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Everybody Lies in the Job Search Process


Honesty matters. That’s what you learned from your parents, your teachers, your coaches, and the religious figures in your life. But everyone who has ever been involved in the job search process—whether as an employer or a candidate—knows that lying is commonplace.

It’s time to have a heart-to-heart about dishonesty. Buckle up, because the truth is coming.

Swearing In
© Flickr User US Dept of Agriculture

How Common is Lying?

The job site CareerBuilder commissioned a study about deception in the job search process. They state:

Fifty-eight percent of hiring managers said they’ve caught a lie on a resume; one-third (33 percent) of these employers have seen an increase in resume embellishments post-recession.

Half of employers (51 percent) said that they would automatically dismiss a candidate if they caught a lie on his/her resume, while 40 percent said that it would depend on what the candidate lied about. Seven percent said they’d be willing to overlook a lie if they liked the candidate.

Here’s what’s crazy about those numbers If three of five people have been caught in a lie, how many more of the remainder lied and got away with it?

Some Lying is Apparently Okay

We lie all the time, and some of the lies are considered socially acceptable. Some of them are told to children (Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy) and some of them are from everyday life (“I’m fine, how are you?”, “No officer, I didn’t know I was speeding”, and “Thank you, dinner is very tasty.”) Of course, those latter examples might be the truth. Maybe.

There’s lots of lying that happens in the job search process that people are okay with.

Blogger Mark Stevens says that you must lie in certain situations:

Case in point: the HR person will likely ask you if you work well with others? Well, many of the smartest and most innovative people on the planet simply don’t. Not that they are trouble makers or in any way venal but they simply prefer to work alone, creating marvels of software, mathematical formulas or extraordinary feats of creativity. But can they tell HR:

“No. I don’t really like working with others. I guess you can say I do my best work by myself. My professors at MIT used to call me a ‘loner.'”

Other “acceptable” lies:

  • “If hired, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”
  • “We’re considering both internal and external candidates.”
  • “I’ve had some offers but am waiting for the right one.”
  • “Loyalty is paramount. We stand behind our people.”
  • “I’m a team player. Sometimes you have to do the grunt work, and I’ll do it all day if need be.”

Lying is Relative

Writing for Workopolis, Elizabeth Bromstein points out people play up their accomplishments. Some of her best ones:

  • Moved a clothing rack – “Redesigned inventory placement.”
  • Talked a customer into buying two ice cream cones instead of one – “Increased revenues 100%.”
  • Worked as a cashier – “Supervised financial transactions with the public.”
  • Showed a new person how to work the coffee machine – “Employee training in office technology.”
  • Unjammed paper from copy machine – “Troubleshooting print technology.”

Are these lies? It’s hard to say. But certainly, they are common.

Hugh Laurie
© Flickr User ostromentsky

Everybody Lies, Here’s What to Do

As the fictional genius Dr. Gregory House of from the TV show House, M.D. says: “Everybody lies.” What makes Dr. House an amazing medical expert is that he looks at the facts, not people’s statements about the facts.

Your job in the job search process is to do the same. The fact of the matter is that there’s less than perfect honesty. You may be willing to put up with some of it in exchange for having a steady paycheck. And you may be open to bending the truth to pursue that next opportunity or expand your own team.

The best advice is this: When you encounter lies, decide if it’s worth calling them out. If someone says “We’ll let you know by Friday” you can immediately say, “Great, thanks!” or “I know you’re busy; how about I call you?”

If someone’s application says “Proficient in Japanese” you can either nod, or ask “Doko ni anata ga benkyō shinakatta?” (where did you study?)

And if someone says “This is a firm offer, we can’t negotiate” you can either take it or leave it, or say “I understand. If your customers want a better price, do you negotiate with them?”

These are all tough answers to give, but they are honest. They may drive people away.

But as always, it’s a choice you get to make. Good luck!

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.


Tue, April 14 2015 » Career Planning and Goal Setting, Change Managment and Learning Organization, Ethics and Fraud

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