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Selection process is an important task for organizations and community. Companies that need to prosper strive to select qualified candidates to fill different positions. Applicants, organizations, and the community expect the selection process to be fair and free from any form of discrimination, but most recruitment officers discriminate against physical appearance.

Selection process involves interpersonal relationship between a selection panel and an applicant. Since interpersonal relationship between individuals is affected by attractiveness bias, selection process is not an exception (Marlowe, 1996). It is not only in the selection process where attractiveness bias is experienced, but also in other aspects such as student judgment, election of political candidates, and court judgments.

This document discusses beautyism and its effects on employee selection, the degree of applicants’ discrimination based on their attractiveness during recruitment processes, and recommendations on what should be done to handle beautyism in selection processes.


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Beautyism and Hiring

Beautyism is an act of granting favor people based on their attractiveness or appearance. It is normally experienced in situations that require judgments such as applicant selection, political voting, and court judgments. In certain cases judgments and decisions are based on sex of individuals.

Physical appearance influences employment selection process, subsequently placements and promotions of employees, though its impacts contradict each other or have not been fully researched.

Attractiveness has an influence on the immediate impression of interviewers about applicants. It is evident that even the most experienced managers are influenced by attractiveness bias and may prefer less-qualified attractive candidates over more-qualified unattractive ones. Such situations lead as to an assumption that when applicants have the same score, their attractiveness determines decisions about their final selection.

Factors that Promote Beautyism in Employee Selection

Studies that have been done on beautyism and human resource management state that managers’ decisions about recruitment and selection processes are considerably influenced by appearance. There is human perception that positions that are likely to expose employees in the public arena, such as television broadcasting, require attractive people and therefore influence selection processes of applicants for such positions.

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For some appointments, such as sales persons, it is assumed that attractiveness of individuals determines overall sales (McElroy & DaCarol, 1999). People believe that attractive individuals would attract customers and convince them to purchase products and services. This assumption extends even to positions which do not require public performance and it is, according to Dion, Berscheid, & Walster (1972), generally known as “what is beautiful is attractive”.

Attractive persons seem to be more qualified than their less attractive colloquies. They are therefore recruited for better jobs, are paid huge salaries, and are recommended for promotions. Actually, they have high chances to be promoted to a higher level than they expect (Chui & Babcock, 2002). 

Hypothetically, physical attractiveness is closely related to individual’s performance at school. Both attractiveness and educational qualifications affect employees’ selection decisions. Physical attractiveness is also thought to be related to skills in fulfilling employment duties. Moreover, people who are attractive seem to socialize willingly with others and have better job experience, since they are sociable and control themselves.

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Marlowe (1996) investigated the effects of attractiveness on recruitment and selection made by managers. The researchers used different resumes with attached photos of individuals who are very attractive and  less attractive. Their research demonstrated that even the most experienced officers were affected by attractive bias.

Although many studies confirmed that attractiveness of individuals makes them more favored than their less-attractive colloquies, other studies controvert them. Sometimes attractive female applicants are less favored than unattractive ones. It is labeled as the “beauty is beastly” (Heilman & Saruwatari, 1979). There are instances when recruiters choose unattractive applicants and refuse attractive ones.

Discriminatory Effects of Beautyism on Hiring Employees

Studies have shown that the overall appearance of individuals affect the decisions made during their hiring and evaluating process. Job candidates who are more attractive receive better grades than those who are less attractive. In most cases less attractive applicants have equal or even better qualification than attractive ones. Attractive appearance also creates the first good impression on interviewers and they tend to award more points to applicants they find to be attractive.

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Since attractive candidates may receive higher points during a selection interview, they are often hired by many organizations. After they have been employed, they are always favored and are given greater responsibilities by employers, and eventually rewarded more than their less attractive counterparts.       

Attractive employees receive more preferences than those who are less attractive. Generally, people tend to behave in a better manner towards attractive individuals. Employees who are attractive are always more rewarded and recognized for their positive contributions than less attractive for similar achievements.

The act of giving favor and other positive preferences to more attractive candidates while discriminating against less attractive ones is termed as beautyism. In some cases, recruitment panels suppose that unattractive applicants as more probable to be engaged in bad behavior. Also, in cases when organizations experience economic hardship, unattractive employees are at a higher risk of being fired.

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Assessment of Chair’s Behavior from a Human Resource Perspective

The Chair performs duties of human resources management; recruitment and selection. It is the most important role of this department. It determines qualification requirements of employees at any given time and selects applicants who are the most suitable candidates. The committee evaluates the abilities of applicants in relation to organization’s needs.

A well performed recruitment selects the most appropriate candidates to fill required positions. It helps to increase the value of organizations and achieve both short term and long term goals. Overlooking a highly qualified employee by the Chair over a less qualified, whom he had seen before, is unprofessional and demeans aims of human resources management. The Chair’s act, whether due to bribery or influence of the attractive applicant, will eventually impair overall performance of the committee.

Human resource management requires recruitment of highly qualified individuals; the research has revealed that human resources activities contribute to about eighty percent of organizations’ values. The Chair, who wants to recruit a less qualified applicant on the basis of either corruption or beautyism, does not meet the institution’s objectives since the less qualified applicant cannot produce the same results as the highly qualified one.

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The Chair’s behavior would reduce the morale of workers as some of them, who are at lower positions, may have better qualification than less qualified recruited applicant. Moreover, the Chair may recommend huge salary and immediate promotion for his favorite. Human resource management, however, requires that salary increase and promotions should be made purely on the basis of qualification and performance.          

Action that should be taken by the Hiring Committee

The Chair’s action is by no means ethical. The committee must first remind the Chair of policies and regulations that guide the recruitment process. If his selection criterion does not correspond to normal stipulated criteria, the committee should direct him and help him to improve his professional conduct.  They should also inform him that it is their duty to select a good candidate; they should remind him that the decisions of the panel determine achievement of the institution’s aims.

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The committee must have made clear records of the whole recruitment process. They should show the Chair the documentation that contains all the decisions they made. In such a way the Chair would be convinced and, if it is possible, use the documentation to explain and discuss his choice.

Why Attractive Candidates May be Unfairly Considered during Hiring Process

First of all, even some of the most experienced managers are affected by attractive bias. The belief that some jobs, such as sales jobs that need public exposure, require attractive people makes them be unfairly considered. However, it might be found later that less attractive people could work better.     Secondly, there are some studies that explain that attractive people are more intelligent, sociable, and educated. Such supposition   enables them to be unfairly hired. Lastly, unattractive individuals are normally associated with immoral acts such as theft and dishonesty.


Even though human resources management practices stipulate selection of highly qualified candidates, there are managers who select applicants on the basis of their attractiveness. In some cases attractiveness of applicants creates good first impression on a recruitment panel. The Chair of the College of Business Administration, if he considers recruiting a less qualified applicant on the basis of his or her attractiveness, should be reminded that it is unethical and he have to follow the guidelines for recruitment and selection.



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