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Study: Looks are an asset in job hunting – for men

November 29, 2011. Jerusalem Post: Ben Hartman

Researchers find that "attractive" females less likely to get job interviews than "plain-looking" women when sending photo with resume. 
  
Good looks may help you get a date, but they’ll likely help you find a job in Israel only if you’re a man, according to a recent study carried out by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The paper, titled “Are Good- Looking People More Employable?,” found that a double standard exists for men versus women when it comes to whether an attractive mug is an asset in a job interview. Contrary to popular belief, the study found that men, not women, are more likely to get a job if they are good-looking.

The two researchers who carried out the study, economics professor Dr. Bradley Ruffle and PhD candidate Ze’ev Shtudiner, sent out 5,312 resumes for 2,656 advertised job openings in Israel. Each potential place of work received two resumes: one without a photo and one with a photo. The photos were of an attractive man or woman, or of a man or woman who might not want to pursue a career in modeling.

The study found that goodlooking men received a 19.9- percent positive response rate – far higher than the 13.7% of men who were less conventionally handsome, and nearly double that for resumes sent without a picture. According to the study’s findings, a man with good jaw structure or nice eyes would need to send out five resumes on average before getting a response, while a more plain-featured applicant would need to send out 11.

However, in what could be seen as a counterintuitive form of reverse sexism, the study found that photographing well was not an asset for women seeking a job in Israel. On the contrary, researchers found that women who sent resumes with no photo received a positive response 22% more often than unattractive women, and 30% more often than attractive women. In other words, according to the study, women are better off omitting a photo from their resume, as it would decrease the likelihood of a positive response.

In what may be good news for attractive females going the employment agency route, the study also found that no difference existed between “plain Janes” and their more biologically blessed sisters when the places to which they were applying outsourced their hiring.

On the other hand, researchers found that when applying directly to a company, good looking women received a positive response only half as often as women with no picture or less-than stellar looks. The researchers concluded that this was due to the high number of women staffing human resources departments at Israeli corporations.

After the study, to illustrate this assumption, they surveyed 25 companies and found that the person in charge of screening candidates was female in 24 of the cases and that most were young and single – which the researchers said might lead to jealousy if they were presented with a good-looking applicant their age.

Ruffle said Sunday that he had been motivated to carry out the study because “in Israel it is acceptable to include or not include a photo, as opposed to the US, where it is taboo to include a photo with your resume, or China, where it is required to send a government- regulated photo. So Israel is an in-between case where it is left up to the job candidate, which makes it an interesting case to explore.”

Ruffle said he had solicited pictures from students with the promise that they would be paid if their pictures were used, and then subjected the headshots to a panel of three female and three male judges. The photos were rated on a one-tonine scale of how attractive, how Ashkenazi or Sephardi, and how intelligent the people pictured appeared. Ruffle said they selected people who were deemed very attractive or very unattractive, and whose ethnicity was hard to pinpoint.

When the results came in, Ruffle said, he was “absolutely surprised” by what he found.

“I wasn’t surprised by the male result, but I expected to find that attractive people, whether male or female, would have an advantage,” he said.

“We found this for men, and we expected it to be even more the case for women because of the common perception that attractive women get what they want and [that] women are more focused on looks than men. So we spent some time trying to explain the results.”

This led them to the conclusion that jealousy on the part of female HR workers was a significant factor in whether or not attractive women get jobs when applying directly. 

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