Want to Get a Job Interview? Pay Attention to Your Looks

Last Updated Dec 10, 2010 11:42 AM EST

Courtesy: MGM
Former prom queens and cheerleaders looking for work might want to leave their photos off their resume and their public Facebook profile. According to a new academic study, hiring managers scanning resumes from female job applicants granted more interviews to "plain-looking" women or women who didn't include a photo with their resume, than they did for attractive women whose resume included a photo.

Here's what should really turn up the cocktail party chat a notch this weekend: The same study found the exact opposite is true for guys. Attractive men benefit from the "beauty premium."

While there's long been a correlation between good looks and higher salaries -- for both men and women -- this new study adds an interesting twist: to get past the first round of resume screening you have to know how to play up (men) or play down (women) your looks. So if you're one of the 15 million unemployed firing off resumes hoping to land one of the nearly 3.4 million job openings in the U.S., you might want to get strategic with your mug shot.



Who You Looking At?

Researchers at two Israeli universities started their study by first asking an eight-member panel to scroll through a series of photos and separate the lookers from the merely OK-looking. That was designed to create some level of group consensus on who qualified as attractive versus not (the researchers had already vetted the pool of photos to eliminate as much as possible photos of candidates whose ethnicity could be easily identified.)

Then the researchers sent off 5,312 resumes in pairs of two to advertised job listings. The resumes themselves were nearly identical, but one resume did not include a photo at all, and the other resume in the pair contained a photo of either an attractive male/female candidate, or a plain-looking male/female candidate.

Photo Finish
The overall positive-response rate was 14.5 percent. The resumes that got the highest callbacks from the hiring folks were:
  • Resumes for attractive men (photo included): These had a response rate that was 45 percent higher than for plain-looking men whose photo was included, and double the call-back rate for male resumes that were sent without a photo.
  • Resumes for women with no picture: These had a response rate that was 30 percent higher than for attractive women whose photo was attached to the resume, and 22 percent higher than "plain" women whose photo was attached.
For those of you interested in a cross-gender comparison, the absolute highest response rate was the 19.9 percent positive reaction for the attractive men whose photo was sent with a resume. The picture-less female resumes came in second, with a 16.6 percent positive reaction.

So what gives? Here's a hint if you haven't yet figured it out: Who is typically in charge of screening? Yep, young women. After the survey was complete, the researchers contacted the firms they had sent applications to and determined that 24 of the 25 firms had a female employee between the ages of 23-34 doing the screening. The authors conclude that one of the major factors at play here is that "female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace is a primary reason for the punishment of attractive women."


Hire Attraction
Two obvious takeaways from this study are that one, attractive women should send in picture-less resumes, and two, attractive men might want to put some time into photo-shopping their picture to perfection.

While attaching photos to a resume isn't standard operating procedure in the U.S., it is fairly common in Europe and Israel. That said, don't overlook any Facebook photos you've left open for public consumption, and ahem, any photos that can be easily found with a quick Google search.

But the real advice might be to keep up your networking, so the next time you're job hunting you don't have to send in a resume cold to an employment agency or HR department and run this photo-gauntlet. This study just reinforces the fact that the best way to get your foot -- and face -- in the door for the first round of interviews is to have someone you know make the recommendation/introduction and start selling you based on what matters: your skills and sparkling personality.

But hey, once you're hired, you might want to try parlaying the personal grooming angle into a higher salary. According to one study, blondes earn 7 percent more on average. For men, there's apparently a mustache premium to consider. One survey found that men with mustaches earned an average of 8 percent more than the bearded contingent in the office, and 4.3 percent more than the clean-shaven set.


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  • Carla Fried

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