Interviewers put off by facial disfigurement

Employers are more likely to rate job candidates with facial disfigurements poorly in an interview scenario, new research has suggested. Carried out by investigators at Rice University and the University of Houston, the study found interviewers recall less information about individuals with birthmarks, scars or blemishes, which can have a negative impact on the applicants' evaluations.

The report has been published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and Mikki Hebl, a Professor of Psychology at Rice University, noted the impression a competent job seeker makes can be diminished if the person asking the questions cannot remember much about them because they are distracted by aspects of their appearance.

Co-author of the study Professor Juan Madera of the University of Houston - which was founded in 1927 before joining the University of Houston system in 1977 - observed: "It just shows that despite maturity and experience levels, it is still a natural human reaction to react negatively to facial stigma."

Dr Alex Clarke, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist from the Royal Free Hospital, London, commented: "This research is not inconsistent with early studies of disfigurement but clinicians and researchers, together with support organisations such as Changing Faces, have done much to understand how people can overcome the preoccupation with appearance.

"Awareness raising with employers is one type of intervention employed by Changing faces via their Face Equality campaign.

"Research has also demonstrated that behaviour 'trumps' appearance in that people who have well developed social skills and who are good at putting others at ease do well in both social and interview situations regardless of appearance.

"So there is plenty that can be done both at the Society and individual level to overcome our natural inclination to be curious. To learn more about current research and clinical innovation in this area see The Centre for Appearance Research, University of the West of England."