JOB SEARCH / SEP. 22, 2014
version 2, draft 2

Do You Have To Be Beautiful To Get The Job?

It’s nice to think that when it comes to dealing with people that we’re generally quite meritocratic and judge others on their abilities and talents rather than anything more superficial.  After all, I’m sure we’d like to be treated that way ourselves, right?

Alas, the real world isn’t quite so idealistic. There have been numerous studies showing how our looks influence what we get out of life. For instance, studies have linked physical attractiveness with the securing of funding in venture capital environments, whilst some have even linked it to overall career success.

It all revolves around what is known as the halo effect, whereby strong characteristics in one area are assumed to instill the person with equally strong characteristics in other, often unrelated, areas. So a good looking person might be assumed to be as talented and intelligent as they are beautiful.

This was highlighted by a study conducted by researchers at Kent University that identified an apparently ideal ’look’ for success in the workplace.

Only the beautiful need apply

These findings were replicated in a German study that explored how influential our looks are when it comes to recruitment scenarios. Do the beautiful tend to get offered jobs more often than the plain looking?

The study, conducted by German psychologist Maria Agthe, explored how the looks of a candidate influenced the recruitment decisions made. She investigated how people reacted to an application based upon the attractiveness of the photo attached to the application.

Interestingly it differs based upon the sex of the person making the decision.  It seems that if the recruiter is of the opposite sex, then the prettier applicants get rated higher than the plain ones.

It’s all about the ego

If the recruiter was rating an applicant of the same sex however, the prettier they were the less likely they were to be considered for the job.

Here is where the experiment got really interesting though. Agthe also found that the attractiveness of the recruiter played a part in things. If the recruiter was attractive themselves then they were generally unmoved by the physical appearance of the applicant. Plain looking recruiters, however, were more likely to mark down attractive applicants - with this trait applying to both sexes.

Agthe suggested this was down to the fact that people implicitly believe that good looking people get the breaks in life and so plain looking people try to minimise the advantage of the beautiful.

It makes an interesting comparison to research covered in a previous blog, however, whereby recruiters were shown to not want to hire people that had similar strengths and talents to themselves. The notion was that hiring a candidate that was as talented as the recruiter would diminish the capabilities of the recruiter themselves.

It all suggests that recruiters are hiring people based upon their own level of self-esteem, whether it’s related to their looks or their talents. Something to be aware of when you’re heading into a job interview perhaps.

Do you think looks have ever affected your job prospects either positively or negatively? Your thoughts and comments below please…


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