Should job applicants be excited or calm? The role of culture and ideal affect in employment settings.

Do cultural differences in emotion play a role in employment settings? We predicted that cultural differences in ideal affect–the states that people value and ideally want to feel–are reflected in: (a) how individuals present themselves when applying for a job, and (b) what individuals look for when hiring someone for a job. In Studies 1—2 (NS1 = 236, NS2 = 174), European Americans wanted to convey high arousal positive states (HAP; excitement) more and low arousal positive states (LAP; calm) less than did Hong Kong Chinese when applying for a job. European Americans also used more HAP words in their applications and showed more “high intensity” smiles in their video introductions than did Hong Kong Chinese. In Study 3 (N = 185), European American working adults rated their ideal job applicant as being more HAP and less LAP than did Hong Kong Chinese, and in Study 4a (N = 125), European American Masters of Business Administration (MBAs) were more likely to hire an excited (vs. calm) applicant for a hypothetical internship than were Hong Kong Chinese MBAs. Finally, in Study 4b (N = 300), employees in a U.S. company were more likely to hire an excited (vs. calm) applicant for a hypothetical internship. In Studies 1—4a, observed differences were partly related to European Americans valuing HAP more than Hong Kong Chinese. These findings support our predictions that culture and ideal affect shape behavior in employment settings, and have important implications for promoting cultural diversity in the workplace. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)