Faculty of Arts

"Fake it until you make it" not a good plan for job interviews

Adapted with permission from the University of Calgary.

 Dr. Nicolas Roulin

Dr. Nicolas Roulin

Researchers study impression management in job interviews, suggest honesty is best policy when talking about yourself

Honesty is the best policy in a job interview, but not everyone is comfortable being truthful about their skills, psychology researchers have found in an extensive study published in Personnel Psychology

Dr. Nicolas Roulin, associate professor of industrial/organizational psychology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, and Dr. Joshua Bourdage, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts at University of Calgary, studied the behaviour of 1,470 North American job applicants during interviews — a field called ‘impression management.’

Much research has explored how people promote themselves in job interviews and try to ingratiate themselves with the organization that’s hiring. Bourdage and Roulin advanced this work by studying the differences between people who engage in honest versus deceptive practices during a job interview.

“Someone who is more extroverted will be more likely to engage in more of the honest tactics and less in the deceptive tactics. Someone who is more conscientious will also engage in more honest tactics,” says Roulin of the findings. “The people who are extroverted are more able to be honest, they have the ability to sell themselves and ingratiate themselves with the interviewer or the organization. Those who are less extroverted may be a bit shy and may not know to promote themselves.”

Further, applicants who use deceptive practices in a job interview — embellishing their qualifications or offering fake compliments about the organization — may be younger, have less work experience and fewer qualifications to talk about. They may also be less conscientious and therefore haven’t put in the time to prepare for the interview. 

“Faking in an interview tends to be someone making up for something,” says Bourdage. “It’s not that you go in and say ‘I’m going to fake my way through this interview,’ it’s an adaptive response to ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t have the experience, I am uncomfortable in this situation and this interview is very difficult.’”

The researchers suggest job applicants do their homework before an interview so they can speak truthfully about themselves and the organization. They found that people who took some training on how to nail an interview tended to use more honest impression management. 

“The key going into an interview is to really prepare so that you can speak honestly about the skills that you have and your high points — what are your strengths and how do they relate to the job?” says Bourdage. “And, find genuine ways that you fit with that organization as opposed to making up things that you think the organization would want to hear.” 

People who sell themselves in an honest way tend to receive a job offer whereas those who fake it are often “found out” in reference checks and other verification processes. The researchers also found that the interviewer can encourage more honesty from an applicant by having a longer interview and asking specific questions about past behaviour or job-related situations.

Government of Canada partners with Saint Mary’s to create new coastal habitat and combat climate change

Nova Scotia will soon be home to more coastal habitat and defences against flooding and erosion as the result of a $1.8 million partnership between the Government of Canada and Saint Mary’s University.

“This support from the federal government is crucial. We will use it to create new salt marsh habitat around the Bay of Fundy and beyond, addressing the impact of climate change on our region and tackling a global problem,” said Dr.  Danika van Proosdij, the project lead and a professor at Saint Mary’s University. “Using nature-based strategies and restructuring dyke systems, we will create new vibrant ecosystems for marine life to prosper and new marshes that can absorb rising sea levels and storm surges.”

The new project, Making Room for Wetlands: Implementation of Managed Realignment for Salt Marsh Restoration and Climate Change Adaptation in Nova Scotia, seeks to restore over 75 hectares of tidal wetland (i.e., salt marsh) habitat through the realignment and decommissioning of dyke infrastructure at multiple sites in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. The project will also help to build the Atlantic region’s scientific and technical capacity to manage future realignment and restoration projects.

“At Saint Mary's, community is at the heart of what we do, and that extends to our research,” said Saint Mary’s University president Robert Summerby-Murray. “Dr. van Proosdij’s project shows our commitment to using our knowledge and expertise to address challenges facing our region and the world. I want to thank the Government of Canada for supporting Atlantic Canadian researchers who are at the forefront of combating climate change.”

This project will be undertaken through a well-established partnership between Saint Mary’s University and CB Wetlands & Environmental Specialists (CBWES) Inc. using innovative and proven techniques with a comprehensive monitoring program.

Aspects of the project will also be conducted in consultation with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and in collaboration with Queen’s University Department of Civil Engineering, the Ecology Action Centre (EAC), Dalhousie University’s School of Planning and School of Resource and Environmental Studies.

This project was announced on Monday, June 25, 2018, as part of the Coastal Restoration announcement made by the Honourable Scott Brison, President of Treasury Board Canada, M.P. for Kings-Hants on behalf of the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. It was announced that four organizations will receive together over $7 million over 5 years for projects to help restore coastal habitats in Nova Scotia and in the Arctic.


“I am proud to support these Coastal Restoration Fund projects that will restore and rehabilitate important coastal habitats in Nova Scotia and Nunavut. Our funding will encourage and build local community capacity to maintain and restore aquatic habitats.”

