A person wearing glasses facing the camera and buttoning up his shirt.
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How ‘looking the part’ can help you get the job

29 Jan 2024

Upon analysing data from Freelancer.com, scientists found that programmers who wear glasses and have computers visible in their profile pictures are more likely to be hired.

How you present yourself matters; it’s how you make a good first impression, after all. And making a good first impression is vital to ensuring your success in the jobs market. Not to say that recruiters are looking for models when they browse LinkedIn or conduct interviews – but good lighting in profile pictures and neat clothing will make a difference.

Where, previously, smart presentation was a common sense thing that everyone knew was important for impressing recruiters, now it has been backed up by science.

After analysing six months’ worth of data using computer vision techniques, two scientists from Harvard Business School and the University of California found that there is a link between appearance and successfully getting hired.

Dr Isamar Troncoso and Dr Lan Luo used data from the website Freelancer.com. In a paper published in late 2022, they asked whether recruiters were swayed by appearance?

Apparently, yes. The data doesn’t lie. Trancoso and Luo noted a definite correlation between getting hired and a candidate’s profile picture on Freelancer.com. As they pointed out in the paper, “Profile pictures are a key component of many freelancing platforms, a design choice that can impact hiring and matching outcomes.”

So, if you want to get noticed by a recruiter – on any online hiring platform – you need to make sure your profile picture is good quality and neutral looking. No family snaps, no nights out and no silly faces. A good metric to go by is your passport picture but with considerably more personality.

Specs appeal

Unfortunately, recruiters’ perception of what a good worker looks like played a part in their hiring decisions, the study found. People who wore glasses were more likely to ‘get the gig’, moving Luo and Trancoso to conclude that “above and beyond demographics and beauty, freelancers who ‘look the part’ are more likely to be hired”.

It makes sense ­– people who wear glasses are stereotyped as being clever and diligent. However, Trancoso and Luo did not find a strong correlation between ‘looking the part’ and job performance. So, perhaps employers favouring bespectacled candidates are blinkered by their own biases.

Of course, the kinds of profile picture that scored highly with recruiters varied from job to job. Programmers with glasses and computers visible in their profile pictures tended to get hired, whereas stereotypically ‘nerdy’ people might not have had similar success when applying for creative marketing roles. Graphic designers were more likely to be hired if they were women.

The findings should not be taken as a sign that every job seeker needs to go out and buy themselves a pair of fake glasses. The study offers interesting insights, but it kind of confirms what we already knew – people are shallow and easily led. Don’t give into recruiters’ biases and change your appearance; just make sure your profile looks professional – no words misspelled, no confusing language or gaps in information.

If you want more tips on building the perfect profile, check out this article; it focuses on LinkedIn, but most of the advice is applicable to other online job search platforms, too.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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