Cosmetic medicine: The new job search tool

There's a pretty common checklist for anyone seeking a new job. You get your resume and cover letter in order first. Then, when the interviews start to come, you make sure your suit fits, your shoes match and your hair is cut.

There's no secret to the fact that you need to present well in an interview, regardless of how skilled and experienced you are. Of course, these tips aren't even tips any more. They are nothing more than the price of admission to the job market.

Today, with layoffs mounting and competition for top jobs becoming increasingly brutal, everyone's looking for an edge. The latest is medical. Hopeful employees are tweaking the effects of age to look better while in the job market.

According to Ali Vafa, MD, MPH, the number of patients coming to his practice at New York Medical Aesthetics has increased steadily through 2009. At first, most of the procedures (all non-invasive) were typical of any market. One patient was going to be seeing an ex-boyfriend and wanted to look better. Others were doing it for morale, just to feel better about their bodies.

Then, the job-related requests started to creep in. More than simply wanting to treat themselves to luxurious post-layoff gifts, patients were beginning to talk about their job searches -- and the importance of looking their best.

"I have to admit," Vafa says, "it hadn't occurred to me." He was all too familiar with the usual reasons for having wrinkles removed and lips plumped, but tying it to the job market was a new twist. "It crept up on me," he continues, "until it was pretty hard to ignore." These procedures have become yet another tool in the job-seekers arsenal, alongside an account on Monster and a headhunter's phone number on speed dial.

Earlier this year, he recalls, few people mentioned that they were using cosmetic procedures to bolster their searches for employment. "Now," he says, "I get someone just about every day."

There is no standard "interview treatment," according to Vafa. Each patient comes in with a specific interest, though the standard aim is to improve appearance -- beyond getting a suit altered -- for that big moment when the candidate is sitting across the desk from a potential new boss.

Vafa is able to complete a number of procedures in the office, including non-surgical nose jobs, Botox injections, lip augmentation, earlobe rejuvenation and work on dark under-eye circles. Unlike surgical alternatives, the recovery process is fairly quick, so job candidates will not have to worry about showing up to an interview with bandages on display.

While luxury spending tends to be constrained during a recession, the price points Vafa described make it easy for the patient to justify the cash outlay as part of the process of finding a new job. Some treatments cost as little as $250 (with the current summer deals in play), which is less than the price of a new suit (unless you shop where I do).

In fact, even the more expensive procedures are comparable to professional seminars (not including travel). The accessibility of what was once considered a staple of the fiscal elite has made it a commodity on the job front.

Vafa thinks the trend is likely to gain momentum over the coming months. "Once more people realize they can afford cosmetic treatments and use them to get a leg up in an interview, the lines at the door will get longer," he believes.

"Everyone's looking for even the smallest thing to stand out in an interview. You can't change your experience or your skills quickly, but you can look better," he says, "and that definitely makes a difference."

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