Sunday, 1 April 2012

Physical attractiveness and careers.

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.

Attractive women should not include a photo with a job application.

Mar 31st 2012

AT WORK, as in life, attractive women get a lot of the good chances. Studies have shown that they are more likely to be promoted than their plain-Jane colleagues. Because people tend to project positive characteristics onto them, such as sensitivity, they may also be at an advantage in job interviews. But research by two Israelis suggests otherwise.

Bradley Ruffle at Ben-Gurion University and Ze’ev Shtudiner at Ariel University Centre looked at what happens when job hunters include photos with their curricula vitae, as is the norm in much of Europe and Asia. The pair sent fictional applications to over 2,500 real-life vacancies. For each job, they sent two very similar résumés, one with a photo, one without. Subjects had previously been graded for their attractiveness.

For men, the results were as expected. Handsome men were more likely to be called for an interview if they included a photo. Ugly men were better off not including one. However, for women this was reversed. Attractive females were less likely to be offered an interview if they included a picture. When applying directly to a company (rather than through an agency) an attractive woman would need to send out 11 CVs on average before getting an interview.

At first, Mr Ruffle considered what he calls the “dumb-blonde hypothesis”—that people assume beautiful women to be stupid. However, the photos had also been rated on how intelligent people thought each subject looked.

So the cause of the discrimination must lie elsewhere. Human resources departments tend to be staffed mostly by women. Indeed, in the Israeli study, 93% of those tasked with selecting whom to invite for an interview were female. The researchers’ unavoidable conclusion is that old-fashioned jealousy led the women to discriminate against pretty candidates.

So should attractive women simply attach photos that make them look ugly? No. Better, says Mr Ruffle, to discourage the practice of including a photo altogether. Companies might even consider the anonymous model used in the Belgian public sector, where CVs do not even include the candidate’s name.

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