A new research study finds that facial disfigurements can cause individuals to receive poor scores in job interviews.
In one of the first studies of its type, researchers at Rice University and the University of Houston discovered how scars and other facial disfigurements may result in worksite discrimination.
Investigators found that interviewers recalled less information about these candidates, which negatively impacted evaluations of the applicants.
“When evaluating applicants in an interview setting, it’s important to remember what they are saying,” said psychologist and researcher Dr. Mikki Hebl. “Our research shows if you recall less information about competent candidates because you are distracted by characteristics on their face, it decreases your overall evaluations of them.”
Hebl and co-author Juan Madera, Ph.D., performed two studies. In the first, the eye-activity of 171 undergraduate students were tracked as they watched a computer-mediated interview. After the interview, they were asked to recall information about the candidate.
“When looking at another person during a conversation, your attention is naturally directed in a triangular pattern around the eyes and mouth,” Madera said.
“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.”
The second study involved face-to-face interviews between candidates who had a facial birthmark and 38 full-time managers enrolled in a part-time MBA and/or a Master of Science in a hospitality management program. All members of this group had experience in interviewing applicants for their current or past staff positions.
Despite the increase in age, experience and education, the interviewers had a tough time managing their reactions to the stigma, Madera said. In fact, the effects of the stigma were actually stronger with this group, which he attributed to the face-to-face interview setting.
“It just shows that despite maturity and experience levels, it is still a natural human reaction to react negatively to facial stigma,” Madera said.
Both Hebl and Madera hope the research will raise awareness about this form of workplace discrimination.
“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.”
Their study, “Discrimination Against Facially Stigmatized Applicants in Interviews: An Eye-Tracking and Face-to-Face Investigation” is published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
Source: Rice University