hiring beauty bias

Hiring Bias



perks average good-looking
earn plain (2) intelligence
fend off downside colleagues
attach research characteristic
hire charisma reverse (2)
charm advantage suggest otherwise
include hunt (2) curricula vitae
norm fictitious application (2)
pair real live conclusion
resume identical virtually (2)
least attractive qualifications
rate physical in terms of
expect previous interview (2)
ugly applicant
equal vacancy subject (4)
offer perceive hypothesis
dumb suggest assumption
reason promote incompetent
baffle intelligent correlation
task staff (2) discrimination
invite selection human resources
jealous handsome old-fashioned
pretty candidate do away with
likely consider anonymous


Good Looks

In the office, as in life, good-looking people get lots of perks. Studies have shown that, all else being equal, the beautiful are more likely to be promoted and earn more than their plain-looking colleagues.

It seems that the only downside to beauty for women is having to fend off the advances of male colleagues.

Because society tends to attach positive characteristics (such as charm and charisma) onto the pretty, they must naturally have an advantage in getting hired as well.

Or so you may think: research by two Israelis suggests otherwise.

The Experiment

Bradley Ruffle at Ben-Gurion University and Ze’ev Shtudiner at Ariel University Centre looked at what happens when job hunters include photos with their curricula vitae, as is the norm in much of Europe and Asia.

The pair sent fictitious applications to over 2,500 real-live companies with vacancies. For each position, they sent two virtually identical résumés in terms of qualifications, one with and one without a photo (the pictures of the “applicants” had previously been rated for their physical attractiveness).

The Results

For men, the results were as expected: the researchers received more calls for an interview for CVs with handsome photos than those without a photo, while those with ugly pictures got the least.

However, for women this was reversed: attractive females were less likely to be offered an interview if they attached a photo. When applying directly to a company (rather than through an agency) an attractive woman would need to send out 11 CVs on average before getting an interview; an equally qualified plain one just seven.


At first, the team was baffled. Mr. Ruffle then reasoned that it was probably due to the “dumb-blonde hypothesis” (the assumption that beautiful women are incompetent).

However, the photos had also been rated on how smart people thought each subject looked; there was no correlation between perceived intelligence and looks.

So the cause of the discrimination must lie somewhere else.

Human Resources

Human resources departments tend to be staffed mostly by women. Indeed, in the Israeli study, 93% of those tasked with selecting whom to invite for an interview were female. The researchers’ conclusion is that old-fashioned jealousy led company women to discriminate against pretty candidates.

Mr Ruffle suggests that pretty women not include of photo of themselves on CVs. Or better yet, the practice should be done away with altogether. Companies might even consider the anonymous model used in the Belgian public sector, where CVs do not even include the candidate’s name.


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1. On average, physically attractive men and women are more successful in life than their less attractive counterparts. True or false?

2. Both handsome men and beautiful women have an edge (advantage) in being hired by a company. Is this correct or incorrect?

3. How did the researchers set up or conduct their experiment?

4. Were they surprised by the results? What was the outcome?

5. What was Mr. Ruffle’s initial reaction or reasoning? Was it correct?

6. The researchers gave a plausible explanation. Is this right or wrong? What was their explanation?

7. Does he offer advice or suggestions?


A. In your company or organization, does it seem like beautiful people are more “successful”?

B. Do you think there are biases in hiring new employees?

C. How would you describe your human resources department?

D. Is this fair? What should companies do?

E. What will happen in the future?

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