Impression Management Use in Resumes and Cover Letters
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This study contributes to the ecological validity of resume research by systematically examining the impression management (IM) content of actual resumes and cover letters and empirically testing the effect on applicant evaluation.
A content analysis of the frequency and intensity of IM tactic use in 60 resumes and cover letters was completed (Study 1). Next, an experiment was conducted in which IM tactic use was manipulated and the effect on applicant evaluation examined, using a sample of MTurk workers as evaluators (Study 2).
In Study 1, four self-promotion categories, three ingratiation categories, and one hybrid category were delineated. In Study 2, ingratiation and lower intensity self-promotion were found to increase perceptions of job and organization fit.
Employers should be aware that resumes and cover letters contain IM tactics that may influence applicant evaluation. In addition, employment training programs might communicate the benefits of using ingratiation and lower intensity self-promotion, while emphasizing the importance of accurately conveying one’s qualifications. Furthermore, the present taxonomy of IM resume content might be applied to resume database search engines to identify and index IM tactic use.
This research is the first to develop a taxonomy of IM tactics based on actual resumes and cover letters and may facilitate more comprehensive manipulations of IM tactic use and better integration of IM research across the selection process.
KeywordsImpression management Resumes Cover letters Self-promotion Ingratiation
We thank the Human Resources office staff for de-identifying materials and providing access to them. We also thank Rachel Buzzeo for her review of the materials to ensure that they complied with IRB requirements and Ned Berri, Trevor Fedeson, Jessica Hejka, Sukhdeep Sahota, and Mary Weislo for their work transcribing and/or coding materials.
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