Hiring based off physical appearance

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Graphic by Lena Yang
Graphic by Lena Yang

Attractive females may be at a disadvantage when looking for a job.

This was one result of a study published by Bradley Ruffle, an associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, which followed the hiring process of “attractive” and “plain-looking” males and females.

The study called “Are good-looking people more employable?” followed the results of 2,656 job applications submitted in Israel by Ruffle and his co-author, Ze’ev Shtudiner.

The researchers sent two curriculum vitaes to each job, one with no photograph and one that contained a picture of an attractive or plain-looking individual. A CV was deemed successful if the potential employer called back to schedule an interview.

Each pair of CVs contained similar information to one another and applicable job experience related to the position.

The study sent applications to various industries including sales, banking, chartered accountancy, industrial engineering, and others either directly to the company or to a hiring agency.

In order to determine what photos to use, Ruffle implemented a rating system with over 300 photographs and several judges.

The judges rated each picture based on three criteria: physical attractiveness, intelligence and likely ethnicity.

Only the appropriately rated images for each gender and category were used.

“There are lots of forms of documented discrimination … including gender, age, ethnicity. Our interests were to see if there was beauty-based discrimination,” said Ruffle.

Ruffle’s study found that employer callbacks for CVs that contained a photo of an attractive male were greater than male CVs with no photo and almost doubled those of plain-looking men.

However the success of attractive individuals did not carry over for females. Female CVs with no picture had a significantly higher callback rate than plain-looking or attractive women.

“I think it depends on the job position,” said Delia Lazarescu, a third-year business and computer science student.

“You hear that attractive people get better jobs and pay all the time, so it would make sense if attractive females had an advantage as well.”

However jealousy and envy may be one reason for the discrimination toward attractive females.  A survey conducted by Ruffle after the experiment indicated that a majority of companies had female hiring personnel.

The jealousy dynamic, explained Ruffle, is mostly likely the root cause for discrimination.

Young, attractive and educated females applying for a job may represent more competition for the reviewer and cause them to consider other less attractive candidates.

Ruffle mentioned that the work place social dynamic could also influence why attractive males were picked most.

The aim of the study was to discover if attractiveness is another bias that can be found when looking for a job.

“It didn’t matter if it was an office job or a face to face job,” Ruffle said.

In their conclusions, the authors recommended an anonymous hiring process eliminating biases created from photos and names as well as gender-balanced hiring committees.


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