Self-Esteem Theories: Possible Explanations for Poor Interview Performance for People Experiencing Unemployment

By Leon, Luella C.; Matthews, Lynda R. | The Journal of Rehabilitation, January-March 2010 | Go to article overview

Self-Esteem Theories: Possible Explanations for Poor Interview Performance for People Experiencing Unemployment


Leon, Luella C., Matthews, Lynda R., The Journal of Rehabilitation


Many people are familiar with the process of obtaining employment and people with disabilities and the long term unemployed are without exceptions. People with disabilities do, however, face barriers that most people do not experience, such as questionable work performance, employer perceived attitudes of increased problems, absenteeism, productivity issues, and the unpredictability of behavior (Rubin & Roessler, 1987; Schriner, Greenwood, & Johnson, 1989). People experiencing long term unemployment also report a number of barriers that inhibit their ability to secure employment. These include difficulty in presenting well at interviews, having distorted thoughts which prevent them from obtaining employment, and having the belief that they lack the skills to gain employment (Alford & Sowden, 2006, unpublished).

Despite this, the obstacles that people with disabilities and the long term unemployed face are not insurmountable. For example, in 2006, The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS; 2006), reported a 46% employment rate for people with disabilities aged between 15-64 years old. Another report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics identified a number of accommodations that were being used by employers to assist people with disabilities to gain and maintain their employment. These included workplace modifications (6.4%), allocation of different duties (3%), and having access to a support person (3%) (ABS; 2006). Similarly, in the United States, 55.8% of people with disabilities between the ages of 16-64 are employed (United States Department of Labor, 2008). Employees with disabilities and their employers have access to support and resources. For example, the Department of Labor provides resources for supporting employers through the

Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a free consulting service designed to increase employment and the retention of people with disabilities by providing information on workplace accommodation, and the Employer Assistance Referral Network (EARN), a free service designed to connect employers looking for quality employees with skilled job candidates (National Centre on Workforce and Disability, 2008). Some employers are eligible for financial incentives for hiring people with disabilities, such as the ADA small business tax credit (National Centre on Workforce and Disability, 2008).

While the employment rate of people with disabilities is less than optimal, given that approximately 50% of people with disabilities are in work and that some employers are providing workplace accommodations, it seems reasonable to suggest that a number of other factors could be responsible for the levels of unemployment. In many cases it could be asked "Why is it that, even after years of undergoing interviews and job offers, many people who are capable of working are still unemployed?" This paper explores self-sabotaging behaviors at the interview and job offering stages of obtaining employment as one potential explanation to this question. Strategies that vocational rehabilitation counselors could use to reduce these behaviors will also be explored.

Self-esteem and fear of success

There have been many studies looking into self-esteem and, as a result, several definitions have arisen (e.g., Bernichon, Cook, & Brown, 2003; Brown, Dutton, & Cook, 2001; Leary, Tambor, Terdal, & Downs, 1995; Lightsey Jr, Burke, Ervin, Henderson, & Yee, 2006; Trzesiewski, Donnellan, & Robins, 2003). Self-esteem has been simply defined as feelings for one-self, whether these are positive or negative (Brown & Dutton, 1995). Crocker and Wolfe (2001) viewed self-esteem as one's overall judgments of their self-worth, and proposed a model of global self esteem (global judgments of self-worth) where self esteem is seen as both a trait and a state. For example, global trait self-esteem refers to how an individual evaluates the entire self, whereas global state self-esteem is evaluated with how an individual feels at a particular point in time. …

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