Impression Management & Faking



“…he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.” 

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

Organizations spend a great deal of time, energy, and money trying to select those employees who will be high performers and be a good fit for both the job and the organization. The job interview is used almost universally and is the main means of doing so in many of companies. Most interviewers are confident in their abilities to sit down with job applicants and get to know them, and make a decision about their suitability. Yet, interviewers’ evaluations are often influenced by factors beyond the actual quality of applicants’ answers. One of these factors is impression management (IM)

For instance, applicants can promote their skills or past professional accomplishments, compliment the interviewer, or praise the hiring organization. IM is very common, and it can help applicants obtaining higher evaluations and increases their chances of getting the job.

The research me and my colleagues are conducting aims at better understanding (a) what kind of applicant uses IM tactics, (b) when and how much IM is used, and (c) how IM impacts hiring decisions and, indirectly, workplace behaviours and outcomes. We also try to more clearly distinguish honest from deceptive IM tactics. For instance, applicants can describe true qualifications or experiences, but they can also exaggerate or even invent skills or experiences, pretend to share the interviewer’s or the organization’s values, or intentionally hide facts that may hurt their candidacy. 

Here are a few examples of recent or ongoing research projects on that topic:  

Honest vs. Deceptive IM:

With the support of a research grant from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC IG 435-2015-0566), my colleague Joshua Bourdage (University of Calgary, AB) and I worked on developing a measure specifically targeting honest IM tactics. Our quest is to better understand the differential antecedents and impacts of applicant honest and deceptive IM tactics, and ultimately help interviewers and organizations make better hiring decisions.

For instance, in a recent publication we showed that different personality traits are associated with honest and deceptive IM use, and that some traits are also associated with applicants adapting the tactics they use over time. As an example, applicants lower on the personality traits of Conscientiousness and Honesty-Humility, but higher on Machiavellianism or Narcissism tend to engage in more deceptive tactics (see article here).

In another publication, we highlight that not only personality, but also the duration of an interview and the type of questions asked can influence whether applicants use honest or deceptive IM (see article here). 

If you are interested in the deceptive side of IM (or faking), see also this systematic review of the research to date on the topic.

Our ongoing research examines how technology (e.g., video interviews) and the target (e.g., the gender or personality of the interview) can facilitate the use of honest and deceptive IM. 

Competition and Faking:

Together with Franciska Krings (University of Lausanne, Switzerland), I have developed a theoretical model (see article here) and conducted several studies investigating the impact of competition on applicants’ use of deceptive IM (i.e., faking).

For instance, in a recent publication we showed that applicants’ competitive worldviews was strongly and positively associated with faking in job interviews. In other words, applicants who believe that the world is a competitive jungle where people have to fight to obtain what they want tend to engage in more faking during job interviews (see article here).

We also found that the culture of the hiring organization (for instance an innovative or a competitive organizational culture) might similarly trigger faking from applicants. For instance, our research shows that applicants who complete a personality test to be hired by companies with a more competitive culture engaged in strategic faking, for example by reducing their scores on traits like agreeableness or honesty-humility (see article here) .