He may not have had resumes in mind when he coined that phrase in his 1964 book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, but a new study suggests the old axiom could apply to the way jobs are landed or lost in 2015.
Nicholas Epley, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Juliana Schroeder, a PhD candidate at the school, conducted a series of experiments in which M.B.A. student job candidates developed written or videotaped pitches to present to the company for which they would most like to work.
In an initial experiment, a group of evaluators judged the spoken pitches by watching or listening to the video recording, listening to the audio only, or by reading a transcript of the pitch. Those who heard pitches rated candidates as more intelligent, thoughtful and competent than candidates whose transcripts were merely read by evaluators. Meanwhile, those who only saw video did not rate applicants any differently than those who heard pitches, according to a University of Chicago press release.
In another experiment, evaluators listened to trained actors reading candidates’ written pitches aloud, and assessed those applicants as being more intelligent and desirable for the job than did those who read candidates’ written pitches to themselves.
In the job hunt, presentation should certainly count for something. But, assuming all other things are equal, how likely would HR and hiring managers really be to lean toward a candidate they’ve watched and/or heard, as opposed to only seeing on paper?
More than they may even realize, says Greig Schneider, U.S. managing partner at Egon Zehnder International, a New York-based global executive-search firm.
“If you have two candidates—one candidate that you’ve spoken to on the phone and another for whom you’ve just received a resume—you’re naturally inclined to favor the person you spoke to on the phone, at least according to this data,” says Schneider.
But, as with any single factor in the hiring process, recruiters and hiring managers shouldn’t put too much emphasis on how candidates lay out their bona fides, he says.
“You need to make sure you’re diving into what is really needed for success in the job, and not cutting out someone who has a great background and competencies, but maybe isn’t a great talker.”
HR and hiring managers, just like everyone else, “pick up a lot of important information from how someone speaks,” says Schneider.
“When you hear someone’s cadence, their tone, you’re going to form an impression about their intelligence. It’s unavoidable. The challenge is determining whether this is an accurate portrayal.”Twitter It!