Employers are more likely to hire people they fancy, researchers claim, as they find «leisure pursuits, background and self-presentation» are more important than skills.
Women in the workplace have fought a long battle to prove their skills, experience and CV are the only keys to their success.
But their efforts may have been in vain, as a study find good looks, a winning smile and a little gentle flirtation may be the key to securing a job after all.
Bosses would rather hire someone they find attractive and enjoy spending time with than the perfectly-qualified candidate, it has been claimed.
They would rather employ someone “who will be their friend or maybe even their romantic partner”, with whom they feel a “spark”, researchers have suggested.
A study, conducted by American sociologists, has found interviewers at banking, law and management consultancy firms consistently prefer applicants they “feel good around”.
More than half of employers claim attractiveness, the right social background and how candidates spend their leisure time are the most important considerations when hiring, it is claimed.
Dr Lauren Rivera, from Northwestern University in the United States, found interviewers often put their personal feelings of comfort, acceptance and excitement first.
Half of those studied ranked “cultural fit” as the most important criterion at job interview stage, meaning they were more likely to hire someone with the same “leisure pursuits, background and self-presentation” as current staff.
«Of course employers are looking for people who have the baseline of skills to effectively do the job,” she said.
«But, beyond that, employers really want people who they will bond with, who they will feel good around, who will be their friend and maybe even their romantic partner.
“As a result, employers don’t necessarily hire the most skilled candidates.»
The study, based on 120 interviews and published in the American Sociological Review, is the first investigation of its kind into whether shared culture between employers and job candidates matters.
Dr Rivera said: «It is important to note this does not mean employers are hiring unqualified people.
«But my findings demonstrate that – in many respects – employers hire in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners than how one might expect employers to select new workers.
«When you look at the decision to date or marry someone what you think about is commonalities. Do you have a similar level of education? Did you go to a similar calibre school? Do you enjoy similar activities? Are you excited to talk to each other? Do you feel the spark?
«These types of things are salient at least to the employers I’ve studied.»
In studying graduate and undergraduate employment programmes, she also noted significant differences in the way different social classes approached interviews.
«Evaluators are predominately white, Ivy League-educated, upper-middle or upper class men and women who tend to have more stereotypically masculine leisure pursuits and favour extracurricular activities associated with people of their background,” she said.
«Given less affluent students are more likely to believe achievement in the classroom rather than on the field or in the concert hall matters most for future success and focus their energies accordingly, the types of cultural similarities valued in elite firms’ hiring processes has the potential to create inequalities in access to elite jobs based on parental socioeconomic status.»