Does Physical Attractiveness Increase the Likelihood of Getting Hired?
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
COOK, T. L. & MARTINEZ, H. M. (2003). Does Physical Attractiveness Increase the Likelihood of Getting Hired?. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 6. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Does Physical Attractiveness Increase the Likelihood of Getting Hired?
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
This study investigated the effect of physical attractiveness on hiring decisions. Previous research has indicated that physically attractive persons are hired over physically unattractive persons. Participants included 152 undergraduate college students. Participants were asked to examine a resume along with an accompanying photograph. All resumes were identical with the exception of the photograph being a physically attractive male, a physically attractive female, a physically unattractive male, or a physically unattractive female. They were then asked their gender and if they would give the applicant an interview. A three-way ANOVA was calculated and a non-significant effect was found. This study did not support our hypothesis that physical attractiveness increases the likelihood of obtaining employment.

A person’s physical appearance is most obvious and accessible to others in social interaction. The halo effect is an error that many interviewers face that threatens the validity, reliability, and legality of the interviewing process. It is the tendency we have to attribute positive traits to a person we have in common with – a verbal and emotional shorthand takes place. To counterbalance the halo effect, many organizations are taking an objective, standardized, documented approach. It is one example of how our personal biases can slip into the interviewing process. In order to counterbalance the halo effect and improve the validity of their interviewing process, many organizations are taking a more formalized approach. In most cases formalized means objective, standardized, and documented. For example, interviewer rating scales are being used to record applicants’ job related strengths and weaknesses. Interviewers ask the same questions to each applicant, and are only permitted to ask applicants to clarify, elaborate, or give examples (Personnel Journal, 1992).So what makes someone beautiful? Is averageness attractive? Rhodes and Tremewan (1996) conducted a study investigating averageness on attractiveness using a computerized generator to vary averageness. Their results indicate that averageness is attractive. Increasing the averageness of faces (anticaricaturing) and decreasing averageness (caricature) reduced attractiveness. Attractiveness and distinctiveness were negatively correlated. The less distinctive a face was, the more attractive it was. Attractiveness and distinctiveness were negatively correlated. Attractiveness increased when averageness was increased (anticaricaturing) and decreased when averageness was reduced (caricaturing). Most composites were low in distinctiveness (both average and attractive). The negative correlations between attractiveness and distinctiveness support the hypothesis that averageness is attractive. Does physical attractiveness indicate that someone is healthy? Some people view facial attractiveness as signaling good health. Tracing back to the evolutionary findings of Darwin (1859, 1871, as cited in Kalick et al., 1998) it has been said that animals often have an appearance that can actually hinder their chance of survival. For example, when female birds look for a mate, they look for the attractive brightly colored male. It has long been thought, “what is beautiful is good” (Dion, Berscheid, and Walster, 1972). Some attractive people are seen as being intelligent, better parents, better mates They are expected to lead happier, more successful lives with a number of different life experiences. They may have happier marital, professional, parental, and overall total happiness. Sometimes they are seen as more sincere, noble, respected, and honest than unattractive persons. So, if the attractive person is treated as a virtuous person will he become one? In our democracy, we like to see that a person can accomplish almost anything with hard work and a good deal of motivation. However, hard work does not make a person beautiful. Many studies have been conducted concerning physical attractiveness and employment (Abramowitz & O’Grady, 1991; Bardack & McAndrew, 1985; Marlowe, Schneider, & Nelson, 1996). Abramowitz and O’Grady were interested to see if intelligence and gender, as well as physical attractiveness, played a role in hiring decisions for peer counseling positions. They found differences in both gender and attractiveness depending on the intelligence of the applicant. They found that when an applicant had low intelligence, low attractiveness was a liability for men and an asset for women. Highly attractive women of lower intelligence seemed to fit into a stereotypical role that suffered from a negative bias that men with the same characteristics did not. However, overall, men were viewed less positively than women, especially when they were of both low intelligence and attractiveness. Bardack and McAndrew (1985) presented an experiment to college students to determine what happens when the appropriateness or attractiveness of clothing conflicts with other aspects of physical attractiveness. It was found in this experiment that both physical attractiveness and appropriateness of dress influenced the hiring decision. Physical attractiveness was even found to influence the decision the most. Remarkably, the inappropriately dressed attractive stimulus was chosen over the appropriately dressed unattractive stimulus.Marlowe, Schneider, and Nelson (1996) thought male applicants would be judged more suitable for hire and promotion than equally qualified female applicants, and that more attractive candidates would be judged more suitable than those who were equally qualified but less attractive. They found that 4% of the variance in the selection decision was accounted for by gender. Experience and education were more important. Men were hired over women and more likely to advance to an executive position. More attractive candidates were chosen over marginally attractive candidates. The biases decrease as managerial experience increase. Marginally attractive females had the biggest disadvantage. Applicants with above average attractiveness have an advantage over the others. The first-line supervisors make the initial accept or reject decisions. When applicants have the same experience, gender and attractiveness make the decision.We were interested to see if physical attractiveness, the sex of the applicant, as well as the sex of the subject increases the likelihood of being hired? In our study, we hoped to find that physical attractiveness would have a positive impact on the likelihood of obtaining employment.

