Job interviews reward narcissists, punish applicants from modest cultures

June 13, 2014, University of British Columbia
A UBC study found that people who rated as narcissists were viewed as more attractive job candidates. Credit: lmilian, iStock

A University of British Columbia study finds that narcissistic applicants are more successful in job interviews than equally qualified candidates who act more modestly.

The findings suggest that applicants from cultures that place greater emphasis on humility, including some Asian cultures, may have a harder time landing a job in North America.

"A job interview is one of the few social situations where narcissistic behaviours such as boasting actually create a positive impression," says UBC Psychology Prof. Del Paulhus, the lead author of the study. "Normally, people are put off by such behaviour, especially over repeated exposure."

Before placing participants in job interview scenarios, researchers used questionnaires to measure their levels of narcissism. The study found that people who rated as narcissists were viewed as more attractive .

Videotapes of the interviews were later scored by a team of raters. Narcissists tended to talk about themselves, make eye contact, joke around and ask the interviewers more questions. As a result, the study found that people rated narcissists as more attractive candidates for the position.

The researchers also found that participants of Japanese, Chinese and Korean heritage exhibited lower levels of narcissism, and were less likely to receive "definitely hire" ratings as a result. "The pro-narcissism bias results in an indirect cultural bias – particularly against East Asians," says Paulhus.

Paulhus says the study offers important lessons for job candidates and interviewers alike. "Candidates should engage with the interviewer while continuing to self-promote," he says. "Interviewers should look beyond cultural style and assess individual qualifications. Instead of superficial charm, interviewers must analyze candidates' potential long-term fit in the organization."

Explore further: How do I love me? Let me count the ways - and excel in a job interview

More information: Paulhus, D. L., Westlake, B. G., Calvez, S. S. and Harms, P. D. (2013), "Self-presentation style in job interviews: the role of personality and culture." Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43: 2042–2059. DOI: 10.1111/jasp.12157

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3 / 5 (5) Jun 16, 2014
"Job interviews reward confident people, disregard submissive people."
FTFY. Pretty bloody obvious in Canada, really.

What a pile of biased "journalism" crap. Equating confidence with narcissism is just faulty logic. Calling submissive cultures "modest", inferring that cultures where confidence is admired are "immodest" is just ridiculous.

If I go to a culture where submissiveness is admired, then I adapt. I learn how to bow, how to avoid eye contact, how to defer to my elders, and how to speak for and with the group.

I have lived in Japan, and China, and Thailand, and Indonesia, and that is what I did.

When I am in Canada, I expect people to shake my hand firmly, look me in the eye, and confidently speak for themselves. If you give me a limp handshake and avoid eye contact and can't speak for yourself, then no; I don't want to do business with you.

To try to frame the argument as the "narcissists" versus the "modest people"is just disingenuous...
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 16, 2014
"Narcissim" - You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means...

Jun 16, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 16, 2014
"Interviewers should look beyond cultural style and assess individual qualifications. Instead of superficial charm, interviewers must analyze candidates' potential long-term fit

At first I thought "Good idea" but then it occured to me that when you hire with a long term perspective you are hiring someone who will eventuall accumulate knowledge to the point where he/she needs to represent the company or lead a team within a company. At that point you need someone who can directly engage people.

And while a buildup in knowedge is a virtual certainty (as you NEVER find someone who is a complete fit for what you are looking for) a change in character is not.
Jun 16, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
5 / 5 (2) Jun 16, 2014
Equating confidence with narcissism is just faulty logic.
You're perfectly right (and it's not surprising, you're immediately downvoted here for it. The selfconfident people would argue, the others will feel threatened with it and just these people use the voting system here). Selfconfidence doesn't imply the narcissism. It's true, that the narcissists are often overconfident, but these two words exist independently, just because they've a different meaning. Actually the narcissism should be perceived as a sociopathological personal trait with experienced personnel officer.

The correlation of narcissism to confidence is strong, and this is statistics, not specific single examples, so the correlation will stand, as it applies to the given average situation, as a set group.

This is not the "if, if, if..therefore" world. There is no displacement into idealism -in place of real world situations that are under analysis.

Their argument is not so easily dismissed.
not rated yet Jun 17, 2014
To the author,

Just curious, but did you actually read the article, or just the abstract?

I wanted to know what measure they used to rate narcissism. As a psych major myself, I can't stress enough how important the validity and reliability of the scales is to justify a finding. Also, what kind of job were they being interviewed for? Were the ratings of their fit for the job based off of this or other specified criteria or was it just based off of "feeling" of the raters? If you know the answer to any of these questions or can link to me where I can find the answer, please do!


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