I've been interviewing candidates for a
research job and have had a very good shortlist. The two frontrunners
are both excellent - they seem bright and keen and hardworking. One is
reasonably good-looking; the other is exceedingly plain - obese and with
bad skin. The role is not client- facing so looks should not matter.
Yet I find myself inclined to hire the person who looks more
prepossessing - which is unfair as the plain one surely needs a break.
What should I do?
You should hire the fat and spotty one.
This is not because you feel he (or she?) deserves a break - it isn't
your job to play social engineer. It is because he is almost certainly
better at the job than the one who is easier on the eye.
If you read the research, it will tell
you that beautiful people are more successful than ugly ones. They are
paid up to 15 per cent more and they advance more quickly. This might
make one inclined to choose the cute one.
However, if you consider the reason for
this discrepancy, the odds shift towards the fatty. Beauties outperform
beasts mainly because we expect them to do so. If you show people
pictures of job candidates, they rate the beautiful as more trustworthy,
more intelligent and more diligent than the plain. Fat people score
particularly badly. One US study had people rate the obese as awkward,
lazy, uncooperative and unconscientious.
Lookist perceptions run so deep they
even affect sport, where one might have thought performance would speak
for itself. According to my colleague Simon Kuper's new book about
football, hunks get picked more often for top teams as scouts are
impressed by players who look the part.
Thus, for your plain candidate to have
got so far suggests he is far better than the other one. You should hire
him at once - indeed, I hope you did so weeks ago. The only reason for
not doing so is if you feel the heavy, spotty one looks so dreadful that
you physically shrink from him. Then mark yourself down and hire the
I've managed research teams for years,
and can tell you there is absolutely no correlation between looks and
skill. Some of the ugliest persons are brilliant, and some of the
best-looking are stupid; and vice-versa. Engage the two leading
candidates in further evaluation. It may take time but one candidate
surely will emerge as the best colleague and researcher.
Depends if the candidates are male or
female. An attractive woman will be a threat to you. I use my looks to
get what I want and am not ashamed to do so - a well chosen short skirt
always ensures a better bonus. If there are too many pretty girls
around, it's harder to pull this off. An attractive man will be a
pleasure to look at.
Hire the plain one! After the recession ends he/she will be offered fewer enticements to leave.
Consultant, male, 74
Hire the slim one. Obese people are more
likely to take time off owing to illness. Obesity is a lifestyle choice
and so you'd not be discriminating against a person with a disability
by not hiring the fat one.
I'm about to turn 30 and have just
married my partner of 11 years. We both feel emotionally ready to start a
family but having a child in my current job is going to be hard as I
work long hours and have a long commute. I work for a male-dominated SME
and there is no precedent for working flexibly.
I could look for a job nearer to home,
but I love my work and new jobs are scarce. My husband is a civil
servant and has brilliant flexible working entitlements, but I would
resent it if he took on a strong paternal role and I was the one always
out at work keeping the income coming in. How do other women juggle
these conflicting demands, emotions and priorities?