A job interview is supposed to meet several goals: on one hand you want to get an accurate impression of your candidates. On the other hand, you want to present your company as an attractive employer. In the second part you are selling your company to the candidates, so to say. The latter, however, can backfire if you oversell, in fact. These are the findings of a new study presented in the prestigious Journal of Management.

As you know, interviews are not only challenging for candidate. Recruiters also have a tough time, because they are mentally overloaded trying to accurately assess their candidates while presenting their company as a top employer. After all, the job interview is also your company’s business card in the war for the smartest talent. At the end, it’s up to the applicants to sign the employement contract – or not.

So there is a conflict of interest between asking “hard questioning” and “soft advertising”. Will one negatively affect the other? A new study says yes.

Advertising vs. assessing – A conflict of interest with consequences!

Jennifer Marr of the Georgia Institution of Technology and Dan Cable from the London Business School analysed in three independent studies the question of how the recruiter’s “sales orientation” impacts their capacity to predict a candidate’s future job success.

In the first study, they did research on whether there really is a conflict between assessing and “selling”. After all, a large proportion of human information processing is running from below the threshold of consciousness. So it would be logical if the judgment happened “automatically”, i.e. intuitively. However, this does not apply to the accurate assessment of an interview partner.

As soon as the test subjects of the study switched on the advertising mode, the accuracy of judgments about the candidate decreased!

Overpromoting the company causes inaccurate judgements!

However, the first study had a significant catch: It took place under “controlled” conditions. Such conditions always make skeptical people claim that in “real life” things are going differently. That’s why the researchers went to get some proof “on the field” and managed to have their assumptions confirmed by conductng two studies with completely different samples.

The findings: Interviewers with a strong “sales orientation”, i.e. those who wanted to enthuse candidates about the company, tended to be less able to predict the candidates’ future job performance, compared to those who focused on the actual assessment.

3 Key learnings for practical use

After three studies came to the same consistent results, the authors give some practical tips:

  • To increase the effect of a selection method, both aspects are important: to attract applicants and to assess applicants accurately.
  • To achieve this, one possibility would be to separate the two processes formally, either in different stages of the process, or by different people (for example, two interviewers)
  • The authors do NOT recommend having assessments and promotions in two different parts of an interview, because most of the people had difficulties pursuing two goals simultaneously

Finally, the authors point out that it is generally very important to take care of your employer brand. If your company is already considered a top employer, you can focus more on the diagnostics side of your employment interview.

If your company does NOT belong to the top employers, you should focus more on convincing your candidates to work for you. Good and fair recruiting processes are, of course, a must-have in order for highly-ranked companies to maintain their reputation.


Marr, J. C., & Cable, D. M. (2014). Do Interviewers Sell Themselves Short? The Effects of Selling Orientation on Interviewers’ Judgments. Academy of Management Journal, 57(3), 624-651.