Vocal Fry Could Make You Less Hirable, But Does That Apply In The Fashion World?
Oh my goooood, you should, like, seriously go see In a World... , directed by Lake Bell, literally right now. (Okay, no more of that. I promise.) The actress and director has been on a crusade to get young women off the vocal fry and uptalk wagon, and in the movie, she plays a voiceover artist who breaks down barriers in that male-dominated world and ends up becoming a vocal coach for women with affected voices. Because no one wants to sound like a "sexy baby" (Bell's words) or a world-weary, chain-smoking grandma, and lately, it seems like every college girl is doing the creaky voice. Blame Drew Barrymore, Lindsay Lohan, and reality TV; blame the economy for making people sounding less self-assured, blame Marge Simpson (don't blame Marge Simpson) — whatever it is, it's definitely a thing.
If "it sets the feminist movement back and is annoying" is not a convincing enough argument, there's a new, legit reason to stop speaking like Kourtney Kardashian. A new Duke University study published in the journal PLoS ONE suggests that a creaky voice could cost you a job — and in this finicky economy, who can afford that? The researchers recorded young men and women saying "thank you for considering me for this opportunity" in both their normal voice and in vocal fry. Eight-hundred participants listened to the recordings and rated how competent, trustworthy, educated, and attractive the voices sounded — and whether they'd hire each person. The women, more so than the men, were perceived as less competent, less educated, less trustworthy, less attractive, and less "hireable" when they used vocal fry. Women tended to judge other women harsher, and older listeners were more judgmental of younger listeners.
"One explanation for this pattern is that vocal fry incurs social benefits that do not transfer to the labor market," say the researchers. "For example, there may be social acceptance benefits to females to conforming to an increasingly common peer group affectation. Nonetheless, whether such behavior is conscious or unconscious, the results here suggest speakers should undertake conscious effort to avoid vocal fry in labor market settings."
Looking at how pervasive vocal fry is in the fashion and entertainment industries, I wouldn't be surprised if these fields were the exception when it comes to hiring. Hiring someone for a job, especially in the creative industries, can also be seen as a form of "social acceptance," so it's possible that in some circles, that's just the norm. Just listen to Rachel Zoe speak. And, be honest, have you ever met a PR girl (especially in fashion PR) who doesn't talk like this? Either way, if you're going on a job interview and aren't sure what you're in for, it's best to sound profesh. I mean professional.