How and Why Do Interviewers Try to Make Impressions on Applicants? A Qualitative Study

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The Journal Of Applied Psychology

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To remain viable in today’s highly competitive business environments, it is crucial for organizations to attract and retain top candidates. Hence, interviewers have the goal not only of identifying promising applicants, but also of representing their organization. Although it has been proposed that interviewers’ deliberate signaling behaviors are a key factor for attracting applicants and thus for ensuring organizations’ success, no conceptual model about impression management (IM) exists from the viewpoint of the interviewer as separate from the applicant. To develop such a conceptual model on how and why interviewers use IM, our qualitative study elaborates signaling theory in the interview context by identifying the broad range of impressions that interviewers intend to create for applicants, what kinds of signals interviewers deliberately use to create their intended impressions, and what outcomes they pursue. Following a grounded theory approach, multiple raters analyzed indepth interviews with interviewers and applicants. We also observed actual employment interviews and analyzed memos and image brochures to generate a conceptual model of interviewer IM. Results showed that the spectrum of interviewers’ IM intentions goes well beyond what has been proposed in past research. Furthermore, interviewers apply a broad range of IM behaviors, including verbal and nonverbal as well as paraverbal, artifactual, and administrative behaviors. An extensive taxonomy of interviewer IM intentions, behaviors, and intended outcomes is developed, interrelationships between these elements are presented, and avenues for future research are derived.



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