‘Good-looking people’ more likely to be hired, new study suggests

Appearance and confidence may appeal to employers - but are often not matched by actual skills

Iyad Mokhtar is interviewed for a job at the Canada pavilion of Dubai Expo 2020. Photo: The National
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People who are perceived to be physically attractive are more likely to be hired and be offered higher salaries than their plainer counterparts, the findings of a new study suggest.

The research was conducted by the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York.

Its first part involved 176 participants, who were assessed for attractiveness, non-verbal communication and “sense of power” during a three-minute mock interview.

After the second part of study, involving 124 people, researchers concluded that less attractive candidates could level the playing field by adopting “powerful” posture, such as standing tall, keeping their chin up and appearing confident.

Hard skills are more important than the way a person looks.
Dr Ahmad Khamis, Bloovo

“In two experimental studies with data from 300 video interview pitches, we found that attractive individuals had a greater sense of power than their less attractive counterparts and thus exhibited a more effective nonverbal presence, which led to higher managerial ratings of their hireability,” the study, published in the Personnel Psychology journal, said.

“However, we also identified a potential means for levelling this gap. Adopting a powerful posture was found to be especially beneficial for individuals rated low in attractiveness, enabling them to achieve the same level of effective nonverbal presence as their highly attractive counterparts naturally displayed.”

Participants’ attractiveness was rated by seven people on a 1-5 point scale, with 1 as “very unattractive” and 5 as “very attractive”.


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Recruiters in the UAE said bias was common, and that some employers post offensive job ads that ask “only good-looking people” to apply.

Nevin Lewis, chief executive of Black & Grey Human Resources, said many employers in the country make instant judgements about candidates based on their appearance.

“This physical attractiveness bias in hiring is sometimes unconscious, and a lot of time deliberately advertised in job adverts,” he said.

“Sadly, we live in an image-focused society. There are laws in the UAE to protect one against discrimination based on disability but not on appearance.

“I see even the best employers often consider good-looking and presentable people more talented and intelligent compared to their less attractive equivalents.”

He said his company is trying to eliminate recruiter bias by carrying out blind telephonic interviews first to shortlist candidates based on merit.

The company also has its own standard CV submission template and candidates are not asked to submit photographs.

“My request to an aspiring recruiter or ambitious employer: please steer clear of this useless beauty stereotype and make the hiring decision based on ability if you want to really succeed in business,” Mr Lewis said.

Dr Ahmad Khamis is the chief executive of Bloovo, a technology company that offers artificial intelligence-powered recruitment solutions.

He said some UAE employers who interact with high-profile customers or clients prefer to hire attractive people, but also that as remote working becomes more common, recruiter bias could be reduced.

“For the representation of their culture and their people, some companies in certain domains have that criteria” of hiring attractive employees, he said.

“In certain industries, the hard skills are more important than the way a person looks.

Dr Khamis said that an employer seeking “a top-notch computer engineer”, for instance, might be less interested in whether or not a candidate was attractive.

He also said the use of AI to shortlist candidates could reduce recruiter bias.

“Instead of sifting through hundreds or thousands of CVs, AI can do the first bit of matching the right candidate to the right job,” he said.

Bloovo uses AI algorithms to shortlist candidates from thousands of CVs based on the skills required for the role.

In January, it will launch AI video interviews that will be used to assess candidates’ soft skills, such as personality, character and emotional intelligence.

The technology would allow recruiters to select from a range of candidates that qualify for the job, and not based on their looks.

Updated: August 24, 2021, 3:50 AM