The Ugly Side Of Hiring: How Much Do Looks Contribute To Employment?

By Melody Chi on March 2, 2015

Let’s be honest from the get-go here: when an interview candidate walks into the room, what’s the first thing you base your opinion on? Their looks, of course!

From their clothes to their makeup to their facial features, you analyze everything in a few quick seconds and form a first opinion based entirely on appearance.

Image via Herlitz_pbs on Flickr

And this isn’t entirely bad, when you think about it. After all, the way one dresses (such as formally or casually) can help employers weed out candidates that perhaps aren’t taking things seriously enough or maybe aren’t an apparent match for the company culture.

However, on the whole, judging based on looks is a poor (not to mention presumptuous) way to decide who to hire, and it happens much more than we want to admit.

Image via

In fact, I interviewed a friend who’s experienced being a hiring manager at one point, and she reiterated this statement. She declared that, after resumes and cover letters, she feels attractiveness is the next factor that can influence (even subconsciously) a decision to hire a person.

And there’s plenty of evidence that demonstrates many hiring managers probably agree with this sentiment at least a little. Is this mere chance, or is there something more at work?

A article would argue that there is an undeniable connection between appearance and success in getting promoted or a decent wage. The article cites a study from Cornell University that drew a correlation between weight gain and decreased pay.

Specifically, the study concluded that Caucasian females who gained an average of 64 pounds experienced a 9 percent drop in wages. Along that same trend, Caucasian women classified as “obese” underwent a 12 percent drop in wages.

While this research applies to people’s looks affecting the jobs they already have, it’s not a far step to assume that those perceived as overweight or obese would face similar prejudice in an interview when applying for a position.

In addition to a worker’s weight affecting a hiring manager’s perceptions, facial construction does as well, and not in a good way. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, those with facial blemishes or birthmarks can not only forget entirely about getting a leg up on the competition, they can also forget about even being given a fair shake.

A article cites this study, summarizing that interviewers “recalled less information” about job applicants with facial marks or some kind of facial disfigurement because they were predictably focused on the blemish. This lack of recall resulted in lower interview evaluation scores for the candidate.

However, as I said before, many people agree that looks– specifically, good looks– can actually help a person reach their job ambitions.

In fact, an article on, “7 Ways Your Looks Affect Your Pay,” suggests that attractive people earn more money. The article touches on a Yale University study that asserts “employers pay a beauty premium” to good-looking employees. Attractive employees rake in 5 percent more than the average, while their counterparts possessing poorer appearances can take a pay hit of up to 9 percent.

And if bosses are willing to pay attractive people more once they get the job, it’s a safe bet that hiring managers are likewise inclined to like good-looking people better in interviews, and thus perhaps hire them in the first place.

On the other hand, there are plenty of articles that claim beauty can be a burden, as well.

For example, the same article cites a study in The Journal of Social Psychology when it states that women categorized as “very attractive” experienced difficulty being selected for “masculine” jobs.

The article also refers to a Newsweek survey of “more than 200 hiring managers.” This survey apparently instructed people to look at 55 pictures of attractive men and the same number of good-looking women, and then to grant them hypothetical jobs.

The male candidates were consistently given high-level, high-paying positions such as manager or supervisor, while the women were given the inferior, low-paying jobs such as receptionist.

Like the Journal of Social Psychology’s study, these results do appear to imply that any relatively good looks in women can actually be detrimental. What does all of this mean? Apparently, that good-looking men get every possible advantage in interviews/jobs, while attractive women only sometimes do, and unattractive women can completely kiss their luck goodbye.

What do you think about looks in the workplace and interview room? Do you hire candidates based on appearance?

By Melody Chi

Uloop Writer
UC Davis
Hello, I'm Melody! I am a recent graduate of UC Davis and a new Uloop writer. My excitement over writing for such a wonderful company is only eclipsed by my love of tea, reading, and snowboarding.

Follow Uloop

Apply to Write for Uloop News

Join the Uloop News Team

Discuss This Article

Get College Recruiting News Monthly

Back to Top

Log In

Contact Us

Upload An Image

Please select an image to upload
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format
Provide URL where image can be downloaded
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format

By clicking this button,
you agree to the terms of use

By clicking "Create Alert" I agree to the Uloop Terms of Use.

Image not available.

Add a Photo

Please select a photo to upload
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format