How to Make a Good Impression In an Interview or Networking

Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Best Way to Brag About Your Accomplishments: Don’t Take All the Credit

If you want your accomplishments to really sing, give someone else’s hard work a shout-out, a study finds

Want to make the best possible impression on someone to boost your career prospects? Share the credit for your accomplishments.

That’s the conclusion a team of professors reached in research they wrote up for a paper currently under review for publication. It turns out that when it’s important to impress someone—say, in an interview for a new job or a promotion—simply bragging about your successes isn’t as effective as talking about both yourself and your team, the professors say.

“We don’t want people to shy away from an opportunity to highlight their accomplishments, but bragging can seem so off-putting and cringy,” says one of the researchers, Eric VanEpps, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business. “You can instead brag about your strengths and accomplishments while also saying something positive about the skills and talents of other people involved, too. Playing nice and sharing credit works quite well.”

When trying to decide whether to give credit to somebody, people often feel they have a trade-off between making themselves seem competent and coming across as likable. Researchers have referred to the trade-off as the “self-promotion dilemma.”

But Dr. VanEpps and his colleagues—Einav Hart of the George Mason University School of Business and Maurice Schweitzer of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania—wanted to see if the solution is what they call dual promotion. In one study they conducted, they asked a group of hiring professionals to evaluate two hypothetical co-workers who had completed a joint project and then written self evaluations that would be used to consider them for a role. One of the self evaluations described only the work of the individual; the other took some credit while also acknowledging the contribution of the colleague.

“The wording was something like: ‘This project was successful because of our teamwork. I took care of all the financial analysis, and back-end design. Alex really impressed me with how he handled our client communications,’ ” says Dr. VanEpps. The hiring managers gave the dual promoter nearly 1.5 more points on a scale of 1 to 7 when it came to warmth, and ranked the dual promoter more than a point higher on overall impression.

“By self-promoting, you look cold, not ideal to work with,” Dr. VanEpps says, adding that earlier research by many others has consistently shown this to be true.

Another study looked at dual promotion versus self promotion in a political context. Nearly 200 participants, roughly half registered Republicans and half registered Democrats, read about two hypothetical members of Congress on a transportation and infrastructure committee. They were then shown two statements about the committee’s recent work, based on material drawn from the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, with the wording manipulated to make each statement clearly self promoting or dual promoting. The study participants were asked how likely they would be to vote for each politician.

“People were far more likely to vote for the dual promoter, who seemed more warm and more competent to participants,” says Dr. VanEpps. “By giving credit to others, you come across as self-assured, which means you must really know what you’re doing.” He points to two earlier studies by his team that showed that laypeople typically use self promotion, while politicians often use dual promotion, “because they are trained to think about how they are perceived out there by others,” he says.

Ms. Mitchell is a writer in Chicago. She can be reached at

Taken from The Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2022