Even today, I regularly witness situations where the choice between two candidates is made taking into account their respective beauty. It seems obvious to me that a person’s beauty is an undeniable advantage and that being a physically beautiful person helps one’s career enormously. What do you think ? – Rock
It is true that the recruitment process does not stop with evaluating the skills described in the CV. An often underestimated and prevalent aspect when assessing interview skills is appearance bias or lookism, or discrimination based on physical appearance. As a result of this bias, appearance plays an important role in the selection process, often favoring physically attractive people when hired or given promotions and pay raises. The candidates’ talent, their abilities to accomplish tasks and their social skills are then judged based on their physical traits. Manifestations of this bias result in prejudices linked in particular to weight, personal style and conformity to society’s beauty standards.
You underline, dear reader, the best known of the dimensions of lookism. When we think about appearance bias, the vast majority of us think that someone considered beautiful by society has an advantage. However, lookism also affects people who do not meet beauty standards. That is, they are judged negatively based on their physical appearance when they are seen as not meeting beauty standards.
However, beauty does not only have advantages. Lookism also has a dimension which disadvantages people considered beautiful. Indeed, despite the positive stereotypes that physically attractive people often benefit from, appearance bias can also harm them. This bias can cause a “beautiful” person to be judged as less intelligent or less trustworthy, or to be seen as a potential source of conflict or jealousy in the team.
Thus, like any prejudice, appearance bias is based on very broad discrimination based on subjective criteria which have nothing to do with the person’s abilities and which can result in excellent candidates being overlooked. However, don’t let lookism discourage you and give up on your idea of a dream career, because there are some tips that can help you protect yourself from this bias!
First, consciously use appearance to send a message to your employer (future or current). Cultivate a polished professional image to strengthen your credibility and demonstrate the seriousness you take in your work.
Next, do what you can to counter the tendency that some employers might have to judge you only on your appearance. Clearly demonstrate your skills, your integration into the team, your contribution as well as your performance while highlighting your personality. It is crucial that you ensure that your professional and interpersonal skills transcend stereotypes. Focus on your accomplishments, attitude and goals at work, as well as the relationships you’ve established. By constantly demonstrating your added value, you will be able to neutralize prejudices linked to appearance. In addition, your self-confidence will be a powerful asset. By presenting yourself with confidence, you will be able to positively influence others’ perceptions of you.
As we’ve established, appearance bias can or has affected anyone’s career. Faced with lookism, be part of the solution, do not hesitate to raise situations that seem unfair or biased to a trusted person within your company. Participate in discussions and training sessions on bias and present your ideas. Remember, no one is safe from harboring prejudices or suffering the harmful effects of the biases of others.
Your role in combating prejudice and your biases (conscious or not) is, at all times, most important. The impact of appearance bias extends beyond individuals, as it also affects talent acquisition, engagement and retention within organizations.
As biases are ingrained in each of us, organizations must reflect on their organizational culture and reassess their success criteria taking into account the existence of these biases. Leaders must prioritize skills and knowledge over appearance, ensuring fair and transparent processes. Transparent practices, including a structured and documented selection process, can mitigate bias.
“Even the most effective leaders are biased. We see the world through enormous filters. And we are not aware of these filters” (free translation, David Rock, co-founder and CEO of the NeuroLeadership Institute).
The first step to combating bias is to become aware of it. Numerous studies have shown that people who are aware of their biases are more likely to change them.
As a manager, it is essential to embody organizational values and correct any unfair bias. Leaders must call out double standards and implicit bias to create an inclusive culture. Actively participate in initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion within the company and include your teams. Support programs that value the wealth of talent and diverse perspectives. Finally, actively support your colleagues and employees who may be victims of lookism or who report such situations. Intervene if you observe discriminatory behavior, consider training your teams on bias and encourage a respectful work environment.