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Attractive men discriminated against for competitive jobs, finds study

Good-looking men may be at a disadvantage when applying for certain jobs, according to research from University College London’s School of Management.

The researchers found that in competitive work environments, such as sales departments, physically attractive men applying for promotions are more likely be discriminated against, as male colleagues are more likely to perceive them as a potential threat.

However, in collaborative environments, such as research and development, handsome men are at an advantage, as their colleagues expect to share their success.

UCL’s Sun Young Lee, who led the study, commented that: “Managers are affected by stereotypes and make hiring decisions to serve their own self-interests so organizations may not get the most competent candidates.

“With more companies involving employees in recruitment processes, this important point needs attention. Awareness that hiring is affected by potential work relationships and stereotyping tendencies can help organizations improve their selection processes.”

Dr Lee did not find an equivalent effect for good-looking women. She believes this is because female attractiveness is not associated with professional competence.

Eva Sierminska has written for IZA World of Labor about the earning premium associated with being attractive. She finds that, particularly in customer-facing jobs, good-looking people are likely to earn more, and that this is more the case for men than it is for women.

Sierminska writes that: “Policies to counter such discrimination are being introduced in a number of countries, but if they do not take into account the channels through which physical appearance is affecting labor market outcomes—such as employer discrimination, customer discrimination, productivity, and occupational sorting—they may fail to achieve their goals.”

The UCL study is published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Related articles:
Does it pay to be beautiful? by Eva Sierminska
Beauty pays but does investment in beauty? by Soohyung Lee