Welcome to the Masquerade: Deception in the Preliminary Job Search Process

April 30, 2020   /  

Student: Rebecca D. Wells
Major: Communication Studies
Minor: Music
Advisors: Dr. Michelle Johnson, Dr. Melissa Weller

Rebecca WellsThis study examined the likelihood that college students are to deceive regarding various professional and personal characteristics in face to face interviews and on LinkedIn accounts. Professional characteristics included knowledge of spreadsheet software, presentation software, graphic design software, etc. Personal characteristics included leadership, creativity, writing, research, motivation, etc. This study also measured feelings of inadequacy, fear of negative evaluations, and interaction anxiousness. By sending out an electronic survey, I collected data from approximately 80 students at The College of Wooster. The results revealed that there are no differences on the likelihood of deception in face to face interviews in comparison to on LinkedIn. According to my findings, the more inadequate someone is and the more fear of negative evaluation they have, the more likely they are to exaggerate on personal factors, both on LinkedIn and face to face interviews. These findings are valuable as they have the potential to help employers and job applicants be more cognizant of deception throughout the hiring process.

Rebecca will be online to field comments on May 8:
Noon-2pm EDT (PST 9am-11am, Africa/Europe: early evening)

94 thoughts on “Welcome to the Masquerade: Deception in the Preliminary Job Search Process”

  1. Rebecca, you did such a good job presenting this – it was a really thorough summary of your research. And I personally find this topic to be really interesting! Great job.

  2. Rebecca,

    The relatability and timeliness of your topic makes great sense, especially during this time of virtual connection!

    Congratulations and we look forward to welcoming you and your class to the alumni community!

    Meret Nahas ’10

  3. Very interesting Rebecca! I’m wondering if looking back at the survey you sent out and the responses you received were there any new questions or follow-up questions that you would have like to added based on your findings? This is definitely something that anyone applying for a job faces, and I think you connection between deception and feelings of inadequacy was very on point! Great job!

    1. Hi Shelby! Thank you for your question. There were definitely questions that I wish I had asked like what types of jobs my participants were applying for and seeing if deception was more prevelant with different career fields, or if they experienced feelings of inadequacy in different areas of their lives as well as during the job search process (which is likely the case). I think there is still so much research that could be done on this topic!!

  4. Hi Rebecca! Thank you for sharing your project with us. I think this research is important as many are currently in the job process. I wonder if you have considered the “downstream” effects of this deception on job success. It would have been interesting if you tracked those who used deception in both in person and online self promotion and how they felt that this deception impacts their current work. Great job! Hope you are doing well!

    1. Justin!! Thank you so much for your feedback. I agree that looking into the effects of deception on job success would be really interesting! I did not look into that specifically, but from my research I do feel that the more deception used throughout the interview process, the less success they would have within the job (gap in training because of supposed experience could be possible). Hope you are doing well, too 🙂

  5. Thank you for sharing your research with us. Eye catching title. You noted the exaggeration of personal characteristics. Did you find much much deception in professional characteristics?

    Good luck on your next steps and congratulations on your upcoming graduation.

    1. Great question!

      The professional characteristics in my study were spreadsheet software, presentation software, graphic design software, statistical analysis software, etc. Of those, the most likely to be deceived according to my study are spreadsheet and presentation software- meaning that my participants are most likely to say that they have more knowledge/ experience with this software then they do.

      Thank you for your interest!

  6. Rebecca,

    I love this topic! You did such a great job presenting and sharing your project.

  7. Rebecca, your results were interesting, and I also found myself thinking about them in a different context. On those rare occasions where students engage in academic dishonesty, it seems to me that those same feelings of inadequacy and fear of negative evaluation are often at play. I have found, though, that if students learn problem-solving skills, they can gain a greater sense of competence which, in turn, often leads to greater motivation. This can be trickier, though, talking about the context that you studied! I especially appreciated how you compared online and in-person presentation of self and found them comparable. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for your comment Dr. Bostdorff! That is interesting and I can definitely see how those feelings of inadequacy and fear of negative evaluation could lead to academic dishonesty. I actually read a study about this during Junior IS! Thank you!

  8. Reebs, this is amazing! I’m so happy you were able to find a topic you are passionate about. You presented your research clearly and spectacularly.

  9. Such a great and important study! Amazing hearing it all come together after hearing bits and pieces throughout the year.

  10. Rebecca, this is a very cool project! I’d like to ask, how do you think companies can implement your research into their hiring process? Should the employer make the interviewee take a personality test before the interview?

    You look like you worked hard on this research–it’s definitely a hob well done!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Syd! I’ve thought a lot about how companies should use this research. My biggest advice is that they need to continue to follow up on references as thoroughly as possible and potentially check in with the applicant’s past employers. I also think that a personality test could be beneficial!

  11. Rebecca! What an interesting and useful study. So glad I got to hear your voice and share in your Symposium experience! Thank you for making it available to us.

    Congratulations and much success as you to move into the job seeking world!

  12. Congratulations Rebecca!! Very interesting topic – your classmates should watch this before applying for jobs!!!! 🙂
    I wish you all the best – I’m going to miss you!!


  13. Hi Rebecca,

    As someone who does a lot of hiring, I found your study really intriguing. As you probably know, there is a lot of research about social identity as it shapes both hiring and interviewing behavior . Women, for example, are more likely to undersell themselves, understanding their accomplishments or not even applying for jobs they’re qualified for. And there are studies demonstrating bias in the hiring managers: take two identical c.v.s with only a difference in name (Joe Smith vs. Jane Smith) and search committees will rate the male candidate as more qualified (even female members of search committees will do that). I’m wondering whether you found any differences according to gender or other demographic factors.

    Lisa Perfetti

    1. Hello! This is really interesting. I actually did not include gender correlations within my study because of my main focus being on how the number of interviews influenced one’s use of deception. I certainly wish I had included gender after hearing this- it would be interesting to see!
      Thank you for your comment!

  14. This is such a cool and interesting topic Rebecca! When you first brought it up to me I really began to think about how I present myself when applying for jobs. Did you find anything in your study about how job descriptions may also influence people to be deceptive when applying? I know sometimes I see a job and know that I am qualified for it but it requires a lot of work experience or a higher level of education. Awesome work, so proud of you!

    1. Hi Abby! This is a really good question! I did not find anything throughout my research about how job descriptions influence the amount of deception, but I do feel that there is some level of influence on the applicant (especially if it is a job that they would really like). Furthermore, we are all taught to adjust our cover letters/ resumes based on the job description. While this is necessary, when we do that are we deceiving? Food for thought. Thanks for stopping by!

  15. What an interesting topic, Rebecca! It’s great that you chose a research question with such direct relevance to the class of 2020 as you all begin your job searches. Congratulations on finishing IS and your upcoming graduation! I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

  16. Really interesting! I wonder whether this changes over time – is someone more or less likely to continue exaggerating in future job searches? And I wonder if college career centers could use this research in some way – perhaps identifying students at risk of being deceptive in this context and then providing skill training in their areas of weakness, or working with them on self-esteem, etc.?

    1. Thank you! Great questions. According to my study, the more job interviews someone has had, the more likely they are to exaggerate their personality factors (i.e. passion, creativity, problem solving skills, motivation, and attention to detail). The more interviews someone goes on, the more experience they have, which allows them to have a better sense of what employers are looking for in a candidate. So, if their personality factors are lacking, they would be less likely to get the job.

      I think college career centers should definitely be equipped to help students not deceive on their resumes/LinkedIn. I think that would be a great addition to support students throughout the job search process!

  17. Congratulations on your successful IS and presentation, Rebecca! Your investigation into the job application process and what level of deception participants deemed acceptable is so relevant right now as seniors venture into the job market. I am grateful to have been able to see this project evolve over this past year. Celebrate all your hard work!

