Good looks and good education needed to get a job interview, says Cambridge study

Hir­ers become con­fused by can­di­dates who do not fit nor­mal expec­ta­tions, experts claim. Pho­to / 123RF

Attrac­tive peo­ple might seem to have hit the jack­pot in the evo­lu­tion­ary lot­tery, but when it comes to job hunt­ing, they do not hold all the win­ning num­bers, sug­gests.

Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty has dis­cov­ered that a pret­ty face can actu­al­ly pre­vent peo­ple from gain­ing a job inter­view if it is not com­ple­ment­ed by a edu­ca­tion.

Like­wise, more visu­al­ly-chal­lenged can­di­dates could end up to be hired if they went to a good uni­ver­si­ty.

Experts at Judge School, Cam­bridge believe the phe­nom­e­non occurs because hir­ers become con­fused by can­di­dates who do not fit into nor­mal expec­ta­tions.

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Attrac­tive peo­ple are gen­er­al­ly expect­ed to be bet­ter edu­cat­ed, and more suc­cess­ful while the oppo­site is true for unat­trac­tive peo­ple. When appli­cants do not the pat­tern, recruiters assume they will be a bad fit for both high and low sta­tus posi­tions.

Christo­pher Mar­quis, Sinyi pro­fes­sor of Chi­nese man­age­ment at Cam­bridge, said: “Basi­cal­ly, our find­ings sug­gest that the incon­sis­tent sig­nals sent by () cues lead to more uncer­tain­ty for the eval­u­a­tor and so a low­er like­li­hood of that appli­cant being select­ed.

“Our study focus­es not only on char­ac­ter­is­tics such as attrac­tive­ness and edu­ca­tion, but how par­tic­u­lar sta­tus com­bi­na­tions fit with the job con­text involved.”

Graduates celebrate - but if you have a good education and are attractive the party might not last long. Photo / 123RF
Grad­u­ates cel­e­brate — but if you have a good edu­ca­tion and are attrac­tive the par­ty might not long. Pho­to / 123RF

For the study, the researchers sent 2095 fic­ti­tious CVs to employ­ers in Chi­na, where head­shots are includ­ed in job appli­ca­tions.

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The resumes were com­plet­ed as if from eight dif­fer­ent can­di­dates who var­ied in sex, uni­ver­si­ty sta­tus and attrac­tive­ness.

The team received 193 call­backs from com­pa­nies and found a “strik­ing pat­tern”. The four most suc­cess­ful can­di­dates had either a com­bi­na­tion of low­er uni­ver­si­ty sta­tus and low­er attrac­tive­ness or uni­ver­si­ty sta­tus and high­er attrac­tive­ness.

In con­trast, the four least fre­quent­ly called-back appli­cants had low­er uni­ver­si­ty sta­tus and high­er attrac­tive­ness, or high­er uni­ver­si­ty sta­tus and low­er attrac­tive­ness. There was no dif­fer­ence in sex.

The team good-look­ing peo­ple from elite edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions send out “unam­bigu­ous sig­nals of com­pe­tence” but both traits must be there to suc­ceed.

More entitled and less hard-working

Some have shown that more attrac­tive job can­di­dates are more like­ly to be hired, but oth­ers sug­gest employ­ers might dis­favour attrac­tive can­di­dates – per­haps because they per­ceive them as more enti­tled and less hard-work­ing, or assume they will have more options and leave quick­ly.

Pre­vi­ous research has also found that peo­ple who look vis­i­bly hap­py are deemed to be more hire­able than those with a more som­bre expres­sion, be it a frown or seri­ous demeanour.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to found that a smile exudes con­fi­dence and will­ing­ness in appli­cants, the study authors said, as well as mak­ing a per­son seem more attrac­tive.

How­ev­er the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land dis­cov­ered that good-look­ing men are less like­ly to be giv­en a job in a com­pet­i­tive envi­ron­ment than their plain­er com­peti­tors.

It was hypoth­e­sised that attrac­tive men are often seen as more com­pe­tent, and so those who will be work­ing along­side them are unlike­ly to want increased com­pe­ti­tion.

The Mary­land team also found that women con­sid­ered to be good-look­ing faced a strug­gle when they applied for jobs more usu­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with men or posi­tions for which appear­ance was not seen as being impor­tant to the job.

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The new study will be pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Soci­ol­o­gy.

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