How to Conduct a Job Interview: Avoid the Sales Pitch

Topic(s): decision making, interviewing, selection
Publication: Academy of Management Journal
Article: Do Interviewers Sell Themselves Short? The Effect of Selling Orientation on Interviewers’ Judgments
Authors: Jennifer Carson Marr and Dan M. Cable
Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

Hiring professionals may often wonder, what is the best way to conduct a job interview? New research offers an important tip that may make applicant evaluations more accurate. During our first meetings with potential clients, investors, colleagues or romantic partners, our initial impressions and appraisal of their character influence the judgments we make about them. But at the same time we’re evaluating others, we’re often ”selling” ourselves, or making ourselves seem more attractive.

Interviewers work in the same fashion: They ask prospective candidates as many questions as they can about their experiences or employment preferences to evaluate the candidate’s fit against both the requirements of the job and with the existing team. During these interviews, hiring managers also do their best to “sell” the job and the company to interviewees by talking about the perks the company offers and how the candidate would benefit from joining the team.

The current research (Marr & Cable, 2013) examines whether the job interviewer’s selling orientation– their motivation to “sell” the job to an applicant– ultimately influences the accuracy and validity of his or her subsequent judgments about the applicant.


These researchers designed two studies. In the first study they conducted mock interviews. Participants were assigned to one of two groups– interviewer or applicant– and interviewers were assigned to have either a high or low selling orientation condition.

The researchers then examined the relationship between the interviewers’ selling orientation and their accuracy in evaluating the applicants’ ratings of core self-evaluation. A person’s core self-evaluation is the appraisal of their own self worth, which includes measures of self-esteem, self-efficacy, locus of control and emotional stability.

The researchers found that those interviewers with a high selling orientation condition were less accurate in their evaluation of applicants’ core self-evaluations than those in the low selling orientation condition.

In their second study, the researchers used field studies to further understand how selling orientation influences the validity of interviewer judgments with regards to those applicants’ future success. Participants in the first sample were interviewers interviewing aspiring MBA candidates for admission into MBA programs. Participants in the second sample were interviewers tasked with matching international teachers to various school districts in the United States. The researchers found that, as the interviewers’ motivation to “sell” to job applicants increased, their accuracy in predicting the future success of these interviewees decreased.


The results of these studies have several important implications for HR professionals. The most significant of these is that formally separating the applicant attraction and evaluation processes may help interviewers make better selection decisions. This, ultimately, may lead to a stronger and more productive workforce.