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New York-based manager Melissa Weaver was told she didn’t get a job because she ‘hadn’t put enough effort’ into her appearance

Looks matter—at least, they do to potential employers. That’s the critique one New York-based job hunter was given after she arrived at a job interview without makeup. 

Melissa Weaver, a millennial recruiter-turned-people manager, was taken back when she didn’t get the job she wanted—a VP of HR role at a tech company. Drawing on her experience being on the other side of the table, Weaver felt like she had nailed all the questions thrown her way and was the perfect match for the job at hand.

So she did what any confused candidate would do: Emailed the hiring manager for feedback—and the response she got has gone viral on TikTok.

“My background was exactly what they were looking for, my experience lined up with what they need for the position and my own personal goals and values align with the company’s,” Weaver paraphrased the hiring manager’s email in a video that has racked up over 600,000 views. 

“She was concerned that I hadn’t put in enough effort in my appearance given the level of role I was interviewing for.”

Weaver further explained that she had “done a blowout for my hair, I had on a nice top, a blazer, some earrings… But I only had on chapstick.” 

“My question is does not wearing makeup, for women, to job interviews or to jobs make it seem like they aren’t putting in as much effort or care into the job?” she asked. 

So, does appearance matter? Absolutely.

Thousands of TikTok users took to the comments section of Weaver’s video with many calling the employer in question discriminatory. “Do men get refused a job because they don’t wear makeup?” one person quipped.

In a follow-up video, Weaver defended that the company has every right to reject a candidate—irrespective of their gender—based on their appearance. 

“While a company can not not hire a woman just because she’s a woman, they can not hire a woman because of she presents herself,” Weaver responded. “The same way a company can choose to not hire a man because he has an unkempt beard or a facial tattoo.”

A former HR worker responded in the video that the feedback probably wasn’t specifically about her lack of makeup “but overall they wanted a more polished appearance”. 

While a sizable chuck of users agreed with the hiring manager that, unfortunately, appearance does matter, others were hopeful that things had changed after the pandemic-induced stint of working from home.

“When our company was moving back in office after Covid my female coworkers and I made a pact to not wear full makeup when we all went back to help set a new ‘standard’,” one user wrote. 

She’s not entirely wrong. “Post pandemic the rules of dress codes and formality at work are shifting,” career coach Jenny Holliday told Fortune

“In some industries, there is still a demand for a level of formal dress but with a rise of work from home and hybrid work, we are more fluid with our choice of work attire,” she added.

In today’s age, Holliday said that employers who judge candidates on their attire are a major “red flag”.

But Lewis Maleh, CEO of the global executive recruitment agency Bentley Lewis, told Fortune that “appearance absolutely matters”—especially in client-facing roles. 

While he agrees that focusing solely on appearance “sends a harmful message” (on the part of employers) and that what constitutes “enough effort is highly subjective”, ultimately, how candidates show up at an interview gives employers a clue into how you’d appear in front of a client. 

“Turning up dressed appropriately, standing tall with your shoulders back, can be the difference between winning a client’s trust and losing out on valuable business,” Lewis said. 

“People tend to form first impressions quickly, and looking professional can influence how seriously you’re taken,” he added. “Whether we like it or not, this plays a big part in how humans make decisions on how competent they think someone is and whether they want to work with them.”

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