Survey: 51% of employers still judge job applicants based on appearance

Discrimination appears to be widespread when it comes to hiring. Two in five managers admit to passing on a candidate who had a tattoo or unappealing clothing.

LONDON — Despite the fact that employment regulations state it is illegal to discriminate against a potential employee due to their sex, religion or other personal characteristics, a surprising new survey finds more than half of employers admit to still judging job applicants based on their appearance.

The research, commissioned by Greene King, surveyed 1,000 hiring managers and bosses in the United Kingdom. Overall, 51% said they have knowingly discriminated against a potential employee because of the way they looked. Of those, 43% said they didn’t hire the candidate because of their visible tattoos. Another 40% didn’t hire candidates based on their clothes, while hair color put off 30% of employers.

Similarly, about half of respondents said they can’t “look beyond” an interviewee’s physical appearance, even if they appear to be more than capable of excelling in the job they are applying for. To that effect, 21% said they didn’t hire a candidate because they had a disability.

“Employers should be open-minded and hire people based on potential, rather than just appearance,” says Greene Kine HR director Andrew Bush in a statement. “Unfortunately, our research shows many businesses still judge a book by its cover – which means those talented, intelligent and experienced applicants could be overlooked because they don’t conventionally ‘look the part’. Having a tattoo, or a piercing, doesn’t mean you are unable to do a job efficiently. Employers could be discriminating against potentially brilliant candidates.”

Still, just under a third of hiring managers also find it difficult to ignore visible tattoos when considering an applicant for a job. Visible piercings were a distraction for 28% of employers in the survey, and 25% said they can’t overlook how a potential employee is dressed for an interview.

Overall, 90% of employers said having a professional appearance is an important aspect of successfully navigating the hiring process at their company.

For what it’s worth, 57% of employers said they’re more lenient about appearances if an applicant is younger than 24.

Employers are just as picky about job qualifications. In all, 38% rarely hire anyone who has dropped out of school, and 30% are reluctant to hire anyone without a college degree. Also, 25% won’t even consider a candidate who never attended college at all.

And yet despite the admitted discriminatory practices, 85% still feel they are generally “open minded” when it comes to hiring new employees. However, 37% said the social class of a candidate is a factor when determining their suitability for a job, and 21% said they would never hire an individual with a criminal record.

The survey was conducted by OnePoll.

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