When you're sitting across the desk at a job interview, the focus is squarely on you. For some people, this can be an uncomfortable situation. But it's where narcissists shine most, and a new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shows how behaviour that might be obnoxious in most places succeeds in interviews.
The study put 72 participants with varying degrees of narcissism but similar skills into simulated job interviews with expert interviewers, and then had 222 raters evaluate their taped performance. The study found that more raters consistently favoured relentless self-promoters over anyone trying to appear humble.
"This is one setting where it's OK to say nice things about yourself and there are no ramifications. In fact, it's expected," said study co-author Peter Harms, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Simply put, those who are comfortable doing this tend to do much better than those who aren't."
For those of us without diagnosed narcissism, there's still advice to be taken from this study. In job interviews, the rules of normal social interaction get shifted, and people looking to get hired need to view what might be odious behaviour in the rest of life as beneficial.
Most interestingly, narcissists and non-narcissists alike were able to start off self-promoting. But the narcissists really got the edge when the interviewers started to challenge their assertion – non-narcissists tended to back off into tactical modesty, but narcissists stuck to their guns, and it paid off.
"This shows that what is getting [narcissists]the win is the delivery," Mr. Harms said. "These results show just how hard it is to effectively interview, and how fallible we can be when making interview judgments. We don't necessarily want to hire narcissists, but might end up doing so because they come off as being self-confident and capable."
For employers, learning to recognize some of these traits can be important as well – narcissists can be charming, but also disruptive and harmful to actual work. Unless the work is being charming.