15 November 2016

Beautiful interviewers affect respondent’s answers

Good looking interviewers have an easier time getting people to talk but their attractiveness also affects the answers of the persons being interviewed, concludes new research from the Department of Sociology at the University of Copenhagen

One could argue that a question is a question, no matter who is asking it. But have you ever considered that your answer may be affected by the look of the person asking you the question?

New research by Professor Mads Meier Jæger, Department of Sociology at the University of Copenhagen, shows, that good looking interviewers have more success in getting people to talk when they seek them out for an interview. One of the reasons is that good looking people, as a consequence of their attractiveness, have more self-confidence and a more extrovert personality.
But good looking interviewers also get more tainted answers because of their good looks. As an example the respondents tend to answer that they are thinner, more beautiful and more healthy when they are being interviewed by a beautiful interviewer compared to when a less attractive interviewer is asking them the same set of questions. This is due to the social desirability bias; the respondents try to conform to norms that they ascribe to the interviewer and what they think he/she would like to hear.

According to the newest research there are both pros and cons to being a beautiful interviewer. Photo: Colourbox

Alternative Methods Needed

The research of Mads Meier Jæger shows that there are advantages as well as disadvantages in using beautiful interviewers when doing interviews in the field.

- On the one hand the attractive interviewers secure a higher answering rate because of their look. On the other hand the answers become less reliable if they concern the respondents health and own look, says Professor Mads Meier Jæger. He thinks that the results of the research should lead to new considerations when it comes to the use of face to face interviews.

- It might be worth considering if questions concerning health and looks should be posed in different ways than in face to face interviews. Internet surveys could be an alternative, says Professor Mads Meier Jæger.

Ethical implications

According to Professor Mads Meier Jæger his research also raises some ethical questions.

- If good looking interviewers really are more effective than less attractive interviewers, would it then be fair only to hire beautiful interviewers or to maybe give them a higher salary? Even though many countries have legislation against discrimination based on physical appearances, it is difficult to prevent this kind of discrimination since our responses to the looks of others are more or less instantaneous, says Professor Mads Meier Jæger.

Meier Jæger: “Hello Beautiful? The Effect of Interviewer Physical Attractiveness on Cooperation Rates and Survey Responses”; Sociological Methods and Research; 2016