Do Looks Matter In A Job Interview?

Elizabeth Witbeck

There is so much to prepare for when going on a job interview: thinking of answers to potential questions; researching the company; finding clothes to wear. Some people may wonder, do interviewers care about our looks? Recent studies say they might.

As controversial as it might be, studies show that physical appearance is a factor during the job interview process. One such study was carried out by researchers at Rice University in Texas in 2012. During the study, participants listened to an interview.

The participants were split up into three separate groups, with one group seeing job candidates with no blemishes on their faces, and the other two groups seeing job candidates with large scars and birthmarks on their faces.

The participants in the study were asked to listen to 20 questions the job candidates were asked, and then to later remember the answers to the questions. They were also asked to rate the job candidates based on how they believed they did during the interview. In the groups where participants saw people with scars or birthmarks, they could only remember on average, eight out of 20 of the answers the job candidates had given.

Meanwhile, groups who had job interviewers with no blemishes on their face recalled 11 of the 20 answers, on average. The participants who saw candidates with scars or birthmarks on their face also gave them lower ratings on their performance, compared to the other candidates.

The results of this study indicate that less attractive physical features may be distracting to hiring managers and also lead to hidden bias in the interview process.

Studies have shown that less attractive features may hinder job interviews. Studies have also shown that people who are especially attractive often have an easier time in the interview process than less attractive people. One economist who investigated this was Daniel Hamermesh, who published his book Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful in 2011.

His studies show that beautiful people, both men and women, are offered more job positions and are hired more quickly. They are also offered more promotions. Studies show that the highest-ranking positions within companies are often filled by the most attractive people. Beautiful people also earn significantly more money than people with average looks. Hamermesh found that handsome men earn $230,000 more over the course of a lifetime than average looking men.

The studies also show that highly attractive people bring in more business. They tend to have more customers, and sell more services and products. Research shows that customers are more interested in doing business with people who are especially beautiful. This mindset carries over into many aspects of our lives. For example, the celebrities that we adore to watch on television tend to be very attractive, not just average looking.

What is the reasoning behind this? There are many theories for why looks matter during a job interview. The first is that many people tend to equate beautiful people with certain personality traits. Research shows that people believe attractive men and women are confident, high income, hardworking, and dependable. This confidence may come as a direct result of their good looks. Hiring managers often want people with these traits, and may hire people because they believe that they possess them – whether they actually do or not.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, research shows hiring managers may view people who are unattractive as less happy, less confident, more socially awkward, less healthy, and less successful.

Another theory behind why hiring managers are keen for beautiful employees is sex. People tend to enjoy doing business with attractive men and women: attending meetings with them, having conversations with them, buying their products and services, and just being around them in general.

Many people have heard the cliché about the boss who hires the beautiful receptionist. One possible reason for this is that both men and women want to increase their chances for sex with these attractive people.

By putting themselves in situations where they will see them more often, or even hiring them, on a subconscious level they increase their chances for sex.

So, with this information in hand, what can we do about it?

First, it is important for employers to be aware of these hidden biases. Remember to base your decision making process on a candidate’s past experience and education, not their looks or what you assume their personality might be like. You are hiring somebody based on what they will be able to do in the position.

For interviewers, it is important to put your best foot forward. Dress appropriately for an interview. Always err on the side of conservative dress. A suit and dress shirt always looks good. Remember to take a shower and practice good hygiene. Arrive at the job interview site with plenty of time beforehand so you can enter into the bathroom and groom your appearance before the interview.

Some industries have more of an emphasis on appearance than others. If you are not keen on having your looks judged by others, then avoid a career in modeling, acting, television journalism, and similar industries. There are still plenty of people who believe that it is what on the inside that matters.

About The Author

Elizabeth Witbeck

Elizabeth Witbeck works as a college consultant and educational entrepreneur. She launched the first business in the United States that sends care packages to first generation college students, and also helps prospective college students on their applications. Her interests include education, poverty, and working with youth.

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