A recent study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, to be published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, delivers a surprising conclusion – that job seekers are better served by playing the narcissist in an interview.
Narcissism? Isn’t that like being vain or arrogant? Don’t people hate narcissists?
Maybe the braggart is shunned at a party, but in simulated interviews for this study, a surplus of self-promotion made a strong impression on employers.
So should you sing your own praises? Yes and no.
Your field, information technology, is a tricky one. Perhaps hiring managers don’t see you as someone strong in the “soft skills” of interpersonal communication – that a Java, C++, C# or .NET Developer is someone who sits in a cubicle and codes all day, so who needs people skills? That’s a stereotype, of course, and it’s one you need to overcome in your interview.
It’s a fine line. You naturally want to present yourself in the best possible light, so the basics of confidence need to be covered: eye contact, a firm handshake, a “responsive” posture. These nonverbal cues that you're interested in the role will resonate with your interviewer. But go too far into Ego Land, and you'll torpedo your chances of a job offer.
For instance, an interviewer reading your resume calls out a successful project you spearheaded, and says, “That’s very impressive, can you tell me more about it?”
- UNDERCONFIDENT: “Oh, it was nothing really. Nothing that any data warehouse developer couldn’t have done.” Always accept credit where it’s due; hiding behind a mask of modesty will not make you stand out.
- CONFIDENT: “Thank you. That project opened up a set of new challenges that really helped me grow in the area of foreign exchange trading systems and market data feeds.” Follow up with a description of the kinds of challenges you met – hiring managers love real-life examples of your initiative.
- ARROGANT: “Thanks. I pulled that one off despite certain UX prototypers on my team, who were less than talented in mobile applications.” It should go without saying that badmouthing others, no matter how justified you feel, has no place in an interview.
The key is confidence in the right balance. Praising a team effort shows you have the confidence to delegate, manage and be managed. Acknowledging your technical weaknesses shows you are confident enough to share your limitations. And asking pertinent questions expresses confidence in your future employment at the company.
One more thing about narcissists – the University of Nebraska study’s authors noted that narcissists "can be very disruptive and destructive when dealing with other people on a regular basis. If everything else is equal, it probably is best to avoid hiring them."