Beauty vs brains……does it have to be a competition?

The Adelaide Advertiser ran an article on Saturday titled “The Ugly Side of Being Beautiful”.  It revealed research stating that 47% of US Recruiters believe women can be penalised for ‘being too good looking’ and attractive women who attach a photo to their resume were less likely to secure an interview than their ‘plainer rivals’.  On the flip side, Chief Economist Darryl Gobbett said, “the aesthetically gifted will always reign supreme”. So is beauty a help or hindrance in getting ahead?

Just last week I spent a coaching session with a female recruiter who is both young and attractive – a combination that she perceives is proving a little tricky in securing more senior work.  The assumption is that she doesn’t know what she is talking about, doesn’t have as much as experience and couldn’t possibly do as good a job as the more ‘seasoned’ recruiters in the market.

A CEO (a man in his mid 60’s) told her that she would have a tough time ‘making it’ in the market. When she enquired why, he said being young and good looking would mean that a lot of people would automatically think she lacked substance! Really? Isn’t that a little old fashioned? Aren’t we past that day and age of outdated thinking? Perhaps not and truthfully people generally won’t admit to making these assumptions or give you the time to prove them otherwise.

I decided to play devils advocate.  How can you prove to me that you are capable of doing this type of recruitment I asked her? What confidence can you give me that you will do a good job and deliver results? After our 90-minute session, here is what we uncovered:

  1. Mind set & belief – you can’t buy into someone else’s incorrect perceptions of what you might or might not be capable of.  If you belief you can, then you can.  If you wavier, doubt or demonstrate insecurities, you will never convince a third party of your abilities.  Be clear on your knowledge, ability and results.
  2. Walk the talk – I had a consultant who worked for me many years ago who was beautiful, young and had a high-pitched voice.  She was convinced that clients didn’t take her seriously once they saw and heard her.  To combat this, she wanted her physical presentation to represent her ability (she was extremely capable and delivered top performance results).  Small things like tying her hair back, wearing glasses, dark coloured suits etc all helped her own confidence in walking the talk – portraying the image she felt was more representative of her abilities.  There is nothing wrong with a “fake it until you make it” approach which involves exuding confidence, remaining calm and delivering an educated response.
  3.  Tell them – having your elevator pitch ready is critical to answer “…and why should we use you?” What makes you different from the last Consultant? This pitch should describe your offering, differentiator, benefits and the results you deliver.  However, let’s face it, most Consultants’ say similar things, which is why you need to be able to communicate this with passion and conviction to then back it up with real examples.
  4. Show them – actions speak louder than words! Using visuals in a pitch is very convincing.  Get really specific – show an example of a campaign, search methods used, how many candidates you had, where you found the successful applicant, timeframes etc.  Any piece of data (think facts & figures) is going to help build your pitch and show the client you have done this before and the results speak for themselves.
  5. Risk-free – giving the client a “what have you got to lose” enticement is helpful in getting them over the line.  What can you offer that your competitors won’t? Is it a longer guarantee, testimonials from a similar campaign or client? Less financial commitment upfront or a timeframe deadline? Entice them to take a risk and give you the opportunity.

Regardless of industry, role or level of experience, we all have to prove our capabilities, demonstrate our experience and be able to articulate our offerings in a compelling and convincing way that brings long term opportunities and results – regardless of looks.

I don’t know about you, but with any service offering, I would much prefer to deal with someone who is enthusiastic, shows commitment, has the ability to do the job and will bend over backwards to deliver the results.  Of course, having beauty and a brain appears like the ultimate combination –but this is business, not speed dating!

Perhaps being genetically gifted gets you in the door, but brains may ultimately win you a place at the table?


Nicole is a Fellow of the RCSA and a current RCSA council member in South Australia. Nicole combines her recruitment, leadership and coaching expertise to work with other recruiters and organisations to achieve their own success through increased performance.