To land the job we want, we need to have an engaging cover letter, immaculate resume, and be able to look and act the part. While breaking into the job market is no easy task, even for those with the highest degree of education — young women, especially those with husky voices — could be in deep trouble when it comes to finding a job. According to a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, women with “vocal fry” are perceived as untrustworthy, incompetent, and less hirable because their tone of voice is considered “sex-atypical,” or not of “normal” female range.

The vocal fry trend — a creaky, low pitched voice — became a female fad in 2011, when pop culture icons such as Britney Spears (although for years now) and Ke$ha, started using slow, drawn-out words in their music. This trend has since then spread among young American women who have been getting their “creak on,” to portray an image of accomplishment and authority. Typically, a man with a creaky voice has been associated with higher status and hyper-masculinity. Now, young, college-bound women seek to emulate the creak as a way to compete with men by taking advantage of the connotations these voices have in society.

Although this may seem like a wise strategy in a competitive job market, women may actually be hindering their chances of finding a job. "While strange sounding voices might be more memorable because they are novel, humans find “average” sounding voices to be more attractive. It is possible that speakers of vocal fry are generally perceived less favorably because vocal fry is accompanied by a dramatic reduction in voice pitch relative to normal speech,” said Casey A. Klofstad, corresponding author of the study, in the press release.

Klofstad and his colleagues at the University of Miami sought to investigate whether vocal fry can enhance or negatively affect a speaker’s opportunity in the job market in a large cohort study. A total of seven young adult females between the ages 19 to 27 years old and seven young adult males between ages 20 to 30 years old were asked to do a recording speaking a common phrase heard at the end of interviews. The participants were then asked to repeat "thank you for considering me for this opportunity" in both their normal tone of voice and in vocal fry.

These recordings were then listened to by 800 study participants, 400 women and 400 men. After the participants listened to each pair of voices, they were asked to choose whether the person speaking in vocal fry or normal voice was the more educated, competent, trustworthy, and attractive of the pair. The researchers also asked the participants which person they would hire.

The findings revealed 80 percent of the time the participants chose the speakers of the normal voices for all five judgments. This suggests perceptions of education, competence, trustworthiness, and attractiveness are influential factors when it comes to hiring. Perceptions of trust were found to have the greatest influence. An interesting revelation for the researchers was vocal fry is perceived negatively in not just female speakers but also male. However, women are perceived more negatively than men who use it.

This study suggests that humans do prefer vocal characteristics that are typical of the population norm. On average, women tend to have higher voices than men, therefore, a lowering of their voice pitch, results in sex-atypical voice pitch modulation for women, according to the study authors.

Experts at Kansas State University believe vocal fry may be trendy to the younger generation, but it generally doesn’t appeal to older generations or certain clients. Since vocal fry is more of an adoption of a vocal trend rather than a natural tone of voice, in most cases, Olivia Law-DelRosso, director of the College of Business Administration's Professional Advantage program, a professional development program for business students, suggests using your senior presence.

"Match the tone and quickness of your voice to the person you're talking to, as well as the volume," she said, in a Kansas State University news release. "Women sometimes speak too softly, which does not project confidence. Also, young people shouldn't be afraid to speak up or give their opinions. You're in the conversation because your opinion is valued; don't distract from your ideas with your speech patterns."

Ladies, make an effort to avoid using vocal fry in an interview to emphasize your talents and skills and score that job you’ve got your eye on.

 

Source: Anderson RC, Klofstad CA, Mayew WJ, Venkatachalam M. Vocal Fry May Undermine the Success of Young Women in the Labor Market. PLoS ONE. 2014.