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How Hiring Managers Silently Judge You Based On Your Looks

Employer review site Fairygodboss asked 500 hiring professionals to name the top three qualities they perceived when shown images of various female job candidates.

How Hiring Managers Silently Judge You Based On Your Looks
[Photo: rawpixel.com/ Unsplash]

If you still believe looks don’t matter when it comes to landing a job, think again.

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Fairygodboss, an employer review site for women, just published the results of a survey of 500 hiring professionals, representing a variety of races and genders, who were asked to rate the top three traits they perceived when shown images of female job candidates of different ages, races, and body types.

The spoiler alert is in the title: “The Grim Reality of Being a Female Job Seeker.”

The adjectives they were told to choose from included:
professional
unprofessional
confident
leadership material
intelligent
reliable
friendly
lazy
cold
superficial
insecure

The candidate most likely to be chosen for hire was a Caucasian brunette while women of different races, sizes, or nontraditional appearances were not. For example, only 15.6% of those surveyed said they would consider hiring the heaviest looking woman, and as many as 20% classified her as lazy.

[Photo: courtesy of Fairygodboss]
Other notable findings include a surprising slant on ageism. The older-looking female candidate was ranked first for reliability and third for leadership among the pool of 15 women. Yet while those traits were important to hiring managers, she was ranked 10th overall. The bias against her mostly came from respondents over 45, meaning that the older female candidate might do better if being interviewed by a millennial manager.

[Photo: courtesy of Fairygodboss]
That’s the only case in the study of a group going against a candidate who was most like them. Women of color were more likely to be hired by managers of their own race or non-whites. “This data,” says the report, “suggests that if women are interviewing with someone of a different race, they may want to consider the fact that their leadership potential might be underestimated and seek to combat this bias by placing additional emphasis on their leadership track record and abilities.”

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[Photo: courtesy of Fairygodboss]

Related: In Trump’s Playbook, Looks Sometimes Count As Job Qualifications 


Among respondents of all races, just over a third (33.2%) said that the Latina candidate had leadership potential. A little less than a third (29.2%) said that African-American woman had leadership potential, which was just slightly better than Asian Americans (27.6%).

But hey, remember to smile ladies, because only 15% of hiring managers would consider you if you weren’t.

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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