Why You Shouldn’t Lie During a Job Interview
Lying on your resume or during a job interview is a bad idea.
If you’re caught, the consequences will far outweigh any potential benefits. At the very least, you’ll lose credibility, according to communication coach and career brand strategist Lucy Samuels. At worst, you lose the job, as well as any opportunity to be hired by that company for a long time.
“If you lie about something that really could have been explained, no one is going to pay any attention to anything else you brought to the table,” said Samuels. “You’re not credible anymore. Hiring managers don’t want to do the detective work to find out what else you’re lying about. There are too many people searching for jobs to waste time on that.”
Samuels spoke to Career Tool Belt about why lying to a hiring manager is a bad idea, and why it’s not even necessary. Three anonymous sources also shared their stories of lying—or being lied to—during the job-seeking process.
Why You Shouldn’t (and Don’t Have to) Lie When You’re Job Searching
You never know if they’ll double-check.
“One guy I interviewed said he worked at the Met Opera for about six months. I found out he’d been hired, but didn’t complete training. I confronted him about it, and he said something to the effect of ‘oh that’s not what I meant to put there.’ I asked him to elaborate and he said he couldn’t remember where he’d worked.” – anonymous manager.
If you lie about a previous job experience or title, you’re flying close to the sun. You never know if a hiring manager is going to call the job and check up on the details. Depending on your industry, all of your bosses might have each other on speed dial.
“It’s difficult to keep people from talking to their colleagues in the same field,” said Samuels. “Your boss might know everyone.”
They’ll find out your skill level soon enough.
“I was a data entry supervisor for a long time. I would say the thing that people lie or don’t fully disclose is how bad they are at computers. Yes we were hiring for an entry-level position. We don’t expect people to come in and be able to make Excel spreadsheets. We’ll ask ‘what’s your computer experience like?’ They’ll say ‘I can operate a computer.’ Then they get on the floor and they don’t know where the power button is, or how to operate a mouse.’”- anonymous manager.
It is not advisable to lie about your skill sets, degrees or training. Sooner or later, a hiring manager will find out that you don’t have the requisite skills for the job. When that happens, you’ve not only jeopardized your job, but you’ve wasted company time.
“It’s possible that you’re someone who slipped through the cracks by saying you knew something that you didn’t,” said Samuels. “But when they find out, it will undermine your credibility as a candidate as an employee.”
Explain or reframe.
Lying isn’t necessary. Sometimes, the truth will serve you just fine. You may just need to reframe certain aspects of your experience.
For example, if you’re lacking a skill set, you can frame it as a growth opportunity and a skill that you’re interested in learning.
“Guess what, sometimes job descriptions are more like a wish list,” said Samuels. “Remember, they called you up for an interview. Do the research ahead of time. If you’ve never heard of something, look it up. Let them know that you’re resourceful and a quick learner.”
If your hiring manager asks a potentially tense question, such as why you left a previous job, don’t lie. Instead, keep it brief.
“You could say that something wasn’t a good fit. Do not spend too much time weaving a tale. Less is more. Focus less on the old job and focus on the new job,” said Samuels.
You don’t have to disclose everything.
“I interviewed at [high-profile insurance company] about one year or so after I became a lawyer. I was a shoe-in. They loved me. They asked how much I made at my job and I lied. I inflated, because I wanted to get paid more. They looked into it. They found out I lied and told me that’s why they couldn’t hire me. It devastated me. I should have just told them I was not comfortable answering because it didn’t reflect how much I should have been getting paid.” – anonymous lawyer.
Your hiring manager is not entitled to know everything about you. There’s no need, for example, to mention your previous salary or your pregnancy status. You’re not obligated to answer any question that could lead to a discriminatory hiring decision. In fact, many states illegalize the interview question “what did you make at your previous job?” and it is against federal law for job interviewers to ask applicants about their pregnancy status, age, disability and more.
When asked these kinds of questions, you can politely deflect.
“It’s no one’s business, but people don’t know that, so they feel the need to lie. They could just push back,” said Samuels.
For example, if asked about your previous salary, Samuels suggested saying: “‘I would much rather focus on the current position.’ You could talk about your research. ‘I’ve researched this role, and this is the salary that’s appropriate.’”
If a hiring manager is asking anything illegal, you can report the company to the U.S. Employment Equal Opportunity Commission.