

Postby P.C. » Sat Feb 11, 2006 11:17 am

Dear Dave,

Thanks for your acknowledgemt of one of the dirty little secrets of job interviewing:

Personal appearance matters more than we know about.

Because I realize that fact so acutely, I am now on a very hard diet and excercise program. Little fat, few carbs and, bicycle commuting , and back to the gym to achieve the perfect , thin , muscular profile that will be a winner.

If you show up at a job interview, with double or triple chins, and a portly belly, guess what, you are never going to get the job.
Given the competition.. and it has been my own observation about how I got my present position.. Before: fat and jobless.
thinner.. ya I got one.. go figure.

I think that the Phds fail , hand have failed to train how importance appearance matters, in such a competative environment.

The tall, thin athetic energetic males will do better , and the athletic, energetic females will do better..
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education" - Mark Twain
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Is the interviewing process really a "beauty contest"?

Postby MPB » Sat Feb 11, 2006 11:25 am


There is actually a pretty big literature on this, and I think the conclusion is that yes, it is a beauty contest. I think it's called the "beauty bonus." Here is a link to an interesting laboratory bargaining simulation and also a review of some of the literature.

http://opim.wharton.upenn.edu/~schweitz/papers/Gender_Ult_Game.pdf
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Is the interviewing process really a "beauty contest"?

Postby Matthew » Sat Feb 11, 2006 1:24 pm

Dave,

I would have a hard time assigning percentages to the value of looks vs fit in a job interview. This is because I believe that looks can influence perceived fit. We all like to be around attractive people. It's a subconcious bias. So often, the well-kempt interviewee has the advantage in all areas.
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Is the interviewing process really a "beauty contest"?

Postby Kelly » Sat Feb 11, 2006 1:49 pm

I think the interview is nothing other than a beauty contest. They already have your tangibles from your CV. How can any reasonable person think they can get an idea of who you are based on 30 min dog and pony shows?

Really, the interview is about how "comfortable" people are with you and this is most strongly impacted by race, gender, perception of common belief system in that order. This aspect has been systematically studied and most strongly qualified candidates who are non white, non male and show evidence of a different belief system are more favorably viewed before the interview than after. The bottom line is we will never attain equity in hiring because of the subjective nature of the process and the value we give to vague statements like "gee, I don't think he would be good for us." Someone better dig and ask why, and at the heart of it, is generally a lack of the feeling of "sameness."
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Is the interviewing process really a "beauty contest"?

Postby Kelly » Sat Feb 11, 2006 2:30 pm

yes, overweight is an extreme negative especially for women and it doesn't take much to be considered overweight. Can't afford a gym: try the great out doors. 20 mins three times/day.

Also, women notice other women's hands. Ladies, get a modest manicure, no polish just even nails, buffed and no raggly cuticles. Both men and women notice women's shoes (remember Silence of the lambs when Hannibil comments of C' cheap shoes? and indicated this means she is only one generation from poor white trash? apparently this is very real; buy a good pair of shoes and keep them polished and the heels in good repair; find a cobbler). Your shoes should match your bag and belt for both men and women. Finally, the woman's appearance leads to more inferences about her than a man's appearance.

For men, apparently the worst appearance issue other than not being clean is being short. A real bias against fat women and short men.

No one should have BO or bad breath.

Be careful of any jewlery. I was told after the fact that I did not get one job because someone recognized that the watch and a ring (both from my late mother and both very conservative; worn everyday) I was wearing were Cartier. It conveyed a lack of "fit" at a school. I could not believe a search committee for a research position discussed my jewlery as though it were a reasonable topic. So people are people; in the end people believe what they want to believe about you based on the stupidest things.
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Is the interviewing process really a "beauty contest"?

Postby Dave Jensen » Sat Feb 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Kelly said, "So people are people; in the end people believe what they want to believe about you based on the stupidest things"

I had someone turn us down one time for a search, and when I checked into it further, I found that the hiring manager did not like people who were not "clean shaven." I shave every day, but wear a beard -- just because I like it better that way. And I don't think anyone has the right to tell me to lose it, either.

However, that just goes to show you that ANYTHING different can be perceived as a potential negative. Will I shave off my beard the next time I interview with a company about doing a search for them? No way!

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Other things more important

Postby Chad » Sat Feb 11, 2006 3:21 pm

Call me naïve, but I would like to believe that one’s credentials and networking abilities are more important than looks, in both academia and industry. Sure, some can point out isolated cases where this might not be the case but they are just that – isolated cases. For every case otherwise, it would be easy to name two people who got the job not because they look good, but because they have the credentials OR have the inside-track.

The interview is not designed to see how you look or dress, but is designed to see if you would actually be a fit for the position. Personality is important, your management style is important, and how you interact with others is important as well, and none of these factors can be judged by a CV.

For the *majority* of cases, I believe that so long as you dress and act in a professional manner, then the interviewing process is not just a beauty contest.
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Other things more important

Postby Nick » Sat Feb 11, 2006 4:00 pm

How you dress for an interview is a measure of your fit. The interviewers will say to themselves 'Hmmm, his belt didn't match his shoes, theres no way I would make a mistake like that, do I really want to work with a person who is not like me in this way ? What else is different about him, maybe he won't fit after all......'

I think of it like this:

Remember in high school, where there were different gangs/cliques of people ? Well as far as I can see applying for a job is a bit like applying to a clique/gang. You have to, in some sense, conform to what is expected of a member of the gang. And as you all may remember, the beautiful & popular people could join any gang they wished to.
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Other things more important

Postby Carlysle Tancha » Sat Feb 11, 2006 8:45 pm

HELLO?!

Has not everyone been doing their reading? If this is STILL such a big mystery, one only need to check out the spectacular writings of Dr. Barbara Ehrenreich. Not being obvious, she holds a Ph.D. in biology and has truly been underground from "Nickel and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America" and her latest book "Bait and Switch: the (futile) pursuit of the American dream." In this latter book, she is trying to get a PR position and talks of career coaches, personal makeover assistants, job support groups-- pretty much the whole nine yards. Science is not different from any other business. Whether it is academia (kelly and Cartier) or industry and not sharing the same "values" as the boss, it all matters. Credentials can't make someone hire you--the have to "like" you. The "connections" here, the "team player" idea are what gets you the job. Interestingly, Barbara points out that it is this sense of superficial "values" that creates the "bond" between you and the person who is interested in hiring/ not hiring you. Play, dress, look nicely and maybe you will get a job. (But, with cold contacts, don't expect to get far-- you need to have a family member already in a company. I know that another poster said this a while back; this is just reiteration of the truth.)
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