Fairness of Impression Management in Employment Interviews: A Cross-Country Study of the Role of Equity and Machiavellianism

Article excerpt

This study focused on the use of Impression Management (IM) in employment interviews from the perspective of interviewees and investigated possible antecedents of their perceptions regarding what is fair interviewee IM. Its rationale was largely based on the tenets of equity theory (Adams, 1963; 1965). Data from 163 potential interviewees (college students) approached in the UK and Portugal showed that, as expected, they tended to perceive as fair interviewee IM those IM tactics they also saw as fair for interviewers to use. Gender did not predict IM fairness perceptions, but IM use by the organization, Machiavellianism and Country did. Results regarding the influence of experience of job interviews were inconclusive. Finally, based on these findings, suggestions are made for further research and for the education of both interviewees and interviewers regarding behavior in the employment interview.

Impression management [IM] refers to individuals' attempts at determining the impressions others form of them regarding their behavior, motivation, morality, and other characteristics such as their intelligence and future potential (Rosenfeld, Giacalone, & Riordan, 1994). IM can be verbal and nonverbal, more or less deliberate, and be stimulated by both situational and dispositional factors (Rosenfeld, Giacalone, & Riordan, 1994; 2002; Schlenker & Weigold, 1992). Employment interviews, in particular, would appear to foster conscious IM efforts by both parties, given the situation's "high stakes" (Delery & Kacmar, 1998; Gardner & Martinko, 1988; Rosenfeld, 1997; Rosenfeld et al, 2002). This study is concerned with any attempts by the interview parties to present themselves/their organization in a good light.

IM USE AND THE VALIDITY AND FAIRNESS OF INTERVIEWS

In selection and recruitment interviews, candidates' IM efforts can positively affect interview outcomes such as employment offers and ratings by interviewers (e.g., Kacmar, Delery, & Ferris, 1992; Stevens & Kristof, 1995), although not necessarily so. Indeed, all individuals are not equally skilled at IM (Turnley & Bolino, 2001), interviewer characteristics - such as warmth - can affect interviewee IM and interview performance (e.g., Liden, Martin, & Parsons, 1993), and not all IM tactics seem to be equally situation-appropriate (Kacmar et al.). Finally, a low degree of congruence between the interviewee and interviewer definitions of the situation can potentially jeopardize the efficacy of IM tactics (Gardner & Martinko, 1988).

Since interviewee and interviewer IM styles may have an impact on interview outcomes, concerns have been raised about the possible effect of IM on the validity and fairness of selection decisions (i.e., the ability to assess how well candidates would do on the job without discriminating against those less skilled in situation-appropriate IM). Nevertheless, there is no agreement regarding how much of an issue this is as, for instance, the ability to carry out effective IM can be seen as an important competence that favors job performance and is therefore no cause for concern (e.g., Delery & Kacmar, 1998; Fletcher, 1989; 1990; Rosenfeld, 1997; Rosenfeld et al., 2002; Stevens & Kristof, 1995).

Various ways of minimizing any undesirable impact of candidate IM on interview selection decisions have been suggested. Where the ability to use certain IM tactics is seen to be job-relevant, research suggests that the choice of interview question format may help elicit the use of relevant IM tactics (ElHs, West, Ryan, & DeShon, 2002). Another line of proposals encourages organizations to prepare to cope with potentially misleading candidate IM attempts, such as by concentrating on verifiable information (see Fletcher, 1989; Rosenfeld, 1997). Yet another suggests attempting to influence the interview parties to adopt a more ethical or mutually beneficial stance (Fletcher, 1989; 1992a; 1992b; Kirkwood & Ralston, 1996; 1999). …