The Importance of Appearance - A study of the importance of appearance when attending a job interview

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Företagsekonomiska institutionen

Abstract: We have noticed the increased importance appearance and looks seem to have in Western society today. These new tendencies are all pointing at the same thing; image is everything. The widespread obsession with a beautiful surface now seems to be entering the professional arena as well. Hence, our aim with this report is to try to investigate what role physical appearance actually plays when it comes to our careers. We wish to emphasise that we do not take it for granted that this is necessarily problem, we just want to investigate if it is. Our main question in this report is as follows: Is the appearance of a job applicant important when going through the recruitment process and if so, which criteria matter most? We have chosen to focus on the recruitment process in general terms, and more specifically on the moment when the employer meets and sees the applicant for the first time - the interview. We have chosen to divide the theoretical framework into three sections; one part dealing with beauty, a second part discussing clothing as communication, and a third part with focus on the construction of identities; performativity. All of these three fields are related to what we call appearance and will together compose a solid theoretical ground that hopefully will help us understand whether there are certain criteria of appearance that are more important than others when applying for a job. Finally, we present some of the findings from previous studies, enabling a profound comprehension for the topic. In addition, we have carried out comprehensive interviews with recruiters as well sending out questionnaires. Our conclusion is that appearance indeed is important when it comes to job-related matters, but exactly how important is very hard to say. We mean that the importance of appearance varies depending on occupation, the recruiter’s personal preferences and the applicant’s formal qualifications. The opinions of what is seen as appropriate and inappropriate differ a great deal, almost everyone has a wide spectrum of opinions, but certain resemblances can be ferreted out. We have identified a common idea among the recruiters of what is normal and what ideals you need to live up to. People who do not measure up to the norm will probably always be found. To a certain extent it is probably possible to identify this standard, and adapt oneself to what is accepted by playing a role temporarily. As we see it, the fixation for beauty and superficiality has probably not yet reached its peak; it will most likely continue to be seen as important. Nonetheless, we think the boundaries of these standards and norms will be shifted gradually. We noted that the recruiters found it difficult to express what they really regarded as the best ways of looking and dressing. The norms and standards are difficult to describe since they are so vague. We have understood that it is all about a well-balanced entirety that is quite difficult to define since many people take it for granted and see it as obvious.

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