Cutting-Edge Leadership

The best in current leadership research and theory, from cultivating charisma to transforming your organization

Impression Management in the Job Interview

How honest should you be in an interview? How transparent?

I have written before about the delicate balance between managing impressions and being authentic. But how authentic do you want to be in a job interview? After all, the hiring interview is all about winning the job, right? Here is the key to presenting yourself in a positive way, but also being authentic and true.

First and foremost, present yourself in a positive light, but don’t exaggerate and never lie. Lies and exaggerations will come back to haunt you, and could cost you that dream job.

Before the interview, it is important to take stock of your strengths. What are your skills and experiences that are relevant to this job? It is also critical to research the job beforehand. You should be prepared to quickly emphasize your skill strengths and your fit for the job.

How do you deal with weaknesses? Beforehand, also take an inventory of your shortcomings, such as lack of specific relevant experiences, and create a “plan” to deal with them. Emphasize that you can be a motivated, quick learner. Discuss instances in the past where you have risen to a challenge. Rather than being defensive about shortcomings, emphasize how you can learn and improve.

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It is better to be direct, upfront, and affirmative (“I can do it!”) with a potential employer because by acknowledging certain limitations you will set your employer’s expectations. In other words, if you begin your job with your employer expecting that the job is a bit of a stretch for you, it will make a more positive impression as you begin to master it. Presenting yourself as qualified when you are not, sets high performance expectations in your employer. Research suggests that if your employer believes you have high levels of skills, poor performance will be viewed as a lack of motivation on your part.

How do you deal with past “black marks,” such as being fired from a job? The key is to be prepared. Admit to the past problem, but have a plan for how you will rectify it in the future. Again, dealing honestly and authentically will eventually win out.

 

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Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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