Image vs. Qualifications: Which Matters More?

Last Updated Mar 10, 2010 1:19 PM EST

How important is image in your career? Sixty-five percent of UK workers think image matters more towards their career prospects than their qualifications -- and, given the media attention image gets, that percentage is only likely to increase.

It doesn't seem fair does it, that people who look good are more likely to (a) be employed over others, and (b) earn more? There are even claims that taller people are more likely to be happier and more successful than shorter ones.

Looks and behaviour make a significant difference in hiring decisions among less qualified or experienced candidates. In customer services especially, aesthetic labour is becoming a decisive factor when hiring, with your confidence and image as important to some recruiters as your qualifications.

But it goes beyond just the first interview. n our current climate, it's essential to think about how we improve the communication of our own 'personal brands' not just at first but consistently throughout your career.

In the same way that manufacturers pay great attention to the 'persuasion' of their packaging we also need to attend to our 'packaging' if we want to 'sell' ourselves to others, and to persuade them to take a closer look at our brand promise.

How are you being seen? Are you distinctive and look like you can do what your CV claims? You may choose to manage your appearance cost-effectively, but if you let your personal image slip you may eventually have to deal with it as a form of crisis management.

  1. What do you want your brand communication to say?
  2. What don't you want it to say?
  3. What is your environment?
  4. How does your employer expect you to impact on their company? What effect will you have on the company's clients and potential clients when you first meet them? What is your personal brand saying about the company brand?
See if your responses would be like this:
  1. Do you want it to inspire confidence, to say that you can do 'what it says on the tin'? You may not need to be formally dressed, but you do have to be appropriate to your environment.
  2. That you don't care very much what anyone thinks of you, that you have little ambition and are only there for the money.
  3. Whether your environment's formal or casual, make sure you fit in. If you are in uniform ensure that your uniform and your grooming are immaculate; if formal or casual that you look consistently 'business ready' and match your clients' expectations of you and your business.
  4. Have you checked out the dress code of the business you might be joining? Be current: avoid being over-trendy, but wear clothes that reflect your work ethos, to show esteem to your clients, and demonstrate that you care how you present yourself and represent your company.
Perhaps you could start to think of yourself in a new light. Consider yourself as a 'product' that is there to be bought and market yourself in an authentic and remarkable way that will get you noticed and considered valuable. Develop your own 'marketing campaign' and set your goals to your big picture vision.

(Pic: Alex France cc2.0)