How Do You Hire Better? Maybe You Should Hire More Beautiful People

What do you think of, in regards to smarts, when I say: “Sexy, blond, model type?”

What about: “Strong, athletic jock?” Or, what about: “Scrawny, nerdy, band geek?”

My guess is most people would answer: Dumb, dumb, smart, or something like that.

In HR we call this profiling, and make no mistake, profiling is done by almost all of our hiring managers. The problem is everything we might have thought is probably wrong in regards to our expectations of looks and brains. So, why are ugly people smarter?

They’re not!

“Pretty people are smarter”

Slate recently published an article that contradicts all of our ugly-people-are-smarter myths, and it actually shows evidence to the contrary. From the article:

Now there were two findings: First, scientists knew that it was possible to gauge someone’s intelligence just by sizing him up; second, they knew that people tend to assume that beauty and brains go together. So they asked the next question: Could it be that good-looking people really are more intelligent?

Here the data were less clear, but several reviews of the literature have concluded that there is indeed a small, positive relationship between beauty and brains. Most recently, the evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa pulled huge datasets from two sources — the National Child Development Study in the United Kingdom (including 17,000 people born in 1958), and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the United States (including 21,000 people born around 1980) — both of which included ratings of physical attractiveness and scores on standard intelligence tests. When Kanazawa analyzed the numbers, he found the two were related: In the U.K., for example, attractive children have an additional 12.4 points of IQ, on average. The relationship held even when he controlled for family background, race, and body size.”

That’s right HR Pros – pretty people are smarter. I can hear hiring managers and creepy executives that only want “cute” secretaries laughing all over the world!

Here’s how you can hire better

The premise is solid, though. If you go back in our history and culture you can see how this type of things evolves:

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  1. Very smart guy gets great job or starts great company – makes a ton of money.
  2. Because of success, very smart guy now has many choices of very pretty females to pursue as a bride.
  3. Smart guy and pretty bride start a family – which results in pretty, smart children
  4. Pretty, smart children grow up with all the opportunities that come to smart, beautiful families.
  5. The cycle repeats.

Now first, this is a historical thing – thus my example of using a male as our “smart guy” and not “smart girl.” I’m sure in today’s world this premise has evolved yet again. But we are talking about how we got to this point, not where are we now.

Additionally, we are looking at how your organization can hire better. So, how do you hire better? Hire more pretty people.

Seems simple enough. Heck, that is even a hiring process that your hiring managers would support!

Tim Sackett will speak on What Your CEO Wished HR Would Do at the TLNT Transform conference in Austin, TX Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on attending this event. 

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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2 Comments on “How Do You Hire Better? Maybe You Should Hire More Beautiful People

  1. Tim,

    What a provocative post! It will be interesting to see what comments follow.

    Peter Drucker asserted most executives do a poor job in hiring. Intelligence is one factor to consider and the higher echelon roles require more intelligence but it is still one factor. Companies that use a scientifically validated and EEOC complient selection instrument are able to put the odds in their favor of hiring the right person at the right time.

     As a consultant, I use Predictive Index and it is used by many Fortune 1000 companies who know that intelligence is important. A hiring manager can make their own assessment of the “beauty factor” but there is no way they can ascertain the behavioral traits and drivers of a candidate without using a tool that is designed and proven to do so.

  2. Interesting, Tim.

    Actually there are some studies that relate attractiveness to intelligence, but I think the evidence is yet scarce to state that hiring more “beautiful” people might be a good strategy to recruit a more intelligent group too.

    Think of it from another perspective: There is also evidence that people tend to respond in a more positive way to attratctive people, making it then more easy for “pretty” people to go about in everyday life. Less exposure to problem-solving experiences  in a consistent manner (as society responds more wilingly to their demands),  might hinder a [beautiful] child’s ability to generate more and more neural connections that in the end will determine his/her cognitive abilities as an adult. This view also makes sense to me… What about you?

    However, I cannot discard the posibility that more attractive people build up a greater self esteem that in turn facilitates their performance in general (including standard IQ tests and measures) And the education a “successful” parent might provide to his/her child, as you say, could also be part od the cycle.

    Maybe it all depends on what job vacancy you are trying to fill with a new hire… I think we need more evidence on the topic, but again what your post will definitely keep us thinking.

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