What to do if you're too attractive to get hired
Ladies, are you too physically attractive to work in a “manly” job? Maybe. It seems that, if you are a physically attractive woman seeking employment in a typically male-dominated profession, your good looks can work against you.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard that you can be too hot to hire. The bias is well known enough to have a name, “the beauty is beastly effect.” The term was used at least as far back as 1979, when a report was released on study results finding that “attractiveness consistently proved to be an advantage for men but was an advantage for women only when seeking a nonmanagerial position.”
The argument is counter to what we’ve all read about how attractive people get all the breaks — they earn better salaries, get better jobs, are less likely to be convicted of crimes, and get free stuff while the rest of us are left to fight for the scraps. But that’s been proven to not always be the case.
In 2010, Maria Agthe of Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich published a paper paper titled “Don’t Hate me Because I’m Beautiful,” in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Agthe found that subjects playing the roles of scholarship selection committees and recruiters were inclined to favour more attractive candidates, but only when evaluating members of the opposite sex. The same bias did not apply when evaluating members of the same sex. It was also found that, while good looking people did not disadvantage other equally good looking people, less good looking people held attractiveness against those more attractive than themselves.
Agthe told the Toronto Star that, while men were simply “unimpressed” by a male applicant’s handsomeness, “Women actually discriminated against beautiful same-sex candidates.”
The suggestion there seemed to be that woman are petty and jealous. Not a very heartening takeaway.
Fast forward to today and new research has been released that shows men also discriminate against attractive women, for different reasons, but that a winsome female applicant can negate some of the damage her looks are doing by addressing the subject directly.
First, according to bizjournals.com, the men in the study were divided into two types of sexists: benevolent sexists, meaning they see women as needing protection; and hostile sexists, meaning they see women applying for these jobs as being in violation of gender roles.
Whatever the type of sexist, research by Stefanie Johnson at the University of Colorado Boulder found that negative bias could be somewhate negated if the comely female applicants mentioned their looks and her gender during the hiring process. Those who did were more likely to get hired than those who did not.
For example, reports Biz Journal, if a woman applies for a position in the construction industry and says, “I know I don’t look like the typical applicant,” she will be viewed more favourably than a similarly attractive candidate who doesn’t mention her looks.
For the study, participants were given fake resumés, photos, and written statements to evaluate for imaginary construction positions.
“The raters who received the application of the attractive woman who had acknowledged her appearance or sex gave higher marks than those who received the application of the attractive woman who hadn’t acknowledged either,” the study reportedly said.
The explanation in the paper is all in academic speak, so we’re not sure but we think that by overtly recognizing her own attractiveness the female candidate offsets some of the perception that she is simply in the wrong place and unsuitable for the role. It makes her more relatable to her male interviewers, potentially changing them from detractors into supporters.
Still, I’m not sure I would recommend this course of action. It seems to me and those I polled on the subject (my boss, who sits next to me) that mentioning one’s attractiveness in an interview might make one seem a little vain or narcissistic, neither of which make them more attractive as job candidates.
Also, if the hiring manager doesn’t think you’re as attractive as you think you are, you’ll just come across as deluded and weird.
So, have you ever lost out on a job because you were too attractive? And how would you react if you were hiring and someone mentioned their appearance during the process? Tell us about it.