Would HR bin a perfectly good CV? Apparently, yes

by Stephanie Zillman12 Apr 2012

It’s research that was always bound to ruffle feathers in the HR industry: Two economists have released a report that says if a female HR professional receives a resume including a photo from an attractive female applicant, the resume is likely to land in the bin because of jealousy and rivalry.

The researchers sent bogus applications to more than 2,500 real job vacancies. For each job, they sent two very similar resumes, one without a photo and one with a photo of either an ‘attractive’ or a ‘plain’ applicant.

While it is uncommon for professional resumes in Australia to include a photo, the practice is typical throughout Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia. Notably, the researchers found that the level of bias against applications including photos was higher in countries where the practice was not typical.

The researchers found that while resumes with photos of physically attractive women were far less likely to land an interview than those without a photo, resumes with photos of handsome men were more likely to result in an interview than those who didn’t include a photo. In this particular study, 93% of the HR staff responsible for hiring were female. “One implication of our research is that companies may be doing themselves a disservice by allowing their HR departments and hiring committees to remain predominantly female,” said researcher Bradley Ruffle from Ben-Gurion University. The HR managers were typically single, and had an average age of 29 – “qualities more likely to be associated with a jealous response when confronted with a young, attractive competitor in the workplace”, he commented.

The researchers said they tested a range of theories before coming to the conclusion: “Female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace and the negative perception of women (but not men) who include pictures of themselves on their CVs are the primary reasons for the punishment of attractive women.”

Key findings:

  • Up to 34% of people responded negatively to women's CVs where a picture was used, compared to just 12% who responded positively.
  • Attractive males received a 19.9% callback rate, almost 50% higher than the 13.7% response for plain men and more than twice the 9.2% response to those with no photo.
  • Women with no photo had the highest call back rate – 22% higher than plain women and 30% higher than attractive women.

The researchers found that the discrimination against attractive women varied widely depending on who was hiring them – in the case of employment agencies and recruiters, the attractiveness of the candidate had no effect on their application.

Latest News

Surge of older women re-entering the workforce
HR central to fostering ethical workplaces
Coalition to keep FWA

Most discussed

A letter to the editor: the new HRM - without the 'H'
Four-letter words in the workplace: does anyone give a ****?
Beware fake job references – it’s big business


  • by Tony Griffiths 12/04/2012 4:44:09 PM

    The advice we give anyone looking for work is to leave out the photo. The least number of distractions the better. I think it is a bit of a leap to interpret the motivations as jealousy, however. I hope these guys used pseudonyms.

  • by Felicity Law 13/04/2012 1:11:42 PM

    Perhaps putting a photo on your CV is a good way for applicants to 'weed out' employers who short-list based on their own insecurities. Imagine what it would be like working in an organisation like that.

    Felicity Law, Business Specialist

  • by Sue MacFarlane 20/04/2012 11:23:57 AM

    In my experience by far the majority of resumes with photos come from men. And while it's a running joke that we need to hire some good looking men around here, the photos are roundly ignored and the applicants shortlisted based on their skills and appropriateness for the role. Frankly I wish I didn't get anything with a photo on it.

Most Read