Recently a reader asked me this question: “Am I being too honest? When I go on a job interview I always tell the truth but I hear they expect you to embellish a little.”
(1) Is it easy to find out that you’re lying? If you say you’ve worked for a certain company or received a degree from a certain university, you need to be truthful. That’s too easy to find out and companies will be most unforgiving about those errors and omissions (especially if you invent a degree you don’t have).
(2) Is the question meaningful? One of my clients was asked, “Do you know X software?” She didn’t. But she did now Y software which was very similar. I think she could have said yes and then learned X software on her own before starting the job. However, it is a judgment call.
(3) How rigid is the company? Some companies will dot every i and cross every t. I like to tell the story of my friend “Ursula.” She had majored in elementary education and taken many courses from the Spanish department. In most universities she would have a minor in Spanish, but her university didn’t offer minors officially. Ursula wrote on her resume, “Majored in education with a minor in Spanish.” She was called on the carpet when her transcript didn’t include the word “minor.” She didn’t lose her job but she had to fill out some forms.
(4) Many people do lie about salary and sometimes they get caught. I would never advise you to lie. But if you do lie and you do get caught, be ready with a straightforward answer. “I was underpaid for my field for a long time. I know most companies base compensation on prior salary and I wanted to be paid fairly.” And then live with the consequences.
(5) It’s even more tempting to lie about your age. Some people leave off the dates of their college graduation. Your success depends a great deal on the company. Some won’t care; some will. Recruiters almost always insist that you tell your age; they’re representing the employer and often act as a filter for the employer’s prejudices.
The bottom line: I don’t know if most people lie on job interviews. I suspect few people are 100% truthful in any relationship, including marriage. But I have 2 recommendations.
First, be prepared with a response and a Plan B if you get caught.
Second, you will be most likely to get caught if the company is looking for a reason to give you trouble. If they want to get rid of you, they will find a way.
More: Check out my Irreverent Guide to Job Hunting. Click on the “Services” button on top of this page if you’d like to work with me one-to-one.