We all have bad hair days, but maybe we’d have less if we knew how important it is to your job status and how we are perceived. Your trustworthiness and competence is assessed within a quarter of a second based solely on your appearance and a large part of that is your hair. We all judge and we do it so quickly we may not know we are basing our feelings on someone by their appearance. This comes from a study done on first impressions in 2011 at Harvard Medical School. Their findings are remarkable and can make the difference in securing your job and moving up the ladder. The study supports the fact that part of being a leader is looking the part and that means you have a presence with good communication skills and a polished appearance.
According to the research, good grooming habits or having that polished look was based on overall appearance, but focused on hair. Women were judged more harshly than men in that women are judged for their hairstyle rather than haircut. Women were also judged more harshly with the texture of their hair; straight voluminous hair scores higher points in looking polished and “together.”
Although hair is important, it is not the only aspect of one’s appearance being judged. The study pointed to four other categories that affect employers meeting you for the first time.
- One’s weight makes a huge difference in their perceived ability in the workplace. Although no one is supposed to discriminate on weight, they do. In almost every study linked to careers, women were judged more harshly for weight than men. More than 25% of executives said being overweight looks bad for women, and for men that number dropped to 15%. Being obese was judged even worse, and although 45% of obese women were judged as having low confidence, lack of discipline and emotionally vulnerable, 43% of obese men were negatively judged as well.
- One’s posture is important. Good posture is judged for both men and women equally. It reflects confidence and authority. People that slump, have shifty eyes or shuffle instead of walk are often perceived as a lack of respect, energy or engagement.
- Height is judged, especially if you’re a guy. Women are judged more harshly with their weight and guys by height. According to Chuck Williams, a leading author and expert in Management, although only 14.5% of American men are six feet tall, 58% of male CEOs running the 500 largest U.S. companies stand six feet or taller, which is four times the average. 16% of executives surveyed reported it’s important for men to be tall, and that number dropped to 6% for women.
- Attractiveness is judged for both sexes. Studies were clear that attractive people are viewed as being smarter, happier and more interesting than unattractive people. Executives surveyed preferred less stereotypically pretty and focused on excellent grooming highlighting one’s best attributes and features. For guys, the executives focused more on their self-care, and overall ability to look confident in their appearance and dress. Both sexes are equally judged, but women’s attitudes impacted their overall appearance more heavily than that of the guys.
There are laws specifically in place for work or job bias, but no one can deny it happens every day and we are all guilty of making quick judgments based on one’s appearance within a quarter of a second. What do you judge heavily? What would cause you to hire or not hire someone? Understanding our own bias will help guide us to making good decisions prior to our next interview. My best advice is to attend your place of employment dressed in clothes that you don’t have to apologize for wearing. Confidence is higher when we look our best, and that means your hair and clothes flatter your assets without drawing undo attention to your flaws.