Does Being Attractive Get You a Job Easier?


          I have heard rumors that the more attractive you are, the more likely it is for you to get a job even if someone else who is more qualified than you and less attractive also applies for the same job.  According to the book, Social Psychology: Third Edition, by Eliot R. Smith and Diane M. Mackie, people enjoy being around attractive people because they are pleasant to look at and they make us feel warm and good because we perceive them as more friendly or comforting than they really are.  Job positions are supposed to be given to the most eligible applicant and are not supposed to be chosen based on looks. IT is said that there are no physical biases when hiring an employee however, is this true?  According to recent studies, it is not.

            There was a study published in June 2011 addressing this concern entitled, Does Being Attractive Always Help? Positive and Negative Effects of Attractiveness on Social Decision Making.  Unfortunately, in order to read the entire study I would have had to subscribe and pay to download the PDF but I thought the abstract gave a good synopsis of what happened in the studies done by Maria Agthe, Matthias Spörrle and Jon K. Maner:  


"Three experiments assessing evaluations of potential job candidates (Studies 1 and 3) and university applicants (Study 2) demonstrated positive biases toward highly attractive other-sex targets but negative biases toward highly attractive same-sex targets. This pattern was mediated by variability in participants' desire to interact with versus avoid the target individual (Studies 1 and 2) and was moderated by participants' level of self-esteem (Study 3)"

            What they concluded from these three studies was that if the interviewee was the opposite sex of the interviewer and the interviewer found them attractive, they were more likely to feel as though the applicant was the most eligible.  However, if the interviewee was the same sex as the interviewer, the interviewer was less likely to see them as the most eligible.

            According to Associate Professor Comila Shahani-Denning, this is something known as the "what is good is beautiful stereotype.  In an article that the professor wrote entitled, Physical Attractiveness Bias in Hiring: What is Beautiful is Good , it says, "Research examining attractiveness bias in hiring decisions is important because of the extensive use of subjective appraisals in employment decision making. Given the legislation prohibiting employment discrimination based on non-job-related factors such as race, gender, ethnicity, disability and age, it is interesting that there is no legislation regarding physical attractiveness

            After reading all of this information and analyzing the different conclusions, I began questioning whether it is actually possible to prove that being attractive gets you a job easier than someone who maybe is not so attractive.  The observational studies that have been done to try and figure out the reasoning behind this have shown that there is a direct correlation between being attractive and the likelihood of that person obtaining a job position-the likelihood is very high.  When it comes to trying to understand people's brain processes, it is very difficult to understand why people make certain decisions and like certain things.  The only reasoning that I could think of as to why people scientifically choose to be around people of the opposite sex that they feel are "attractive" is because when you find someone attractive, your body is analyzing compatibility for reproductive purposes.  Setting up legislation banning the hiring of employees based on attractiveness would be almost completely pointless because it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make someone not be physically attracted to someone else.  A solution would be to train business people to hire people solely based on their eligibility for the positions.  However, this would too be almost pointless because humans are wired to have opinions and surround themselves with people compatible for them.  


Carolyn, I was thinking about this the other day actually with all of the career fairs going on. Also, I guess according to your article that I really should take a lot of time to "try" and look good to impress! I wonder if there could be any third variables when it comes to this study? To be honest, I cant think of many, maybe your relationship to the recruiter before hand? What about you, can you think of any?

Also, I found this article that explains the fact that what name you have may determine how likely you are to get a job. If you have a more simple name like "joe" you are more likely to be hired. Check this out!

This question really fascinates me also. I recently had a mock interview with a MBA student in the Smeal Career & Corporate Connections office, so we went through the interview and then in the end I was given feedback. He told me to "look impecible." I was a little taken back by this. I aboslutely understand how dressing well and having your hair and makeup done nicely, is necessary to give off a clean, organized, professional impression, but it seems like "looking impecible" goes beyond this. It think it's a natural human reaction to be interested and enthused when meeting attractive people. In turn, yes this means recruiters are more likely to pick more attractive people.
Along with this, this question made me think of a study I saw awhile ago where Tyra Banks dressed up in a fat suit for a day, wore no make up, and went shopping. The point was to see if she was treated differently. Well she absolutely was! "'The people that were staring and laughing in my face -- that shocked me the most,' Banks said. 'As soon as I entered the store -- when I went shopping -- I immediately heard snickers. Immediately! I just was appalled and, and and hurt!'"

Carolyn, great post! I think that this topic is very interesting and it makes you wonder. This exact question ran through my mind a little over a month ago when I got hired at The Diner downtown. When I moved to State College in the beginning of the semester, I knew that I had to find a job, so I went downtown to fill out applications one day. The Diner was the first, and only, restaurant I had to apply to because they basically hired me right on the spot, it was shocking actually. I was like "woahh, that was easy", hahaha. My family was worried about me finding a job here because of all of the other students living here, looking for jobs as well. I called my mom the day after I moved in and told her I found a waitressing job- she nearly had a heart attack, haha. I didn't think I got the job because of looks at all, I just assumed that it had a little something to do with you know, my past experience of being a waitress for 3 years now. But no, my boss straight up told me I got the job because I'm "hot". I didn't know whether to take that as a compliment or... But when I stopped working there my roommate was like "you're not going to get another job as fast, you know that right?" That day I walked into Kildare's and got a waitressing job. Score!!! Cheers to having a symmetrical face, or whatever.

There was another study done showing that having a "baby-face" helps placement for black CEO's, because it counteracts the stereotype of a "scary" african american, while baby-faces seem to have the opposite effect for whites and females. We like to think that we are completely objective in our everyday judgments, but I don't know if there is truly any way to ever be sure.

It is important to note that the study may not be large enough to be statistically representative. There were only 10 baby-faced, black CEOs in the study, which caused some professors to question how much we can really extrapolate from the findings. It certainly doesn't seem like a very far-fetched idea though!

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