You might say that you don't discriminate against employees and job candidates on the basis of looks, but look around: Are the employees at the top of your company more attractive than everyone else?
If you've got a good-looking executive team, you may not be alone.
In recent years, researchers have amassed data around the effect of attraction in the workplace. One of these studies culminated in the 2011 book Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful. The book, written by Daniel Hamermesh, an economist at the University of Texas in Austin, outlines a number of office perks afforded to beautiful people. Hamermesh found that attractive people (both men and women) are hired sooner, get promotions more quickly, and tend to achieve higher ranking in their companies.
A Psychology Today article reviewing the book says it all comes down to sex. Since “the male mind is designed in such a way that heterosexual men will do anything to increase their chances,” writes Dario Maestripieri, Ph.D., attractive women are more likely to get ahead.
Yet, Hamermesh argues that sex isn’t the main motivator. Rather, a person's good looks lead to higher self-esteem in a work setting and a heightened work ethic. The positive work ethic and positive attitude are seen as attractive and therefore earn the employee perks.
“Perhaps people’s self-confidence manifests itself in their behavior, so that their looks are rated more highly, and their self-esteem makes them more desirable and higher-paid employees,” Hamermesh writes. “Another possibility is that beauty and the attractiveness of one’s personality are positively related, and that it is the general sparkle of one’s personality, not one’s beauty, that increases earnings.”
A Rice University study shows, however, that the positive attitude Hamermesh says is "attractive" could be less memorable for those who don't have physical attraction to match. Researchers sought to illustrate how facial attractiveness affected interviewees. They found that job candidates with birthmarks, scars, and blemishes were less likely to be remembered by interviewers than others.
“The more the interviewers attended to stigmatized features on the face, the less they remembered about the candidate’s interview content, and the less memory they had about the content led to decreases in ratings of the applicant,” Juan Madera, a professor at the University of Houston and co-author of the study, told Business Insider.