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Think before you speak: Interviewers may prioritise social status over experience

The hiring managers assess the socio-economic background of the candidates based on their speech.

IANS|
Oct 22, 2019, 06.59 PM IST
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Reuters
The study found that even reciting random words helps managers to assess the social class of the candidates.
The study found that even reciting random words helps managers to assess the social class of the candidates.
NEW YORK: Candidates at job interviews expect to be evaluated on their experience, conduct, and ideas, but now a new study provides evidence that interviewees are judged based on their social status seconds after they start to speak.

The study, to be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that people can accurately assess a stranger's socioeconomic position -- defined by their income, education, and occupation status -- based on brief speech patterns.

The findings show that these snap perceptions influence hiring managers in ways that favour job applicants from higher social classes.

"Our study shows that even during the briefest interactions, a person's speech patterns shape the way people perceive them, including assessing their competence and fitness for a job," said study researcher Michael Kraus, Assistant Professor at the Yale University.

The researchers based their findings on five separate studies. The first four examined the extent that people accurately perceive social class based on a few seconds of speech.

They found that reciting seven random words is sufficient to allow people to discern the speaker's social class with above-chance accuracy.

They discovered that speech adhering to subjective standards for English as well as digital standards -- i.e. the voices used in tech products like the Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant -- is associated with both actual and perceived higher social class.

The researchers also showed that pronunciation cues in an individual's speech communicate their social status more accurately than the content of their speech.

The fifth study examined how these speech cues influence hiring. Twenty prospective job candidates from varied current and childhood socioeconomic backgrounds were recruited to interview for an entry-level lab manager position at Yale.

Prior to sitting for a formal job interview, the candidates each recorded a conversation in which they were asked to briefly describe themselves.

A sample of 274 individuals with hiring experience either listened to the audio or read transcripts of the recordings.

The hiring managers who listened to the audio recordings were more likely to accurately assess socioeconomic status than those who read transcripts, according to the study.

Devoid of any information about the candidates' actual qualifications, the hiring managers judged the candidates from higher social classes as more likely to be competent for the job, and a better fit for it than the applicants from lower social classes.

Moreover, they assigned the applicants from higher social classes more lucrative salaries and signing bonuses than the candidates with lower social status.

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