Banishing the Hiring Bias

Managers with more experience are less likely to be swayed by a pretty face.

By PT Staff, published on July 1, 1996 - last reviewed on August 30, 2004

Few job candidates would ever think of mentioning their looks on a
resume. But it's no secret that being attractive gives you an edge in
hiring and promotion decisions.

While it's frustrating to think that getting a job may sometimes
boil down to good cheekbones, psychologists at the University of South
Florida have some encouraging news. The attractiveness bias, they report,
declines as managers gain experience.

The researchers attached small photos of highly attractive or
marginally appealing individuals to a series of equally impressive
resumes. Then they asked managers at a major financial firm to judge the
candidates for hirability and likelihood of promotion.

The attractiveness bias, alas, did thrive among novice and
moderately experienced managers. But veterans--those who had conducted 25
or more performance reviews over their career--were far less likely to be
swayed by looks. And highly experienced female managers, it appears, may
be immune to the attractiveness bias altogether.

"The more experience you have, the more aware you are of what's
relevant," says Sandra Schneider, Ph.D., who reported the findings, along
with Cynthia Marlowe, Ph.D., and USF colleague Carnot Nelson, Ph.D., in
the Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 81, No. 1). Seasoned managers are
also more likely to have stereotype-busting experience supervising
talented folks with less-than-stellar looks, or attractive but inept

Widespread though it may be, the attractiveness bias comes into
play only when candidates are closely matched. And the fact that the bias
fades with managerial experience suggests that it may eventually become
entirely irrelevant.