Purpose: To explore the effects of early information in a job interview on subsequent attributions and judgments of job candidates.
Summary: We all know the importance of making a strong first impression, especially in the job interview. But we know less about how and why first impressions have an impact. For instance, an applicant with a better resume will probably seem more competent in their interview, but could they also seem more likeable or honest?
We showed 247 mock interviewers the same videotaped interview of a single applicant. But before watching this interview, we provided brief information about the applicant’s (1) qualifications and (2) friendliness:
(1) We told the interviewers that the applicant’s resume, work experience, and education had been ranked by a committee—of 10 applicants, this applicant was ranked either the second-most qualified, or the second-least qualified. (2) Interviewers then watched one of two videos of a short meet and greet with the applicant. In one version, the applicant was especially friendly; in the other, he was neutral.
Findings: When the applicant had higher qualifications, interviewers considered him not only more competent, but also more likeable and honest. On the other hand, with a lower qualification rating, interviewers considered the same applicant, in the same interview, more conceited and to have lied more often. We expected that friendliness in the initial meet-and-greet would also bias interviewers in favor of the applicant but found no such effect.
Practical Implications: Early information subtly biased interviewers to make different conclusions about the same applicant, in the same interview. Human resources personnel should carefully consider the implications of early information (e.g., resume screening), and whether and how interviewers’ own expectations might warp their perceptions and judgments.
Wingate, T. G., & Bourdage, J. S. (2019). Liar at first sight? Early impressions and interviewer judgments, attributions, and false perceptions of faking. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 18, 177-188. https://doi.org/10.1027/1866-5888/a000232
Timothy G Wingate
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