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

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 attractive 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 departments where individual performance is rewarded, good looks signalling competence can make handsome men seem threatening to future colleagues. 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 also found that attractive female employees do not receive the same treatment. In fact, the research discovered that attractiveness among women is not associated with competence. Dr. Lee believes that the results show that there is a link between physical stereotypes and gender stereotypes.

“Managers are affected by stereotypes and make hiring decisions to serve their own self-interests,” Dr. Lee said, “so organisations 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 organisations 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 [sic] Behavior and Human Decision Processes.