Have you ever lied while being interviewed for a job?
Well, maybe not a flat-out lie…but perhaps you’ve exaggerated the truth?
A recent article came out on the Wallstreet Journal suggesting that job interviews are a situation almost designed to encourage lying – especially when candidates are trying to put their best foot forward, and hiring managers are trying to sell a job.
“One study finds that people would exaggerate all manner of things when going for a new role, from the responsibilities they had in previous jobs to their reasons for quitting. Of course, mistruths exist on a spectrum, from slight exaggerations to complete fabrications. Sometimes omissions can help to avert potential bias. Other times, they can wreak havoc, even destroying careers.”
We were curious to hear what kinds of responses haven’t reflected well on candidates, so we reached out to our coaches and gathered their insights:
If you claim it, make sure you have evidence.
Carrus Coach Natalie Gray (Ex Recruitment Leader at Facebook):
“When being asked ‘how do you learn about new technology or shifts in the industry?’ a lot of candidates tell me that they ‘read inspirational books, listen to podcasts or watch Ted Talks’. These are all great examples, but the problems come when I ask them to share something they have listened to or read recently, and they just look at me blankly.
“I have also noted people saying they were ‘responsible’ for a project being rolled out. When I’ve asked, ‘Did you lead the project’ and they say yes, I follow up with more questions about impact and measurements of project success. Then, they stumble and admit they didn’t lead the whole thing – they were just part of a team. It’s better to be clear about what you really owned,” she explains.
“Another example is when people tell me that they love their current company, but their face and tone says differently. You can admit you are looking for a new role without badmouthing your current company. But, saying you love the current company [when it doesn’t seem like you do] can feel insincere.”
…You might not want to be too transparent if you’re asked about your motivation.
Carrus Coach Rich Hutton (former Apple employee):
“One time, I asked a candidate, ‘What motivates you to go above and beyond what’s asked of you?’
“The response I got was, ‘To be honest, I don’t have much motivation. As long as I can keep the lights on in my house and my fridge stocked with Crystal Light, that’s all that matters to me.’
“For reference, Crystal Light is a super sugary, powdered drink packet that used to be popular in the States. That response ranks high up there in the ‘oh wow’ category,” Rich reflects.
Rich has a lot to share – come check out our interview with him on the 67 Competencies That Apple Uses to Test You in the Interview
When “fake it ‘til you make it” goes wrong…
Carrus Coach Munira Ali (former Amazon recruiter)
“From what I’ve seen, I think people lie in an interview for two reasons:
- They don’t understand what is being asked, so they start making up a response, and
- They are too afraid to show their identity as their rapport and egos are on line. The fear of getting rejected; people lie to show the best version of themselves,” she says.
“This case really baffled me the most: A candidate claimed to have an experience of 7 years in software development. When I probed for more detail, I found out he had 3 years of experience in development, only.
“I immediately asked what his intention was for [claiming more experience]. It turned out he wanted to be a software engineer and no company was giving him an interview. So, he started writing that his overall experience was in software development.
“Obviously, this trick bagged him a few interviews. I wondered and asked him, ‘Will you be able to clear the technical interview which is meant for an engineer with 7 years of experience?’”
Keep in mind that you’re going to be asked for more details
Carrus Coach Richard Harper (Career Coach)
“There are three things that come to mind when candidates haven’t been transparent: honesty about their past positions, education, and skills. When I ask what projects they’ve done, they become very vague [in their response],” he comments.
Dishonesty about job history is not uncommon.
“Dr. Roulin estimates that up to 80% of people embellish some experiences while 20% to 30% of people would do things like invent a degree. Candidates often try to dodge discussion around blemishes on their résumés, Dr. Roulin says, from bad grades to stretches of unemployment. They might blame the failing on someone else, like a former manager, or just distract and pivot from the topic.
“If you don’t have a lot of experience, focus on lessons learned or soft skills—think time management, communication, dedication—acquired through things like class projects or volunteer work.” the article stipulates.
Companies have ways of confirming facts, so be careful that your claims don’t backfire!
Carrus Coach Katie Hurd (Career Coach)
Some companies will ask for data upfront, such as your salary at your current or previous company. If you’re in a country like Japan where you may need to provide a tax slip from your previous company to the company you’re applying for, then they’re going to find out what you made in the past. There are cases when people lose an offer because they weren’t transparent.
“Sometimes people don’t want their new salary to be affected by their previous salary [so they lie about what they made]. It’s better to disclose your salary, but let them know you won’t be able to work with them or change if they don’t offer you a certain rate,” Katie says.
Also, be prepared to answer questions related to gaps on your resume.
“I always ask why a candidate left their previous job because it’s a good way to see if someone actually prepared for their interview. If they didn’t prepare, they are more likely to get nervous or respond in an unnatural way. In my book, I ask the question less because I care about their reasons, and more because I want to get an idea of their personality, motivation, and whether they can answer concisely and with confidence.”
Studies show…we all lie a bit.
“Candidates tell two to three lies, on average, in a 10-to-15 minute interview, Dr. Feldman’s research finds. That’s similar to the amount of lying we do when we meet a new person in everyday life.”
But don’t worry – as long as you prepare well for your interview, your answers will never be as bad as the ones over here (like the guy who said his biggest weakness is “being too sexy for most people to handle,” and you’ll be good to go!
Want to nail your next interview? Come learn about our FAANG Interview Coaching Program and connect with our coaches!