Facial scars, birthmarks affect job hunt

November 30, 2011

People with facial disfigurements such as scars or birthmarks are likely to be rated lower in job interviews than those who have none, new research suggests.

Houston - People with facial disfigurements such as scars or birthmarks are likely to be rated lower in job interviews than those who have none, new research suggests.

An investigation conducted by researchers at Rice University and the University of Houston is one of the first to analyze the extent to which facially disfigured people are negatively affected in job interviews. Among other things, the findings show that interviewers recall less information about these candidates than about other applicants.

The research comprises two studies. In the first study, 171 participants viewed a computer-mediated interview of applicants who either were or were not facially stigmatized. Using eye-tracking technology, the authors recorded participants’ time spent looking at the stigma, their ratings of the applicant and memory recall about the applicant. Results show that the more time participants spent concentrating their gaze on the disfigurement, the fewer interview facts they recalled, which in turn led to lower applicant ratings.

In the second study, 38 full-time managers enrolled in post-graduate business courses conducted face-to-face interviews with either a facially stigmatized or non-stigmatized applicant, then rated the applicant. Results revealed that managers rated facially stigmatized applicants lower than non-stigmatized ones, and recalled less information about the interview, according to the article published in the online Journal of Applied Psychology.

Medical News Today quotes Rice professor of psychology and co-author Mikki Hebl, Ph.D., as saying, “The bottom line is that how your face looks can significantly influence the success of an interview. 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.”

Dr. Hebl and colleagues say they hope the research raises awareness about this form of workplace discrimination.

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