Good Looks May Help Land the Interview -- for
FRIDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) -- While good-looking men find
it easier to land a job interview, attractive women may be at a
disadvantage, a new study from Israel suggests.
Resumes that included photos of handsome men were twice as
likely to generate requests for an interview, the study found. But
resumes from women that included photos were up to 30 percent less
likely to get a response, whether or not the women were
That good-looking women were passed over for interviews "was
surprising," said study leader Bradley Ruffle, an economics
researcher and lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The
finding contradicts a considerable body of research that shows that
good-looking people are typically viewed as smarter, kinder and
more talented than those who are less attractive, he said.
But Daniel S. Hamermesh, professor of economics at the
University of Texas at Austin, "wasn't totally surprised," noting
that other studies, including one of his own, have found beauty a
liability in the workplace. "I call this the 'Bimbo Effect,'" said
Hamermesh, considered an authority on the association between
beauty and the labor market.
The current study appears online on the Social Science Research
In Israel, job hunters have the option of including a headshot
with their resumes, whereas that is customary in many European
countries but taboo in the United States, Ruffle said. That made
Israel the ideal testing ground for his research, he said.
To determine whether a job candidate's appearance affects the
likelihood of landing an interview, Ruffle and a colleague mailed
5,312 virtually identical resumes, in pairs, in response to 2,656
advertised job openings in 10 different fields. One resume included
a photo of an attractive man or woman or a plain man or woman; the
other had no photo. Almost 400 employers (14.5 percent)
The resumes of good-looking men received a 20 percent response
rate, compared to a 14 percent response for men with no photo and 9
percent for resumes from plain-looking men, the study found.
However, among women, resumes without photos got the highest
response -- 22 percent higher than those from plain women and 30
percent higher than those from attractive women.
The apparent bias against attractive women depended on the type
of employer that reviewed the resumes, said Ruffle. Employment
agencies called pretty women as often as plain ones, and only
slightly less than women who didn't include a photo. But when the
resumes were screened directly by the company at which the
candidate might work, those from attractive women received half the
response of those from either plain women or women who didn't
Hypothesizing that human resource departments are staffed mostly
by women who feel jealous of attractive women in the workplace, the
researchers called each company to speak to the person who had
reviewed the resumes. In this post-study survey, they found that 24
out of 25 were women.
The researchers also learned that the resume-screeners tended to
be young and single, "qualities that are more likely to be
associated with jealousy," said Ruffle.
Hamermesh wasn't convinced of the hypothesis, noting that the
women trying to fill the open position were unlikely to work in the
same division as the applicant, attractive or not. "The researchers
were not able to really test this. It was just an interesting
hypothesis," he said.
It's true that in most previous studies of labor-market
outcomes, attractive women have come out on top, he said. "But
other studies have found evidence of the Bimbo Effect," he
In a 1998 study, Hamermesh and co-author Jeff Biddle found that
good looks enhanced the likelihood that a male attorney would make
partner early, but reduced that likelihood for the most attractive
While attractive women received fewer callbacks, those who make
it to the interview stage still might land the job, the study said.
The resume-screener might not be the interviewer, and even if they
are one and the same, the "pretty woman" bias might fade during a
Still, "women are better off not including a photo with their
resumes," said Ruffle.
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