When we think about job interviews, we think about making good impressions. Interviewees often make a conscious effort to influence the impression they make on interviewers, sometimes truthfully and sometimes untruthfully. Trying to understand how different impression-making strategies influence hiring decisions has long been the role of IO psychologists. New research (Swider, Barrick, Harris, & Stoverink, 2011) has found the importance of telling the truth and the effects of good rapport on job interview outcomes.
THREE APPROACHES USED BY JOB APPLICANTS
The researchers explain that interviewees might use one of three approaches to persuade interviewers that they are right for the job. The first category is called impression management. This is when interviewees honestly describe their accomplishments and skills in a way that suggests that they are a good fit for the job. The second tactic is called slight image creation, and involves small distortion of the truth. Interviewees using this strategy will either misrepresent information, or tailor their answers to what they think the interviewer wants to hear. The final strategy is called extensive image creation. As you might have guessed, this is when interviewees completely fabricate experiences, stories, or skills.
After staging an experiment involving simulated interviews, the researchers found that interviewees who used the truthful impression management strategies received higher ratings from interviewers. When interviewees tried one of the other methods that involves dishonesty, slight image creation or extensive image creation, the interviewees received lower scores from the interviewers. When people are dishonest, say the authors, they must use extra effort and concentration to avoid inconsistencies in their story and ensure that they are using appropriate body language. The extra effort required to streamline information makes responses shorter and less-detailed, and could negatively impact the interview outcome.
WHEN THE INTERVIEW IS GOING POORLY
But there was also another factor. After initial rapport building, interviewees rated how they thought they were being perceived by the interviewer. When interviewees thought that they were not perceived well, the advantage provided by truthful impression management strategies was even greater. Similarly, when interviewees thought that they were not perceived well, the harmful effects of untruthful image creation was mitigated. This is because interviewees who think the interview is not going well are inspired to try harder and be more creative as the interview progresses, even if it means trying harder to concoct an untruthful story.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Because interviews play such an integral role in selection, it is important for IO psychologists to continue to investigate the factors that help influence interview decisions. This study provides key information about the influence of interviewee strategy on decisions, as well as groundbreaking research about the dynamic changes that occur as the interview is taking place.
Swider, B.W., Barrick, M.R., Harris, T.B., & Stoverink, A.C. (2011). Managing and Creating an Image in the Interview: The Role of Interviewee Initial Impressions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(6), 1275-1288.
Image credit: istockphoto/Robert Daly