Thursday, February 2, 2012

Five White Lies People Tell in the Interview Process that Cost You the Job

Hi there everybody!  I hope that you are having a great week.  This week I want to discuss an issue that I find to be really troubling.  Lying in the interview process.  We are continually taught that we need to shape the truth when we are interviewing so that we look as good as possible to a potential employer.  Often times people lie in the interview process or on their resume to get noticed.  At first it seems like a little white lie – nobody will get hurt… right?  This is only partially true.  The only person who gets hurt is you.  Often times when people tell these white lies they get hurt in two ways.  First, the company doesn’t believe it and they are no longer considered.  However, it is much worse when the company finds out about the lie on their own.  This typically leads to a loss of trust that ultimately ends with termination,  the rescinding of an offer or an abrupt end to the interview process.  The worst part is that it can be avoided by just telling the truth.

1.  It was a Mutual Decision
This is probably the worst euphemism known to man for I got fired.  Let me give you a quick pointer.  If your boss sits you down and says “I have to let you go” and you follow up with “Fine!  Well I quit anyway!”  It was not a mutual decision.  The same goes for when you hate a job, quit trying and then get fired for performance.  Essentially you chose not to do your job and got canned for it – again not a mutual decision.  The problem with this euphemism is that NOBODY BEIEVES IT! – It’s kind of like the dog eating your homework.  So… what do you say?  You need to own your situation.  Be honest about it.  Say something like, “You know – that job just didn’t work out.  I wasn’t a good fit for the company, but I learned what is right for me.  I also learned how to be a better employee because…”

If you want to read more about this subject check out this article I wrote last year:

2.  I’m still Employed
This is another place where people get tripped up.  There is a school of thought that if you are employed then they are somehow more desirable.  I’ve seen some studies out there about it that make cases both ways.  Personally I believe that it is a factor but usually not the deciding factor when looking at making a hire.  That said overcoming not being employed is much easier than overcoming lying.  But nobody will ever know… WRONG -  I tend to prescribe to Finagles Law – anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  Here’s the deal, it is a small world out there. Through the process of checking a reference or through a personal acquaintance there is better than a 50/50 chance that this will come out.  The second part of this thought comes from a unique situation that I see from time to time.  What if you employment status changes during the interview process?  Sometimes when this happens people feel like they shouldn’t tell the new company that their status has changed fearing that they will now look like damaged goods.  Just remember this – omission of the truth is the same as lying in the eyes of an employer. 

3.  I was Making this in Salary
This area is a little murkier because it is harder to prove what you were making in salary.  However, the lying problem is still there.  I see this rearing it’s ugly head in two ways.  First, I see people lower their stated salary expectations at the beginning of the process to get an interview and then share their real expectations when it comes time for an offer.  If the gap is significant the employer feels betrayed and the new job becomes in jeopardy.  The second area  I see this is when someone is underpaid in their current job (big shocker for some of you I know) and they pump up their current salary number in the interview to help their argument for more money in the new job.  Regardless of the situation lying about salary typically leads to problems.  You are better off setting your expectations honestly and making your argument from there.

For more on salary check out this blog post from last year:

4.  My Title was…
This one is much less a lie and much more stretching the truth that makes you look stupid.  I’ve harped on this over and over again in my blog and will continue to in the future.  If you are a receptionist – don’t call your self the manager of first impressions.  If you own your own small company of less than five people – don’t call your self the president or CEO – you are the owner.  Owner actually does a better job of encapsulating your duties as  I assume that an owner does the duties of the controller, HR manager, CFO, COO and janitor.  This one is probably less about honesty and more about reality.  I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen people lose jobs over titles as much as others but I feel that sometimes if you put something on your resume or say something in an interview that makes you look silly it comes back to haunt you.

5.  My Education level is…
This one is pretty cut and dry.  You attended a school and graduated or you didn’t.  Some companies have strict requirements about this and others don’t.  The fact of the matter is that if you put a college on your resume and in little words write – attended – it’s the same as lying.  You are putting it on your resume to try and trick people into believing you got degree from there.  Please understand that this isn’t a judgment one way or the other on the value of a college education and whether or not it is relevant to getting a job.  I have some interesting thoughts on this that I’ll share another day.  The facts are that some companies require this and when you intentionally try to trick them by putting something on your resume it will hurt you more often than not.  I can’t tell you how stupid I feel when I have to go back to a company and tell them that there wasn’t something wrong with the background check.  Our candidate indeed doesn’t have a degree but that it is somehow the company’s fault for making an assumption that there was a degree when the candidate wrote this on their resume:

University of Iowa                                Iowa City, IA
2008 – 2012                                        Business

It doesn’t go over so well.  If you are so concerned about it that you feel the need to lie then do something about it.  Go get a degree or be prepared to discuss why you don’t need one and how your experience trumps it. 

That’s all I’ve got for this week.  As always feel free to leave me comments or send me an email at  

Check out some of my recent articles on the blog here:

1 comment:

  1. Tks very much for your post.

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