Being Yourself on Job Interviews Provides a Competitive Advantage

Topic(s): personality, selection
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2017)
Article: The Advantage of Being Oneself: The Role of Applicant Self-Verification in Organizational Hiring Decisions
Authors: C. Moore, S.Y. Lee, K. Kim, D. Cable
Reviewed by: McKenzie Preston

Interviews can be extremely stressful, especially when the labor market is so competitive. Everyone wants to put their best foot forward during an interview, which often forces interviewees to balance between being genuine and saying what they believe the interviewer wants to hear.

In preparation for interviews, job candidates often find ways to elaborate previous work experiences and relentlessly practice crafting the perfect responses to questions like “what is your greatest weakness?” But wouldn’t it be nice if being authentic during an interview was actually the best strategy?


Self-verification refers to the act of intentionally promoting an accurate reflection of oneself. Although people generally want to be authentic, the drive to self-verify typically depends on the situation and the person. In addition to reduced anxiety and improved health outcomes, self-verification can lead to favorable interpersonal outcomes by virtue of harmonious, committed, and stable relationships.


Researchers (Moore, Lee, Kim, & Cable, 2017) studied whether individuals who strive to self-verify are more likely to get hired than individuals who do not self-verify. To explore this question, the researchers used placement data from two different field samples to support their hypothesis that those more willing to self-verify were more likely to receive job offers. Then, the researchers used a quasi-experimental design to understand why self-verification can lead to more job offers. Text analysis (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) of interview transcripts revealed differences in the language that candidates used, depending on their drive to self-verify. These differences led the rater to perceive candidates with a strong drive to self-verify as more authentic and less misrepresentative than low self-verifying candidates. It is important to note, however, that these effects were specific to candidates ranked in the top 10% of all candidates; the drive to self-verify did not make unqualified candidates appear qualified.


With many organizations having more highly qualified candidates than job openings, job seekers are looking for any edge they can find to be more competitive than their peers. Although it is not the most intuitive strategy, this research suggests that a high drive to self-verify during interviews could be a more effective interviewing strategy than trying to “fake it until you make it.” The researchers propose that being perceived as more authentic helps differentiate a top candidate from other highly qualified candidates who are perceived as less authentic or more misrepresentative.


Moore, C., Lee, S. Y., Kim, K., & Cable, D. M. (2017). The Advantage of Being Oneself: The Role of Applicant Self-Verification in Organizational Hiring Decisions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(11), 1493-1513.