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Written by Rolf BaxRolf Bax

Research: Attractive applicant more likely to get a job?

9 min read
Research: Attractive applicant more likely to get a job?
Artwork by:Zhenya Vlasova
These days, it is more and more common to add a photograph to your CV when you apply for a job. But to what extent does someone’s appearance affect the application process?

Resume.io research: is an attractive looking applicant more likely to get a job?

It is unlikely that you will be asked to add a photograph to your CV when you apply for a job, but with the proliferation of social media it won't be hard for a potential employer to check you out. We all understand that people judge others on how they look, but are attractive candidates more successful than others? And if we consider a broader definition of attractiveness, where does that leave candidates in terms of how they present themselves and their application?

Attraction is the name of the game when securing a job, and while you may not look like Brad Pitt or Scarlett Johansson, seeking to position yourself as the most attractive candidate in the room is the only strategy.

Trigger warning: painful truths about human nature will follow....

With a whole raft of unconscious bias still (sadly) baked in to the hiring process, Resume.io conducted a survey based on the question: “Will an attractive looking applicant receive an invitation sooner than a less attractive candidate despite both having the same work experience, background, and motivation?"

The attractive candidate survey

Resume.io submitted nearly 300 applications, distributed amongst two different functions in various branches. For this, they created and used CVs from fictitious male applicants (one attractive and one less attractive) and two fictitious female applicants (one attractive and one less attractive).

The application email and the CV were basically identical. The only real difference was the photograph on the CVs. All the applications were then analysed with email tracking software.

The conclusion? Attractive looking applicants have a bigger chance to receive an invitation than arguably less attractive applicants. This showed in the fact that, within the survey, the attractive applicant resume was much more often invited for an application interview.

Attractive male receives 5 times as many invitations

There is not a whole lot of science involved here, but as the test is a simple one, it seems to verify the hypothesis.

In 43% of the cases, the recruiter sent a positive response to the attractive applicant resume. Of these positive reactions, 19% was even a direct invitation for a job interview. This means that he scores 5 times better than his less attractive competitor.

Attractive female receives 8 times as many invitations

The less attractive female applicant received an invitation for an interview in just 2% of the cases - that is nearly eight times less than the attractive candidate.

Especially male recruiters have a clear preference for the attractive female applicant. In 67% of the cases, she received a positive reply while she got a negative reply in only 5% of the cases. 

There is also a difference in the reactions

There are also significant differences between the reactions received by the attractive candidates and those received by the less attractive applicants after applying for the same job.

An example can be seen in one application from a male applicants, where both candidates received a reply saying that ‘the vacancy was no longer vacant’ from the respective (female) recruiter. The attractive applicant, however, did get an additional remark ‘that he otherwise would surely have been invited for an interview’. 


An attractive candidate receives significantly more positive reactions from the recruiters. This applies to both male and female candidates, who are looking for a new position.

Reaction from Resume.io

“When we started this survey, we had a nagging suspicion that we would see differences, but the fact that they are so significant is absolutely absurd!”, says Robin Bakker of Resume.io. He continues, “It goes without saying that every applicant should be assessed based on his or her qualities and capabilities, and not on racial background or photo. This is exactly what makes the research results so painful and confrontational.”

So, how do the 95% of us "average" looking people get a job?

Now, to the good news. The offices of the world are not filled with supermodels.

The vast majority of us average looking people are competing for roles with other equally average looking people. Sure, if you are up against a 10/10 worldie attractive candidate, you may be at a slight disadvantage, but you never know which advantages you might enjoy over them.

Unless it is actually for a modelling role, people will never be hired just for their looks, so it is simply another decision making factor to include in the hiring equation. Grossly unfair as the bias might be....

There are plenty of other things that you can do to make yourself more "attractive" than that pretty boy / girl:

  • Your work experience will always set you apart - work out your unique fit with the role in question.
  • Further education, training and qualifications show that you are dedicated to your career.
  • Personality is more important than ever in terms of corporate culture - share details about who you are.
  • How you communicate throughout the interview process will make contribute to sharing your difference.
  • Looking your best, dressing smartly and being aware of your body language will also count for a lot.

There is not enough work going on in the world to tackle all kinds of bias and this survey will not come as a surprise to anyone. However, if it makes just one hiring manager think twice about the real reasons why they are choosing an applicant over the other, then there is one less brick in the invisible wall.

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