Psychologist reveals the secret to being more likeable in job interviews (and on first dates)

First dates and job interviews can be nerve-wracking situations where you feel pressured to create a positive first impression. One of the most common was to do this is to talk about our accomplishments and successes.

New research, published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, has found that – contrary to what many of us think – success alone may not be enough to make that desired positive impression. Instead, research suggests that people should ensure they talk about the struggle behind their success story to come across as more likeable.

For this paper, Dr. Janina Steinmetz conducted three experiments simulating job interview and first date situations. Participants were asked to imagine themselves in the role of the impression manager (the person being interviewed for a job or the ‘sharer’ on a date) or the receiver (the interviewer or the ‘listener’ on a date).

The ‘impression manager’ was asked to speak about themselves in a positive way and feedback was given by the receiver detailing what they wanted to hear more about – the talent and success, or the hard work and effort behind it.

All three experiments found the impression managers overemphasized their talents and successes and did not share the effort and hard work behind them – something that the receivers wanted to hear about.

Effort, as Steinmetz defines it, means talking about the struggles and the hard work—the less-glamorous stuff that makes us relatable. Telling the story of the hours and effort put into your accomplishments, the hurdles you had to overcome, creating a warmer, positive, more likeable first impression.

“A success story isn’t complete without the hard work and explanation of why we were successful,” says Steinmetz. “Did the success come easy, thanks to one’s talents, or was it attained through hard work? Both of these attributions can be part of successful self-promotion, but my research shows that emphasizing effort is more likely to garner a positive impression and people really want to know the story behind your success.”

“For example, if you’re in a job interview and are talking about a successful project that you led to completion, include a few details about the challenges along the way, and how you overcame them.”

Of course, employers want to hear about your professional accomplishments and successes, but also talking about how you achieved them, and what you had to overcome to get there will help you nail that first impression. It’s also going to help you come across as warmer on first dates and improve your chances of securing a second one.

Read more details on this research.

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