New research reveals the surprising key to acing job interviews

When you are interviewing for a job, authenticity – just being yourself, flaws and all – can be the key to getting hired. Those are the findings of a series of studies conducted by academics from several cooperating universities. But of course, there is a catch.

The lead author of these studies, Dr. Celia Moore from Bocconi University, said: “In a job interview, we often try to present ourselves as perfect. Our study proves this instinct wrong. Interviewers perceive an overly polished self-representation as inauthentic and potentially misrepresentative. But ultimately, if you are a high-quality candidate, you can be yourself in the job market. You can be honest and authentic. And if you are, you will be more likely to get a job”.

The key message in her statement seems to be ‘if you are a high-quality candidate.’ Why does this matter? Because confidence is important in interviews. If you can be friendly, upbeat, and confident in your abilities to excel at the job, then your personality – quirks and all – can make you seem endearing to potential employers.

This is because most employers use job interviews to assess whether candidate’s personality will fit with the company and team culture and to determine if they seem to have been honest in their application or if they might be exaggerating their abilities to do the job.

In those job interviews where you can be confident that you are eminently qualified and suited for the role, being yourself and showcasing your personality can greatly boost your chances of landing the job. The research found that candidates who did so were up to three times more likely to get hired over other high-ranking applicants who were more reserved and stuck to prepared answers.

The studies’ co-author, Dr. SunYoung Lee from the University College London, confirms this. “People are often encouraged to only present the best aspects of themselves at the 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.”

But what if you are not in the ‘top 10 per cent’ of candidates? Don’t be honest about your misgivings. Project confidence. Fake it ’til you make it. Nervousness, insecurity, and the inability to self-assuredly demonstrate that you would be a great fit for the job won’t impress hiring managers – even if those are your honest feelings.

Says Lee, “Unfortunately, the results aren’t the same for poorer-quality candidates who can actually damage their chances of being offered the job by being more authentic.” In those cases, honesty isn’t the best policy.

But of course, you don’t want to get hired for a job that you can’t actually do or where you don’t fit in. The essential takeaway from this research is that you should apply for those jobs where you know that you can excel, and then be yourself in the interview. You’ll increase your chances of being hired, and you’ll be happier in a job where you authentically fit in.

The research was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. You can read a summary of the methodology here.

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