W&L’s Gilbert Publishes Study on Attractiveness, Power, and Nonverbal Presence in Hirability The study showed that highly attractive job-seekers tend to feel more powerful than other candidates, but one simple exercise can level the playing field.
In her business administration courses, Assistant Professor Elisabeth Gilbert frequently receives questions from students about things they can do to increase their chances of getting the job they want.
Today’s job seekers face several challenges, including engaging in virtual hiring methods that don’t require real-time interaction with a hiring manager. Hiring processes can also present the potential for bias. The study builds on decades of research that shows more attractive people are more likely to get hired and be paid more.
In a recently published Personnel Psychology study, Gilbert, along with Min-Hsuan Tu, assistant professor of organization and human resources at the University of Buffalo School of Management, and Joyce Bono, professor of management at the University of Florida Warrington College of Business, looked at both of these challenges.
“One thing we showed is that highly attractive job-seekers tend to feel more powerful than other candidates and that confidence helps them display more effective nonverbal cues when they’re recording these videos,” said Gilbert.
“That, in turn, makes managers more inclined to hire them. So it’s not only that pretty people get the job because they’re pretty; they actually present themselves a little differently when they’re giving these pitches about why they’re the right fit for the job.”
The researchers also tested a quick “power pose” intervention. They asked participants to take five minutes in private and practice standing like a superhero before recording their video. After that, less-attractive candidates displayed the same level of nonverbal presence that the really attractive candidates displayed naturally.
They determined that this simple exercise boosted confidence and helped level the playing field among candidates.
“This isn’t a perfect solution, of course!” said Gilbert.
“Job-seekers still need to come prepared to talk about why they’d be great for the position, and we as a society also have more work to do to reduce bias in the hiring process. But as a researcher, I love it when we find small things people can do to make their experience in the workplace just a little bit better. If you’re nervous about your next interview, trying out this technique could help you present yourself more confidently.”
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