"We're a PR company that positively breeds beautiful people. We work face to face with clients and find our good looks really make a difference in doing business."
"I work for a broadcast PR agency and although I guarantee that our clients work with us because of the service we provide, I suspect that having a good-looking account manager must be an added bonus!"
"We are a dynamic and hip agency that specializes in health, beauty, fashion, events and celebrities. It is important to have a strong team [consisting of people] who are not only experts in the field they work in, but also attractive-looking, to represent their glamorous accounts."
Putting the call out for businesses to talk about the importance of their staff's appearance, I was overwhelmed by comments like these from public relations people boasting that looks do indeed matter.
"There are jobs, including in public relations, sales, media and fashion, where appearance counts for a lot, particularly in client-facing roles" says Nicola Rumsey, who heads up the Center for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England.
"In these roles, your appearance is selling the image of the company you work for," she says.
Which is all very well if you're blessed with beauty, but what if your face doesn't fit?
"During my internship with a film PR agency, they had a woman working there, covering for maternity leave, who was overweight and not regarded as pretty. She was shoved in a tiny office opposite the loo and never allowed anywhere near clients," claims Jaine Adams [not her real name].
"And when my boss was looking to hire a trainee, she chose a young man who was extremely good-looking but with no experience over some really promising candidates, who were only average-looking," she added.
Public relations people aren't alone in liking a pretty face. As a society, we're obsessed with looks and reward attractive people accordingly. Rumsey warns of a "lookist" epidemic, with up to 80 percent of secondary school pupils and young adults reporting an appearance concern. Research shows attractive children get higher evaluations of their work from teachers, and are more popular.
It doesn't end with school, either. Attractive people are found guilty less often in court and receive less severe sentences. Attractive applicants also have a better chance of getting better-paid jobs.
And it's hardly surprising that one survey claimed workers spend a fifth of their salary trying to look good in the office, believing that image is increasingly important to their career.
Hand in hand with the awareness that we need to look good to get on, comes the concept of personal branding for employees. Lesley Everett runs Walking Tall, a personal-branding consultancy.
"It's taken for granted that a company will have a superb We site and logo delivering the corporate image," she says. "What really matters in getting the message across are the employees -- do they also represent the brand values? And I'm not talking good-looking. Everybody can look their best and I help them get there by focusing on their posture, smile, clothes, and personal hygiene. Very few staff are resistant to the idea because I'm not cloning them, and they appreciate feeling invested in."
Everett has worked on the image of receptionists right up to CEOs, and points to clients Zurich Insurance and Holroyd Howe catering as successfully incorporating their staff into their brand.
She might also have included the British Virgin Islands tourist board in London, where manager Christine Oliver claims her staff's looks reflect the image of the upmarket destination they're promoting.
She's quick to point out that by "good looks" she means taking care of one's appearance, which leads to having greater confidence in one's ability to do their job.
"It's not shallow, right or wrong to talk about appearance being important -- it's a fact," says David Muniz, a director with QSoft Consulting, which owns GaydarRadio, and who, when pushed, admits some of his employees are rather attractive.
"You'd be lying if you said you weren't swayed by appearance, because how someone looks speaks volumes. But," he adds, "our reputation is built on us knowing our business inside out."
Psychologist Jenny West from Careers Analysts agrees that it's human nature to subconsciously sum up whether people are acceptable to us.
"But while beauty may get you through the door, especially in young, private sector, image-conscious businesses, it then takes drive and motivation to succeed," she says.
Beverley Tricker, who runs her self-named public relations business in Aberdeen, Scotland, says it's serendipity that while she recruited her staff on skills, she ended up with a bunch of lookers.
"Our male clients enjoy spending time talking to our attractive, female account-handlers. Having said that, my staff present well, dress appropriately and are very confident. If they turned up for business meetings in short skirts, their credibility would fly out of the window," she says.
But there are some who claim their gorgeous looks have worked against them.
Carol Hodges [not her real name] was working in a public sector office staffed with academics. Because she was a lot younger than them, blond, and dressed like a typical modern 27-year-old, she felt she wasn't taken seriously.
"Looking young and glam definitely worked against me and I had to work harder to prove I wasn't a bimbo. I eventually got over this and won their respect. But I didn't automatically qualify for membership and perhaps I would have done if I'd looked more like them," she says.
According to Karen Black, head of employment at law firm Boodle Hatfield, roles that have a "looks" requirement -- whether explicitly stated or not -- may fall foul of the new Age Discrimination Act, as being indirectly discriminatory.
"If an applicant suspects they have been turned down for a job because of their appearance -- say for a fashion label, which tend to wants looks that fit their brand -- then they could bring a claim," she says.
Studies show that attractive people often don't trust praise of their work, believing any positive feedback on it is influenced by their appearance.
"But in reality, appearance does not make as much difference as people make out," Rumsey says. "Research shows it matters at first, but much less on a longer-term basis, when it is ability and skills that stand out."
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