Listing your flaws could win you the job
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.”