When Job Hunting, Pick up the Phone

MBA Blog / 8th February 2016

Dee Gill

Job candidates are better able to communicate their intellect when they share their credentials in speech rather than in writing. Even when voiced and written scripts are identical, the spoken pitch makes a person seem more intelligent, thoughtful, and employable, according to Chicago Booth’s Nicholas Epley and Booth PhD candidate Juliana Schroeder.

Schroeder and Epley devised five experiments involving the “elevator pitches” that are common in job interviews. The researchers recorded MBA students, or in some cases actors reading for students, making their pitches. Professional job recruiters and hypothetical employers (volunteers selected from visitors to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry) either watched or listened to the pitches or read the pitch transcripts. They evaluated the candidate’s intellect, reported the positivity of their impression, and indicated how interested they would be in hiring the person.  

The potential employers, both professional and hypothetical, consistently rated students as more thoughtful, rational, and intelligent when they heard their credentials rather than read them. When evaluators listened to pitches read aloud by actors, they gave those pitches higher ratings than the same pitches presented in writing. It didn’t appear to matter whether pitches were presented as video or as audio only – both received higher ratings than those presented in writing.

The researchers found that intellect – the capacity to think and to reason – was better conveyed through a person’s voice. “The words that come out of a person’s mouth convey the presence of a thoughtful mind more clearly than the words typed by a person’s hands – even when those words are identical,” they write. Schroeder and Epley note that the participating students believed that they would fare as well or better in the written rather than spoken medium. Job-seekers reported being as likely to write to potential employers as to talk to them. The findings suggest that in order to reveal your bright mind to an employer, it is important to have your voice heard.

Biography  

Dee Gill is a freelance writer for Capital Ideas at University of Chicago Booth School of Business.  

Work cited

Juliana Schroeder and Nicholas Epley, “The Sound of Intellect: Speech Reveals a Thoughtful Mind, Increasing a Job Candidate’s Appeal,” Psychological Science, forthcoming.  

Acknowledgement

This article was first published in Capital Ideas, a publication of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business www.ChicagoBooth.edu/capideas/  

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