Written by Emily Redler ’20
As discussed in a previous blog post , being physically attractive can be an advantage or disadvantage in hiring based on a multitude of factors. One factor is gender – often, being physically attractive can have opposite effects for men and women, with it helping men and hurting women (Shahani-Denning et al., 2015). Another factor that can influence how attractiveness affects hiring is the experience level of the hiring manager. Researchers for the present study (Marlowe et al., 1996) sought to determine if more experienced hiring managers are less biased in their hiring decisions than those with less experience.
The participants for this study were 112 supervisors and managers from financial institutions. Each participant was given four application packets of fictitious applicants for a management training program. The packets differed based on the gender of the applicant and whether the applicant was highly attractive or only marginally attractive. The managers were told to rate each applicant on their suitability for the job and on their likelihood of progression in the job.
Results showed that, overall, highly attractive applicants were rated more highly than marginally attractive applicants, and men were rated more highly than women. For managers with less experience, highly attractive males were rated as the most suitable and marginally attractive females were rated as the least suitable. For managers with moderate experience, this bias was weaker – the only bias was against marginally attractive women in favor of their male counterparts. For highly experienced managers, the bias was even smaller.
These results show that managers of all levels had biases, but that these biases decreased with experience. However, less attractive women were always found to be the least qualified candidate no matter the manager’s experience level. Males were perceived to be the best fit for the role in question – a management training program – which shows that the role is perceived as more masculine, and those who don’t fit that perception (such as women) have a distinct disadvantage, which is only exacerbated when they are less attractive.
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(1), 11-21. doi:10.1037//0021-9010.81.1.11
Shahani-Denning, C., Andreoli, N., Snyder, J., Tevet, R., & Fox, S. (2011). The effects of physical attractiveness and gender on selection decisions: An experimental study. International Journal of Management, 28, 16-23.