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How and why do interviewers try to make impressions on applicants? A qualitative study by Wilhelmy et al, 2016

Keyword(s) :    behaviors research


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In their research study, Wilhelmy et al. take a closer look at interview styles, with a specific emphasis on signaling behaviors. Their stated purpose is “to use a qualitative approach to create a taxonomy and a conceptual model by identifying and analyzing the broad range of possible interviewer IM [impression management] intentions, behaviors, and intended outcomes” (2016).  In the context of that purpose statement, the research did seem designed to help answer both how and why.  Furthermore, the researchers did frame out a conceptual model of interviewer IM that was comprehensive and included a range of intentional behaviors designed to elicit specific outcomes.  What they found was interviewers were attempting to send intentional messages to applicants about the attractiveness of the job and their authenticity, but also about relative social positions or status.  In addition, they found that not all interviewers were attempting to send the same message, but might be structuring their intentional behaviors to create particular impressions about the organization, the job, or the team.  To create these impressions, interviewers used verbal, nonverbal, administrative, paraverbal, and artifactual behaviors.

While the research was designed to examine intentional behaviors, which were the focus of the study, the failure to consider unintentional communication seems significant.  While studying how a person communicates an intended message is important, it is equally important for people to understand how their signaling behaviors can communicate unintended messages. Because this was not really addressed in the study, it was difficult to evaluate whether the interviewers’ intended messages and outcomes were aligned with the messages actually received by the applicants and whether they achieved their intended outcomes.


Wilhelmy, A., Kleinmann, M., König, C. J., Melchers, K. G., & Truxillo, D. M. (2016). How and why do interviewers try to make impressions on applicants? A qualitative study. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(3), 313–332. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000046

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