Are you handsome enough to work here?


Job interviews. They are terrible for most people without much extra effort, but if you are less attractive, than they are worse for you. Why? Because attractive people get more job interviews, more call-backs, and more jobs in general.

An Italian study from last year produced some interesting results: “they sent more than 10,000 resumes out, using the same one and changing only first-name, last-name, address, and the photo included to test ethnic and regional biases as well as the impact of beauty.” Far and away, attractive women and men got the most call-backs, with unattractive women only yielding a 7% call-back rate. Other studies have found similar results – despite the qualifications of the CVs, how you look has a big impact on whether you get to come back for the job.

This raised an interesting point with me (well, many interesting points) – aside from the fact that I should have a cover-ready photo for all of my job applications. Charles Kadushin discusses this tendency in a broader sense in his book Understanding Social Networks. He points out that people are more likely to choose people who are more attractive than they – but it’s not limited to looks. “People choose others who are more attractive than they are, subject to the safety condition that too much unrequited love is painful. Attractiveness is of course not necessarily physically motivated, but the possession of any attribute valued by the group” (Kadushin, 89).

What struck me about the Italian, and other, research was that it disregarded the other potential attractive features for only the physical. The people hiring for the jobs were not considering whether the person was attractive based on education, experience, or community involvement. They were choosing based on physicality only – flying in the face of Kadushin’s point with network theory. Obviously, not all of the call-backs were only based on the looks, and perhaps the attractive people still had attractive CVs.

It also brings up the importance of social networks in the new world of jobs and interviews. You now have an online CV through your LinkedIn – with a nice photo of you looking attractive and professional. You can apply directly to jobs posted on LinkedIn through the platform, meaning that your CV is coming with a picture, regardless of whether you attached it or not. The research on the hire-ability of attractive people is more and more important to understand for our workforce — to recognize and demonstrably change to reflect less about the physicality and more about the skill set and job fit.

…Or, it means you had better get your hair done before your next big interview —  it might be the difference between you and the next person.




10 thoughts on “Are you handsome enough to work here?

  1. Funnily enough I took a Psych class in my undergrad on Body Image and Beauty. My professor did a lecture about people’s beauty and how if affects their changes of being hired.
    Something interesting I remember him saying was that, appearance is definitely important (as is smelling good) in an interview (like the Italian study shows), but if you look TOO good and the hiring manager is of the same sex, it could work against you. So he advised: look good, but not too good if the hiring team is of the same sex. I thought it was interesting.

  2. Gillian, thanks for helping kick me into gear on this week’s post. Hope you don’t mind that I piggy-backed a bit. I think Kadushin would agree that if you do well, I do well, and we all do well together… or was that Sharon, Lois and Bram? (Kadushin in plain English, strike 2 – a blog reply free-form poem by SJ)

  3. Very interesting post. It reminded me of working for a not for profit years ago when we were hiring a new administrator. Two managers, a male and female, were conducting the interviewing and one of the interviewees, young girl ignored the female manager and only addressed my male manager during the interview. Needless to say she didn’t get the job. The female manager would have been her direct manager and it was clear it wasn’t going to work. But it always made me wonder why she ignored the female. Was it a conscious decision? Did she think the male was the best to appeal to, or did she on some unconscious level assume he was the decision maker.

    Another thought, if attractive people do better professionally right from their start as juniors in their field, perhaps they generally have the better resumes.

    Lots of food for thought, thanks!

    • Interesting, Carrie – it hadn’t occurred to me that because of that bias, attractive people get better work consistently, ultimately creating a better work in the end. Doomed to be pretty.

  4. aynka

    Interesting post, Gillian!
    it’s funny, the other day we tweeted about this with Rebecca. She told me that in N.America people don’t put photos on their CVs, while in Europe it’s a common practice. I guess it’s connected with cultural differences.

    However, with current social media development we should be ready that the potential employer can check our profile not only in LinkedIn, but also in other networks.
    I wonder whether in future people applying for job would be judged not only based on their CV and interview, but also based on the information they provide in social networks… That’s a source for potential discrimination.

  5. I was not surprised to the findings of Italian study because I know that in some countries any job application has to come with photo attached. From one point I do not agree that your appearance should prevent you from getting certain job, but from another point, there are positions where you need to look nice and I think that is the case when employer might look for somebody with greater appearance. Such positions include a waiter, customer service representative, or car dealer/sales person. I think that the appearance of sales staff in such positions also influences customers.

  6. Great post Gillian. I have a job interview tomorrow (which is part of the reason I have disappeared from COMM 506 for a while) and I have been told the panel will consist of three women. To Nicole’s point above, I am a little unsure how to handle myself. I want to be myself, of course, but sometimes my left over stage performer-ness works against me. I have had very mixed experiences working with female colleagues and supervisors. Most experiences have been great, but some ladies have been excruciating to work with because of their own insecurities. (And some gents have been hard to work with because they can’t see me as a colleague – they see me as…gasp…a woman! Those are the things you hit on, right? They’re not like us…)

    I am frustrated that I am spending as much time on what I wear tomorrow as I am on my review of the organization. I do agree with Yulia that there are some factors to consider in terms of looks when hiring – I wouldn’t hire someone with stained clothes or unkempt hair, but really there is a certain amount of bias in this that seems to be unavoidable. And I notice more now because I’m the one job-hunting, not hiring.

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