Lies You Can Avoid in an Interview (and Lies You Can’t)

Even as the headlines scream about a booming job market and millions of job openings across the country, finding a job and advancing your career in a competitive capitalist society remains a deadly game. You can spend years of your life – and a lot of money – on an education that can give you an advantage, but still compete for the same job with huge competition.

A job interview can be like making the playoffs: you’ve come this far, but you’re still this far . With so much at stake, you can be forgiven for wanting to cheat a little. In fact, according to one 2020 survey, nearly 80% of job seekers admitted to lying or at least considered it during their job search process. Although the desire to lie to gain an advantage is understandable, be careful: in an interview, one lie is more risky than another.

When should you lie?

It would be hypocrisy to say that you can never falsify facts during an interview. Go ahead and be a little evasive of your existing skills until you’re sure you can quickly pick up what you need to know if you manage to get the job.

You can lie (within reason) about your skills. You may not be a Photoshop genius, but a hiring manager asks you about your image editing experience. If all the work is graphic design, lying will only get you embarrassed on the first day. But if all you need is a few social media drawings or image retouching, go for it. Consider whether the skill you are talking about can be easily mastered with online lessons or even an introductory course.

You can (probably) lie about how much money you make. Tim Sackett of HRUTech, author of The Talent Fix: A Leader’s Guide to Recruiting Great Talent , told Lifehacker that it’s okay to lie about your existing salary as “someone might want you to confirm [it] but that’s rare” . However, it may not be worth the risk: As Laurie Rüttimann , HR consultant and author of Betting Yourself: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career , pointed out, it’s illegal. in many states, employers base the salary offer on the candidate’s salary history anyway, so lying may not be worth it if someone actually tries to verify your claims.

You can lie about your career plans. Sackett also advised you to get creative with that old question about where you see yourself in five years if you think lying will get you a job. “Who the hell knows?” he said. “Do this”. The same goes for explaining why you want to work for a particular company. Money will obviously be the driving factor, but feel free to take poetic license to praise the organization’s culture.

You can be careful about your seniority. You can also blur the lines a bit when asked about past jobs, especially one you may be leaving for a position at a new company. If the reason you want to get back at your current boss is because you absolutely hate him, don’t say it. It’s bad form to vilify an employer in an interview as it sends the signal that you can be a headache for your new managers. Instead, say that you want to expand your experience, find new ways to satisfy yourself, or challenge yourself in a different role—even if it’s all bullshit.

What you should never lie about in an interview

As Sackett said, you can lie about some things in an interview, but there are things you should never lie about.

Don’t lie about important professional skills. First, don’t lie about skills that are vital to the job you’re after. Sackett gave an example by saying that you know CPR if you don’t, which is a bit extreme, but gets the point across: never lie about having a skill if your lack of actual skill in it could end up that you won’t be able to handle the job. This will only lead to great frustration for both you and your new employer, and will most likely get you back into the job market sooner or later. It’s best to wait for a position that you’re really (mostly) qualified for.

Do not invent a past position. Don’t lie about your work experience, and especially don’t say you worked for a company you never worked for, and don’t imply that you worked there full time if you were just a freelancer. “This world is small,” Sackett said. “If you said you had a job and you didn’t, people will know about it .” This includes inflating your title.

Don’t lie about being fired. Finally, don’t lie if you’ve been fired from your old job, especially if you’ve broken the law. Hackett said, “Again, we’ll find out and you’ll look stupid and criminal.” As bad as it is to admit to wrongdoing, you can at least appear honest and straightforward instead of later finding out that you screwed up and were dishonest about it.

Hiring managers lie too

When considering whether to brag about your non-existent Excel skills or rehearse a monologue about how much you’ve always wanted to work at [insert company name here], remember that hiring managers lie too.

“We have a low turnover rate,” “our culture is amazing,” and “we value work-life balance” are all common HR hoaxes, Sackett said. “Applicants should always [apply] to current and former employees at the peer level to find out the real truth.”

Send a few LinkedIn messages or emails to current employees to learn more about the gig. It may turn out that you don’t even want to work at this place so badly that you even lie at the interview.

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