Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Looking the Part Could Land You That Job
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Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Looking the Part Could Land You That Job

Applying to be a programmer? Better grab a pair of glasses. Different jobs favour certain looks, new research shows.

By ANNE MARIE CHAKER
Tue, Dec 5, 2023 8:33amGrey Clock 4 min

Think appearances don’t matter if you’re applying for a job online? New research shows that looking the part is very much part of the equation.

Your credentials and referrals may get you on the shortlist. Even if the whole process takes place online, though, it’s rare that a hiring manager won’t check out your LinkedIn profile. Making the final cut can come down to nailing a specific professional look, according to a new study published by the Harvard Business School.

Analysing 63,000 job openings and the more than 160,000 freelancers who applied for them over a six-month period, researchers found that certain accessories or physical features gave candidates an edge in landing the job—even after controlling for race, age and gender. Researchers used computer vision technology and machine learning to help classify which attributes made someone be perceived as a better fit for a job, then examined what role that played in hiring.

Different jobs favoured certain looks. The analysis showed that men wearing glasses and having a computer visible in the photo were perceived to be a better fit for a software programming assignment than men without glasses, boosting their chances of getting it. A beard gave them a slight edge, too.

With design and media-related jobs—one of two broad job categories examined in the study—flashing a smile and using a photo with high image quality was also important. Women sporting reading glasses and an “artistic” look were seen as a better fit for graphic design jobs than other women.

Fashion designer. ILLUSTRATION: DAISY KORPICS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, ISTOCK, PIXELSQUID

The researchers, from Harvard and the University of Southern California, found that certain photo features could tilt the selection process when profiles included equally high ratings from previous clients. The advantage could be roughly the equivalent of a 5% pay differential.

On the other hand, the study suggests that looking the part for a job doesn’t rely just on a candidate’s gender, ethnicity and age. Rather, paying attention to the details of a profile photo can go a long way, recruiters say.

“We would be fooling ourselves to say it’s not part of the package,” says Jessica Vann, founder of Maven Recruiting Group, a San Francisco job-placement firm. While not as important as job or communication skills, “it’s a piece, for sure.”

It’s generally a good idea to have a neutral background and no children, pets or celebrities in the photo. Vann, whose firm specialises in placing executive assistants and chiefs of staff at Silicon Valley companies, says she has counselled job seekers to eschew an obviously AI-generated photo or tone down the makeup.

Banker. ILLUSTRATION: DAISY KORPICS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, ISTOCK

In a CivicScience poll of more than 2,000 people conducted online last week, about half of respondents said they had used a professional-looking photo of themselves in some capacity; 82% agree that appearance makes a difference in a job offer.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating because of race, gender and religion, among other factors. But other aspects of personal appearance—whether height, weight or hairstyle—aren’t necessarily covered by the federal statute, says Steven Pearlman, a labor attorney at Proskauer Rose in Chicago. Plus, it’s often difficult to legally prove whether such biases were the reason for a candidate’s rejection.

Brent McCreary, a theatre ticketing director in New York, has found certain photo details can swing a hiring manager’s decision either way. His professional profile picture usually shows him with a favourite celebrity. At one point it was Britney Spears. Now it’s Kelly Clarkson.

The choice worked against him when he lost out on a revenue management job at a theme park three years ago. In the rejection note, the interviewer suggested a more professional LinkedIn photo.

A month later, though, the executive director of a San Francisco-based streaming platform contacted him. The job he’d applied for was already filled but she noticed his photo. “Your personality and background seem so fun and special,” she wrote in a LinkedIn message. When another project-management job opened soon after, McCreary got it. The job turned out to be a better fit for him, too, he says.

“The company I ended up working for was one where I kind of jelled with the organisation,” he says.

Looking the part is often informed by stories and stereotypes, career coaches say. “You see it in books and movies,” says Catherine Fisher, a LinkedIn career expert who studies data and trends on the professional social media network.

Programmer. ILLUSTRATION: DAISY KORPICS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, ISTOCK

Every industry has its own sartorial vibe, from the fleeced vests and sweatshirts of Silicon Valley to the traditionally suited-up finance crowd in New York.

“You always think hoodies are related to tech companies, but that doesn’t mean I have to wear one,” Fisher says. By the same token, angular bobs and big sunglasses have come to be associated with the fashion industry, though “not everyone in fashion looks like Anna Wintour,” she says.

That’s rapidly changing as home and work life become more mixed, Fisher says. More than half of working Americans say that how they present themselves at work has changed since the pandemic, according to a poll of 2,000 people conducted last year by LinkedIn. Two-thirds said they thought that managers and co-workers were more accepting of different ways of dressing and styling than several years ago.

Alice Stephenson, a 42-year-old lawyer, says that for much of her early career, she dressed the part and concealed her piercings and tattoos. “I wore a stereotype of what a professional looked like,” she says. “I never felt comfortable or able to express my own individuality or creativity through my appearance.”

