Monday, December 15, 2014

Research shows attractive people do better in business except in two professions. The first is bank robbers…and the second one will shock you!

Are better looking people more successful at business? Research by Daniel Hamermesh, professor of economics at the University of Texas, shows that good-looking people have many advantages in life, and it seems we can add success in business to that list. And you’ll probably be shocked how prevalent the difference is between earnings and workplace success between people who are deemed attractive versus their plain Jane counterparts.

In fact, numerous studies reveal that attractive people earn on average three to four percent more than their coworkers and peers who are less than attractive. That can add up to big money – about $230,000 over the lifetime of a working adult – just because a person was born with natural good looks. Even average looking people make on average $140,000 more than someone who is considered ugly. Data also suggests that attractive people make more money but get more raises, get hired more, and generally have more job opportunities. But they also are bigger earners, more productive, and sell and close more business when in sales.

While it’s certainly not fair that the pretty people get paid more (unless they’re models, actors, or spokespeople on The Price is Right), there’s no denying the correlation. But what does it actually mean?

But are good-looking people more successful because of their inherent traits and characteristics, or are people more successful just because they are easy on the eyes? Do their good looks breed naturally breed better confidence and force of personality that further perpetuate their perception as good looking?

Researchers at Rice University sought that answer when they engaged a study on beauty’s effect on success using clinical means. They looked at only facial appearances and their effect on success. The study concluded that people with birthmarks, scars, and other blemishes were more likely to be rated poorly by their interviewers. The interviewers tended to remember much less about these candidates – both in personal information and interview content - than candidates with unblemished and more attractive faces. Of course that resulted in lower interview ratings and less jobs awarded.

Other studies show that people with good looks are perceived as happier, have higher self esteem, more skilled, personable, capable, and more intelligent than cohorts with average looks. This is often described as the “Halo Effect,” where people automatically make positive assumptions based on someone’s good looks.

Another interesting study isolated perceptions by letting participants talk to a person on the phone, but then showed them two different photos of the person. When they thought they were talking to a more attractive person, they described them as being more warm, personable, and even smart.

Interestingly enough, good looks have been found to be even more important for a man in the workplace than they are for women. An attractive woman gets an 8% wage bonus if her looks are rated above average, or a 4% penalty for below average looks, or a 12% total swing. Men only receive a 4% wage bonus for good looks but get dinged a 13% penalty if they are homely, for a 17% swing.

Why is that? Like many things with human beings, the reasons we do things funnel down toward primal urges the longer we scrutinize them. Along with the Halo Effect, we tend to just be attracted to good looking people because they are perceived as healthier, stronger, and better perpetuators of the human race. We want to know them, be associated with them, and naturally insert them into our society’s leadership positions. Even today, we haven’t evolved out of our primal nature and that desire to be around people who are more attractive results in higher wages and a faster track to success at the office.

While this behavior may be socially reinforced, it is nature, not nurture, as the culprit in this case. New studies by the Society for Research on Child Development show that even children and adolescents who are rated as more attractive get higher grades and go on to college more.

Are there any exceptions to this rule that attractive people thrive in business? Why yes, there are – and this is where it gets fun. According to a study published in Applied Financial Economics, there are at least two professions where there is a negative correlation between attractiveness and success.

The first is armed robbery. That’s right, if you chose the vocation of robbing banks at gunpoint, your ugliness will be an asset, probably because looking mean, violent, and scary is beneficial in that line of work. Interestingly enough, this only applied to low-rent smash-and-grab robbers – white-collar criminals did far better when they were better looking.

The second line of work where bad looks help may shock you – real estate. Yes, research proves that real estate agents who have above average looks are less successful. This goes against everything we assume in the business, where suave male agents with business card photos like James Bond and elegant female realtors with the air of super models spread their likeness on door-to-door flyers, social media sites, and even bus stop benches. But the study by Applied Financial Economics found quite the opposite to be true.

The study downloaded thousands of photos of real estate agents at random from an online database. They then asked neutral observers to rate the person’s attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most attractive.

They then looked up the agents’ listing and sales statistics from their respective companies and averaged earnings for everyone who was a 10, a 9, etc. all the way to the 1’s. 

What they found shocked them – the realtors who were average or slightly below average looking far outperformed the better-looking agents. Further research concluded that the more beautiful agents took longer to sell houses, closed fewer deals, and brought less money into their companies. There are several theories to this, but the general conclusion is that the most attractive agents use their beauty as a crutch – not as an asset to complement their business.


Fascinating! Do you have any other thoughts or theories about this?

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