Modern Singapore is not without its share of mythology. Unwittingly or otherwise, you would’ve detected fabled creatures while traversing the streets, or looking around in exasperation as the train halts between stations like a friend who’s about to tell a joke but stops himself because he thinks it inappropriate. No, the joke isn’t on SMRT.

Appearing with greater frequency and concentration in mystical lairs such as Holland Village, Orchard Road and Butter Factory, these young, effervescent specimens are usually well-dressed and aware of their whimsical ability to turn heads. Yup, we’re talking about the good-looking gene—the one all beauty products profess to be born with. But is it really good to be good-looking when trying to secure a job? Research has shown that this inexorably depends on one’s gender.

Since most employers don’t have the time to stalk job applicants on Facebook (unless they’re private investigators), job applicants should include photos of themselves to allow employers to attach a visual profile to prospective employees, even if the job application does not request for a mandatory picture. A study by Zeev Shtudiner and Bradley J. Ruffle has ruffled conventional notions on the benefits of being physically attractive when job-seeking. According to their research, good-looking females received "6% fewer callbacks than plain-looking females and 23% fewer callbacks than women without pictures.” Conversely, hiring companies and agencies favoured pictures of good-looking men, giving the candidates more callbacks than plain-looking men or men without pictures attached to their CV.

The proposed explanation is simple: HR departments are commonly staffed by an overwhelming majority of females. Attractive men are perceived to be healthier, more productive and positive, while attractive females who voluntarily attach their picture to the application are considered as egotistical and unprofessional. The latter may also be viewed, subconsciously or otherwise, as a threat to overall workplace well-being and self-confidence—especially if the hiring staff think themselves aesthetically inferior to the female applicant in question. 

So what does this bode for job-seekers? Should males attach their photos to CVs, but not females? One implication mentioned is “companies may be doing themselves a disservice by allowing their HR departments and hiring committees to remain predominantly female. Creating a more balanced gender mix might reduce the level of bias against female candidates whose only failing is that they're physically attractive.” However, don’t you think the bigger question is one of reverse discrimination? As much as ugly kids get bullied in school, are employers guilty of the same prejudice when they choose plain-looking females over good-looking ones? 

You may ask, since when did good looks become a disadvantage? Well, it’s no coincidence that the main opponents to feminism would unsurprisingly be some females themselves. Looks like looks aren’t everything, after all. At least for the ladies.