Do employers choose beauty over brains?
Research shows that recruiters are more likely to hire good looking narcissists than those who are modest or whose appearance is average, so what does this mean for interviewers?
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald this week cited research from the University of British Columbia (UBC) which found that, during short interviews, people are more likely to accurately assess the characteristics of interviewees if the interviewees are physically attractive.
Furthermore, a study from the University of Melbourne found that attractive people also earned more; specifically, men whose looks were “above average” earned 22 per cent more than their “below average” counterparts. The effect is said to be smaller for women and more difficult to track, possibly because of the stereotype that women cannot be good looking as well as intelligent.
Additionally, UBC research also uncovered a tendency for interviewers to favour those with narcissistic qualities over more modest candidates. A study found that those who were more comfortable with self promotion seemed more at ease and confident during interviews as they were more likely to maintain eye contact, ask questions and engage in banter with interviewers.
Although it might seem logical to hire someone who seems confident and relaxed, there is clearly a risk that an interviewee with narcissistic tendencies has over-stated their abilities and may not be the best candidate. Moreover, a self-promoting candidate may also be more likely to cross the line between confidence and arrogance, causing friction within their team.
Hiring employees based on looks, whether done intentionally or otherwise, is clearly fraught with danger and employers must be cautious; having robust recruitment policies and procedures in place which are applied consistently across the board is one important step towards ensuring fairness.
In order to reduce the risk of making poor choices when hiring, it is important that those with recruitment responsibilities are well trained in how to prepare for and undertake a sound and thorough interview process. This is also important to ensure that the process is fair and that interviewers do not ask questions or engage in any behaviour which may be seen to be unlawful discrimination. Workplace discrimination legislation covers all aspects of the employment relationship, including recruitment, which is one reason for investing in selection and interviewing skills training for relevant staff members.