The Effects of Body Modifications and Resume Quality on Perceived Job Competency – Racial Bias in Perceptions?

I examined the possible exacerbation of stereotypes towards men and women (white and African American) with body modifications (piercings/tattoos) in relation to a good versus mediocre resume in the job selection process. One-hundred and seventy four undergraduate students from Saint Mary’s College of California volunteered for the studies via a convenience sample. The age range consistently included students from 18 to 24 years of age. Four groups of approximately 10 participants were observed in each of the three independent studies. Each group either saw a good resume or a mediocre resume and a picture of an African American man, a white woman, or an African American woman. These pictures were presented in two conditions, with body modifications or without body modifications. Perceived job competency was assessed through two questionnaires, one for the resume and one for the individual in the picture. I found that scores did not indicate a significant interaction of job competency being affected by a mediocre resume in relation to body modifications. However, perceived job competency scores were significantly affected by the appearance of body modifications, but only for the African American male and female. The white woman was not rated as less competent when her picture was shown with body modifications. In all three studies, I found that there was a significant difference between the competency ratings for good resumes versus mediocre resumes. It would appear that the perceived job competency for African Americans may be penalized in competency ratings if they have body modifications, while white female’s perceived job competency is not. A fourth study using a picture of a white male is planned for February 2013.


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