10 Lies You Should Tell in a Job Interview

Flickr/Erika Q

Hiring Managers ask interview questions that are designed to give them reasons not to hire job candidates. These trap questions are meant to expose any problems you’ve had in your professional career. For trap questions, sometimes answering honestly is the wrong answer.

For example: If you’re asked about why you’re looking for a new opportunity and the reason is your boss is a total jerk (see #4), it’s not going to be in your best interest to tell that to the hiring manager or the potential boss sitting across from you. The Hiring Manager is trying to determine if you’re smart enough to lie.

Here are ten statements where you might do better stretching the truth in your next interview.

1. Every job you ever had was great.

What you’re really telling the hiring manager or recruiter is that you are a positive person. We’ve all had jobs we disliked, but it’s not a good idea to talk about it. Hiring Managers will think if you hated your last job, you might hate this one. Have at least one positive thing to say about every job on your resume.

2. Every project you’ve ever worked on was successful.

Hiring Managers don’t want to hear about your failures. Since we’ve all failed at some point, the key is to talk about your successes, and spin your failures to sound like successes. If you can’t frame a failure as a success, don’t talk about it at all.

3. You’ve done this type of work before.

Hiring managers don’t want “quick learners,” they want “experienced professionals” who don’t need training. Figure out ways to make your past experience sound like what the job requires. The more examples you can give of being experienced in what the job requires, the more likely you will look like a strong candidate for the position.

4. Your last boss was brilliant.

Your relationship with your last boss predicts your relationship with your next one. Don’t tell the hiring manager what an incompetent idiot your previous boss was. Instead, tell your interviewer your last boss was great, taught you valuable skills, and was an inspirational leader, no matter how big of a lie it is. It may hurt to glorify someone you hated who doesn’t deserve it, but it’s in your best interest, and doesn’t actually help your old boss at all anyway.

5. You’re currently working.

Hiring managers think in terms of supply and demand of candidates. If you’re employed, you’re in demand, and if not, there might be a reason. If you are unemployed, there are ways to fudge it. The easiest is to “self-employ,” either by labeling yourself as a self-employed “consultant,” or a new entrepreneur building your own business. Another technique is to volunteer at a not-for-profit, and list this position on your resume. You can also say you’re currently going back to school to get a better degree, but need to put it on hold and go back to work for financial reasons. The key is not to sound like your are doing nothing.

6. You love to work late.

What you’re really saying is you’ll work late if the company needs you to. If they ask why, say that “if you have to work late, then it’s a really important assignment, and it makes you feel good to know you can contribute more when it’s important for the company.” Employers don’t want someone who sprints for the door at 5pm, and refuses or resists working overtime when the situation demands it.

7. Every co-worker was great.

You’ve never had a single interpersonal problem with a coworker, not one fight, ever. Of course we all have, and the hiring manager knows it. The candidate who talks about past interpersonal problems, or even worse uses them as excuses, is the wrong candidate. Once again, past problems predict future problems in the eyes of a hiring manager.

8. You learned a lot in college.

More specifically, you’ve learned a lot that has prepared you for this exact job. Be prepared to cite the classes and skills you picked up which relate to the job requirements. Don’t invent classes or fake your degree, but show that what you’ve learned in college has prepared you for this role.

9. You almost never get sick.

We all get sick occasionally, but if asked, tell the hiring manager that you’re the type of person who leads a healthy lifestyle, and rarely calls in sick. Even though hiring managers aren’t really supposed to ask about this, some do, especially if you’re an older worker, or show signs of being unhealthy. Whatever you do, never discuss any past medical issues, unless absolutely necessary.

10. You have no personal problems.

We all have problems, but the key is not to discuss them in a job interview. Key examples are financial problems, family problems, and especially legal problems. Personal problems have the potential to affect a job candidate’s work life, and hiring managers are keen to avoid hiring people who have them.

 

Comments

  1. Sebastian March says

    It’s sad that job seekers feel they need to lie to get a job. I wouldn’t think this is good for employers or employees. Do the best liars really make the best workers?

  2. qtchre says

    OMG, this helped a lot. I have said those same words “I like to think I’m a quick learner” and I also mentioned a project that failed. Glad I read this article it woke me up to the fact that you just can’t be so honest.

  3. Frank Talk says

    Great article.

    Sadly, ‘Sebastian March’ and ‘An Employer whose Respect for Doostang’ didn’t read between the lines of your first paragraph. You clearly stated, “For trap questions, sometimes answering honestly is the wrong answer,” and I also understood you do not recklessly promote lying. Since it’s an employers job market out there, it’s important for job seekers to learn not to SHOOT THEMSELVES IN THE FOOT.