- The Honourable Scott Brison, President of Treasury Board Canada

From the announcement event

Saint Mary’s new Department of Criminology hosts ground-breaking national conference on harm-reduction in the justice system


More than 200 scholars, corrections workers, and social-justice experts from Canada and beyond came together for a fruitful exchange of ideas on harm reduction in the criminal-justice system at Saint Mary’s this past Thursday and Friday.

 Criminology graduate student Omotimilehin Idris presenting during the “Transnational Perspectives” session

Criminology graduate student Omotimilehin Idris presenting during the “Transnational Perspectives” session

For the past eight years, the National Conference on Critical Perspectives: Criminology and Social Justice has been held in Ottawa, and focused on scholarly participants. This year marks the first in which the conference will begin visiting communities across Canada, and also the first in which it substantially moves outside the university’s walls to holistically address issues around crime and justice.

Besides scholars, professionals and employees within the Canadian corrections system, social-justice experts, and non-profit workers came together to discuss new ideas around harm reduction.

“The classic idea of harm reduction is around drug use,” says Diane Crocker, chair of Saint Mary’s Department of Criminology. “And that’s being addressed here, but we’re also expanding the scope to look at how the criminal-justice system at large can harm people, or even how larger social structures cause harm, and exploring how that can be recognized.”

Represented at the conference were universities in Canada, New Zealand, and the UK; criminal-justice experts from the Nova Scotia Department of Justice, and the Halifax Regional Police; representatives from First Nations across Canada; and several levels of government.

Government representatives included Karen Hudson, QC, Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Nova Scotia; Denise Perret, Deputy Minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness; Tracey Taweel, Deputy Minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture, and Heritage; Lynn Hartwell, Deputy Minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services; and Karen Gatien, Associate Deputy Minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Dr. Crocker hopes that the conference’s success will be replicated in coming years.

“We’ve set a high bar in terms of having an integrated conference of academics, community members, and criminal-justice professionals coming together to share ideas,” she says. “This has been an incredibly valuable two days.”

The conference was a joint effort between the newly formed Department of Criminology of Saint Mary’s University, and the Nova Scotia Criminal Justice Association.

Intercultural success at SMU

From June 14 - 16, Saint Mary’s hosted distinguished academics from around the world for the International Conference in Intercultural Studies: Immigration, the Dynamics of Identity and Policies for Managing Diversity.

The main goal of the bilingual conference—a collaboration between Modern Languages & Classics professor Dr. Jean-Jacques Defert, Psychology professor Dr. David Bourgeois, and Université Laval faculty member Dr. Jean Ramdé—was to build bridges between researchers and professionals in the public and private sectors.

“We had representatives and employees from the federal and provincial governments, as well teachers, civil servants, and social workers from YMCA and the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, and many others,” said Defert. “They gave very positive feedback, especially around the variety of themes we tackled.”

Variety was a keystone of the conference: more than 40 workshops, panels, and keynote presentations covered subjects ranging from child soldiers to international-student retention to immigrant entrepreneurs.

“The workshops given by community organizations pointed at really concrete ways of dealing with diversity,” said Defert. “For example, we had 45 people from the Conseil acadien scolaire provincial, the Acadian school board in Nova Scotia, attend a workshop by Marie McAndrew of the Université de Montreal on equity and diversity in education, and at the end invited her to continue the discussion.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Ather Akbari, Chair of the Atlantic Research Group on Economics of Immigration, Aging and Diversity, gave a talk entitled “In-Migration and Out-Migration: Atlantic Canada at a Crossroad.” In an interview with Star Metro Halifax, he said “whatever focus groups I have done, I found…if people were given a choice to live either in Nova Scotia to go to another province, if they have a job offer, then they would prefer to stay in Nova Scotia.”

Gatherings of academics and public and private-sector workers like this are critical, says Defert, to build intercultural competence in the province and ensure those immigrants do remain here.

“Nova Scotia is relatively new to having significant levels of diversity,” he said, “so it’s important to exchange ideas and practices.”

The conference was structured around some of the main themes of intercultural studies—education, health, social services, and the workforce—which are also the pillars of a new Intercultural Studies degree program offered by Saint Mary’s.

“This was really the strength of the conference and the program,” says Defert: “bringing together people of all backgrounds to discuss how they deal with, and support, diversity in their own ways.”

An evening with John Ralston Saul

John Ralston Saul gave his insights into immigration and Atlantic Canada at Saint Mary’s University on Friday, June 1st. Ralston Saul praised the centuries-long Canadian approach to welcoming newcomers, something he said is unique to this country and learned from Indigenous peoples. Ralston Saul noted that Canada now stands out among westernized nations for its pro-immigration policies and practices including government programming and citizen volunteers.