Female job applicants far more likely to be judged on appearance, study finds

Researchers analyse eye movements of people reviewing Facebook profiles and find men are judged more on content

Employers who analyse the social media profiles of job applicants are far more likely to judge women on appearance and men on content, a new study has found.

Researchers from University of the West of Scotland analysed the eye movements of a group of men and women as they reviewed a selection of Facebook profiles, asking them to judge each person as a potential candidate for a job. 

The research team found that the group predominantly judged the female candidates on the basis of their appearance, while they tended to form an opinion about the male candidates based on the content on their profile page.

“When it comes to assessing female candidates, there is a lot of reliance on photographs to judge the qualities of the candidate – this is true regardless of whether it’s a man or a woman reviewing the profile,” said psychology lecturer Graham Scott, who helped conduct the study.

“Name is looked at first, then images. Finally, recent posts and friends are looked at. When it comes to assessing a male candidate, both men and women focus on name, profile information, recent posts, and friends,” Dr Scott added.

The findings, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, could have significant ramifications for people entering the jobs market, Dr Scott said. “There is greater reliance than ever before on social media, both as a prospective candidate and as an employer – so many people have degrees now it can be difficult to differentiate between candidates,” he said.

“Having a strong profile and content could be the difference between getting a job and not even being invited for an interview.” 

Participants in the study were also asked to assess the social media profiles of a selection of people with a view to determining whether they would like to be friends.

Men and women were largely assessed in the same way during this part of the experiment, the researchers found. They also discovered that photographs were deemed more important than text in determining a person’s suitability.