  4. Kate says

    I disagree with many of these statements. While it’s always good to highlight successes, it’s becoming more and more frequent for interviewers to ask SPECIFICALLY about failures in terms of learning experiences. Some powerful techniques are to discuss difficult situations or even difficult coworkers, highlighting good outcomes. Every job is not great. That’s the point. However, it’s better to focus on what parts are *specifically* great and what types of things you’re looking for in the next job. That’s my humble opinion.

  5. Douglas Keyes says

    I respectfully, disagree with the premise that you need to lie. You don’t. You can always tell what you’ve learned/experienced from a positive point of view. Being impeccable with your word to yourself and others is, in my opinion, one the basic agreements we could all learn to do better. It just leads to greater life happiness and fulfillment.
    Self Employed…:)

  6. Rosalind Berman-Myerson says

    Perhaps the article should have been titled, “Ten Better Ways of Answering Interview Questions.”

    Being in an interview is hard work and always a little bit scary even for people who have been on several of them. My advice would be for people who have read the article is to take a look at the advice given. See if it makes sense to you and adapt it to your situation.

    Try to think ahead of time what someone might ask you in an interview and write your response down on paper. Show your answer to a friend and see what they think. Always try to stay positive. Try to have a mock interview with someone you respect before the actual interview to see if you would be a good candidate for the job.

    If you are a career changer you will have to adapt your answer differently from someone who is a veteran in the industry. I’m not sure how to avoid some of the cliche answers.

    These are difficult times and competition is fierce. Keep practicing your answers until you feel comfortable with them. Remember, your interviewer may ask you a question you didn’t expect, so before you speak, pause, think about what you want to say, keep your composure, and then give you answer.

    Good luck!

  7. says

    Thanks for your response, Kate. I agree that it’s a great strategy for job seekers to talk about overcoming difficulties and what they’ve learned in the process. It shows how job candidates can come out of a difficult situation in a positive light.

  8. FJC says

    #3 can backfire. If you hold yourself out as someone with intermediate or advanced skills in an area where you are really a novice, you could have major issues when you get your first assignment and find out that it is far beyond your experience level and expertise.

  9. MrCead says

    So true. In the age of “kill the messenger”, you have to be as crafty as the company you want to work for and a few wrong words will keep you from eating – so unfair. Besides, they aren’t hiring “you”, they are hiring their perception of who they think you are. Just don’t disappoint them.

  10. Debbie says

    I agree with Rosalind that the article needed a different title. All valid points except lying can come back to bite you. I personally wouldn’t.

  11. Harrison says

    Do you give this same advice to the job hunter over 50? I doubt it. If I heard these responses from any senior candidate (40 and up), it would go to discredit them and make me question their ability to work in an environment of honesty and trust.

    What do you suggest for the executive or manager who has worked with or for a series of failed entrepreneurial start ups? They fail for lack of money, usually, or other things outside the control of the job hunter. But, they still fail. Case in point, the last two start ups I joined to lead, ended due to fundamental conflict with the original founders. The first because he wouldn’t recognize the real value of his contribution and the harm caused by his poor corporate habits (e.g., throwing out paperwork), and the last because he reneged on his equity agreement and retroactively changed the role as hired. These are common failings with wannabe entrepreneurs.

    If you’re 20-something, I can see these apply. What about the rest of us?

  12. says

    Unfortunately the article is ‘spot on’ and really gets to the point of the interview, ‘to get the offer”. Look, most people are qualified so stretching the truth in order to get to the next level in the interview process is showing that the perspective candidate is a savvy person and should be hired. Thanks for a great article.

  13. NV says

    Good article. But, I disagree with the “motive” for lying. If a candidate cannot get the job by being honest, then he’s not going like it (or stick around) by lying his way through the interview.
    Example: if the hiring manager thinks low of you, because you believe your boss was a jerk; how would you voice your honest opinion that this new mnager is a jerk as well.
    If the hiring manager wants a guy who is 100% healthy, and you are not, guess what? He’s gonna have a field-day with you, when you call in sick.

    This article only helps people who are desparate for a job, and want to get it, at any cost (example, people who are unemployed; or risk losing their minds/jobs working for their current boss).

  14. DK says

    Sadly, I have to agree with the article. US employers are responsible for creating this sad state of affairs. Everyone wants the next Einstein and US companies are crafty enough and they try to ‘beat you down’ and accept a low-ball offer even if your skills and experience suggests that ou deserve more. For example, once companies get a wiff that you want to desparetely quit your current job, they might lower the initial offer that they had promised to extend. Hence, you have to be crafty or else you would not win against these companies.

