"People are often encouraged to only present the best aspects of themselves at interview so they appear more attractive to employers, but what we have found is that high-quality candidates - the top 10 per cent - fare much better when they present who they really are," said SunYoung Lee from UCL School of Management.
"Unfortunately, the same is not true for poorer quality candidates who can actually damage their chances of being offered the job by being more authentic," said Lee. The research focused on the concept of 'self-verification', which refers to individuals' drive to be known and understood by others according to their firmly held beliefs and feelings about themselves.
To date, self-verifying behaviour was known to positively influence outcomes that unfold over time, such as the process of integration in a new organisation. The research shows, for the first time, that self-verification can have important effects in short-term interpersonal interactions as well, as in the hiring process.
"In a job interview, we often try to present ourselves as perfect. Our study proves this instinct wrong," said Celia Moore from Bocconi University in Italy. "Interviewers perceive an overly polished self-representation as inauthentic and potentially misrepresentative.
"But ultimately, if you are a high-quality candidate, you can be yourself on the job market. You can be honest and authentic. And if you are, you will be more likely to get a job," Moore said. The researchers conducted three studies - two field studies looking at the importance of self-verification for groups of professionals applying for different jobs and a third experimental study testing the mechanism behind the effects observed.
In the two field studies, prior to job interviews, candidates reported their self-verification drive, and their
quality was evaluated in face-to-face interviews. The first study investigated a sample of 1,240 teachers from around the globe who applied for placements in the US. The candidates that had been evaluated as high quality had a 51 per cent likelihood of receiving a placement, but this increased to 73 per cent for those who also had a strong drive to self-verify.
The second study replicated this effect in a radically different sample by assessing 333 lawyers applying for positions in a branch of the US military. For this group, high quality candidates increased their chances of receiving a job offer five-fold, from 3 per cent to 17 per cent, if they also had a strong drive to self-verify.
This effect was only seen in high-quality candidates, and for those rated as low-quality, the drive to self-verify weakened their position. The third study was designed to test the mechanism behind this effect. For this, the researchers surveyed 300 people on their self-verification striving and selected those who were extremely high and extremely low in the distribution.
The research was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
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