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Does sounding confident indicate higher performance potential?
May 19, 2020 at 12:13:57 PM EDT   By Mike Russiello

Confidence

Imagine you are interviewing two candidates for a job opening. The first candidate looks just OK on paper. But she speaks with confidence during the interview. The second candidate is slightly better qualified, but he appears detached and disengaged in person. Who are you more likely to hire?

Does self-confidence really predict future performance?

If you’re like me, you’ll probably hire the first candidate based on the impression they made during the interview. For a moment, however, let's assume you hire both candidates. Which one is most likely to perform best on the job?

It’s hard to say. We all know quiet, aloof people who are really good at what they do. We also know people who sound quite competent, but they can’t navigate themselves out of a paper bag. Perhaps it's dependent on the job. You just can’t say for sure.

There will always be outliers for any single measurement when predicting job performance. In the assessment industry we stress that hiring decisions should never be made using any one factor or trait. Instead, they should always be based on a balanced combination of observations and measurements in order to produce the best results. The better question is: should we use perceived self-confidence as one of those measures?

What do the statistics say?

Intuitively, we might assume most people who sound confident do so because they really are confident, while those who sound removed and disinterested make that impression because that’s how they feel. But have there been any real studies that link perceived self-confidence to real, future job performance?

We are not aware of any studies addressing the relationship between how confident you “sound” and your future work performance. However, psychology researchers have studied the closely related concept of ‘Self-Efficacy.’ At least one study defined self-efficacy as “a personal judgement of how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations.” In other words, it estimates how confident you are in your ability to handle a task or challenge.

A study published in 1998 by researchers from the University of California and the University of Nebraska aggregated and analyzed the results of 114 independent studies of self-efficacy vs job performance. These studies covered many different types of jobs.

What the study found was a significant positive relationship between self-efficacy and job performance for most jobs. They also found that this relationship was strongest for lower level or low complexity jobs.

So, what does this mean? It indicates that for most jobs, a person who is confident in their ability to do a job is more likely to actually do it better - across most jobs, but especially for lower complexity or entry-level jobs.

Measuring confidence

The basic way that most pre-employment assessments measure a candidate’s self-confidence is by asking them. We call this self-report. The problem is that candidates typically answer self-report questions by telling employers what they want to hear.

Is there a better way?

Enter voice analysis

HR Avatar offers assessments that include voice analysis. Candidates record their voice either through a video or audio as part of the assessment. The voice recordings are then analyzed for various qualities including 16 different ‘vibes.’ Powered by machine learning, the vibes predict how a person’s voice would be perceived by others. In other words, the vibes indicate the impression a voice makes on other people.

Recently, a customer service center evaluated a group of the reps using voice analysis and compared the results with each person’s performance ratings. What they found was a high positive correlation between the “Confidence” and “Assertiveness” vibes and a high negative correlation between the “Detached” and “Boring” vibes. The degree of correlation, while proprietary, was significant compared to similar correlations performed using other measures used in the assessment industry to predict performance.

How significant was this result?

The results of this analysis can be described as preliminary at best. First, the sample size was only about 50, which is quite small. Also, the analysis was performed on employees only and on for one job type (customer service representative). It will take many more studies before we can make general conclusions about the ability of voice analysis to predict job performance.

However, the magnitude of the correlations suggest high potential for pre-hire screening and selection. What’s more, collection of a voice sample requires less than a minute. If it turns out that the predictive power of voice analysis is additive to other measures (like cognitive ability and skills), the overall predictive power of a combination could be quite high.

What’s next?

More research is required, of course.

We are actively seeking employers who are interested in collaborating with us to evaluate the potential of voice analysis in pre-employment selection. It’s a great way to improve your company’s hiring processes and stay ahead of your competition. If you or your organization are interested, please contact us at https://www.hravatar.com/contact. You can also email me directly at mike@hravatar.com.

References
Alexander Stajkovic and Fred Luthans, Self-Efficacy and Work-Related Performance: A Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin 1998 Vol 124 No 2, 240-261.

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