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Handsome men are rejected for competitive jobs

Handsome men may be rejected for competitive jobs, but are preferred for roles that require cooperation, research from UCL School of Management proves.

Assistant Professor Sun Young Lee found that handsome men are seen as more competent, so managers in collaborative workplaces such as R&D departments hire good-looking male candidates over less good-looking ones. Similarly, in workplaces with rewards for team performance, a decision maker prefers handsome male employees, as they help further their own success.

However, in competitive workplaces such as sales departments, good looks signalling competence can make handsome men seem threatening to future colleagues. If decision makers expect to compete, they would rather discriminate against them.

With her co-authors from the University of Maryland, London Business School and INSEAD, Dr Lee didn’t find the same effect for pretty women, as female attractiveness wasn’t associated with competence. She believes it’s because physical stereotypes interact with gender typecasts.

“Managers are affected by stereotypes and make hiring decisions to serve their own self-interests,” Dr Lee says, “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 organisations improve their selection processes. For example, engaging external representatives may improve selection outcomes, as outsiders are likely to provide fairer inputs. Also, if companies make managers more accountable for their decisions, they’ll be less motivated to pursue self-interests at the expense of the company.”

These findings come from four experiments published in the journal Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes.