List­ing your flaws could win you the job

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Henry Bod­kin

Be­ing brazenly hon­est about your flaws in job in­ter­views may help you get the po­si­tion, re­search sug­gests.

Sci­en­tists at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don found that well-qual­i­fied peo­ple who vol­un­tar­ily brought up their flaws were more likely to be suc­cess­ful be­cause they stood out from their ri­vals.

IN THE 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada, a dowdy job ap­pli­cant stands be­fore the fear­some ed­i­tor of a lead­ing style mag­a­zine, played by Meryl Streep, and openly ad­mits she couldn’t care less about fash­ion.

The re­sult? She gets the job. Now, re­search from sci­en­tists at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don sug­gests the brazenly hon­est ap­proach taken by the fic­tional Andy Sachs may ac­tu­ally work.

Well-qual­i­fied peo­ple who vol­un­tar­ily bring up their flaws in job in­ter­views are more likely to be suc­cess­ful be­cause they stand out from their ri­vals.

In the case of lawyers, those who were up­front about their in­ad­e­qua­cies had a five times better chance of land­ing a job than those who sought to con­vey a fault­less im­age, while as­pir­ing teach­ers were 22 per cent more likely to be suc­cess­ful.

Psy­chol­o­gists said the dy­namic was based on a con­cept called “self ver­i­fi­ca­tion”, which refers to an in­di­vid­ual’s drive to be seen by oth­ers in the same way they see them­selves.

In­ter­view­ers are im­pressed by can­di­dates who give a warts-and-all ac­count of them­selves be­cause it in­di­cates they have a lu­cid mind, the the re­search found.

By con­trast, peo­ple who at­tempt to con­vey a per­fect im­age of them­selves come across as in­au­then­tic and too good to be true.

The team an­a­lysed nearly 2,000 in­di­vid­u­als ap­ply­ing for jobs and found that those us­ing more self-ver­i­fy­ing lan­guage had better re­sults.

These in­clude “in­sight” words such as “think”, “sense” and “feel”, which in­di­cates a can­di­date un­der­stands them­selves and may have a better abil­ity to nav­i­gate the de­mands of the new job.

Pep­per­ing an­swers with so-called “see­ing words”, such as “look”, “see” and “view”, also help to sub­tly con­vince an in­ter­viewer the can­di­date is be­ing open about their weak­nesses and not con­ceal­ing any flaws, ac­cord­ing to the re­search, which is pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Ap­plied Psy­chol­ogy. How­ever, the study re­vealed that the hon­esty tac­tic is only an ad­van­tage for high-qual­ity can­di­dates.

Peo­ple who are poorly qual­i­fied for a po­si­tion are ad­vised not to be too forth­com­ing about their im­per­fec­tions.

“In a job in­ter­view, we of­ten try to present ourselves as per­fect,” said Dr Celia Moore, from Boc­coni Univer­sity in Mi­lan, who led the in­ter­na­tional team of re­searchers.

“Our study proves this in­stinct wrong. In­ter­view­ers per­ceive an overly pol­ished self-rep­re­sen­ta­tion as in­au­then­tic and po­ten­tially mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

“But ul­ti­mately, if you are a high­qual­ity can­di­date, you can be your­self in the job mar­ket. You can be hon­est and au­then­tic, and if you are, you are more likely to get the job.”

The re­searchers in­ves­ti­gated teach­ers ap­ply­ing for place­ments in the US as well as lawyers ap­ply­ing for po­si­tions in a branch of the US mil­i­tary.

Dr Sun Young Lee, from UCL’S School of Man­age­ment, who co-au­thored the study, added: “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 per cent – fare much better when they present who they re­ally are.”

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