Can My Appearance Impact Me Getting the Job?

You may think your appearance is your business. But while looks should have nothing to do with your ability to do a job, it’s likely your prospective employer feels otherwise. Your height, weight, hair color, makeup, facial hair, visible tattoos and other factors can make the difference both in whether you get hired and how much money you earn afterward.
“The more good looking you are, the more you make,” says Daniel S. Hamermesh, professor emeritus in economics at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Beauty Pays. “It’s an issue for both genders.”

The beauty bias goes for many jobs, Hamermesh says. Some you’d expect such as, ahem, those who work for escort services. But NFL quarterbacks?

“Maybe the better-looking quarterback inspires people and gets them to perform better,” says Hamermesh, who is familiar with much of the research on this topic.

So while beauty may be only skin-deep, good looks can equal a good job. Here’s how.

Stand Tall

A worker who is six inches taller than the guy or gal at the next cubicle earns nearly $5,000 more than his or her shorter counterpart, according to one study. ( This height bonus goes for both men and women.

The takeaway: you obviously can’t change your height, but you can stand up straight for that crucial job interview. If you can walk without stumbling, this might be the time to bring out the high heels.

Makeup Matters

Women hoping to get hired and then earn more money should opt for makeup. Women wearing makeup were rated more attractive and —critical for job seekers—more competent compared to women with a more natural look, according to one study. ( That judgment held true both at first glance and longer inspection. Style of makeup matters too. Women sporting glamorous makeup were rated more negatively when viewers had more time to view photos.

The takeaway: aim for a professional look—neither barefaced nor nightclub ready.

Beard or Clean-Shaven

Hiring managers actually preferred men with beards in one survey. Men sporting beards were rated more manly, more mature and more dominant, according to another study. Clean-shaven men scored high on health, cleanliness and sociability. But the beards in the first study were neater and better groomed. So at least lose the stubble. A stubbly face won’t endear you to a prospective employer, according to one study.

Takeaway: if you’re going to go bearded, go for neatly trimmed over the bushy hermit look.


Time was, you wouldn’t see the words tasteful, appropriate and tattoo used together. But sandwich chain Jimmy John’s, PetSmart and Starbucks have changed their rules on ink. That could be because tattoos are growing in popularity especially among younger workers: a study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly 40 percent of those 18 to 29 have at least one tattoo. ( 76 percent felt that tattoos hurt a job prospect’s chances of being hired, according to a survey by ( 42 percent frowned on visible tattoos at work. Not surprisingly, older people were more disapproving of ink.

Takeaway:  especially if you know the interviewer is older, cover up that cute or edgy tattoo.

Go Blonde

Not only do blondes have more fun, apparently they get paid more too. The blonde benefit adds up to a seven percent raise—equal to what a worker would expect from another year of education, according to one study of 13,000 Caucasian women. (

Takeaway: Ladies if you’ve been debating whether to lighten your hair, this could be the deciding factor.

The Skinny on Weight

Call it obese, plump, overweight or supersized. Unfortunately, those added pounds subtract earnings. Women with a body mass index over 30 earned $5,826 less per year, according to a study by George Washington University. (

That’s 14.6 percent less—with seven percent equal to two years of job tenure. For men overall, there was no difference in pay, but African American and Hispanic men did face a weight penalty. Takeaway: if you’ve been considering a diet to improve your health, the financial factor could tip the scales. Otherwise, focus on styles that flatter your figure and stand tall and proud.

If you’re facing factors, you can’t readily or quickly change such as height and weight, and then focus on what you can control—job performance and knowledge of your career field.

“Wherever you’re strong, work on something that requires that strength,” Hamermesh says. “Suck it up and do the best you can with everything else you’ve got.”

If all else fails: marry a blonde. Spouses of blonde women also earn more money. (



The trusted source for DC's Employers

Sign up and post a job now

Post a job today

Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market