Cleavage And The Job Search

The blog today goes where few choose to tread because the topic alone is sure to get a reaction. It’s one of the few things I find people can’t help but notice yet are extremely uncomfortable talking about when working with job seekers – especially to the person themselves. What am I talking about? Exposed cleavage.

Now before you jump all over me or dismiss me as just another man who can’t see anything but a woman’s breasts, hear me out. As an Employment Counsellor who is expected to help those looking for work to realize and overcome their barriers to employment, am I really doing my job if I only point out what I’m comfortable talking about? I think it’s appropriate in this capacity to go into areas that are uncomfortable for some if it’s going to help those looking for work obtain the kind of work they are looking for.

Every so often I come across a young woman who is looking for a job who has by choice made a decision to wear a top that exposes too much of her breasts and cleavage. My typically reaction is to pause and wish I didn’t have to deal with the topic but know I must if I’m to really do my job. My training comes into play, a need for caution lest I be accused of anything inappropriate on my part in even looking, and some quick mental calculations of how the situation should be handled.

Perhaps in some situations it’s best to have the topic covered by a female co-worker. In others it’s best to have a co-worker present to act as a witness to what is said. And yet in others the best thing to do is to just make a matter-of-fact comment akin to covering them up before proceeding. It may be in other situations that other things are talked of first to build some trust first so the person knows your intent is entirely honourable.

There are of course some employers who are looking for exactly this kind of woman to work for them. Sadly I think, but true nonetheless. You can Goolge the oogle and find them in the restaurant business for example where large successful chains actually name their franchises after this particular part of the body. Those that work there dress in clothing that shall we say, accentuates.

All of this aside, I think it is extremely sad to see young, naïve women who really want to work but don’t see any issue with how they are dressed and exposing themselves. I fear for them honestly, because they are susceptible to being taken advantage of. I know from hearing the experiences of other women that  there are some employers who go out of their way to find these women and put them in situations where they are working in seedy establishments, put in skimpy outfits and it is clear that they are there to bring in customers who go in for a good look.

“If you’ve got it flaunt it right?” I’ve heard that. There is a popular pressure many people feel to be pretty and attractive. Just look at television and billboards. You can see as well as anyone that there’s a push to have beautiful hair, get rid of wrinkles, body hair, firm and shape the body, flatten the stomach etc. Not hard then to see that a young woman might want to show off what she’s got.

Oh and it’s not only the guys that notice. No, I see other people both male and female turn, look, look away and then look back. Sometimes those looks are lustful and sometimes those looks are just looks of disbelief.

Being yourself is one thing. Wanting to be taken seriously and have people value you for your mind first is another. And don’t misconstrue; one can be both beautiful and intelligent. There are many examples of those who have exploited their looks first to be recognized and then used their wits to maximize that exposure. Look to popular celebrities for countless examples. Unfortunately there are even more examples of women who have been abused and assaulted.

Is it being prudish to have someone ‘cover up the girls’ as is a popular expression on shows like, “What Not To Wear”, in which the male and female host equally tell overly exposed women to conceal rather than reveal too much cleavage? I don’t think so. I think it’s good practice especially when job searching.

I know personally of one person who does the hiring for his organization who won’t even take a woman into the interview room to interview her if she is exposing too much. Not only is it a safety issue for him personally, he has said that he doesn’t want their appearance to be in any way seen as a possible reason they were hired. He wants it known he hires based on abilities to perform the job being applied to. If they don’t work out, he doesn’t want the rumour mill whispering about his ‘hiring credentials’.

Part of this is just about maturing and understanding sometimes less is more attractive. It’s also understanding what employers – the majority thank heavens – really look for and want in their employees.

Touchy subject for sure and no pun intended. Just like bad teeth, terrible body odour and shorts that are too short, there are things some folks need help with understanding how they are perceived. We don’t do people any favours by avoiding such topics.




One thought on “Cleavage And The Job Search

  1. Unfortunately this is something that has been going on for generations. When I was young we had Canada Manpower. The first talk they gave on job interviews was given by a local businessman. He actually told us young women to show our cleavage and “act friendly’. Thank goodness times have changed and we are getting to a point where women are being hired for their skills. However our society still sends an underlying message to women. It is one obsessed with youth and appearance. We need to teach young girls what is appropriate and help them understand that they are talented people and they don’t need to pander to the “job requirements” of those employers who refuse to see women as people.


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