Authenticity Best Way to Land a New Job -- If You're a Top Candidate

A new study shows that relaxing at job interviews and just being yourself is the key to landing that new job — with one caveat: If you are good at what you do.

The study, from researchers at the University College London, Bocconi University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and London Business School, found that high-quality candidates who present themselves accurately during the interview process significantly increase the likelihood of receiving a job offer.

“People are often encouraged to only present the best aspects of themselves at interview so they appear more attractive to employers, but what we’ve found is that high-quality candidates — the top 10 percent — fare much better when they present who they really are,” said Dr. Sun Young Lee of the University College London School of Management. “Unfortunately, the same isn’t true for poorer quality candidates who can actually damage their chances of being offered the job by being more authentic.”

The research focused on the concept of “self-verification,” which refers to a person’s drive to be known and understood by others according to their firmly held beliefs and feelings about themselves.

Previously self-verifying behavior was known to positively influence outcomes that unfold over time, such as the process of integrating into a new organization.

The new research shows that self-verification can have important effects in short-term interpersonal interactions as well, such as in the hiring process.

“In a job interview, we often try to present ourselves as perfect,” said lead author, Dr. Celia Moore of Bocconi University. “Our study proves this instinct wrong. 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.”

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, candidates reported their self-verification drive prior to job interviews, and their quality was evaluated in face-to-face interviews. The results of the studies were normalized for gender, age, and race, the researchers noted.

The first study investigated a sample of 1,240 teachers from around the globe who applied for jobs in the U.S. The candidates that had been evaluated as high quality had a 51 percent likelihood of receiving a job, but this increased to 73 percent 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 U.S. military. For this group, high quality candidates increased their chances of receiving a job offer five-fold, from three percent to 17 percent, 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 study found.

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 individuals participated in a mock job interview, which were then transcribed and submitted to text analysis.

This revealed differences in candidates’ language use as a function of their self-verification drive. People with a strong self-verification drive communicated in a more fluid way about themselves, and were ultimately perceived as more authentic and less misrepresentative, the researchers discovered.

These perceptions ultimately explain why high-self-verifying candidate can flourish on the job market, the researchers concluded.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Source: University College London