The link between appearance and the likelihood of being hired is more complicated than previously understood
Appearance, it has been long suspected, plays a role—however minor—in getting a person hired. Your face could be the key to an appointment letter. Or not. There is enough anecdotal evidence that attractive candidates have an advantage over Plain Janes and Average (looking) Joes. But a London Business School study shows that the interviewer’s perception of a candidate’s physiognomy could cut two ways. In experiments involving 750 participants including university students and recruitment personnel, the researchers found that attractive people were more likely than not to be rejected for low-paying, menial jobs, and, conversely, more likely to be hired for “desirable” jobs. To be sure, people deemed good-looking may still have a relative but highly discriminatory advantage over their plainer peers, but overall, they are still handicapped because of their appearance.
The study found that participants believed an attractive person was “more entitled to good outcomes than unattractive individuals”. What the study reveals is that biases about appearance run deeper and form a more complicated web than previously believed—if good looks were to have an overall positive impact on the chances of a person getting hired, then recruitment managers participating in the study would have favoured an attractive person for all jobs. It would get more complicated if one were to factor in the various factors that influence one’s perception of beauty. If a Western recruiter were faced with candidates of Asian and African origin, how would she choose? Beauty does lie in the eyes of the beholder, but when it comes to ability, should it be a factor in discerning?