UB Study: When it comes to careers, attractiveness pays off – but there’s a trick to unlocking those benefits

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A recent study from the University of Buffalo’s School of Management shows that attractive people are more likely to get hired, get promoted, and get paid more – but it’s not just because of their looks.

The study, “Is beauty more than skin deep? Attractiveness, power, and nonverbal presence in evaluations of hirability” finds that less attractive people can also reap similar benefits by improving their non-verbal communication skills.

“People like pretty or handsome people – that’s traditionally viewed as a bias, because pretty or handsome people could get more opportunities, we give them more resources, so they’re more likely to be successful,” said Min-Hsuan Tu, Assistant Professor in the Organization and Human Resources Department and lead author on the study, said. “Our study was to see if there was anything those attractive people do that makes them successful.”

To determine this, researchers conducted two studies that evaluated 300 “elevator pitches” of participants in a pretend job search.

In study one, they found that attractive people naturally have a higher sense of power and a feeling that they can influence other people and others will listen to them, Tu said.

“Because of that psychological state, they’re more likely to have a better non-verbal presentation, to be more confident and enthusiastic, and because of that, they’re more likely to get hired,” she added.

For study two, researchers had participants assume a “power pose” for one minute before their elevator pitch – feet shoulder width apart, hands on hips, chest out, and chin up – similar to a Superman stance.

“They actually reached a similar level of enthusiastic, confident non-verbal presentation, compared to neutral conditioning where participants didn’t do anything,” Tu said.

Interestingly, assuming the power pose didn’t seem to help attractive people.

“We’re not suggesting that bias doesn’t exist for attractive people, but we kind of want to show that they do something differently,” Tu said. “For people who are less attractive, they can try to use some trick to make them feel more confident and enthusiastic so they can get the same opportunity as attractive people.”

Other confidence-boosting tricks can include wearing a favorite outfit, visualizing success, or thinking about past achievements.

Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2016. See more of her work here.

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