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Looking Good and Lying to Do It: Deception as an Impression

Management Strategy in Job Interviews

BRENT WEISS AND ROBERT S. FELDMAN


University of Massachusetts, Amherst

The present study investigated job applicants use of deception. The study examined
applicants deception on written applications, as well as in a job interview; whether
individuals would lie to conform to job requirements; and whether extraversion and
self-monitoring are related to lying. Fifty-nine candidates completed an application
and interview. After the interview, candidates were informed that they were actually
participating in an experiment. They then watched a videotape of their interview
and indicated any lies they told. As hypothesized, it was found that applicants lied
both on the job applications and during the interview, primarily to appear to
conform to job requirements. Furthermore, candidate extraversion was positively
correlated with number of lies told, although self-monitoring was unrelated to
lying.

For the interviewer and candidate alike, employment interviews involve a


high-stakes process. For the interviewer, effective hiring decisions poten-
tially yield corporate increases in revenue and clientele, increased produc-
tivity, and a pleasant work climate. For the candidate, a successful interview
potentially yields income, stability, security, and even improved self-esteem
(McGregor, 1989). Compounded with the fact that interview performance is
the most weighted factor in making hiring decisions (Gilmore & Ferris,
1989; Kinicki, Lockwood, Hom, & Griffeth 1990), it is not surprising that
much attention has been given to the interview process.
One particular focus of researchers examining the interview process has
been how candidates use of impression management techniques affect in-
terviewers decisions (Ferris, Judge, Rowland, & Fitzgibbons, 1994; Kac-
mar, Delery, & Ferris, 1992; Stevens & Kristof, 1995). Impression
management, generally defined as a persons attempt to portray him- or
herself in a favorable light, facilitates in helping individuals achieve their
objectives, such as gaining employment (Leary & Kowalski, 1990). In job
interviews, impression management manifests itself in candidates attempts
to convince interviewers that they are competent, likeable, and high in
potential.

1070

Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2006, 36, 4, pp. 10701086.


r 2006 Copyright the Authors
Journal compilation r 2006 Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
LYING TO GET THE JOB 1071

In general, impression management is used because it works: Candidates


who effectively impression-manage elicit more favorable reactions, which, in
turn, increases their likelihood of getting hired. Impression management is
successful because it directly affects candidates likeability, perceived com-
petence, and job/organizational fit. As a result of these altered perceptions,
interviewer decisions and interview outcomes are directly affected because
candidates who employ impression management are perceived to be more
qualified (Ferris & Judge, 1991; Gilmore, Stevens, Harrell-Cook, & Ferris,
1999). For example, Kacmar and Carlson (1999) found that candidates who
used impression management tactics were most liked by interviewers, and
those who specifically self-promoted were perceived to perform best in the
interview.
People impression-manage using a variety of tactics, such as entitlements
(taking credit for past outcomes), enhancements (statements to convince
that one has certain admirable attributes), and self-promotion (communi-
cating ones skills, abilities, and knowledge; Delery & Kacmar, 1998). In
most cases, the impressions they try to create in others minds are based
on truthful, accurate information (Schlenker & Weigold, 1992). That is,
when people use impression management, they frame, select, and present
information that often creates a true self-image. However, people also
employ impression management tactics that involve the fabrication of
information that creates an image of themselves that is, in fact, untrue
(Leary, 1995).
In the present context, then, impression management is seen as composed
of a set of specific tactics relating to the way in which people present them-
selves to others. From this theoretical perspective, impression management
encompasses a multidimensional domain that includes a number of discrete
tactics in which such tactics can be employed honestly or deceptively.
To clarify, consider a hypothetical example in which a high-tech com-
puter firm is looking to fill a computer programming position. In the in-
terview, candidates might use impression management to self-promote their
abilities. If these candidates assert their abilities to write job-required com-
puter programs, such as distributed applications requiring parallel process-
ing, and this is in fact true, then they are employing impression management
honestly. In contrast, if they can only write, say, simple sorting algorithms
but are claiming to be capable of writing distributed applications, then these
candidates are employing impression management deceptively. In short, it is
possible for people to employ impression management to create images of
themselves that are either true or untrue.
Although theoretically deception may be as effective a tactic as other,
more honest strategies for managing impressions, in a practical sense, de-
ceptive practices in an interview are potentially troublesome. Apart from the
1072 WEISS AND FELDMAN

