Should You Hire the More Beautiful Candidate? Ask an Economist

Last Updated Jan 3, 2008 2:48 PM EST

Should You Hire the More Beautiful Candidate? Ask an EconomistBeauty and business are not necessarily topics you'd think of as going together, but most of us have heard of studies linking good looks and career advancement. It certainly doesn't seem fair, but is it true? In a strange choice of Christmas special, the Economist recently took a look at the issue. Not known for its sensationalist reporting, the magazine nonetheless came up with some pretty startling (and disillusioning) conclusions. Among their most galling findings: dumb blond jokes aside, beauty is actually correlated with intelligence.

The Economist cites a study by Dr. Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas:

The accumulating evidence suggests that physical characteristics do give clues about intelligence, that such clues are picked up by other people, and that these clues are also associated with beauty. And other work also suggests that this really does matter.... [Dr Hamermesh] has collected evidence from more than one continent that beauty really is associated with success--at least, with financial success. He has also shown that, if all else is equal, it might be a perfectly legitimate business strategy to hire the more beautiful candidate.
Even more unfairly, Dr Hamermesh found evidence that beautiful people may bring more revenue to their employers than the less-favored do.

Beauty may matter for business, but can't the less naturally graced make up for biology with a little effort and a credit card? Dr. Hamermesh, unfortunately, dashed that hope as well.


Can you really fake the unfakeable signal? Dr Hamermesh's research suggests that you can but, sadly, that it is not cost-effective--at least, not if your purpose is career advancement... he looked at how women's spending on their cosmetics and clothes affected their income. The answer was that it did, but not enough to pay for itself in a strictly financial sense.
Thanks Economist for that cheery Christmas special.

(Image of blond woman by reportergimmi, CC 2.0)

 

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.