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From first impressions to selection decisions: The role of dispositional cognitive motivations in the employment interview

Liviu Florea (Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas, USA)
Sorin Valcea (Management and Labor, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA)
Maria Riaz Hamdani (The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, USA)
Thomas W. Dougherty (University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 2 August 2018

Issue publication date: 21 January 2019



The purpose of this paper is to investigate how individual interviewers’ dispositional cognitive motivations may influence interview interactions and outcomes. More specifically, this study explores the influence of the need for cognition, need for cognitive closure, and accountability on the relationship between first impressions and selection decisions.


In total, 41 graduate students were assigned the role of interviewers and were tasked to interview 331 undergraduate students at a large Midwestern university. The selection interview was designed to recruit qualified undergraduate students to the MBA program of the university.


First impressions significantly influenced selection decisions, but did not influence interviewers’ behaviors. Moreover, multilevel analyses reveal that interviewers’ need for cognition and accountability moderate the relationship between first impression and selection decisions, albeit in different direction. Need for cognition strengthens, whereas accountability weakens the relationship between first impression and selection decision.

Research limitations/implications

A potential interviewer bias is apparent, where interviewers high on need for cognition tend to weight first impressions more in the decision process. However, this bias was not directly observable, since interviewers’ behaviors during the interview were not affected by first impressions.


The present study goes beyond previous research on first impressions in the employment interview, finding that dispositional differences account for the tendency to weigh first impressions in the selection decision.



The first two authors contributed equally and are listed alphabetically.


Florea, L., Valcea, S., Hamdani, M.R. and Dougherty, T.W. (2019), "From first impressions to selection decisions: The role of dispositional cognitive motivations in the employment interview", Personnel Review, Vol. 48 No. 1, pp. 249-272.



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