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Impression Management


Disciplines > Job-finding > Impression Management

Description | Discussion | So what?



Impression management is the deliberate 'bending' of the truth in order to make a favorable impression. Managing impression includes deliberate use of any or all of:

  • Dress, make-up, hairstyle and other management of visual appearance.
  • Manner and general behavior, such as being pleasant, assertive, and so on.
  • Managing body language to conceal anxieties or untruths and show openness, etc.
  • Being economic with the truth, not telling lies but also not revealing the whole truth.
  • Exaggeration or complete fabrication of things that make you look good.
  • Downplaying or denial of negative factors that make you look bad.


To some extent, we are constantly managing impressions of others in most social circumstances and of course we want to look good in interviews. However there are two question that may be asked:

  • The extent to which it is ethical and acceptable, both socially and for the interviewers.
  • The extent to which it is effective. More impression management does not necessarily mean a better impression is gained.

Impression management not only happens, it is expected to happen. This can cause a dilemma where the interviewer either marks you down for not managing impression sufficiently (for example not being smart enough or not being assertive enough) or managing it too much (low-cut dresses, boasting, exaggeration).

A particular dilemma is where the interviewer expects a certain degree of exaggeration or fabrication and downgrades what everyone says. If you are truthful and everyone else exaggerates, then you can lose out.

The truth of the story (as research has shown) is that what they think of you as a person has a surprisingly significant effect on whether or not you get the job, and can be even more important even than qualifications and experience.

Research has also shown that if you have to own up to some embarrassment, it is better to tell about this up-front rather than delaying it, as the early admission gives an impression of openness and honesty.

The reverse is true for impressive achievements, when it is better to mention them later (and so appear modest -- another desirable characteristic).

So what?

Do manage the impression you make, but do not over-do it (and do not under-do it either).

  • Dress tidily (eg. suit and tie) but not over-doing it (eg. bow tie, frock coat).
  • Show respect, but show neither aggression nor timidity.
  • Do not offer any outright lies.
  • Notice your body language, but do not over-control it.
  • Show your experiences in a positive light, but do not over-exaggerate.

See also

Using Body Language, Lying

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