01 November 2017

Will good looks really get you that job?

New research suggests that attractive people may be discriminated against in selection for relatively less desirable jobs.


The general assumption is that attractive people do better in interviews and have a better chance of landing the job. However, good looks may actually be a hindrance in the hiring process, a new study suggests.

But before you feel sorry for attractive applicants, know that the finding only applied to lower-paying jobs.

A series of experiments

"Our research suggests that attractive people may be discriminated against in selection for relatively less desirable jobs," said lead author Margaret Lee, a doctoral candidate at the London Business School.

But a good-looking applicant did have an edge when it came to desirable jobs such as project director, manager or IT intern, the researchers added.

The 750 study participants included university students and managers who make hiring decisions in real life. They were shown profiles and photos of two potential job candidates, one attractive and one unattractive.

In a series of experiments, the attractive candidate was much less likely to win a low-paying job, such as warehouse worker or housekeeper.

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

People's assumed aspirations

The findings stand "in contrast to a large body of research that concluded that attractiveness, by and large, helps candidates in the selection process," Lee said in a journal news release. The study suggests that the widely held belief that attractive people make more favourable job applicants might be limited to higher-level jobs, said study co-author Madan Pillutla, also of the London Business School.

"The most interesting part of our findings is that decision makers take into consideration others' assumed aspirations in their decisions," said Pillutla.

The study participants thought that attractive candidates would want better jobs, and predicted they would be less satisfied, he said.

That led them to reverse their discrimination pattern and favour unattractive candidates when selecting for a less desirable job, he explained.

Image credit: iStock


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