How and Why Do Interviewers Try to Make Impressions on Applicants



How and Why Do Interviewers Try to Make Impressions on Applicants?

A Qualitative Study

Annika Wilhelmy and Martin Kleinmann

Universität Zürich

Cornelius J. König

Universität des Saarlandes

Klaus G. Melchers

Universität Ulm

Donald M. Truxillo

Portland State University

To remain viable in today’s highly competitive business environments, it is crucial for organizations to

attract and retain top candidates. Hence, interviewers have the goal not only of identifying promising

applicants but also of representing their organization. Although it has been proposed that interviewers’

deliberate signaling behaviors are a key factor for attracting applicants and thus for ensuring organiza-

tions’ success, no conceptual model about impression management (IM) exists from the viewpoint of the

interviewer as separate from the applicant. To develop such a conceptual model on how and why

interviewers use IM, our qualitative study elaborates signaling theory in the interview context by

identifying the broad range of impressions that interviewers intend to create on applicants, what kinds of

signals interviewers deliberately use to create their intended impressions, and what outcomes they pursue.

Following a grounded theory approach, multiple raters analyzed in-depth interviews with interview-

ers and applicants. We also observed actual employment interviews and analyzed memos and image

brochures to generate a conceptual model of interviewer IM. Results showed that the spectrum of

interviewers’ IM intentions goes well beyond what has been proposed in past research. Furthermore,

interviewers apply a broad range of IM behaviors, including verbal and nonverbal as well as

paraverbal, artifactual, and administrative behaviors. An extensive taxonomy of interviewer IM

intentions, behaviors, and intended outcomes is developed, interrelationships between these ele-

ments are presented, and avenues for future research are derived.

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