Job Hunt Makeover: How Far Should You Go?

job hunt

When Victoria Zamensky decided to look for an office job this year after working for herself for a decade, she didn't just polish up her resume and interviewing skills. She polished up her smile and smoothed out a few wrinkles too.

Besides revamping her hairstyle, the 38-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, sprung for teeth whitening at her dentist's office and Botox injections from a cosmetic surgeon.

"I'm a single mom of two kids. I often look harried," Zamensky said. But since the Botox, she says she now looks "younger and refreshed."

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"It gives you a bit more of an edge," said Zamensky, who's always worked in appearance-conscious fields like sales and marketing. "That old adage of first impressions really is true."

Zamensky's no anomaly. Thanks to our beauty- and youth-obsessed culture, buying a new suit is the tip of the makeover iceberg for some job seekers. Instead, some are turning to personal trainers, dermal fillers or facelifts.

In April, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reported that 75 percent of its members have patients asking for cosmetic surgery to stay competitive in the workplace.

Considering that study after study shows preferential treatment of workers with Hollywood looks, it's hard to fault those job seekers with financial means who are willing to try anything to give themselves a (sculpted, toned and tanned) leg up on the competition in this tricky job market.

But when you're in the interview hot seat, will a few less pounds or wrinkles really make a difference? Or can those of us who look more like Susan Boyle than Scarlett Johansson take solace in the fact that talent really does rise to the top?

Stay Out of the Tar Pit

Last Sunday, the fortysomething "Desperate Housewives" character Tom Scavo contemplated going under to the knife after blowing an interview for a marketing job because he didn't know what Twitter was.

"I am a dinosaur marching into the tar pit," Tom moaned. "My time has passed. I am no longer relevant."

Of course Tom's relevancy (or lack thereof) had less to do with his age than the fact that he wasn't up on the latest industry trends. And while it's easy to write this off as the silly stuff of prime time soaps, falling behind the times is a mistake that countless job seekers continue to make.

"If you don't come across as current, you appear less qualified," said Marion Gellatly, an image consultant in Pebble Beach, Calif. "And if you don't fit in, it could cost you the interview."

Dress like it's 1999 or carry a day planner instead of a mobile phone, and you too just might risk extinction.

Put Your Money Where Your Resume Is

By now, you've probably seen at least 75 articles about how you need to look your Monday best for an interview: from your perfectly coiffed hair to your freshly pressed apparel right down to your trendy, scuff-free shoes.

But before you consider giving yourself a nip here or an injection there, make sure your resume and interviewing skills are up to snuff. If you're going to spend your precious reserves anywhere, spend them on a resume doctor or a career coach who can teach you to knock an interviewer's socks off first.

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