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Want a Job? Attractiveness Matters

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True or false: Employers are more likely to call attractive candidates than plain candidates.

The answer, according to a study by Bradley J. Ruffle and Ze’ev Shtudiner of job applicants in Europe and Israel, is true… if you are male. If you’re female, it’s better to be plain! :)

Check out their abstract:

Job applicants in Europe and in Israel increasingly imbed a headshot of themselves in the top corner of their CVs. We sent 5312 CVs in pairs to 2656 advertised job openings. In each pair, one CV was without a picture while the second, otherwise almost identical CV contained a picture of either an attractive male/female or a plain-looking male/female. Employer callbacks to attractive men are significantly higher than to men with no picture and to plain-looking men, nearly doubling the latter group. Strikingly, attractive women do not enjoy the same beauty premium. In fact, women with no picture have a significantly higher rate of callbacks than attractive or plain-looking women. We explore a number of explanations and provide evidence that female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace is a primary reason for the punishment of attractive women.

It’s important to note that in Israel, including a headshot is not taboo but it’s also not expected. In most countries in continental Europe, it’s actually a social norm to include a headshot. They found that men who were attractive and included a heatshot outperformed those without headshots or those who were “plain” looking. With women, the highest response rate was for no pictures (also, plain outperformed attractive).

I’m curious how his would play out here in the United States where headshots are not common (at least I don’t think they are?)…

{ 17 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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17 Responses to “Want a Job? Attractiveness Matters”

  1. Bey says:

    Humans are extremely visual creatures, and I fear that photos on resumes would be an unnecessary distraction and would play to our unconscious (and conscious) prejudices. This seems to be borne out by the study you cited. One’s suitability for any job should be supported solely by the text of a resume or CV, which should highlight experience, organization, and language skills. Of course any subsequent personal interview gives further opportunity for prejudice, but I have participated in many such interviews where the candidate’s personality was the true deciding factor.

    • live green says:

      I was thinking of the same thing. Why do you need to include a picture on your resume. It should be about qualification for the job, not how you look. I can understand if a person didn’t get hired because they were wearing inappropriate on their interview. But that should not be based off of whether somebody is more attractive than another person.

    • Josh says:

      Bey,

      Are you saying personailty has no impact in the workplace? I’ve seen personalities make or break organizations. Especially if it is a group environment, customer/sales focused position, or management!

  2. zapeta says:

    From my experience screening job candidates, if you want to find a picture on the internet of the person it usually isn’t hard. But I think its interesting that having a picture only helps attractive males and not attractive females.

  3. jsh says:

    I once had an HR rep at my company (U.S. software development) tell me that the headshots from resumes either get tossed or tacked to a dartboard.

  4. I completely agree with Bey; however my cynical (and realistic) nature says that businesses use employees as tools. If an attractive tool is better for business than a plain or unattractive tool (or it is perceived to be), the former will win the job.

    It’s nothing personal; it’s just business (and human nature).

    “It’s important to choose not who you think is the prettiest girl, but who the judges will think is the prettiest girl.” ~ John Maynard Keynes

  5. “We explore a number of explanations and provide evidence that female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace is a primary reason for the punishment of attractive women.”

    Um, yeah. I’d love to see that evidence. Because of COURSE it could only be women who hold other women down based on something so petty as appearance. The fact that a man might be quicker to objectify and therefore distance himself from seriously considering an attractive woman couldn’t possibly be the more reasonable explanation, right?

  6. At first, I was shocked by the findings about the women. But thinking about jealously, and the fact that attractiveness in females is often (wrongly) associated with laziness or a lack of critical thinking ability.

  7. Elloo says:

    I work in pharma sales, and attractiveness is definitely a plus to land a job–cute females to attract the doc’s attention and handsome men to woo the mostly female office staff. You need smarts, to be sure, but looks do help land the job.

  8. govenar says:

    I think it would depend on the type of job. If it’s a sales job where they interact with people a lot, it makes sense that they would want more attractive people. (I see that the paper has some discussion about that.) For women, maybe people assume that attractive women get by more on their looks than on skills (and especially if it’s not common for everyone to include a headshot, the people who do include it could be seen as trying to influence the decision based on their looks, implying that they’re not really qualified for the job).

    • cubiclegeoff says:

      I agree, I would think it would depend on the job. I would think in some jobs, the person hiring would want to be more attractive than the person they are hiring.

    • D Budd Sr says:

      In regards to you comment:

      (and especially if it’s not common for everyone to include a headshot, the people who do include it could be seen as trying to influence the decision based on their looks, implying that they’re not really qualified for the job)

      I do believe you are stretching things a bit to come to this conclusions. Including a headshot means nothing more or nothing less than merely including a headshot.

  9. Mike says:

    Looks like hiring attractive women is a bad idea across the ocean. Do you think it’s because they are found to be lazy, incompetent, or cause disturbances in the work place? I wonder what the true reason is.

  10. Shirley says:

    I don’t think pictures are a good idea on a resume. Choices for an interview should rely on written suitability for the position. Then in an interview choices can be made from style of dress, looks and personality, which may all add or subtract from that suitability.

  11. jsbrendog says:

    wow. i mean, it was kind of assumed but for it to have concrete data backing it up….


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