It pays not to be too attractive if you're a woman looking for a job

By Sean O'Grady

Attractive women are better off omitting their photograph from a CV as it decreases their chances of a getting a response by 20 to 30 per cent, a study has found. Photo / Thinkstock
Attractive women are better off omitting their photograph from a CV as it decreases their chances of a getting a response by 20 to 30 per cent, a study has found. Photo / Thinkstock

Looks matter if you want to get a job - but it may only help you if you're a handsome man rather than a pretty woman.

According to research presented at the Royal Economic Society's conference this week, good-looking women are being discriminated against by female recruiters.

Attractive women are better off omitting their photograph from a CV as it decreases their chances of a getting a response by 20 to 30 per cent, the study found.

Two Israeli academics, Bradley Ruffle and Ze'ev Shtudiner, sent more than 5000 CVs for over 2500 advertised job openings. For each application they sent two CVs, one without a picture and the other containing a picture of either an attractive-looking man or woman or a plain-looking man or woman.

The economists found that 20 per cent of the attractive men received a response to their applications, compared with 14 per cent of men who did not include a picture and nine per cent who had less-than ideal looks.

However, attractive women were called to be interviewed for a position less often than both plain-looking women or women who had no picture on their resume.

Women who attached no picture to their CV were 22 per cent more likely to receive a response than women with a plain picture - and 30 per cent more likely than women with an attractive picture.

The researchers then conducted a post-experiment survey in which they spoke to the person at the company who screens candidates. That person was female in 24 of the 25 companies they interviewed.

"Moreover, these women were young and typically single (67 per cent), qualities more likely to be associated with a jealous response when confronted with a young, attractive competitor in the workplace," the researchers wrote.

"Indeed, the evidence points to female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace as a primary reason for their penalisation in recruitment." This helps to explain the double standard.

They added: "These findings on penalisation of attractive women contradict current psychology and organisational behaviour research on beauty, which associates attractiveness with almost every conceivable positive trait and disposition."

The economists worked in Israel because including a photograph with a job application is seen as normal there. Doing so is rare in Britain, which may be just as well for the more comely female job hunters.

Carmen Watson, managing director of recruitment at Pertemps Recruitment Partnership, said: "I'm not even aware of people putting their pictures on their CVs. I couldn't remember the last time we saw one. At the end of the day, we are looking for the right people for the right job and the right job for the right people, irrespective of gender."

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