  18. Congratulations on a terrific presentation and for all the work that went into your IS!

  19. Fascinating and so well presented. So proud of you! Cheers!

  20. I LOVE this project- I feel like this is such a relevant topic, especially for us right now! I also watched your video, and your presentation was fantastic(:

  21. Hey Rebecca, so glad I got to see your IS presentation !! Terrific job. So pleased that you participated in this symposium – way to represent 😊. Keep those replies coming ✔️

  22. Rebecca: Great presentation and video, excellent. Clear, concise, and engaging. Congratulations on the research.

    One question is regarding the variable related to passion for the job in an interview or online via LinkedIn. I’d think that would be quite difficult to determine.

    Simply needing and wanting a job likely manifests itself in projecting some passion or enthusiasm for any job anyone applies for. Perhaps you factored in some metric to measure that, in relation to deception.

    1. Hello! Thank you for your feedback. I agree- passion is a difficult factor to measure. The participants measured their own use of exaggeration, for all factors, on a 1-5 Likert scale. While there is often a display of passion in any interview, it is possible to exaggerate it, just as any other factor. However, because the participant’s rated themselves, it is difficult to know for sure what one’s rate of exaggeration looks like. Really interesting question!

  23. Awesome job! I found your subject really interesting as I am going through the job search process and your points ring true. Congratulations on your I.S.!

    1. Thank you!! I appreciate that you can probably see some of this in real time!

  24. Hi Rebecca! That was an amazing presentation of your study! I loved learning about your IS. It was very interesting and informative to hear your findings, especially because I am currently going through the job searching process myself. Awesome work!

    1. Thank you for watching, Sarah! I hope you could draw some correlations with your own job search!

  25. Congratulations, Rebecca! You did a fantastic job presenting your study and findings. It is so relevant and interesting. As I was listening, I was curious about how probable did you think it was your respondents may have been deceptive in their survey responses? It’s tough to open up about deceiving anyone, and some individuals don’t even realize they are doing it. Could you make your survey design account for this possibility?

    1. Hi Dr. Schen! Thank you so much for your question. Unfortunately, I feel like there is always going to be some amount of deception when people answer surveys, especially when talking about vulnerable topics, such as feelings of inadequacy and fear of negative evaluations. I also think that there is a desire to save face even when the answers are anonymous. I chose to do an electronic survey to account for this possibility, to make it as anonymous and comfortable as it could be. I hope it worked!

  26. Congratulations, Rebecca! I’ve never thought about the causes for deception in a job interview. This will be on my mind as I’m applying to jobs now!

  27. Congratulations, Rebecca … well done! What is next for you after Wooster?

    1. Thank you Dr. Pasteur!! I am currently in the job search process- ironic, isn’t it?! I am hoping to find a career path in sales/ marketing/ public relations. Fingers crossed!

      1. Rebecca, I know that it’s tough in this economic climate, but I am sure that you will do well once you get settled in somewhere.

        1. Thank you Dr. Pasteur! Finding a job during this time is definitely not an easy task. Thank you for your support!

  28. Rebecca! You did such a fantastic job presenting your findings and connecting with an audience who can all relate to this topic in some way. I would have thought someone who maybe can’t be so deceptive in person for whatever reason, might think they’d have a better chance at doing so behind a computer and a virtual profile. It’s interesting that it really came down to the person as an individual and not the mode of communication.

    Great work! So proud of you!

    1. I had the same thought! It was interesting to see the outcome. Thank you so much. 🙂

  29. Rebecca –

    This is great! I agree with Sandi’s comment – hope your classmates take advantage of this information as they move forward in their job search.

    All the best to you as you take the next step of your journey.

  30. Very interesting topic, Rebecca! As a communication studies grad from Wooster (2018), this is very applicable and relevant to anyone looking for a job in today’s job market. Nice job!

  31. Great work Rebecca, you are so well-spoken and your study is very interesting!!

  32. Hi Rebecca,
    Thanks for your thoughtful and relevant research and presentation! The idea of online versus in person deception is fascinating, especially in this era of COVID-19 as we all grow accustomed to more virtual forms of interaction.
    I find your results quite refreshing – those who are inclined to deceive will do so matter what the platform; those who are honest will remain honest.
    Good luck with your own job search in the future!

