Wherever we go or whoever we meet, how we look builds other people’s first impressions. It’s genetically wired in all animal species to associate desirable attributes such as intelligence, confidence, grace, and even kindness to attractive physical appearance. Bright-colored feathers, sleek and shiny fur, strong muscles, big stature – these are a gauge of attractiveness that animals look for when choosing a mate to ensure successful reproduction and healthy offspring.

Human beings are not so different. Beauty is what attracts us first when choosing a friend or significant other, although logic and conscience drive us to follow the rules of fairness and to judge based on traits that are not skin-deep. Despite the ethical and moral importance of not judging the book by its cover, it’s still difficult for most of us to deny what’s naturally embedded in our DNA and consciousness. More than defining our biological preference and self-importance, physical appearance also affects our decisions and opportunities, especially those involving our careers.

In both academic and business setting, attractiveness influences first impressions of intelligence, competence, and confidence. These are crucial factors that are usually considered in job hiring and education.  A study finds that women who wore makeup and dress well to an interview are perceived to be more competent by hiring managers, and are therefore more likely to be hired. Putting more effort on your appearance for an interview is seen as seriousness in getting the job. Weight, body build, and height are significant determinants of getting a job and even a good pay grade upon job entry. Headhunters use information on weight and body build to assess the applicant’s discipline and behavior. Height on the other hand, hugely affects a person’s satisfaction with his looks. Taller people with good posture, especially men, exudes confidence, which in turn increases the chance of getting the job, promotion, or salary raise.

Attractiveness, however, is a double-edged sword, particularly for women. Being pretty can take you a mile towards the career advancement you’ve set for yourself, but it can also hinder you from getting far. If you’re too attractive, people at your workplace may not take you seriously, or even discriminate you because of it. They may have unfounded assumptions on how you got hired, thinking that your pretty looks did the job. They may also think that your attractiveness is the only thing you’re naturally good at. In some instances, beauty and brains in one person can be perceived as a threat, and become a subject of envy and insecurity.

These circumstances and their implications are established further by many research findings and survey results. As NYC success coach Liana Khutsurauli explains, physical appearance is indeed a significant factor in manager’s decisions regarding hiring, pay raise, and promotion. According to a survey conducted by Newsweek, 57% of the interviewed hiring managers agreed that unattractive applicants have lower chances of being hired despite their good qualifications. Furthermore, looks ranks third, above educational background (no. 4), in top 9 attributes that managers use to evaluate their candidates for a job position.

Despite such reality in the job market, executives will not admit that something as trivial as attractiveness competes with qualifications that determine a person’s capacity to fit into the job, such as skills and experiences. Some managers may try to suppress the tendency to give way to more logical selection, but the influence is undeniably there. Personal appearance has a say in your success, and it is smart to assume that this is true everywhere and every time. Personal appearance, however, is not just being pretty or handsome; it’s more about presenting yourself in a strategic manner that fits the position or goal you’re vying for. For instance, if you’re applying or targeting a promotion for an executive position, your appearance must convey power and an unbeatable aura. Looking the part gives you an edge, and increases your chance of getting what you want.