Science-- there's something for everyone

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Can looks affect your job search?

Conventional wisdom states that good-looking people have better job prospects. But is that true? According to research conducted by Bradley Ruffle of Ben-Gurion University and Ze’ev Shtudiner of Ariel University Center, it’s only true for men.

The economists took advantage of the fact that job resumes in Israel often include a headshot of the applicant. They sent out almost 3000 pairs of resumes to prospective employees. Each pair contained one resume with no picture, and one nearly identical resume with a headshot of either an attractive man or woman or of a plain-looking man or woman. The researchers then compiled the response rate they got from the four different pairs of resumes.

The results for men confirmed the stereotype that good looks can get you ahead. Attractive men received 50% more responses than unattractive men, and over 200% more responses than men with no picture. However, the story for women was exactly the opposite. Picture-less candidates garnered the most responses, and attractive females the least.

It appears that women are better off omitting pictures from their resumes, whereas men do best if they include a picture. Why should this be? Ruffle and Shtudiner confirmed a suspicion they had by conducting a survey of the companies to whom they had sent the resumes. It turned out that 96% of the employee screeners were women, and most of these were young and single. It’s suddenly clear why a picture can help men but hurt women. In my opinion, this study says a lot more about female preferences than about general hiring policies. In any case, if you’re looking for a job, your best bet is probably to find out who will be looking at your resume and tailor it accordingly.