Researchers Discover Key to Being More Likeable on Dates, Job Interviews

By: Marie Donlon

Because dating and interviewing for a job are relatively similar in that candidates for both a job and for affection need to first win someone over, it stands to reason that the key to successfully winning over an employer or a potential romantic partner would likewise be similar. This is the main idea behind new research from Cass Business School that suggests the key to impressing a date or a potential employer is one in the same: communicate the hard work and effort behind the success in a candidate’s life.

The study, called Impression (Mis) Management When Communicating Success, which is published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, is an investigation into how people assign reasons for their success when dating or interviewing for a job.

According to the findings, success in life alone was not impressive to potential employers or possible romantic partners but rather the struggle to achieve that success.

The study, led by Dr. Janina Steinmetz, involved three different experiments with both male and female participants ranging in age from 18 to 75 from the U.S. and the Netherlands. The first two experiments simulated job interviews while the third experiment simulated a dating scenario.

In all instances, participants were asked to imagine themselves in either the role of the “impression manager” (the person sharing information on the date or the person being interviewed during the interview scenario) or the “receiver” (the person doing the interviewing in the job interview scenario or the person “listening” in the dating scenario).

Across the board, impression managers only emphasized their successes and talents without sharing the amount of work and effort necessary to achieve those successes - a detail that receivers reported wanting to hear more about.

Dr. Steinmetz concluded that communicating how success is achieved is just as important in both dating and interviewing scenarios as communicating what those successes are. Communicating the work and effort it took to achieve success, according to Dr. Steinmetz, will result in the candidate making a warmer and more relatable first impression.

"A success story isn't complete without the hard work and explanation of why we were successful. Did the success come easy, thanks to one's talents, or was it attained through hard work? Both of these attributions can be part of successful self-promotion, but my research shows that emphasizing effort is more likely to garner a positive impression and people really want to know the story behind your success.

"For example, if you're on a date and talking about a marathon that you recently ran, perhaps talk about all the training that helped you to cross the finish line. Or, if you're in a job interview and are talking about a successful project that you led to completion, include a few details about the challenges along the way, and how you overcame them."