As Mark Twain said, there’s lies, damn lies, and social science

Okay, he didn’t quite say that, and “lies” is harsh.

I came across this article in the Harvard Business Review, citing a study which proves that wearing high-status brands signals to potential interviewers that you are more qualified and should be paid more money. (Story here.)  Put on a Burberry and, voila!, people will think that are qualified and worth extra money.

The set-up itself was good: videos of the same interview, but some of them were edited to add a conspicuous logo to the interviewee’s attire. The problem is that the people analysing the interview are college students.  Not only are they all barely legal to drink, at best (and therefore entirely unrepresentative of what a fifty-year-old interviewer may think), they have never hired someone for a position before.

The research is intriguing, but the proper conclusion may well be that young people with little experience rely heavily on outward indicators of success and status.  It is entirely possible that older, more seasoned interviewers would dislike status signalling (and, anecdotally, I know a few who prefer hungry and ambitious to spoiled and wealthy).

Thoughts, readers?

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Filed under Economics, Nerdiness

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