Beware the Interviewer in a Soft Chair
New research indicates that the characteristics of objects an individual is touching can unconsciously influence their thoughts
If you'd like your interviewer to think of you as a stable choice for the job, you'd better hope he's sitting in a hard chair. New research indicates that the characteristics of the objects an individual is touching can unconsciously influence their thoughts and perceptions -- such as how a hiring manager might perceive a job candidate.
In a study conducted by professors from
The researchers -- MIT Sloan assistant marketing professor
The interesting thing is that the impressions people form can be so unrelated to the issue being given attention. The clipboard, for one, has absolutely no relationship to the qualifications and experience of the job candidate being evaluated. As for the hard or soft chair, researchers found that when a participant in the experiment was sitting in a hard chair, they were likely to evaluate a job candidate as more stable than participants who sat in a soft chair.
So what implications can this have for job seekers or hiring managers? For one thing, both are already aware of a longtime application effort intended to give the job seeker an advantage: printing a resume and cover letter on heavier paper. It's meant to convey seriousness, even if that's not an entirely conscious motivation. "People don't know why -- it just seems like heavier paper is better," Ackerman notes.
The truth is, people have long been convinced that heaviness conveys seriousness, whether it's conscious or not. Think of the big, thick executive desk and the big executive chair. They're not necessarily more efficient, comfortable, or more spacious, but they certainly seem more serious. What's more, "it could be unconsciously making that person feel more important," Ackerman says.
For employers and recruiters, the research implies that it's important to try to standardize the environment in which interviews are conducted. Strangely enough, it seems that keeping the office furniture consistent could help give every candidate an equal shot.
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