IT IS a stereotype for sure, but people do tend to assume that attractive women are happier and more successful than unattractive ones, and thus ahead of the pack in the career stakes.

This stereotype has become so much a part of people's thinking that there seems little room for doubt about the notion that attractive physical attributes are a huge advantage when applying for a job.

However, a recent article in The Economist cited an Israeli study that begged to differ. The study found that old-fashioned jealousy led women with the power to hire to discriminate against pretty candidates.

It concluded that attractive women should not include a photo with their curriculum vitae.

To see what does happen when job hunters include photos in their job applications, two researchers sent out fictional applications for more than 2,500 real- life vacancies.

Two similar resumes - one with a photo and the other without - were sent for each job.

It emerged that, when a photo was included, the hunks were more likely to be offered an interview than the less attractive chaps.

However, attractive females were less likely to be called for an interview.

The study found an attractive woman would need to send out an average of 11 CVs before getting an interview when she applied directly to a company.

In contrast, an equally qualified but plain woman needed to send just seven.

In the study, women made up 93 per cent of those tasked with selecting whom to invite for an interview.

Mr Paul Heng, of NeXT Corporate Coaching Services in Singapore, thinks the response suggested by the study is only human and 'pretty common', though the reverse could also take place.

Nevertheless, says Dr Elizabeth Nair, chief executive and lead psychologist at Work & Health Psychologists (WHP), 'it is too quick and too easy a jump to say jealousy was what caused the female recruiters to not pick the attractive female candidates'.

The study could have been culture- specific and even flawed, she says.

For instance, the researchers did not break down what would be considered physically attractive. In social psychology, attractiveness can be typed as boyish or masculine for men and cute or mature for women, says Dr Nair.

Further, it is important to understand the nature of the 2,500 jobs covered in the study.

'The researchers might have been prejudiced. They could have had a typical male chauvinist view of women, believing that women let their emotions cloud their judgment,' says Dr Nair.

In Singapore, it is the norm to include a photo with the CV, although experts say it is perfectly fine to not include one. Indeed, some advise against the practice.

'The suitability of the candidate should be assessed on merit alone. It is difficult as there will always be a natural tendency to judge people based on their external appearances,' says Mr Heng.

He advises: 'Resumes should not include photos, unless the position is a front-line one, for example, as a salesperson or a flight stewardess.'

Ms Clodagh Bannigan, global head of emerging talent at Alexander Mann Solutions, concurs, saying that in most cases, her firm would not advise candidates to attach photographs to their application forms.

Until the candidate is shortlisted for a face-to-face interview with the client, he will be judged on merit and his suitability for the role, she says.

'This minimises any bias in the recruitment process, which helps ensure that the candidate has a fair experience.'

Ideally, a recruiter should look only at the skills of the candidate.

'It is the trend to include a photo with your CV, so you would appear more current if you do. But whether we like it or not, appearance does play a part in influencing a recruiter's decision,' says Mrs Jacqueline Tan-Thoo at the Singapore Polytechnic Business School. She is the course manager for the school's diploma programme in human resource management with psychology.

The Economist article noted that companies could consider adopting the practice followed in the Belgian public sector, where CVs do not include even the candidate's name.

Says Mrs Tan-Thoo: 'If you have two candidates, and both are able to meet the requirements, then the more presentable one might be picked.

'It is quite natural for individuals to be affected by looks.'

Dr Nair agrees: 'Many attractive people do get on better in life and their careers.'

Fortunately, there is hope for all.

'If you present yourself in an attractive way, you can get more mileage in general, in the workplace or in life,' says Dr Nair.