We all know what the hiring process is like — a high-stakes, high-pressure audition. And with all the questions being asked, there are also the lies we tell during job interviews. These lies, no matter how small or big, are now the stories that we are committed to until the end.
78% of people have lied or would consider it at some point in the interview process. If you think about it, the structure of interviews encourages lying, not only from interviewees but also from hiring managers. Each party wants something from the other.
I suspect lying in a job interview isn’t a behavior that will stop anytime soon. Here’s why.
Why We Tell Lies
You know that expression “Fake it ‘till you make it”? Well, as a society, we tend to take that to the extreme, especially when it comes to getting that job we badly want or need.
The truth is, we’ve been socialized to tell lies, or at least “white lies,” from a very young age while also being told that lying of any kind is not OK. We might tell these white lies to spare someone’s feelings, to be socially polite or make a story more exciting and engaging for the entertainment of others.
White lies are all around us, from supposedly biographical movies to telling your loved ones you loved that horrible-smelling dish they made for dinner the night before. White lies are one way we behave in a societally respectful way to others.
All that means it’s not much of a surprise that we tell white lies in interviews. Let’s face it, it’s tough out there in the world of work, and as a professional in this new economy, you might be competing with hundreds of applicants applying for the same job. Job interviews are about survival of the fittest, and people are using everything at their disposal to be the one potential employers choose.
5 Common Lies That Interviewees Tell
Some people’s white lies don’t stray far from the truth, while for others, these contain elaborate stories involving glitz, glam, twists and turns.
No matter how you tell a lie, all professionals tend to say the same things differently.
Exaggerating Your Salary
When you are ready to move into a new role, a significant factor is getting a better salary than the one you have.
You want the salary you deserve, one that’s based on your experience, skills and knowledge obtained throughout your career. So when the hiring manager asks you, “what was your previous salary?” you embellish to ensure you get that higher number. Let’s say you tell the manager your salary was $90,000 per year when it was only $70,000 per year. That’s a pretty significant jump, but you might decide it’s worth the risk.
While it’s illegal for employers in many states, including California, to use salary history to establish the pay of new hires, it’s not a good look to lie about something like that. Hiring managers could be uneasy, even if they decide to move forward with you.
Your Education, Certifications and Skills
Even with countless ways to verify education credentials, certifications and skills, people still feel the need to lie about these aspects during the interview process.
Every job posting lists specific requirements for experience and education as dictated by hiring managers and recruiters. Some of these jobs require a college degree and two to three years of experience, for example. Other roles require no degree but more years of experience.
When someone lies about their degree or experience, it’s usually because they want to ensure that they aren’t ruled out for the job, especially for, say, entry-level positions that ask candidates to somehow have at least five years of experience (which is ridiculous for an entry-level role!).
According to SHRM, 92% of employers use background checks during their interview process. So if you are someone that would go as far as creating a fake degree or certificate, trust me, you’ll get caught in your lie.
What Happened at Your Last Job
Were you fired or let go, or did you say enough is enough and quit? Whatever happened at your last job, you have to be honest about that in your interview.
When your potential employer or hiring manager contemplates your qualifications, skills and employment, they’ll often connect with previous employers to learn more about your experience there. Typically, your last boss will share the dates of your employment, a bit about your time there and vaguely explain why you left or were terminated.
Your previous boss won’t say exactly what happened because of their fear of being hit with a lawsuit. While they might not tell the whole story, I’m positive that there are other ways that potential employers can find the truth about your departure.
Telling Hiring Managers That You’ve Always Wanted to Work for Them
Let’s be honest; when a manager asks why you want to work for them, our typical responses revolve around why we love the company and how we’ve always wanted to be a part of it. But what else?
If that’s all you say, with no facts to back up your reasoning, they’ll be able to tell that you are lying. For instance, don’t say you always wanted to work for a company if you know nothing about its goals and mission. But these lies still occur because people know that organizations want employees who align with their goals. In these situations, the immediate goal is to get the job.
Being a People Person
You’ll commonly see this as the lie told by introverts and the people who claim to not like people, especially if the interview is in person.
Collaboration is a massive part of growing and succeeding as a team and company, no matter what organization you join. While this lie, or white lie, can help push the process forward and contribute to getting the job, it can come back to bite you in the butt.
That said, telling the hiring manager that you aren’t a people person can also send up red flags. This lie can work to your advantage by pushing you out of your comfort zone.
3 Things Your Interviewer Has Lied About
Lying isn’t just reserved for the interviewees. Interviewers also lie in these job interviews. Not all these lies are commonly detected until onboarding or later, but there are a few lies that are detected more easily.
Telling Candidates They’ll Get Back to You Soon
“We’ll call you back in a few days.” After their first interview, almost every professional has heard this line or a variation. We’ll wait for that callback, email — heck, a pigeon post — telling us the next steps in the interview process, but it never comes.
This is a part of the hiring process that many professionals and experts have complained about. The average response time for employers after an interview is 24 business days, but many people are simply ghosted after that first interview.
Keeping Your Resume on File
“We’ll keep your resume on file if another opportunity arises that aligns with your experience.” What this really means is that it will collect physical or electronic dust until the end of time — or for a couple of years before they dispose of it.
This lie is usually in a rejection letter for the job you applied for. It’s meant to soften the blow and foster the idea that there is still a chance that they’ll call you. But the possibility of them getting back to you with a new offer is very slim.
An Outstanding Workplace Culture
The job of hiring managers and employers is to talk about why their company is excellent. From their mission to the company culture, only the good and attention-grabbing parts of the organization are highlighted.
Things like flexibility in the work schedule, professional development, et al, are traits they use to sell their workplace culture. By contrast, they rarely tell you how things like professional development are structured. Do they help you build a road map? Provide resources to grow your career?
Their job is to sell the image, even if the structure isn’t sound.
Catching the Lie During the Interview
Catching the lie during the interview from either side is easier than you may think, particularly when you pay attention to the little details.
When you are looking to catch the lie during the interview:
- Sense when they are sharing too much information. Overloading information, especially unnecessary, can unravel any lie told.
- Develop your background knowledge. Research a candidate or company before the interview happens. It doesn’t have to be a deep dive, simply enough to spot an inconsistency.
- Watch for vaguely answered questions. This is a sure sign of lying, especially if it’s a straightforward question.
Lies Will Catch Up to You
Yes, most of us lie about something during the interview process, but this habit will catch up with you at some point in your employment journey. The lies we tell during job interviews will come to light, so be careful and understand what is at stake when you do it.