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job interviews

Want the job? Drop the swagger Add to ...

The temptation to “big yourself up” when applying for a job – extolling your virtues to the interviewer while merely mentioning your flaws in passing – is a common one. The fear, of course, is that candour could well compromise the chances of a job offer.

But new research has indicated that the opposite may well be true. It seems that being candid not only does not hinder your chances of getting a job, it can also mean greater job satisfaction and commitment to the organization for which you work.

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Daniel Cable a visiting professor of organizational behaviour at London Business School and Virginia Kay, a PhD student at Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, looked at two groups of individuals over several years: MBA graduates and applicants for teachers’ jobs. They found that candour, or “self-verification” as they describe it, does not diminish the chances of landing a job and could also be advantageous, as from the very beginning the employer knows you for who you really are.

Their paper “Striving for self-verification during organizational entry” is drawn from two studies. The first looked at 146 MBA students at four different points in their lives: their interviews to join the MBA program; an assessment of their self-verification when applying for summer internships; their final grades; and four months after graduation looking at job-search success (interviews and offers) and job satisfaction. A second study looked at 208 job seekers around the world for teaching positions.

The researchers found that those individuals with a candid approach were more likely to have “superior job outcomes.” Candid individuals, they say, are more likely to join organizations that reflect their own personal values and goals. The writers also note that “if individuals do not promise what they cannot deliver in terms of their skills and abilities, they are more likely to be selected into jobs they are actually suited to perform”. The researchers also suggest that if individuals are not true to themselves, they can create a sense of alienation from themselves.

Prof. Cable says that he would always argue the importance of being true to oneself, even if it might cost you a job offer. But discovering that candour does not hamper your “chances in the short term, while it helps everyone in the long term, is a great outcome”.

The paper is published in the April/May issue of The Academy of Management Journal.

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