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“As rare as a panda”: How facial attractiveness, gender, and occupation affect interview callbacks at Chinese firms

Margaret Maurer-Fazio (Department of Economics, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, USA)
Lei Lei (Liberty Mutual Insurance, Boston, MA, USA)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 7 April 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore how both gender and facial attractiveness affect job candidates’ chances of obtaining interviews in China’s dynamic internet job board labor market. It examines how discrimination based on these attributes varies over occupation, location, and firms’ ownership type and size.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors carry out a resume audit (correspondence) study. Resumes of fictitious applicants are first carefully crafted to make candidates appear equally productive in terms of their work histories and educational backgrounds. The authors control gender and facial attractiveness. The authors establish the facial attractiveness of candidate photos via an online survey. In total, 24,192 applications are submitted to 12,096 job postings across four occupations in six Chinese cities. Callbacks are carefully tracked and recorded. Discrimination is estimated by calculating the differences in the rates of callbacks for interviews received by individuals whose applications vary only in terms of facial attractiveness and gender. The authors reuse the same resumes repeatedly through this project such that names and photos of each of the candidates: attractive man, attractive woman, unattractive man, and unattractive woman is attached to each resume hundreds of times for each occupation in each city.

Findings

The authors find sizable differences in the interview callback rates of attractive and unattractive job candidates. Job candidates with unattractive faces need to put in 33 percent more applications than their attractive counterparts to obtain the same number of interview callbacks. Women are preferred to men in three of the four occupations. Women, on average need put in only 91 percent as many applications as men to obtain the same number of interview callbacks.

Research limitations/implications

The analysis of this paper focusses on only four different occupations. Its scope is also limited to exploring only the first part of the hiring process – obtaining a job interview. Furthermore, its fictitious applicants are all young people, approximately 25 years old. It would be useful to explore how gender and facial attractiveness affect candidates’ chances of landing a job after getting an interview.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to and expands the literature on hiring through China’s internet job boards. It also contributes to the literature on the role of facial attractiveness in hiring.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

JEL Classification – C93, J71, J23, O53

The authors gratefully acknowledge the Bates College Faculty Development Grant that provided the foundational funding for this study. The authors thank William H. Ash III, Assistant in Instruction of the Bates College Imaging and Computing Center, for his expert help in preparing the photos used in this study. The authors are also particularly thankful for the expert research assistance provided by Bojian Sun who designed and ran the online photo survey and who helped to carefully manage the application submission and tracking process. The authors also wish to thank the Editors and three anonymous referees for valuable suggestions on an earlier draft.

Citation

Maurer-Fazio, M. and Lei, L. (2015), "“As rare as a panda”: How facial attractiveness, gender, and occupation affect interview callbacks at Chinese firms", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 68-85. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJM-12-2014-0258

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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