A woman was told she wasn't hired for a job because of her appearance. Career experts say it happens all the time.


Despite giving a killer interview and ticking all the boxes the company was working for, Melissa Weaver didn't get the job she wanted.

Baffled, she asked for feedback but was taken aback by the response. She was told she didn't put enough "effort" into her appearance. The recruiter was talking about the fact she wasn't wearing makeup.

HR experts say this prejudice is far too common, with people being seen as unworthy of a role because of unfair gender and societal expectations.

"This happens more often than we'd like to admit, especially toward women," Daniela Herrera, a talent and recruitment expert and founding partner of Allies in Recruiting, told Business Insider.

"Beauty and appearance biases play a huge role in how women are perceived and treated in the workplace."

Weaver shared her story on TikTok, where it amassed over 600,000 views. She explained that with a background in recruitment, she knew she was the perfect fit for the role at a tech company and that she could answer all the questions that would be thrown at her.

That's why the rejection came as a surprise.

"I was really bummed," she said in the video. "I wanted the job, but I was also very confused. So I did something I never do and I emailed her back and asked for feedback."

Weaver said the recruiter told her that her background was "exactly what they were looking for," and her experience lined up perfectly. But, she was "concerned" that Weaver hadn't put enough effort into her appearance, "given the level of role" she was interviewing for.

"I was interviewing for a vice president position," Weaver explained. "And now my appearance — I had done a blowout for my hair. I had on a nice top, a blazer, and some earrings. But I only had on chapstick. I didn't have on any makeup because I don't really wear a lot of makeup."

Business Insider's Tim Paradis reviewed the email and spoke with Weaver, who said she was in "shock" at the reason the recruiter gave.

"One, that someone would write that in an email," she said. "But more so, that in 2024, this is still happening. I had so much enthusiasm about the company, and I knew I was good for the role. I can only assume her concern was that I didn't put on makeup because I'd done everything else. So hearing that because I hadn't done that, I was somehow less qualified or didn't seem like I was as enthusiastic about the job was just baffling."

Weaver then posed a question to those watching: Does not wearing makeup to interviews make it look like you don't care about the job?

The responses in the comments were heated. Some said that outward appearance, including makeup, hairstyle, nail color, and clothing, all matter during a job interview. But others felt it was illegal to put so much weight on a candidate's looks, suggesting Weaver sue the company and the recruiter for discrimination.

Many expressed disappointment over the unjust expectations women still face.

"They would never think or say that about a man," one person commented, to which Weaver replied: "Amen amen."

Herrera told BI hiring managers "still uphold very outdated and inequitable stereotypes and biases at work."

"I've seen hiring managers reject candidates based on the clothes they wear to an interview, the color of the candidate's hair, their tattoos, or their physical attributes," she said.

These old-fashioned values can then trickle down to the company's internal practices and policies, including decisions over who gets hired, promoted, and a higher salary.

The reason for such outdated views usually stems from a lack of training on equitable hiring, which means the problem only perpetuates, Herrera said.

"When micro-aggressions, biases, and stereotypes are not addressed, minimized, and checked at the systemic, process, and practice level, they become part of the workplace culture," she said.

Many hiring managers wouldn't see anything wrong with Weaver's rejection email, Herrera added, because they place so much value on what is and isn't "professional."

However, Michelle Enjoli, a career development coach and speaker, told BI that Weaver's appearance may not have been the issue at all.

Most roles at companies are given out based on networking, she said, meaning a significant amount of hiring managers already have someone in mind for a role before the interview process begins.

"In this specific case, I would assume the hiring manager had someone else in mind for the role or had a preference for a certain look but didn't have the tact to give an honest response to the candidate," she said.

Not wearing makeup is "not a reasonable reason" for being rejected for a job, she added and should be seen as a "major red flag" about the company's leadership and culture.

"I recommend professionals do as much research as possible to learn more about the culture of the company they are applying for to decide if it is an ideal fit for them," she said.

It's time companies shake up their hiring processes regularly, Herrera said, as this is the only way to avoid such situations in the future.

All candidates "should all experience an equitable, accessible, and inclusive interview process," she said, and the only way for the culture to be changed is with more awareness.

"I strongly recommend training, vetting, and supporting everyone involved with hiring and interviewing so they don't make these mistakes again," she said.

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