People might say that looks don’t really matter anymore, but according to "Discrimination Against Facially Stigmatized Applicants in Interviews: An Eye-Tracking and Face-to-Face Investigation," a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, what you look like matters more than ever.
Indeed, applicants who have any sort of facial disfiguration are almost guaranteed not to make it to the second interview. This conclusion came about when Rice Professor of Psychology Mikki Hebl and University of Houston Professor Juan Madera set up two controlled experiments to see just how people react to job applicants with telltale scars and birthmarks on their faces.
In the first study, 171 undergraduate students were asked to listen to job interviews while looking at photos of hopeful applicants who had facial disfiguration. They were also made to wear an eye tracker which followed the movements of their pupils.
Normally, people engaged in a conversation focus their eyes around the eyes and mouth of the person they’re talking to. When looking at the photos of the interviewees, however, the participants couldn’t help but stray past the triangular region. "We tracked the amount of attention outside of this region and found that 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," said Madera.
In the second study, the applicants with facial disfiguration fared no better. In a face-to-face interview with 38 full-time managers enrolled in higher education, the negative reactions seemed even stronger.
"The bottom line is that how your face looks can significantly influence the success of an interview," Hebl said. "There have been many studies showing that specific groups of people are discriminated against in the workplace, but this study takes it a step further, showing why it happens. The allocation of attention away from memory for the interview content explains this."
Even if facial scars or birthmarks aren't a problem for you, you still need to consider how the way you look can affect how your interview goes. If you wear something that takes attention away from your eyes and mouth, your interviewer may be too distracted to recall what you're actually saying. If you're looking to impress a potential employer, you may want to check out these articles:
(Photo by piovasco via sxc.hu)