Participants We enlisted the voluntary participation of 152 Missouri Western State College students enrolled in introductory psychology classes during their regularly scheduled class times. Additionally we enlisted the voluntary effort of 14 upper-level experimental psychology lab students at Missouri Western State College.Materials A one-page typed resume (see Appendix A) was distributed to each student. All resumes were identical with the exception of an accompanying photograph. The photographs were of a physically attractive male, a physically unattractive male, a physically attractive female, or a physically unattractive female (see Appendix B).We presented to each participant a typed instruction sheet with a short list of questions attached (see Appendix C). To obtain the before mentioned pictures we selected 10 male and 10 female pictures from a yearbook and presented them to 14 students of the Missouri Western State College experimental psychology class. Additional materials we used included an overhead projector, a screen to project each picture for viewing, and a paper and pencil scale for each student to use to evaluate the attractiveness of each picture (see Appendix D). Procedure We began our experiment by randomly collecting 10 male and 10 female yearbook photographs. Each photograph was presented to 14 students in the Missouri Western State College experimental class. The photographs were projected individually onto a screen using an overhead projector. Each student was asked to score the attractiveness of each picture, using a paper and pencil scale. After collecting this data, we selected the highest rated person from each of our four categories: physically attractive male, physically unattractive male, physically attractive female, and physically unattractive female.Next, we randomly attached the four selected photographs to 200 resumes. We then presented our research test to our selected participants. We explained to our participants that we were obtaining information from them for our research project. We then distributed to each participant a resume with an attached picture, and a separate sheet of paper, which contained the instructions for the participant along with a short questionnaire. We then instructed each participant to read through the resume, complete the questionnaire, and pass them to the end of their row. When all of the questionnaires had been completed and collected, we thanked the participants for their cooperation and exited the classroom.

A three-way ANOVA was calculated. All of the main effects and all of the interactions were very close to significant, with identical F values (F (1, 144) = 3.741, p = 0.055). Our examination of data indicated that a lack of variability in our answers caused these unusual F values. Note, however, the only subjects who would not be offered an interview were the unattractive male rated by male participants.

We found no significant correlation between facial attractiveness and hiring. Our findings did not support our hypothesis that physical attractiveness would have a positive impact on hiring decisions. Our results seem to conflict with the research of Bardack and McAndrew(1985), which found that both physical attractiveness and appropriateness of clothing plays a factor in hiring decisions. We additionally found no difference between gender and hiring, again conflicting with prior studies by Marlowe, Schneider, and Nelson(1996). Limitations to our study were that we surveyed mostly freshman traditional-age students, who were probably not interested in applying for employment at this time. We also surveyed these participants two weeks before their college finals, when they were possibly fatigued and dealing with overload. Therefore, we feel that these results could not be generalized to the general public, and do not represent the evidence of the “halo effect” in hiring that prior research has found. In further studies, we believe testing older students would produce different results, mainly because freshmen students do not yet have the rationalization of the job opportunities that are available. In today’s job market there is an excess of qualified applicants for every position, and therefore any positive attribute is of greater importance. Another limitation was that our survey only gave two possible choices on the question “would you recommend this person for an interview?”. Perhaps if this was changed to “to what degree would you recommend this person for an interview?”, we would find much more variability in the data.

Bardack, N. R. & McAndrew, F. T. (1985). The influence of physical attractiveness and manner of dress on success in a stimulated personnel decision. Journal of Social Psychology, 125, 777-778.Dion, K., Bersheid, E., & Walster, E. (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 285-290.Kalick, S. M., Zebrowitz, L. A. Langlois, J. H., and Johnson, R. M. (1998). Does human and facial attractiveness honestly advertise health? Psychological Science, 9, 8- 12.Marlowe, C. M., Schneider, S. L., & Nelson, C. E. (1996). Gender and attractiveness biases in hiring decisions: are more experienced managers less biased? Journal of Applied Psychology, 81, 11-21.O’Grady, K. E. & Abramowitz, I. A. (1991). Impact of gender, physical attractiveness, and intelligence on the perception of peer counselors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 125, 311-327.Personnel Journal. (1992). Personal bias can threaten interview process, 71, 4.Rhodes, G. & Tremewan, T. (1996). Averageness, exaggeration, and facial attractiveness. Psychological Science, 7, 105-110.

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Submitted 11/24/2003 9:57:39 AM
Last Edited 11/24/2003 10:22:50 AM
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