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While numerous studies highlight the benefits of being physically attractive, a recent University of Maryland study examined beauty bias in the workplace and found that good looks on men can sometimes work against them in the hiring process.
The study, which was conducted by professors from the Robert H. Smith School of Business, asked a group of subjects to evaluate the looks of both men and women to determine if they would hire them for a job. In the first study, 241 adults were asked to evaluate fictional job candidates based off made up qualifications and computer generated head shots that were either attractive or unattractive. The men were asked to select other men as potential job candidates and the women were asked to select other women. In the second study, 92 adults were given similar head shots and asked to evaluate future competitors or partners in a quiz game. In the third study, the subjects were given similar head shots, but this time they were asked to interview the opposite sex. When looking at the results from all three studies, the researchers found a common pattern amongst attractive men in which they were viewed as not only competent, but also competition.
“It’s not always an advantage to be pretty,” said Marko Pitesa, an assistant professor of management and organization at the Smith School of Business. “It can backfire if you are perceived as a threat.”
In an effort to switch things up a bit, the study also conducted a fourth experiment where they used actual photos of European business school students rather than computer generated images. The results for this experiment were also found to be similar.
While the study still supports past research that shows attractive candidates are perceived as a better fit for the job, the results proves that if the interviewers own career growth is at stake then discrimination will take place in favor of the more unattractive candidate. Authors of the report say they hope the study will raise awareness to companies about the different ways in which stereotyping can occur in the workplace and lead to corrective steps to fix the issue.