More Than 2,000 Bosses Revealed 5 Ways Your Appearance Is Ruining Your Career

October 21st 2016

You're struggling to get a promotion at work.

You show up on time, you work hard and you even politely listen to your co-worker's cat stories. However, you still can't make that jump to the next rung of the career ladder.

One possibility? Your hiring manager doesn't like your look. 

Harris Poll conducted a survey last year for job search website Careerbuilder and asked 2,175 hiring and human resources managers across the country to list the characteristics that would dissuade them from giving someone a promotion. Many of the items, like consistently showing up late to work or having a bad attitude were predictable, but the managers also listed the ways that someone's appearance could block them from a promotion.

Here are five things about your appearance that may be ruining your career:

1. You wear clothing that your boss finds "provocative."

Although gender wasn't specified, this one sounds suspiciously targeted towards women44 percent of managers noted that "provocative" clothing would turn them off from giving a promotion, the highest percentage for appearance-based qualities. Obviously the definition of provocative is subjective, but people like Andrew Martin, who describes himself as a "business developer, recruiter, and blogger" on LinkedIn, are unfortunately eager to police the things women wear. 

Last month, Martin who could be someone's boss, wrote an essay on LinkedIn about the reasons women shouldn't wear yoga pants to the office. Heavy on mansplaining, the essay manages to objectify women's bodies, give misleading health information about yoga pants and treat women like idiots all at the same time.

One commenter called the essay "the most misogynistic thing I've read in a while."

Comment about a yoga pants essay. LinkedIn -

The essay is no longer posted. 

2. You wear wrinkled clothes or clothes that are too casual.

A significant 43 percent of the managers said that they would be less likely to give a promotion to someone whose clothes were wrinkled and 27 percent said they would be less likely to give a promotion to someone who dressed too casually. While not all employers have a formal dress code, noting what your co-workers are wearing, or asking human resources or your hiring manager for a dress code could be a smart choice. 

If you don't know how to iron or steam the wrinkles from your clothes, the internet can teach you. Jim Moore, creative director at GQ, has a YouTube tutorial on ironing a dress shirt in 90 seconds. Come on, you can spare 90 seconds in the morning. 

3. You have piercings (outside of traditional ear piercings).

Cartilage piercings. Flickr/Ruth Silva -

About 32 percent of hiring managers said they would be less likely to promote someone who has visible body piercings or earrings in addition to traditional lobe piercings. If your workplace has a more conservative culture, maybe leave your nose ring out on workdays or consider forgoing that ear cartilage piercing. 

4. Your hair is too weird for them.

About 25 percent of managers said they would be less likely to give someone a promotion if they had an "unprofessional" hair cut and 24 percent said they would be turned off by "unprofessional or ostentatious" facial hair. This is another aspect of appearance that is very subjective and varies in different professions. 

What's considered "unprofessional" varies, but we do know that some people's beards are gross (that's clearly a scientific term). 

A TV station in Albuquerque, New Mexico had a microbiologist test beard swabs from random men in the community, and he found high levels of the types of bacteria that live in poop.

"Those are the types of things you find in fecal matter," said John Golobic a microbiologist from Quest Diagnostics.

5. Your breath stinks.

A significant 23 percent of managers said that bad breath could end someone's chances of nabbing a promotion.

Fixing bad breath can be as simple as popping a breath mint, but chronic bad breath can be a sign you need to see a medical professional. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 47 percent of adults over the age of 30 have periodontal disease or infections in the gums and oral bones. Besides causing pain and damage to the teeth and gums, the infections can cause bad breath.

RELATED: 5 Subtle Ways Men Are Misogynists at Work

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