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The "Bimbo Effect" On Your Graduate CV

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Some CV advice this week: if you are an ugly man, or a rather pretty woman, don't bother attaching a picture to your graduate CV. According to researchers who have been investigating the effect of photos upon work applications...

Some CV advice this week: if you are an ugly man, or a rather pretty woman, don't bother attaching a picture to your graduate CV. According to researchers who have been investigating the effect of photos upon work applications, "less attractive men typically have to send twice as many CVs as their handsome counterparts in order to secure a response". Similarly, but strangely reversed, pretty women are twice as likely to be refused a job interview as unattractive ones.

Indeed, women seem to suffer across the board, with those who submitted a photo with their CV being 30% less likely to get a response, irrespective of how attractive they might be. The statistics have been compiled by a team from Ben Gurion University, who sent more than 5000 CVs in reply to job advertisements to see how beauty affects the hiring process in the real job market.

Pairs of applications were sent to 2656 jobs across 10 different fields. Although identical in content, one CV did not have a photograph, and the other a picture of either an attractive or unattractive man or woman. The results found that attractive males received a 19.9% call back rate, almost 50% higher than the 13.7% response for a plain looking man and more than twice the 9.2% response for those with no photo. Whilst for women the reverse was true. Those with no picture had the highest call back rate, 22% higher than plain women and 30% higher than attractive women.

That good-looking women were passed over for interviews "was surprising," said study leader Bradley Ruffle, an economics researcher and lecturer at Ben-Gurion University. The finding contradicts research that shows that good-looking people are typically viewed as smarter, kinder and more talented than those who are less attractive, he said.

>But Daniel S. Hamermesh, professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin, "wasn't totally surprised," noting that other studies, including one of his own, have found beauty a liability in the workplace. "I call this the 'Bimbo Effect'," said Hamermesh, considered an authority on the association between beauty and the labour market. The apparent bias against attractive women depended on the type of employer that reviewed the resumes. Employment agencies called pretty women as often as plain ones, and only slightly less than women who didn't include a photo. But when the resumes were screened directly by the company at which the candidate might work, those from attractive women received half the response of those from either plain women or women who didn't include photos.

Hypothesizing that human resource departments are staffed mostly by women who feel jealous of attractive women in the workplace, the researchers called each company to speak to the person who had reviewed the resumes. In this post-study survey, they found that 24 out of 25 were women. The researchers also learned that the resume-screeners tended to be young and single, "qualities that are more likely to be associated with jealousy," said Ruffle. This theory may also go some way to explaining the disparity between the levels of success for attractive members of each sex, with attractive males appealing more often to those screeners looking for a partner.

However, some were not quite so convinced by the validity of the hypothesis. Professor Hamermesh noted that the women trying to fill the open position were unlikely to work in the same division as the applicant, attractive or not. "The researchers were not able to really test this. It was just an interesting hypothesis," he said. Despite the apparent aesthetic disadvantages facing both women and men, with less attractive men and more attractive women receiving fewer callbacks, those who make it to the interview stage still might land the job, the study found. The resume-screener might not be the interviewer, and even if they are one and the same, the bias might fade during a face-to-face interview.

Jordan, GRB Journalist

jordan bishop grb author

Jordan studied Geography at the University of Northampton.

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