Medical Aesthetics – The New Job Search Weapon?

Personal Branding

Right or wrong, looks do matter in the job market of 2013. With 12 million unemployed and over 35 million currently employed people competing for a finite number of jobs (CareerBuilder Employment Survey, Jan 24, 2013) more and more people are turning to medical aesthetics, a branch of medicine that deals with beautification of the body with the help of surgery and/or cosmeceuticals (the combination of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals), in the hopes that it will give them a competitive edge.

In a perfect world each of us would be judged solely on the content of our character and not on how we look on the “outside.” But obviously, we certainly don’t live in anything even approaching a perfect world, and looks do indeed matter to most people. That is particularly true—and definitely relevant—in the job market, where looks can (and do) influence not only IF you get the job, but also, how well you are likely to fare throughout a career.

The so-called “beauty premium”—the idea that “pretty” people, whatever their professions or aspirations, tend to do better than the rest of us mere mortals in nearly everything—has long been recognized as an important driving factor for success. Numerous studies have shown this to be true, and one of the more sweeping studies was conducted by Newsweek in 2010, right in the midst of the worst job market in over a generation. (Nothing I’ve seen during the last few years would seem to throw those survey findings into dispute, either.)

Here is just a sample of the Newsweek survey results*:

  • Fifty-seven percent of hiring managers participating in the survey said that qualified but unattractive candidates should expect to have a harder time landing a job.
  • More than half of the hiring managers advised job seekers to spend as much time and money on “making sure they look attractive” as on perfecting a résumé.
  • When asked to rank employee attributes in order of importance, managers placed looks above education. (Of nine character traits measured, looks came in third, with experience being number 1 and confidence being number 2. Education was number 4.)
  • Handsome men earn, on average, 5 percent more than their less-attractive counterparts (good-looking women earn 4 percent more). Over a career, these handsome men can expect to earn $250,000 more than less attractive men.

More Professionals Considering Medical Aesthetics

A growing numbers of both men and women are buying into just how important a role appearance (read: “good looks”) can (and does) play in the workplace these days. Even pre-recession, a 2007 survey of 700 people, conducted by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, nearly 8 out of 10 respondents said “appearance” is at least somewhat important when it comes to “getting ahead” in the workplace. And some of them are actually doing (or at least considering doing) something about it.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons . . .

  • About one in ten women and men say they would consider cosmetic surgery if it made them “more competitive” at work.
  • The most common reason cited for career-related “nips and tucks” is tied to aging.

“First, people will come to me and couch it in different terms,” said Dr. Ellen Mamur, chief of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. “(They may say) I’m under a lot of stress, I want to look a little fresher.’ But then, I’ll hear about age discrimination at work.”

Men are far more likely than women (30 percent versus 14 percent) to say that they are seeking cosmetic surgery solely for “work purposes,” although dermatologists and plastic surgeons say increasing numbers of women are also citing this reason.

And just look at the booming cosmeceutical market—wrinkle reducers, anti-aging creams, eye creams, “vitalizers” and the list of profit-making (game changing?) products goes on and on.

Right or wrong, fair or not, one’s appearance obviously is intricately tied in with one’s professional brand, or at least with one’s perceived professional brand—as well as a strong influencer of ultimate success in the workplace. And, since most of us are never going to be mistaken for one of the “beautiful people” among us, no matter what we do, the best advice would seem to be this: Make sure you look as good as you can when applying for a new job and while you are actually on the job. Whether or not that quest includes medical aesthetics is a call only you can make.

*Survey was conducted in 2010 and included 202 corporate hiring managers, from HR staff levels to senior vice presidents, as well as nearly 1,000 members of the general public.


Be watching for Skip’s new book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of bestselling job-hunting books and publications, Career Stalled?How to Get Your Career Back in ‘High Gear’ and Land the Job You Deserve—Your Dream Job! TM Publication is scheduled for spring 2013.


Skip Freeman is the author of the international bestselling job hunting book “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! ( and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.