Careers

How your attractiveness affects your career, according to experts

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Susan Devaney
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You’d be forgiven for thinking that good looking people have it easier than most. From securing more dates and making more friends, to a quicker route up the career ladder, society has brought us up to believe that the better looking you are, the more successful you’ll be.

And, sadly, it would appear that society was right.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, there is but one career position that more attractive people struggle to secure: that of a low-level job (aka the less desirable jobs, such as a warehouse labourer, housekeeper or customer service representative).

And the reason? Apparently, it’s because hiring managers believe more attractive candidates would be less satisfied in that type of job.

“The conclusion of most existing research on attractiveness is that being attractive provides an advantage in life, including in the workplace,” Margaret Lee, a Ph.D. candidate at London Business School and the lead author on the study, told Forbes

However, this is actually quite surprising, as previously it would be assumed that the most attractive candidate would be selected for the job, regardless of the level. 

“Participants thought that attractive individuals would want better outcomes.” 

Researchers at the London Business School conducted four separate studies looking at how physical attractiveness affected hiring decisions. The research involved more than 750 participants, and found that “participants thought that attractive individuals would want better outcomes”. As such, participants predicted that “attractive individuals would be less satisfied, [and] they reversed their discrimination pattern and favoured unattractive candidates”.

In all of the experiments, participants were shown photos of two candidates: one conventionally attractive and the other conventionally unattractive. Then they were asked a series of questions to determine the fictional peoples’ career success and job prospects.

The first study found that attractive job candidates were believed to have a greater sense of entitlement to good outcomes than unattractive candidates. In relation, the second study concluded that because of that perceived sense of entitlement, attractive candidates were less likely to be hired for less desirable low-level jobs.

When the participants were asked to pick a lab partner in the third experiment, they were less likely to pick the more attractive person. Finally, the fourth study examined the decisions of HR managers based on the two candidates – with only their physical attractiveness to consider.

“People seem either uncomfortable with, or dismissive of, the idea that attractiveness influences how we evaluate people in the workplace, but it definitely does,” Lee says. “The best way to reduce impact is to understand why and how it affects our judgments, and try to find ways to correct it.”

The best thing to do during your next job interview? Make sure you clarify that you really want the job.

Images: Drew Graham / iStock

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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