Is it true that attractive women get all the breaks in life?

cv_writing-advice-400x400A study by Bradley Ruffle at Ben-Gurion University and Ze’ev Shtudiner at Ariel University Centre found that when job hunters included photos with their CV, attractive females were less likely to be offered an interview. However, attractive men were more likely to be called for an interview if they included a photo.

For the study fictional applications were sent to over 2,500 real-life vacancies. For each job, they sent two very similar résumés, one with a photo and one without.

When applying directly to a company (rather than through an agency) an “attractive” woman would need to send out 11 CVs on average before getting an interview, however an equally qualified “plain” woman needed to send just seven.

The researchers’ concluded this was down to jealously of females within HR departments that led them to discriminate against pretty candidates.

So, is it true that attractive women do really get all the breaks in life?

Matt Craven is founder and Managing Director of CV writing and interview coaching provider The CV & Interview Advisors, said the study is a “microcosm of recruitment discrimination as a whole.”

“It all boils down to the inability of recruitment decision makers to identify and set aside their own prejudices.”

He said one would assume that being attractive would be a “blessing” from a personal branding perspective but that the research reveals that attitudes of female HR professionals can have a negative impact on the chances of attractive females securing an interview.

According to Craven despite the surprising results of the survey, he said it has always been considered a “recruitment faux pas” to use photographs on CVs in the UK job market.

“Recruiters will often have a giggle at candidates who have included a photo and assume that they are lacking some level of savvy to take this route,” said Craven. “The advice has always been to avoid photos, not just because it is ‘not the done thing’ but because regardless of your level of attractiveness, your appearance can and often will trigger prejudices in the mind of the recruitment decision maker.”

“The way someone looks can trigger deep emotional responses – think about how many times you have heard someone say ‘I don’t like the look of him or her’. The point is, don’t give recruiters, HR professionals or hiring managers the opportunity to judge you on your appearance and simply do not include a photo on your CV.”

Craven noted that it is not only a candidate’s appearance that can come under discrimination but also a person’s name.

“Name discrimination is a huge issue and there have been a number of high profile individuals including recruitment experts and MPs who have pushed for CVs to be anonymised. This is a view that I personally agree with. There are operational issues to consider if names are left off CVs but as a career professional, I can tell you wholeheartedly that your name has an impact on your ability to secure interviews, particularly in the SME sector.”

He advised the removal of both names and photographs from all CVs and candidate applications to ensure a level playing field: “We have written CVs for over 7000 clients and it is as clear as day that names synonymous with different ethnic backgrounds have an impact but also, names considered old fashioned could have an impact on how dynamic a candidate might appear. A scenario where names and photographs are omitted from CVs would level the playing field and in my opinion, create a much fairer and just recruitment landscape.”

However, he pointed out a flaw in the online recruitment market: “85% of recruitment decision makers will check out the LinkedIn profile of shortlisted candidates prior to selecting them for interview; it is considered a recruitment faux pas NOT to have a photograph on your LinkedIn profile; and it is impossible to effectively anonymise a LinkedIn profile. Not to mention that many candidates are sourced directly through LinkedIn in the first place.

“In short, the advent of LinkedIn as a recruitment tool renders anonymisation of your CV somewhat moot, although if it becomes common practice to omit names from CVs then there is no obvious navigation to a LinkedIn profile.”

Craven said that a great deal of thought would have to go into how to truly anonymise the entire recruitment process to create a level playing field for job seekers: “This would involve big changes to recruitment practices that would be resisted at a tactical level.

“It would possibly require the likes of LinkedIn to have ‘anonymous functionality’ to accommodate those companies who embraced the anonymisation of the recruitment and selection process or companies would simply need to remove LinkedIn as a recruitment channel which many would be loathed to do.”

“It’s a complex issue and in all walks of life discrimination exists; leaders in the recruitment market can start making steps towards a fairer and more just landscape but in the meanwhile, don’t have a photo on your CV but do have one on LinkedIn – regardless of how attractive or otherwise you are,” he advised.

“What you can do is make sure your photograph gives off the right message – if it looks like you are flaunting your good looks then that could trigger a negative response. Don’t adopt some kind of smouldering lingerie catalogue pose, instead look professional and perhaps adopt a more approachable and humble inner demeanour before the photo is taken. Take 20 or so snaps with different poses, different smiles and different inner demeanours and analyse the results. Give the photos to friends and colleagues and ask them which gives off the best image.”

Craven concluded: “Discrimination in the UK job market is still at significant levels – whether it be name, age, sex or ethnic background based, people have a hard time overcoming their own prejudices when hiring. I suppose its human nature to ‘put people in boxes’ but when recruiting, best practice is to leave those prejudices behind and focus on selecting the best candidate for the job.

 “Be aware of the prejudices that exist but also be true to yourself – if you’re lucky enough to be a ‘looker’ then sending those extra 4 applications might be a price worth paying.”

WeAreTheCity readers can request a free detailed critique of their CV and LinkedIn profile from Matt Craven’s team by emailing [email protected] and quoting ‘Wearethecity Article’. 

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