Do you ever feel like you’re being discriminated against or side stepped when you apply for a management role or a promotion? You may be right, according to new research.
Leaders in certain fields are being selected in part because their face fits the stereotype of their profession, suggests new research.
In a series of experiments designed to find out how well people could place which industry leaders worked in from their face alone, the results showed that participants could successfully categorise the leaders in business, sport and the military but found politicians difficult.
Dr Eubanks, of Warwick Business School, said: “Our findings imply that within business, military and sport, individuals who achieve the highest positions of leadership share common facial features that distinguish them from leaders in other domains.
“The most plausible explanation, in our view, is that leaders are being selected, at least partly, according to how they look.
“The research suggests the ideal face of a leader extends beyond fitting the correct ‘type’ but needs to fit the industry or profession as well. That is, leaders may benefit not just from having competent or attractive looking faces, but also from having facial features that ‘fit’ a certain stereotype uniquely associated with their particular domain,” added Dr Eubanks.
Showing unknown faces from the US to UK participants, one would hope that this would have made the study’s respondentsants have such a stereotypical eye. Dr Eubanks argues that this simple judgement could heavily influence the actual leadership selection process by organisations.
“In fact, just having facial features that make one look like a good generic leader might not be sufficient to reach the most prestigious leadership positions in a domain; one may also need to possess facial features that stereotypically ‘fit’ the leaders in that domain,” says Dr Eubanks.
Staying on the right side of the law
Unfortunately, recruiting someone because they “look” like the person for the role they are applying for is not against the law, unless others are not recruited on a discriminatory basis – because of their race, sex, disability, age etc.
“These findings are particularly noteworthy for those involved in leadership selection decisions. It is important to not let implicit biases get in the way and ensure that there is a rigorous selection process in place.”
So what can you do to secure the job
Well, put simply, you have to play the part. Make your wardrobe do the talking for you, and work on your presentation. If you’re going for an accounting role, it’s probably not the right time to bring out your trusty black Louboutins, neither is it the time to project the best impression of Beyonce you can muster.
First impressions, clearly, count for a lot, so do your best to make sure you leave a good impression on whoever is recruiting you – that at least is in your control.