obvious moral and ethical issues, deception raises several concerns. If a


candidates lies positively affect the interviewers perceptions, a less qualified
candidate may be hired, while potentially better candidates may be over-
looked. If this is the case, then such situations may undermine the integrity
of the interview process and adversely affect the employers objectives.
Although relatively little research has investigated deception as an im-
pression management technique in job interviews, research on deception in
everyday life, outside of job interviews, finds that lying is a relatively com-
mon phenomenon. On average, diary studies show that people report lying
one to two times per day (DePaulo, Kashy, Kirkendol, Wyer, & Epstein,
1996). But other studies show that deception becomes more frequent when
there is an incentive to self-present in a particular manner. For example,
Feldman, Forrest, and Happ (2002) found that when individuals attempted
to portray themselves as likeable or competent, they told an average of 1.75
lies during a 10-min period.
Given that an employment opportunity contains an obvious incentive to
present oneself positively, one might expect an increased propensity to lie. In
fact, there is some survey evidence suggesting that the degree of deception
relating to employment is relatively high. For example, according to one
survey, 44% of job resumes contain misrepresentations involving past em-
ployment (Armour, 2002). However, no previous research has looked at
deception in job interviews in a controlled, experimental context.
The current study addresses the issue of whether and how people use
lying as an impression management technique in job interviews. Specifically,
it considers how the degree to which candidates fit the requirements for a job
affects their use of deception. In interviews, applicants behavior is geared
toward one primary goalFgetting the jobFwhere perhaps the most ob-
vious way to get the job is to appear to be the perfect candidate. However,
peoples knowledge, skills, and abilities do not always perfectly match those
of the job requirements. Because of the incongruence between ones knowl-
edge, skills, and abilities and job requirements, candidates may lie in an
effort to remedy the person-job lack of fit.
We also expect lying to be more prevalent as the job requirements be-
come more technical and concrete. When job requirements are less technical
and hence more indistinct, the ambiguity surrounding the job requirements
permits vague, general interview responses that may not require falsification
for maximum self-presentation. On the other hand, when the position re-
quirements are more technical and concrete, the interview responses will also
have to be more technical and concrete. As a consequence, effective im-
pression management is more likely to require a direct falsehood, since many
candidates may not possess these specific skills. Based on this logic, it is
hypothesized that candidates will lie in the interview and on the application
LYING TO GET THE JOB 1073

more when the job requirements become more technical and difficult
to fulfill. Such reasoning is consistent with prior research that finds
differences in the frequency of impression management techniques related to
the nature of the job for which a candidate is applying (Howard & Ferris,
1996).
It is also reasonable to assume that personality traits are related to an
individuals tendencies to use impression management deceptively. Kristof-
Brown, Barrick, and Franke (2002) found that extraverts are more likely to
use self-promoting tactics in interviews. They argued that extraverts, as a
result of their sociability and talkativeness, were more capable of articulat-
ing their skills and abilities and, therefore, more likely to self-promote in
interviews. Although they did not distinguish between deceptive and non-
deceptive uses of impression management, it is likely that some of this
impression management was deceptive.
In fact, extraverts tend to lie more than introverts in everyday situations
(Kashy & DePaulo, 1996). Given this, one might also suspect that extraverts
would also lie more in an interview context. The reasons for this are twofold
(Kashy & DePaulo, 1996). One reason is extraverts heightened desire to
look good. That is, because extraverts are sociable, they may place more of
an emphasis on gaining the acceptance of others, and one way to gain
acceptance is by creating a positive image of themselves, regardless of its
truthfulness. Another reason why extraverts might lie more in interviews
than introverts is their better understanding of the social interaction process,
including the process of telling lies. Since extraverts find themselves in more
social interactions, it is possible that they have more practice telling lies,
making them more skilled at it, resulting in more persuasive lies. With this
success at lying, one might expect extraverts to lie more frequently, including
telling lies within the interview context.
Another personality trait that is likely to be associated with deception in
job interviews is self-monitoring. High self-monitors tend to regulate their
public self-presentation by adjusting to social and interpersonal cues (Ickes,
Reidhead, & Patterson, 1986; Snyder & Gangestad, 1982, 1986). In job
interviews, one might expect high self-monitors to adjust their behaviors to
conform to the interviewers expectations and to the job requirements. If the
interviewers expectations exceeded their skills, perhaps high self-monitors
would be more sensitive to this disparity, adjusting their behavior to create
a greater congruence between the two. If lying were perceived as a way
to enhance the person-job fit, then, since high self-monitors are more
likely to notice a lack of fit, they may be more likely to lie to remedy this
disparity.
In sum, the present study examined peoples use of deception in job
interviews. It was hypothesized that deception would be used both on the
1074 WEISS AND FELDMAN

written application and in the oral interview and that deception would vary
as a function of the nature of the job requirements. Specifically, in a con-
dition requiring technical skills, the job was described as requiring strong
statistical abilities, as well as personal qualities of being orderly, organized,
methodical, dutiful, and disciplined. In a condition requiring interpersonal
skills, the job was described as requiring good verbal skills as well as the
personal qualities of being sociable, enthusiastic, outgoing, talkative, and
active. It was hypothesized that candidates would tend to lie more in the
technical skills condition than in the interpersonal skills condition to com-
pensate for their lack of job-required skills and traits. Furthermore, it was
hypothesized that extraverts would lie more than introverts and that high
self-monitors would lie more than low self-monitors.

Method
Overview

The present study created a situation in which participants actually be-


lieved that they were applying for a job as a tutor. Participants were told
that the job required skills that were either interpersonal or technical in
nature. After completing a written application, participants engaged in a job
interview that asked each participant 10 standard questions, in which the
participants had the opportunity to express their job-related skills/abilities.
At the conclusion of the interview, participants were informed that the job
opportunity was actually part of an experiment. At that point, participants
were asked to watch their videotaped interview and describe any lies they
told during the interview.

Participants

Fifty-nine participants were recruited for this study. All participants


were undergraduates at a large state university. Participants ages ranged
from 18 to 45, with the average age being 21. There were 49 women and
10 men. Extra credit was provided as compensation for participation in
the study. Because of the sensitive nature of the procedure, which in-
volved examining participants lies in an effort to obtain a job that did not
exist, we took special care to ensure that participants rights were not in-
fringed upon, including approval of the procedure by the appropriate
Institutional Review Board and a particularly careful debriefing following
the study.
LYING TO GET THE JOB 1075

Procedure

Phase I. Participants were recruited from a student participant pool, where


students, interested in gaining extra credit for a psychology course, could
register to participate. Participants were told that the two-part experiment
(which supposedly had nothing to do with any job) was designed to examine
peoples qualities and personal preferences. Following completion of an in-
formed consent form, a questionnaire, which measured a variety of positive
personality traits, including extraversion and self-monitoring, was adminis-
tered. Once participants completed the questionnaire, they were told that they
would be contacted in the near future about a second phase to the study.
At that point, the Phase I experimenter mentioned the existence of an
opening for a tutor position for which they could apply. (The position was
described as having nothing to do with the experiment.) Participants were told
that the Psychological Student Services Center was looking to employ tu-
tors for high school students studying high-school-level psychology at $15 per
hour. The Phase I experimenter told participants that he or she knew the
person who would be conducting the interviews, so if the participant was
interested, the experimenter scheduled an appointment that took place several
days later. The participation rate was 39% (59 out of 151 potential partic-
ipants), which represented the population most interested in the job.
Phase II. When participants arrived for what they thought was a job
interview, they were given more details about the position and its require-
ments. At this point, the job condition manipulations occurred. All partic-
ipants were randomly assigned to conditions using a computerized program.
Participants were told that the job required either technical- or interper-
sonal-related skills. In the technical condition, candidates were told that the
job encompassed a tutor position in which they would be working one on
one with students. In addition, participants were told that the Psycholog-
ical Student Services Center wanted to assess the effectiveness of the tu-
toring. This part of the job required collecting students data, entering it into
a basic statistics program, and performing some statistical analyses. Al-
though knowledge of these programs was not essential because training
would be provided, it was preferred that the candidate have good statistical/
mathematical skills. Furthermore, the participant was told that because he
or she would be managing students data files, ideal candidates were or-
ganized, methodical, disciplined, orderly, and dutiful. Thirty participants
were randomly assigned to the technical condition.
In the interpersonal condition, participants were told that the job en-
tailed a tutoring position in which they would be working one on one with
students. This included teaching students about psychology, as well as basic
study skills. However, participants were told that the center was
1076 WEISS AND FELDMAN

concerned about student-tutor interactions. That is, because the students


ages ranged from 16 to 18 years old, whereas the tutors ages generally
ranged from 18 to 24, the center felt that this age difference might con-
tribute to students apprehension, potentially inhibiting the learning process.
Therefore, participants were told that because this was a highly interper-
sonal experience, ideal candidates were sociable, outgoing, enthusiastic, ac-
tive, and talkative. Furthermore, the participant was told that because tutors
would need to articulate psychological concepts to the students, the ideal
tutor should also have good vocabulary skills. Twenty-nine participants
were randomly assigned to the verbal condition.
Once the participants were told about the jobs tasks and requirements,
they were asked to complete a written application form. The application
form requested that applicants supply information such as name, grade
point average, and references and complete a self-report personality trait
checklist. This personality trait checklist was the identical list that partic-
ipants had completed in Phase I of the study.
Once completed, the oral job interview began. The interview was struc-
tured, so that all participants were asked the same 10 questions, and the
interviewer did not digress from the script. The questions assessed partic-
ipants abilities by asking them about their strongest and weakest skills; their
job-required skills (i.e., math and verbal skills); their current classroom
performance; their past accomplishments; their extracurricular activities;
their abilities to deal with pressure; their skills relative to those of other
candidates; their career goals; and what they did in their spare time. The
interview lasted between 10 and 15 min. The same male interviewer con-
ducted all interviews. He was dressed similarly for all interviews, wearing
clothes that approximated business casual clothing.
At the completion of the interview, but prior to the debriefing, partic-
ipants completed a postinterview questionnaire that asked about the par-
ticipants desire for the job and their interview experience and how serious
they were during the interview. Next, participants were taken into a separate
room and debriefed by the interviewer. Participants were told that the in-
terview was actually part of an experiment and that there was no real job,
but that the interview was actually the second phase of the experiment.
Participants were told that the interview had been videotaped so that par-
ticipants could watch their videotapes and record any lies told during the
course of the interview, as this served as the dependent measure. Deception,
used interchangeably with lying, was defined as an inaccurate statement.
Participants were encouraged to be as candid and accurate as possible. All
participants agreed to watch and assess their videotapes.
Because of the fact that participants might have been disappointed over
the lack of an actual job, the debriefing was especially thorough at the end of
LYING TO GET THE JOB 1077

the study. The experimenter fully explained the nature of the study, how
participants were selected, and the importance and rationale for the meth-
odological process. In addition, participants were given experimental credit
for their participation in the second phase. No participant left the study
without a clear understanding of the reason for the deception.

Dependent Measures

Lies as impression management. To demonstrate/determine the extent to


which participants lies were indicative of impression management, two in-
dependent raters read and categorized each participant lie as either
involving impression management (e.g., seeking to portray oneself in a
favorable light) or not involving impression management. If the lie was
coded as an example of impression management, the rater then coded the
type of impression management tactic used (e.g., self-promotion, enhance-
ment, and entitlements), using Delery and Kacmars (1998) categorizations.
Interrater agreement was 78%. After the initial coding phase, the raters then
met with the first author to discuss the rating disagreements, as well as the
impression management definitions. Once clarity was reached regarding the
impression management definitions and prototypical examples of those
definitions, the raters then individually recoded the lies, reaching 100%
agreement. Specifically, the lies were coded as follows:
1. Self-promotion. A lie was coded as self-promoting when the par-
ticipant tried to convey that he or she possessed a high level of
knowledge, skill, and ability that the interviewer was looking for.
For example, one of the job requirements was mathematical apti-
tude. One participant said, When I told you [the interviewer]
about my math skills, I tried to justify my knowledge by talking
about my statistics course when, in reality, I dont have very
good math skills. Another participant, when asked about teaching
skills, provided an example in which he or she mentioned that he
or she provides school advice to [his or her] brother when, in
reality, my brother does not listen to me when it comes to school
advice.
2. Enhancements. A lie was coded as an enhancement when the par-
ticipant gave a statement that attempted to persuade the inter-
viewer to believe that the participant had certain positive traits/
attributes. For example, presumably the participant was trying to
convey likeability when he or she said, I told you [the interviewer]
that my relationship with my brother was good when, in fact, its
not as cut and dry and simpleFwe are not a perfect family when it
1078 WEISS AND FELDMAN

comes to getting along with each other. Another participant said,


I tried to show that Im friendly when, in reality, people per-
ceive me as cold and aloof, making it hard to make friends because
Im a shy introvert.
3. Entitlements. A lie was coded as an entitlement when the partic-
ipant claimed responsibility for some positive event. For example,
one participant said, I told the interviewer that I had organized
seminars for my sorority when, in reality, I did not organize any
of them. Another participant said, I said that I won the pres-
idential award when I was in high school, but it was really middle
school.
Lies in the interview. Participants watched the videotape of their inter-
view and indicated (in writing) any lies told during the course of the in-
terview. Participants wrote, for each lie, how it was a lie, and what would
have made the statement more truthful. These lies were then categorized to
examine whether people told lies that directly conformed to the job re-
quirements (i.e., whether participants in the technical condition lied about
their math skills or participants in the interpersonal condition lied about
their verbal skills). To assess this question, two independent raters (different
from the two aforementioned raters) categorized the lies as relating to tech-
nical skills, interpersonal skills, or neither orientation. For example, if the lie
was about organizational skills, then the lie was coded as technical-oriented;
if the lie pertained to vocabulary and/or interpersonal skills, then the lie was
coded as interpersonal-oriented; and if the lie was irrelevant to either the
technical or interpersonal condition, then it was coded as satisfying neither
condition. Interrater agreement was 89%. The same process described above
was used to resolve disagreements (i.e., discussion followed by recoding).
Lies on the written application. In Phase I of the study, participants in-
dicated adjectives that described themselves on a list of positive adjectives.
In Phase II, participants again indicated which positive adjectives were self-
descriptive on the identical list, the only difference being that they were now
in what they thought was a job interview. Difference scores were calculated
between these two reports, with discrepancies between the two reports rep-
resenting deception carried out to convince the interviewer of the partic-
ipants skills.

Personality Measures

Extraversion and self-monitoring scales. The International Personality


Item Pool (2001) extraversion scale and the self-monitoring scale (Snyder,
1974) were used to measure candidates levels of extraversion and
LYING TO GET THE JOB 1079

self-monitoring, respectively. These scales were completed in Phase I of the


experiment.
Personality trait checklist. The 20-item personality trait checklist assessed
candidates self-concepts and how those concepts fit with the job descriptions.
The trait list was composed only of positive traits, ones that were either
relevant (e.g., organized) or not relevant (e.g., curious) to the position. This
checklist was completed both at Phase I and again during Phase II.

Manipulation Checks

Believability of job interview. Since the goal of this study was to analyze
peoples behavior in job interviews, it was essential that they perceived that
they were, indeed, in an interview. At the studys completion (after debrief-
ing), participants were asked, on a 7-point scale from 1 (believed this was an
actual interview) to 7 (did not believe this was an actual interview) the extent
to which they believed that they were participating in a real interview. With
an average response of 2.47, it was clear that people believed that they were,
indeed, in a job interview. In addition, (prior to debriefing) two questions
asked how seriously participants took the interview and how interested they
were in the position. On a 7-point scale from 1 (not serious/not interested ) to
7 (very serious/very interested), participants reported that they were serious
about the interview (M 5 6.53) as well as interested in the position
(M 5 6.66).
Stringency of job requirements. To confirm the assumption that partic-
ipants generally would feel less qualified for the technical job than the in-
terpersonal job, a pilot test was conducted. Twenty-eight participants read
the job description (13 math, 15 verbal) and answered how qualified they felt
they were for the position. Overall, participants felt they were qualified
(M 5 5.39; 1 5 not qualified, 7 5 qualified ) for both jobs. However, students
who read the technical job description perceived that they would be signif-
icantly less qualified (M 5 4.62) than participants who read the interper-
sonal job description (M 5 6.07), t (26) 5 2.66, p o .01, providing evidence
that the manipulation produced the desired perception about the job re-
quirements in participants.

Results

Lies as Impression Management

Overall, participants told a total of 129 lies, of which over 90% (115)
were classified as promoting impression management, whereas only 10%
1080 WEISS AND FELDMAN

(14) were classified as not related to impression management. Specifically, of


the lies, 46% (53) were classified as self-promotion, 51% (59) were classified
as enhancements, and 3% (3) were classified as entitlements. All in all, this
demonstrates that, although not all lies are told to impression-manage, some
lies are told for this specific reason.

Job Interview

Taken as a whole, 81% of the participants admitted telling at least one lie
in the interview. On average, participants admitted telling 2.19 lies per in-
terview. Furthermore, as predicted, participants lied more in the technical
skills (M 5 2.58) condition than the interpersonal skills (M 5 1.79) condition
(t 5 1.65, p o .05, one-tailed).
To explore whether people lied to conform to the specific job require-
ments, a 2 (job requirement: interpersonal- or technical-oriented)  2 (lie
type: interpersonal-oriented or technical-oriented) mixed-design analysis
of variance (excluding lies that were neither interpersonal- nor technical-
oriented) was performed. An analysis of the interaction between these two
variables indicated that individuals in the technical condition told more
technical-oriented lies, whereas individuals in the interpersonal condition
told more interpersonal-oriented lies (F 5 4.41, p o .05, Z2 5 .081; see
Figure 1). The main effects for both the job condition and the types of lies
told were not significant (F 5 .05, ns, and F 5 .55, ns, respectively).
These findings support the contention that individuals were not just
telling more lies in the technical condition than the interpersonal condition:

Technical-oriented lie
Interpersonal-oriented lie
0.8
0.7
0.6
Number of lies

0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0
Technical job Interpersonal job

Figure 1. The conforming of applicants lies to job requirements.


LYING TO GET THE JOB 1081

They were telling lies that were directly relevant to the job. Furthermore,
because participants were less qualified in the technical versus the interper-
sonal condition, the participants were more likely to tell lies in order to
compensate for their lack of job-required traits and skills.

Job Application Trait Checklist

Results showed that individuals tended to claim to possess more positive


traits (M 5 12.86) in Phase II (the job interview) than in Phase I (M 5 11.15),
t 5 5.94, p o .001, d 5 .78. That is, individuals claimed to have more positive
traits during the job interview phase than when they were simply asked to
describe themselves in Phase I.
To assess whether individuals checked traits that were consistent with the
job requirements, a 2 (job type)  2 (number of selected technical and in-
terpersonal traits) mixed analysis of variance was conducted. Here, we tested
whether, in Phase II, participants in the technical condition tended to claim
technical-related traits, whereas participants in the interpersonal condition
tended to claim interpersonal-related traits, in an attempt to conform to the
job. Marginal significance was found for the interaction between job type
and traits checked (F 5 3.13, p o .08, Z2 5 .049), indicating that individuals
in the technical condition tended to claim technical-related traits, whereas
individuals in the interpersonal condition tended to claim interpersonal-
related traits. The main effects for the job type and number of traits selected
were not significant (F 5 1.23, ns, and F 5 .70, ns, respectively). Overall,
these findings suggest that candidates used impression management to
create the appearance (via the application) that they possessed desirable
job-relevant traits. More specifically, the individuals in the technical
condition attempted to impress the interviewer by asserting themselves as
having characteristics associated with the technical job, whereas individuals
in the interpersonal condition attempted to impress the interviewer by
asserting themselves as having characteristics associated with the inter-
personal job.

Extraversion and Self-Monitoring

Self-monitoring and extraversion scores were utilized to assess whether


either variable predicted deception in job interviews (see Table 1 for means,
standard deviations, and correlations). Extraversion significantly correlated
with the number of lies told (r 5 .30, p o .05). On the other hand, self-
monitoring did not correlate with the number of lies told (r 5 .12, ns).
(Subsequent analyses also failed to find a curvilinear relationship.) Overall,
1082 WEISS AND FELDMAN

Table 1

Sums, Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations of Lies, Impression


Management Lies, Extraversion, and Self-Monitoring

Total lies Mean SD 1 2 3 4 5


1. Lies 129 2.19 1.83 F
2. Self-promotion 53 .88 .87 .58 F
3. Enhancement 59 1.00 1.22 .85 .14 F
4. Extraversion F 14.91 2.91 .30  .37 .17 F
5. Self-monitoring F 12.42 3.88 -.12 .03 -.03 .36 F
Note. Omitted from the analyses was the impression management tactic entitle-
ments, because of the low number used by participants.
p o .05.

the results showed that the more extraverted a person was, the more apt he
or she was to lie.
To examine whether extraverts or self-monitors tended to use a partic-
ular type of impression management tactic when lying, correlations were
performed between the personality predictors and the impression manage-
ment tactics (self-promoting and enhancements). Consistent with those of
Kristof-Brown et al. (2002), results indicated that there was a significant
correlation between extraversion and self-promotion (r 5 .37, p o .05), im-
plying that the more extraverted a person was, the more apt he or she was to
tell self-promoting lies about their skills and abilities. No other significant
correlations were found.

