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One recruiter said an executive vying for a president’s role at an IT company showed up for a breakfast meeting with the chairman in a half shirt, scuffed hair and somewhat slovenly appearance. The interview never really took off. Elsewhere, at a pharma company, a highly qualified person failed to make the cut as he didn’t “seem to have an active lifestyle.”

Such stories abound — the process was cut short for yet another candidate who flaunted gold cufflinks, a flashy briefcase and reeked of perfume during the deciding interview. In another search for a CEO, a US-based Indian origin candidate was rejected because the chairman thought his “personality was not impressive enough.”

“Organisations are increasingly looking at how a person takes care of himself/herself as an indicator of how he/she will take care of the company, the packaging has to be good.”

Fitness and physical appearance are increasingly getting correlated to intellectual ability, ability to communicate and do good work.

“Appearance did have some importance in the past as well, but then it was always on the margin. However, with a far wider leadership candidate pool in India than even five years ago, this is no longer so. Candidate appearance has become a critical executive trait. All things being the same — performance, talent, drive, other skill sets — appearance is extremely powerful.

An executive who looks unfit is often perceived as being less capable of handling long hours, intense travel and the pressure these roles tend to bring.

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