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Honesty Is the Best Policy for MBA Job Seekers

Honesty Is the Best Policy for MBA Job Seekers
Photograph by Mimi Haddon/Getty Images

To thine own self be true, the oft-quoted William Shakespeare line, is advice that MBAs should take to heart as they undertake the job hunt. That’s the conclusion of a study by two business school professors who find that candor is the best approach job seekers can take when interviewing, even though the temptation can often be strong to misrepresent oneself to appear a stronger candidate.

The professors, Daniel Cable of London Business School and Virginia Kay of the University’s of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Kenan Flagler Business School, followed a group of 146 MBA students over the span of their two-year B-school careers and shortly thereafter, trying to determine what role “self-verification”–people’s desire to have others view them as played in landing a job and their job satisfaction. The researchers collected interview feedback from admissions staff who’d interviewed the MBA students before they matriculated at the school, as well as their final grade point average. Students also were asked to fill out a survey both during their summer internship and four months following graduation that asked them to answer questions about how they perceived themselves. For example, students were asked to rate themselves on such questions as, “I like to be myself rather than trying to act like someone I’m not,” or “It’s important for an employer to see me as I see myself, even if it means bringing people to recognize my limitations.”