• Focus On: Job Interviewing: To Thine Own Self Be True!

    By Janet Mizrahi, Newsletter Editor

    It's no secret that people often overstate their abilities at job interviews. However, research published in the Academy of Management Journal shows that job seekers who present the truest version of themselves experience smoother transitions to new positions.

    The study's authors examined new employees' entry into an organization by looking at "self-verification striving." This theory posits that individuals want others to see them as they see themselves, including both negative and positive characteristics. By presenting this truer self, an individual feels a sense of certainty and composure, which translates to better work performance.

    Problems arise when employers hire applicants who have presented overly positive versions of themselves at the job interview. The researchers explain that in this situation, the new hire ends up spending time and energy acting out the falsified version of the self instead of focusing on organizational tasks.

    For example, say Job Seeker A exaggerates her team management skills during an interview and lands the position. Once on the job, she feels anxious and extends more energy presenting her false persona rather than managing the team. By not being true to her real self, the new employee doesn't connect with co-workers, becomes anxious, and finds the job is not a good fit. This scenario relates to the idea that self-verification provides the individual with a feeling of harmony.

    Past research on self-verification assumed that all people have the need to show their true selves. The current research, however, demonstrated that some people place a higher value on assuring that others view them as they view themselves, even when such honesty could lead to negative results. It turns out that the applicants with more self-verification striving will not only be better organizational fits—they will also experience greater job satisfaction.

    The study's results have implications for the hiring process. The researchers suggest that organizations seek ways to encourage job applicants to show their true selves early in the hiring process. In addition, interviewers should look for individuals with strong self-verification striving rather than for applicants more inclined to exaggerate their abilities.

    In other words, "To thine own self be true." It turns out Shakespeare was right.

    Source: Cable, D., & Kay, V. (2012). Striving for self-verification during organizational entry. Academy of Management Journal, 55, 2, pp. 360-380.