In another life I used to write columns giving job applicants, generally low-skilled employees or first-time applicants, some basic job interview tips. Don’t chew gum, I would write. Dress like a person who actually wants a job. Don’t curse. Don’t stink them out with your perfume.

But I was overlooking the biggest tip of all. Be a big old narcissist.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have shown something that a lot of the more introverted among us have long suspected, that job interviews as currently conducted go a lot better for those who are full of themselves. And that people from cultures where humility is valued do worse at them.

“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, according to an interview at “Normally, people are put off by such behaviour, especially over repeated exposure.”

Paulhus’ team used questionnaires to gauge test subjects levels of narcissism and then observed them in interview situations. The narcissists, full of perhaps unwarranted self-confidence, made more eye contact, told better jokes, and otherwise came off as more personable, and were rated more attractive for the positions by the interviewers.

This bias had the most unfortunate effect on people from East Asian cultures where humility is a cultural norm. Those applicants tended to score lower on the narcissism survey and get lower ratings from the interviewers.

Paulhus has two recommendations based on the study. First he encourages interviewers to look past superficial charm. Not bloody likely, so forget about that. The other is essentially to act like a narcissist. Leave your humility at the door and “engage with the interviewer while continuing to self-promote.”


Image of Vanity Smurf from Flickr

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