Excuse Me, You're Not Good Looking Enough to Work Here.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Tuesday, 18th August 2009
Beauty has its privileges, especially in the travel industry where beauty is in the eye of the customer. (Says Yeoh Siew Hoon)

I saw an Ikea van the other day. It said, "You don't have to be rich to be clever."

It set me thinking, "But do you have to be clever to be rich?"

That train of thought then led to another question – do you have to be beautiful to be rich?

In the travel industry, beauty is in the eye of the customer and more often than not, customer-facing staff are hired based on their looks or what companies think their customers would like to look at.

Look at Singapore Airlines, which somehow manages to churn out the Singapore Girl by the sarong kebayas.

Or hotels whose front line staff are often young, pretty, handsome, good-looking, smart ... "toothsome people need not apply, you can work back of the house".

Which is why a recent article, "Accor to stop hiring Check-in Staff Based on Looks", got my attention.

It said that Accor "has decided to anonymise CVs submitted to its French careers website, removing applicants' first and last names, nationality, sex, age and e-mail address".

"The company says that the decision is to ‘ensure that the initial selection of candidates is uniquely based on the applicant's training, experience and skills' and ‘provides testimony to Accor's engagement on the subject of diversity'."

I am not sure where Accor is heading with this and I somehow don't believe it is going to stop hiring good-looking people for check-in because let's face it, beauty does have its privileges and as we all know, French women do not get fat.

We also know that beautiful people tend to get away with a lot more and customers are always more willing to forgive a pretty/handsome face.

Beautiful people also tend to get a lot more attention as I found out myself one night at a French restaurant in Singapore.

The maitre d' was taking my order when out of the corner of his eye, he saw two skimpily-dressed tanned beauties walk into his restaurant. I tried to hold his attention but I could tell it was a lost cause and before I could say "escargot", he was gone like a snail up a drainpipe, leaving me in mid-order.

His behaviour reminded me of Basil Fawlty, the psychotic hotelier played by British comedian John Cleese, whose body of work includes a documentary called "The Human Face".

The four-part series examines the history, biology and physiology of the human face and one of its episodes, "Beauty" looks at humanity's visual prejudices and the benefits of a pleasant visage.

Said Cleese in an interview in 2001, "It's about two things. There is a mathematical basis for what is an attractive face, the idea used to be called the ‘Golden Proportion'. This is the idea of Stephen Marquardt. He started to use it to do reconstructive surgery.

"The second part of the program is that beautiful people are imbued with all kinds of qualities that they don't really have.

"A lot of the people who have become celebrities are not famous because they have discovered penicillin or won the Civil War. Now it's because they are number two or three in a sitcom and often those people don't have that much to talk about."

He says, "We pay far too much attention to people's faces when we try to figure out what kind of a person they are."

Take a dating service which he says is an example of how everyone searches for the Golden Proportion. "When the men first come into the dating agency, they go for the best lookers. The more intelligent ones will come back in a few days and say ‘I need someone more intelligent'."

Perhaps that should apply to recruitment as well?

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com

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