Applicants with a Tarnished Past: Stealing Thunder and Overcoming Prior Wrongdoing
Prior negative performance and wrongdoing are difficult for applicants to overcome during their job search. The result has often been that they resort to lies and deception in order to obtain employment. The present study examines “stealing thunder” as a trust repair tactic that might be useful for overcoming prior indiscretions when it is used by applicants during the selection interview process. Stealing thunder refers to the self-disclosure of negative information that preempts allegations of wrongdoing by third parties such as hiring managers. Data were collected (n = 184) using a scenario-based 2 (accept responsibility; blame others) X 2 (low, high likelihood of discovery) experimental design in which perceptions of integrity, trust, and employability were measured. Results indicated that a stealing thunder strategy that involved accepting responsibility under a low likelihood of transgression discovery led to higher ratings of trust than blaming others when discovery of wrongdoing was imminent. The stealing thunder strategy was somewhat more effective than when a traditional, post-allegation apology was used. But stealing thunder did not lead to higher levels of an overall willingness to hire the applicant.