Date of Award

5-1-2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Workforce Education and Development

First Advisor

Sims, Cynthia

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore how facial attractiveness of female job applicants influences the decision-making regarding a hypothetical employment evaluation in China. The study examined the effects of raters’ gender, job applicants’ facial attractiveness, and job applicants’ professional qualifications (education attainment and the years of work experience) on the interview selection, hiring, and salary decisions in a hypothetical situation. To examine the research hypotheses, a laboratory or “controlled” experiment was conducted in this quantitative study. There were two stages in this study. In Stage I, participants were recruited to rate 20 female facial photos, and based on the rating, the researcher selected two attractive photos and two unattractive photos to use in Stage II. In Stage II, college students of Human Resource Management (HRM) were recruited to evaluate six female job applications for an administrative assistant position in a hypothetical situation. Each application included one resume (high professional qualification or low professional qualification) and a photo indicator (an attractive photo, unattractive photo or no photo). Both Stage I and Stage II were within-subjects designs, also known as “repeated measures” designs. The study concluded that lookism or attractiveness bias existed in the hypothetical employment evaluations for the female applicants. Attaching an attractive photo on the resume was a benefit for the female applicants applying for the administration assistant position. Both male and female raters were more likely to interview, hire, and offer a higher salary to applicants with an attractive photo than the ones with an unattractive photo or without a photo in all of the hypothetical situations. However, male raters were more sensitive to the physical attractiveness of applicants than the female raters. Therefore, the issues of lookism or attractiveness bias in the workplace should be addressed. The author suggested that an application system should be designed and implemented which could prevent lookism at the early stages of the hiring process. Also, clarifying the definition of physical appearance discrimination and establishing legislation specific to physical appearance discrimination would be helpful to reduce the issues of lookism. Diversity training should be provided to employers and employees in the workplace to increase awareness of employment lookism. In future studies, the actual human resource (HR) professionals could be included to explore the effect of facial attractiveness on their employment decisions in the actual workplaces across different occupations and different cultures. In addition, future research could include several potential variables to control for a potentially significant aspect, such as rater’s attractiveness, rater’s age, years of rater in their professional field, or applicant’s gender.

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