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Lead Your Team Women in Business

Attractive Women May Be Less Likely to Get Hired

Beauty may be only skin-deep, but when it comes to job hunting, the better-looking you are, the more likely you are to get hired. Unless, you are a woman, that is.

According to recent research, good-looking men were 50 percent more likely to get called for job interviews, but good-looking women were much less likely to land an interview. The reason? According to the researchers, most corporate human resources employees sorting through resumes are young, single women. Presumably, they weren’t keen on hiring the competition.

Though it may sound sexist, the researchers’ methods appear to support their claim.

The study involved sending 5,312 resumes in pairs to 2,656 advertised job openings in Israel. In each pair, one resume was without a picture while the second, otherwise almost identical resume, contained a picture of either an attractive male or female or a plain-looking male or female.

The researchers noted that unlike in the U.S., in Israel it is not unusual for job candidates to include a photo with their resume.

The results found that the resumes of "attractive" males received a 19.9 percent response rate, nearly 50 percent higher than the 13.7 percent response rate for "plain" males and more than twice the 9.2 percent response rate of no-picture males.

However, among women, the study indicates that, contrary to popular belief, "attractive" women are called back for a position less often than women who are perceived as plain or unattractive, as well as women who had no picture on their resume.

"Among female candidates, no-picture females have the highest response rate, 22 percent higher than plain females and 30 percent higher than attractive females. Our findings on penalization of attractive women contradict current psychology and organizational behavior literature on beauty that associate attractiveness, male and female alike, with almost every conceivable positive trait and disposition," explain the authors, Bradley Ruffle, a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Ph.D candidate Ze'ev Shtudiner.

The number of attractive women that were subjected to discrimination varied on who was hiring them, the research shows. When employment agencies received resumes for positions, attractive female candidates were no worse off than plain candidates and penalized only modestly compared to no-picture females.

However, when the corporation at which the candidate might work recruited directly, attractive females received a response rate of about half that of plain and no-picture women. This is likely due to the high number of women in human resources staffing positions, the researchers conclude.

To verify this stereotype, the researchers conducted a post-experiment survey in which they spoke with the person at the company who screens candidates. That person was female in 24 of the 25 (96 percent) of the companies they interviewed. Moreover, these woman were young (ranging in age from 23 to 34 with an average age of 29) and typically single (67 percent) -- qualities more likely to be associated with a jealous response when confronted with a young, attractive competitor in the workplace.

"Indeed, the evidence points to female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace as a primary reason for their penalization in recruitment," Ruffle said.

Jeanette Mulvey
Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.