That changed after she started her own law firm. In her photo on the firm’s website, in her email signature and on LinkedIn, she is wearing a friendly smile, a blue sleeveless dress and a visible sleeve of tattoos.

“I want to look friendly and approachable,” says Stephenson, who lives in Amsterdam. “That’s key to my brand.”



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New York Watch Auctions Record Uptick in Sales in the Face of Market Slowdown
By LAURIE KAHLE
Mon, Jun 24, 2024 4 min

Luxury watch collectors showed ongoing strong demand for Patek Philippe, growing interest in modern watches and a preference for larger case sizes and leather straps at the June watch sales in New York, according to an analysis of the major auctions.

Independent and neo-vintage categories, meanwhile, experienced declines in total sales and average prices, said the report from  EveryWatch, a global online platform for watch information. Overall, the New York auctions achieved total sales of US$52.27 million, a 9.87% increase from the previous year, on the sale of 470 lots, reflecting a 37% increase in volume. Unsold rates ticked down a few points to 5.31%, according to the platform’s analysis.

EveryWatch gathered data from official auction results for sales held in New York from June 5 to 10 at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s. Limited to watch sales exclusively, each auction’s data was reviewed and compiled for several categories, including total lots, sales and sold rates, highest prices achieved, performance against estimates, sales trends in case materials and sizes as well as dial colors, and more. The resulting analysis provides a detailed overview of market trends and performance.

The Charles Frodsham Pocket watch sold at Phillips for $433,400.

“We still see a strong thirst for rare, interesting, and exceptional watches, modern and vintage alike, despite a little slow down in the market overall,” says Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of the California-based pre-owned online watch dealer BobsWatches.com, in an email. “The results show that there is still a lot of money floating around out there in the economy looking for quality assets.”

Patek Philippe came out on top with more than US$17.68 million on the sale of 122 lots. It also claimed the top lot: Sylvester Stallone’s Patek Philippe GrandMaster Chime 6300G-010, still in the sealed factory packaging, which sold at Sotheby’s for US$5.4 million, much to the dismay of the brand’s president, Thierry Stern . The London-based industry news website WatchPro estimates the flip made the actor as much as US$2 million in just a few years.

At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire
Richard Mille

“As we have seen before and again in the recent Sotheby’s sale, provenance can really drive prices higher than market value with regards to the Sylvester Stallone Panerai watches and his standard Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1a offered,” Altieri says.

Patek Philippe claimed half of the top 10 lots, while Rolex and Richard Mille claimed two each, and Philippe Dufour claimed the No. 3 slot with a 1999 Duality, which sold at Phillips for about US$2.1 million.

“In-line with EveryWatch’s observation of the market’s strong preference for strap watches, the top lot of our auction was a Philippe Dufour Duality,” says Paul Boutros, Phillips’ deputy chairman and head of watches, Americas, in an email. “The only known example with two dials and hand sets, and presented on a leather strap, it achieved a result of over US$2 million—well above its high estimate of US$1.6 million.”

In all, four watches surpassed the US$1 million mark, down from seven in 2023. At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire, the most expensive watch sold at Christie’s in New York. That sale also saw a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM52-01 CA-FQ Tourbillon Skull Model go for US$1.26 million to an online buyer.

Rolex expert Altieri was surprised one of the brand’s timepieces did not crack the US$1 million threshold but notes that a rare Rolex Daytona 6239 in yellow gold with a “Paul Newman John Player Special” dial came close at US$952,500 in the Phillips sale.

The Crown did rank second in terms of brand clout, achieving sales of US$8.95 million with 110 lots. However, both Patek Philippe and Rolex experienced a sales decline by 8.55% and 2.46%, respectively. The independent brand Richard Mille, with US$6.71 million in sales, marked a 912% increase from the previous year with 15 lots, up from 5 lots in 2023.

The results underscored recent reports of prices falling on the secondary market for specific coveted models from Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. The summary points out that five top models produced high sales but with a fall in average prices.

The Rolex Daytona topped the list with 42 appearances, averaging US$132,053, a 41% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, with two of the top five watches, made 26 appearances with an average price of US$111,198, a 26% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar followed with 23 appearances and a US$231,877 average price, signifying a fall of 43%, and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak had 22 appearances and an average price of US$105,673, a 10% decrease. The Rolex Day Date is the only watch in the top five that tracks an increase in average price, which at US$72,459 clocked a 92% increase over last year.

In terms of categories, modern watches (2005 and newer) led the market with US$30 million in total sales from 226 lots, representing a 53.54% increase in sales and a 3.78% increase in average sales price over 2023. Vintage watches (pre-1985) logged a modest 6.22% increase in total sales and an 89.89% increase in total lots to 169.

However, the average price was down across vintage, independent, and neo-vintage (1990-2005) watches. Independent brands saw sales fall 24.10% to US$8.47 million and average prices falling 42.17%, while neo-vintage watches experienced the largest decline in sales and lots, with total sales falling 44.7% to US$8.25 million, and average sales price falling 35.73% to US$111,000.

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