Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Looking the Part Could Land You That Job - Kanebridge News
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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 8:41amGrey 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 favorite 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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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .