What is impression management? Are your candidates fibbing?

What is impression management?

Impression management has been described as”a conscious or subconscious process in which people attempt to influence the perceptions of other people about a person, object or event by regulating and controlling information in social interaction.”

It is rare for candidates to lie and make things up during an interview situation but many will try to manage the impression they create with their interviewer. Candidates may attempt to impression manage by exaggerating their achievements and contributions to the successes they describe from their previous roles whilst not disclosing negatives.

What is impression management? Impression management strategies

Impression management strategies

If you are concerned about the fullness of the truth of an answer consider:

Internal consistency

Are the elements of the interview consistent with each other and credible in the context of the behaviours you observe?

Balance between achievements and limitations

Does the candidate talk openly about their weaknesses as well as their strengths?

Abstract or hypothetical?

The candidate changing from concrete to more abstract or hypothetical phrasing, such as switching from “I did this..” to “we did that..”

Changing non-verbal behaviour

People may sweat, look embarrassed or change the tone of their voice when they are lying. However, be cautious as similar non-verbal behaviour occurs when someone is nervous.

If you doubt the veracity of an answer keep probing in order to drill-down to the detail. If a candidate is misleading you it will be difficult for them to sustain if you ask for greater detail about the specific situation.

You should focus your attention across the three different levels of listening (verbal, non-verbal, emotional) to become more sensitive to the manner of the individual and any ‘tells’ which might indicate a change resulting from impression management efforts.

Impression management - what is impression management?

The Interviewer Report: Response style

The Interviewer Report is powered by a Clevry personality questionnaire and will provide you with some valuable information about the candidate’s likely response style and some advice about how to handle it during your interview.

When the candidate has a tendency to impression manage you should take the following actions during your interview:

  • Be even more rigorous than usual in collecting concrete evidence to corroborate the information the candidate has self-reported. Especially for strengths and achievements.

  • Ask probing, concrete, past-tense questions during the interview.

  • Watch out for superficial responses – probe the specific details of the situation with the candidate.

  • Compare the interview outcomes with the PQ profile and any other information available about the candidate.

Many candidates have a response style that is characterised by being self-critical and unforthcoming about personal successes and achievements. You should handle these candidates by adopting this approach during the interview:

  • Use self-evaluation questions that encourage the candidate to describe their personal contributions to success, “What was your role in the success of the team?”, “How did you ensure the project went smoothly?”

  • Warm the candidate up by asking questions around their achievements early on during the interview.

  • Look out for instances when the candidate seems to give credit for success to external factors such as luck and other people.

We would strongly discourage you from feeding back response style results to candidates or other managers since they can be highly susceptible to misinterpretation. The response style scale is best treated as a guide for interpretation that is for your use only.




Impression management - what is impression management?


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