Would Steve McQueen have faced rejection for high profile jobs because of his good looks, if he had been alive today?

Handsome men may be rejected for competitive jobs, research from UCL School of Management suggests, but are preferred for roles that require cooperation.

Assistant Professor Sun Young Lee found that handsome men are seen as more competent, so managers in collaborative workplaces such as R&D departments hire good-looking male candidates over less good-looking ones. Similarly, in workplaces with rewards for team performance, a decision maker prefers handsome male employees, as they help further their own success.

However, in competitive workplaces such as sales departments, good looks signalling competence can make handsome men seem threatening to future colleagues and are therefore less likely to be brought into the company. If decision makers expect to compete, they would rather discriminate against them.

With her co-authors from the University of Maryland, London Business School, and INSEAD, Dr. Lee didn’t find the same effect for pretty women as female attractiveness wasn’t associated with competence. She believes it’s because physical stereotypes interact with gender stereotypes.

“Managers are affected by stereotypes and make hiring decisions to serve their own self-interests,” Dr. Lee commented, “so organizations may not get the most competent candidates.

“With more companies involving employees in recruitment processes, this important point needs attention. Awareness that hiring is affected by potential work relationships and stereotyping tendencies can help organizations improve their selection processes. For example, engaging external representatives may improve selection outcomes as outsiders are likely to provide fairer inputs. Also, if organizations make managers more accountable for their decisions, they’ll be less motivated to pursue self-interests at the expense of the company.”

These findings come from four experiments published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.





Robert joined the HRreview editorial team in October 2015. After graduating from the University of Salford in 2009 with a BA in Politics, Robert has spent several years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past he has been part of editorial teams at Flux Magazine, Mondo*Arc Magazine and The Marine Professional.