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LISTEN: This Is What Your Voice Should Not Sound Like In A Job Interview

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Flickr/Creative Commons

When you go into a job interview, you’re being judged on so many different things - far more than your knowledge of the industry. Many employers asses how you dress, your body language, how enthusiastic you are. For some women a new Duke study shows that even your voice may play a factor. 

The study, conducted at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, analyzed voices from males and females and discovered that a certain creaky and rumbling low-pitched tone, called "vocal fry" made the speaker seem “less competent” to listeners. Though "vocal fry" was perceived as a negative factor in both sexes, it was perceived as more negative in women than in men.

This is a woman speaking with vocal fry.

The study enlisted 800 online listeners. Half were assigned to listen to female voices and the other half listened to male voices. Each listener was then given seven random vocal clips and were instructed to rate the voices on competence, education, trustworthiness and attractiveness. Bill Mayew and Mohan Venkatachalam, the researchers behind the Duke study, found that listeners rated women who spoke with vocal fry lower in all of the categories. 

“One possible reason for this is that a lowered register is seen as more atypical for women than men,” Mayew said.  “What was even more interesting is that female listeners perceive vocal fry more negatively than male listeners.”

In North Carolina, unemployment rates in 2010 were at 9.1% for women and 11.7% for men. Though employment prospects have been slowly improving in the last few years, it’s still a tough economy, and any advantage can be important.

“In a standard interview setting, gut instinct plays a large role in whether a candidate is hired,” Venkatachalam said. “Vocal fry could sway that judgment against a candidate.”

So take out your smart phone -- record a short bit of your voice and listen back. Does your voice fry? Perhaps just a little change in your voice may be what it takes to get that job or raise that you deserve. 

Nancy Wang is WUNC's very first Digital Intern. Nancy will graduate in May 2014 from UNC's School of Medicine. Nancy is headed to Stanford to do her residency in June. She will specialize in urology. Nancy is a skilled writer and is passionate about medical/science journalism. She contributes to The Charlotte Observer and North Carolina Health News among other outlets.
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