2 Ways Good Looks Can Help Your Career, and 1 Way They Can Hurt

When we apply for jobs, the only things that matter are our qualifications, skills, and whether we are a good fit for the position, right? In a perfect world the answer to that question would be a resounding yes. No one would care what anyone else looks like, and it wouldn’t be a factor in any sort of career decision making.

But like it or not, we do have a picture of what certain people in certain professions should look like. Imagine a firefighter. The image that entered your mind was more than likely that of a man probably of at least medium height, maybe tall, and probably strong, wearing a firefighter’s uniform. You may imagine someone who looks like the gentleman below:

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2011, however, around one out of every 20 firefighters is a woman, and firefighters, of course, all look different. While physical fitness is an important attribute for a firefighter to possess, other qualities — like integrity, dedication, being a team player, mechanical aptitude, and adaptability — are the traits Fire Rescue says good firefighters possess; they’re all traits that have little to do with physical appearance.

In addition to associating a certain look with a certain profession, various research studies suggest that the way a person looks has an impact on how much he or she is paid, and on how employers perceive his or her ability to perform a certain job.

Using publications from Glassdoor, Career Intelligence, and Salary.com, coupled with supplemental information from a few other resources, we’ve narrowed down a few ways that your physical appearance could impact your career and pay.