I was interviewed this morning for a Woman's Day story on job interviews. As usual, just before talking with the journalist, I poked around peer-reviewed studies a bit. I found quite a few traditional ones, but there was one that was weird but rather instructive. It was a 1986 study by Robert Baron on the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. In brief, the design was that 78 subjects (roughly half men and half women) were asked to evaluate a female job candidate.
In one condition, she cranked-up the non-verbal charm, in the other she did not. As the article explains:
Specifically,she was trained to smile frequently (at prespecified points), to maintain a high level of eye contact with the subject, and to adopt an informal, friendly posture (one in which she leaned forward, toward the interviewer). In contrast, in the neutral cue condition she refrained from emitting any nonverbal behaviors. These procedures were adapted from ones employed in several previous studies (e.g., Imada & Hakel, 1977) in which nonverbal cues were found to exert strong effects upon ratings of strangers. Extensive pretesting and refinement were undertaken to assure that the two patterns would be distinct and readily noticed by participants in the present research.
In another condition, she wore perfume:
Presence or absence of artificial scent. In the scent present condition, the confederates applied two small drops of a popular perfume behind their ears prior to the start of each day’s sessions. In the scent absent condition, they didnot make use of these substances. (In both conditions, they refrained from employing any other scented cosmetics of their own.) The scent employed was “Jontue.” This product was selected for use through extensive pretesting in which 12 undergraduate judges (8 females, 4 males) rated 11 popular perfumes presented in identical plastic bottles. Judges rated the pleasantness of each scent and its attractiveness when used by a member of the opposite sex. “Jontue” received the highest mean rating among the female scents in this preliminary study.
The design was alternated so the subjects in different groups evaluated these imaginary job candidates with perfume or without, or with non-verbal charms or without, and researchers also examined the impact of having both perfume and charm, or neither. The results are pretty amusing but also useful. It turns out that having just perfume and just charm seemed to lead to high ratings by both male and female interviewers. BUT there was an interesting gender effect. The blend of both perfume and charm did not put-off female interviewers, but it did lead to lower evaluations for male interviewers.
This is just one little study, but it is amusing and possibly useful -- if you are woman and being interviewed by a guy, the blend of perfume and positive "non-verbals" might be too much of a good thing!
This is not a path-breaking study, but it is cute. And I it is interesting to know that Mae West sweet saying that " Too much of a good thing can be wonderful" has its limits!
P.S. Go here to see the complete reference and the abstract.