Indypendenz/ShutterstockThe hunt for a brand new job is never easy. Sending off countless applications, waiting patiently by your email for an automated reply, heading to interviews, explaining your every role since college… only to be rejected once again. Needless to say, the process can be a headache.
Of course, there are ways to increase your chances of landing your next role. You can spend loads of time preparing for a job interview or researching what you should wear to the interview itself. These extra measures are certain to make it more likely that you’ll get the job, but what if there’s something else holding you back? While you may not realize it, how attractive you are actually plays its part in what types of job you tend to get offered.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, interviewers and managers may well be subconsciously discriminating against candidates based on how attractive they are. Surprisingly, despite the notion that attractiveness can be a real bonus in finding a job, the research found that in some cases, it can hold candidates back.
Over the course of the four experiments, the views of 750 participants, ranging from students to managers, were assessed. Each one was shown two separate job application profiles—one with a photo of a typically attractive person and one with a photo of an unattractive person.
After seeing the profiles, the participants were asked a range of questions to determine their perceptions of each candidate. In three of the experiments, they were asked whether they would hire each candidate for desirable (interns and managers) or undesirable (housekeepers, warehouse workers) roles.
The results found that all of the participants were less likely to hire attractive candidates for the undesirable job roles than unattractive candidates for the same roles. Equally, they were less likely to hire unattractive people for desirable jobs. The reason for this unconscious prejudice may boil down to how people perceive attractive individuals and what they believe attractive people expect in life.
“We found that participants perceived attractive individuals to feel more entitled to good outcomes than unattractive individuals, and that attractive individuals were predicted to be less satisfied with an undesirable job than an unattractive person,” explained Margaret Lee, lead author, a doctoral candidate at the London Business School. “In the selection decision for an undesirable job, decision makers were more likely to choose the unattractive individual over the attractive individual. We found this effect to occur even with hiring managers.”
The study casts new light on how recruiters and managers evaluate the candidates they consider for roles. Before now, research has suggested that more attractive candidates get preferential treatment in the job market. While the new study aligns with that idea, it also shows that for certain “less-desirable” roles, that isn’t the case.
“The most interesting part of our findings is that decision makers take into consideration others’ assumed aspirations in their decisions,” explained co-author Madan Pillutla, PhD, from the London Business School. “Because participants thought that attractive individuals would want better outcomes, and therefore participants predicted that attractive individuals would be less satisfied, they reversed their discrimination pattern and favored unattractive candidates when selecting for a less desirable job.”
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