Sucking Up: The Best Way to Get a Job

Don't boast, just brown-nose. That's the suggestion of researchers who studied effective job-hunting tactics.

The research suggests social proficiency is sometimes more valuable than job skills when seeking a position.

"Kissing up, being nice and agreeing more than disagreeing do seem to be effective tactics for people to use when looking for a job," said Timothy Judge, a University of Florida management professor who conducted the research. "This approach succeeds because it leads recruiters and interviewers to believe the applicant will fit into the organization."

Judge and Chad Higgins, a University of Washington management professor, studied 116 undergraduate students who were interviewed for jobs through the college placement service. The applicants later filled out surveys gauging their use of ingratiatory and self-promotion tactics. Recruiters were asked which applicants they were most likely to recommend for hire.

The results showed a strong relationship between the use of ingratiating behaviors and favorable attitudes on the part of recruiters, but self-promotion techniques had no effect, Judge said.

The results were published recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

"Judge's paper is a well-conducted study that gives insight into the fact that it is more useful to compliment others than it is to compliment ourselves," said Daniel Cable, professor of management and organizational behavior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has studied the job choice process for nearly a decade.

"On the other hand," Cable said, "agreeing outwardly with an interviewer when you really disagree could wind you up with a job where you don't really fit the culture of the organization."