Discussion

The present study provided clear empirical evidence that people lie in job
interviews to further their chances for employment. These lies were man-
ifested both verbally and in writing, as candidates were deceptive both in the
interview and on the application. Furthermore, when the job requirements
were more technical, deception increased, most likely in an attempt by ap-
plicants to compensate for their lack of job-required skills and traits.
In the oral interview, participants told lies that specifically conformed to
the job. If participants were in the technical condition, they were more likely
to boast about their statistical and organizational skills, whereas if they were
in the interpersonal condition, they were more likely to boast about their
interpersonal skills. Support for this interpretation was also found on the
LYING TO GET THE JOB 1083

written application, as applicants tended to select positive traits that directly


corresponded to the job attributes.
The current study contributes to our understanding of job interviews,
deception, and impression management in several ways. First, while it may
not be surprising to learn that people lie in job interviews, this study pro-
vides what is, as far as we know, the first objective confirmation of the
propensity of job applicants to be deceptive and quantifies those lies (ap-
proximately two to three lies per 15-min interview). Furthermore, when
comparing these findings to diary studies that examine deception in every-
day life (e.g., DePaulo et al., 1996), we know that deception is more prev-
alent in interviews than other daily activities. Finally, this study shows that,
although the lies people tell in an interview are not all in the service of
impression management, most lies in interview situations are told to help
manage impressions. These lies support our initial conceptualization of
impression management, which views deception as one of several possible
strategies by means of which people present themselves to others.
The study also showed that deception was related to personality factors,
at least in terms of extraversion. The findings are congruent with the find-
ings of Kristof-Brown et al. (2002), who showed that extraverts tend to use
self-promoting tactics more often than introvertsFit is just that, in this
study, those self-promoting tactics tended to be used deceptively. At first
glance, it might appear that a real problem exists: If extraverts lie the
most and are rated most favorably in the interview, then it is likely that
these lying extraverts are being rewarded with jobs. However, as mentioned
earlier, although such deception could potentially undermine the integrity
of the interview process, it is also possible that lying doesnt necessarily lead
to poor job performance. For example, it is plausible that extraverts
choose to lie in interviews because they are confident that they can learn the
necessary information to excel at the positionFand they may be right in
such a view. Future research can investigate this hypothesis by examining
whether lying actually does improve an individuals chances of gaining em-
ployment. And if lying candidates are most likely to be hired, then future
research could also address how deception in an interview is related to job
performance.
The current study has several limitations that should be addressed by
future research. First, the present study relied on participants self-report to
assess the number of lies they told. Although this methodology has been
used in prior research (e.g., Feldman et al., 2002; Tyler & Feldman, 2004)
and shown to be a valid approach to assessing when people report lying, it is
possible that people may be motivated to minimize their actual rate of
deception. Although anecdotally participants appear quite willing to provide
the data, it is possible that some may be inhibited in their identification of
1084 WEISS AND FELDMAN

their prior deception. Additional methods of assessing lies are needed to


provide converging data to the self-reports.
A second limitation is the fact that the participants were recruited with-
out any preliminary screening. In practice, prescreening of job applicants is a
regular occurrence, in which recruiters use tactics (e.g., background checks)
that eliminate candidates with propensities to lie. Ideally, employing this
practice would potentially reduce the amount of deception interviewers ac-
tually must deal with. However, this study demonstrates that when there is a
gap between a persons skills and the job requirements, people will, indeed,
lie to fill such a gap. And because it is unlikely for every candidate to
perfectly fit a given position, it is also unlikely that deception will be elim-
inated from the interview process. On a practical note, practitioners can take
advantage of the current studys findings by examining candidates resumes,
searching for disparities between the candidates skills and the job require-
ments. In the interview, practitioners could then ask questions exploring this
disparity, where such exploration might expose candidates propensities
to lie.
Future studies could overcome the current studys limitations by exam-
ining interviewees use of deception in actual interview settings outside of
academic settings. In addition, future research should examine application
untruths using more objective measures, such as grade point average and
work experience.

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