Appearance matters. Indeed appearance matters. We are constantly reminded in every aspect of our lives that appearance matters. Like every other society, the Ghanaian society also dictates the appropriate standards for appearance and clearly white culture often serves as a reference.
Should you hire based on looks? What the research says…
Scholarly consensus establishes that the “Beauty Bias” does not just influence social interactions but in recent times, scholarly attention has drifted to how “Beauty Bias” influences one’s ability to secure jobs in Ghana. Beauty has been found to influence employers’ judgments about job applicants. Studies have consistently found that we tend to have an unconscious attractiveness bias in the workplace and that physical attractiveness impacts decisions related to employment including hiring, promotions, and compensation.
Employers often use appearance as a signal of an employee’s qualifications and even after hiring decisions are made, employers continue to regulate the appearance of their employees through dressing and grooming policies. Studies suggest that the society tends to attribute to those who are physically attractive the added qualities of sociability, friendliness, skill and competence.
At the same time, studies have also found that making employment decisions based on non-job-related factors is not effective. Attractive people are no more or less capable, intelligent, or sociable than less attractive people (Cornell HR Review). So even though we may not set out to hire based on looks or attractiveness, research shows that we probably unconsciously.
Can you hire based on Beauty? What the law says…
As this issue gets more traction, it is useful to enquire about the position of the law. Several non-job-related factors, including race, age, gender, ethnicity, and disability are protected by the law. However, under our current law it is not illegal for an employer to consider beauty when making hiring decisions. Our current legal regime is unlikely to provide adequate relief for employees who have experienced beauty-based discrimination.
The middle-ground: Standards of personal appearance
Admittedly it makes strategic sense to make hiring decisions based on beauty especially in customer-effacing, marketing and business roles. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t hire or promote solely or primarily based on beauty because you risk overlooking extraordinary talent.
It’s reasonable to have standards in place for professional image such as appropriate dress, accessories, and grooming habits. Organizations are however cautioned to ensure that these standards do not discriminate against protected groups. Hiring managers must be aware of the “Beauty Bias “and make sure that employment decisions are based on a broader and a more inclusive criteria. Thus, it is advisable to factor other objective forms of evaluation such as selection assessments and work samples into hiring decisions.