If you’re committed to hiring the best, there are countless factors you might want to consider – from where candidates went to school to prior workplace experience and volunteer activities. Unfortunately, sometimes those factors end up playing second fiddle to the old rules of interview appearances. That’s why it’s important for hiring managers to address appearance biases and shake off standards that have long held great candidates back.
Address the Dress Code
It’s important to dress for the job you want, but that doesn’t mean hiring managers should judge everyone who doesn’t show up in a suit. Most people are doing their best to dress for your office’s culture, but that doesn’t mean they need a new suit or a fancy briefcase. There are great candidates out there who can’t afford that new suit yet, precisely because they’re searching for a job. Listen closely to your candidates, look at their history, and look past that wrinkled shirt because they could be just the motivated, innovative candidate you’re looking for.
A Ring Is Just A Ring
For decades, women have been told that if they wear an engagement ring to interviews, that they won’t get the job. Why? Because, in the past, an engagement ring signaled to managers that you might soon be pregnant and leaving the workforce. Whether or not that was true in the past, it’s certainly not true today.
Many young professionals even choose their engagement rings to complement their profession. Doctors and nurses choose flat rings that won’t pierce procedure gloves and are easy to clean, while individuals in more fashion-forward professions can choose from a wider array of rings. Simply put, hiring managers can’t ask about marital status or pregnancy plans and they shouldn’t take an engagement ring as an insight into applicants’ intentions. A ring is just another accessory, not a ten-year plan.
Beating Beauty Bias
Appearance plays a significant role in hiring decisions, not just what people wear but how tall they are, whether or not they’re balding, their gender, and what color skin they have – but applicants have no control over these inborn traits. When hiring, then, your job is to ignore them and focus on what applicants bring to the table. Unfortunately, too many companies consider beauty a valuable trait.
Most HR departments provide training regarding racial discrimination in hiring but they don’t know how to address an issue sometimes known as “beauty bias.” Overall, people who are considered conventionally attractive are treated favorably, including in hiring decisions, but may be turned down for jobs considered to beneath them, regardless of interest or qualifications. Despite the fact that beauty bias manifests itself as positive treatment, it still distorts your treatment of potential hires. When an attractive individual presents for an interview, then, interviewers need to be aware of their internal positive bias as much as they might experience negative bias towards candidates of color or those of lower economic status.
Many of the most common hiring rules stem from a long sexist and racist tradition that created the modern workplace hierarchy and its time to dismantle them. Asking that hiring managers be aware of their biases is the least we can ask if we want to attract and retain the best candidates. We can only succeed when we open ourselves to talent, no matter how that talent presents itself.