    1. Thank you! I agree, this research is extremely timely with more and more use of virtual communication. I appreciate your feedback!

  33. Wonderful job! I think you did a really good job explaining your project and its findings in a way that is easy to understand . Your study is especially relevant given the switch to online work and Zoom interviews. I can’t wait to see where your talents take you next. So proud!!!!

  34. Hi Rebecca,
    As a former VP of HR, I find this really fascinating! What suggestions do you have for what companies can be doing differently as they look to online recruiting and such? Also, did you come across any research regarding people with disabilities as they pursue online or face to face interviews? Thank you so much for this work and congratulations on accomplishing your IS! Best wishes as you follow your passions!

    1. Hello! Thank you so much for your comment. My biggest suggestion for companies would be to continue following up on each applicant’s references! Online recruiting is a huge piece of the job search process today and I think awareness of the use of deception is important.
      I did not come across any research specifically on people with disabilities as they pursue online or face to face interviews, but I feel that it would be very interesting to look into! Thank you!!

  35. Well done Rebecca! All of your hard work has certainly paid off and will be very useful to others, especially now during our shift in work environments. Congratulations!

  36. Hi Rebecca,
    Enjoyed your “live presentation” You showed great confidence and enthusiasm for your research.

    Rhonda-Nurse Student Wellness Center.

  37. Rebecca! Congratulations on a wonderful IS! I think you accomplished something great with this IS topic selection. It is applicable now to you and your classmates as you venture on your next steps in establishing your career while being an excellent area of study for anyone participating in a job search, employer or employee. I am curious to know how this particular topic will help you on your resume and in your own job interviews in the future! How do you think future employers would respond to hearing about your IS during your own job interview?

    1. Hi Maria!! Thank you so much for your comment! Just as many other seniors, I am currently in the job search process. I have had multiple interviews for HR/ sales positions where my IS has been a huge part of the interview. It has been really cool to be able to show my research and share with HR managers the knowledge and use of deception. In most cases, my interviewers have been able to shed light on how realistic this study is- they have seen my findings throughout their careers. It has made for some great intellectual conversations during interviews! Thank you for asking 🙂

      1. That is so wonderful to hear!!! I will share your research with my stepmom, as she is an HR manager and would definitely relate to this topic. I am so glad to hear that you have already experienced some well deserved recognition on the findings of your research. Good luck on your job search!!

  38. Great presentation Rebecca! I love the way you recorded this and your topic is so interesting, and especially timely for seniors!

  39. Amazing job presenting your research, Rebecca! This is a pragmatic approach to thinking about hiring and interviewing. I’m so glad you presented your research.

  40. Rebecca,

    Congratulations on completing your Independent Study! I can tell this is an area of research you are truly passionate and interested in; thank you for sharing!

    My question has to do with the demographic groups you sent your survey to. Did you examine the difference in these exaggeration characteristics among males versus females? I think it would be interesting to see if there are any differences in exaggeration characteristics used more by one group than another, etc.

    Again, thank you for sharing your research with us; this was such an informative presentation!

  41. Hey Rebecca! Great job with this research. I hope you consider applying to a job with LinkedIn after college since this is very valuable for understanding their users.

    1. Hello! Thank you so much for this thought- I will definitely look into it. 🙂

  42. Hello Rebecca,

    Congratulations! You did a wonderful job explaining your research. I had the same sense that you did – that people might be more inhibited in exaggerating their skills in person than online. It’s interesting to learn that wasn’t a strong factor, at least as people self-reported their behaviors. I wonder whether people accurately perceive their own exaggeration, or whether data collected in other ways would give a different view. I wish you all the best for your future!! It’s been great having you at Wooster.
    All my best,
    Pres. Bolton

  43. Such an important study! I learned so much! It’s awesome to see everything come together. Great job Reebs 🙂

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