  15. Young and employed says

    This is a well-written article that applies extremely well in cities like NYC, Chicago, LA, Miami, etc. This would not fly in my hometown, but, hey, there is only one job in my hometown and it’s going to Junior, who simply had to be born. I haven’t come across an unsound tip from Doostang which is why 2 years after the hunt I’m still subscribed, though happily employed.

    And even my boss tells me to lie. Lie, then do your research and study.

  16. Steve says

    As far as age discrimination goes, which we all know is RAMPANT, is there any way to lie about your age to look 20 years YOUNGER, short of having major cosmetic surgery, which we can’t afford because we are UNEMPLOYED? :)

  17. Vladimir Zafirov says

    Is it as much about lying as much it is about having a positive attitude?
    I think it is the later.
    No need to lie!
    Just look at reality more positively.
    If this is difficult to perceive, here is an exercise:
    Think if grouping / classifying people who you know in to categories 1) positive, smiling, always in good mood, good sense of humor, able to take responsibility and see the things they can improve in without that putting them down that much and 2) negative, always complaining, always seeing the things other people have to improve, often depressed by how things turn out, strongly defensive when approached about things they can improve.
    Then think this: on average these two groups of people had similarly positive or negative reality.
    The reason group 1) looks more positive than group 2) is their attitude, their reaction to the reality.
    If you interview people from group 1) they will not necessarily lie, but they will sound way more positive. That is their way of looking at things.
    If you interview people from group 2) they will not necessarily be more honest (on average) but you will definitely be more put off by them.
    So, no need to lie. But you can change (yes we are talking about how one has to change) how you look at things. Without lying you will sound more positive and more likable.
    I am not sure if more likable people make better employees, but I am sure they get hired more often.
    Another way to look at this paradigm: is the person who says “the glass is half full” lying, and is the one who says “the glass is half empty” saying the truth?

  18. JJ O says

    The title is misleading. This is not about lying but about marketing oneself. I would not rec commend calling some one brilliant because often times in a small industry people know each other.

    I would instead find a good trait or show how I made lemonade from lemons… e.g. Instead my manager was unorganized, never there, and gave no direction, and knew nothing. It can be re-worded as, “my manager has a very hands off approach. This allowed me to do more research and ensure I was a subject matter expert in my position. This lead me to be the go to person in our department. For example…. ”

    Sounds so much better. Not a lie, and not negative..

  19. Mel says

    Lying on interviews is how you win. Like it or not. Unless you have worked for a million companies and are well-known. Lie to get in and then PROVE yourself. Welcome to America.

  20. says

    I agree with Steve about the rampant age discrimination. I am waiting for a massive amount of class action suits arising from this practice under the guise of reducing costs of personnel and needing current education. Remember what they taught in college that a person only retains about 10% of their classroom learning. Experience is what matters! When we tell a potential hiring manager that we are “Consultants” they automatically take that to mean you are unemployed even if you can show successes. It is still a desire to hire young, entry level, recent graduates as low cost personnel that is the challenge in the hiring process today.

  21. MikeInDC says

    I have to say that with an economy as anemic and bleak as today’s and a labor market equally as dismal, contemporary job seekers need to radiate an almost euphoric aura of confidence, capability and success. Based on my interviewing experiences (and I’ve done a lot of them from both sides of the table), if you are anything like the average interviewee with more than a few years experience, you’ve had a problem or two at work. You’ve had a run-in with an egocentric coworker or a megalomaniacal boss. Possibly you’ve presided over a project that didn’t quite work out the way it was intended. Maybe you went to work for a start-up that foundered. Consequently, you’ve learned a couple harsh lessons, which means to say you’re a seasoned survivor of the trenches. One would think this would be an arrow in your quiver. Unfortunately, corporate America doesn’t see things this way.
    An interview is the last place for contemplative, honest answers. Corporations don’t care if the last boss you worked for was a total a-hole. They don’t care if your co-workers sexually harassed you. They don’t want to know if a project for which you were responsible ran over-budget because you couldn’t get the necessary data from that slacker in accounts. Potential employers want to know if you can shut up and get the work done. So never complain. Period. Yes, everything was great at every place you ever worked. Translation: “Sure, I’ve been around enough to have worked at some real suck-holes, but I’m not going to tell you that”. If your interviewer is worth two-cents, he or she will know you’re not being entirely honest, but they’ll also know that you don’t tell tales out of school. In short, your “loyal”.
    If you are going to admit to a failure or two (even though we all know that an occasional failure tends to make for a more seasoned, knowledgeable and well-rounded employee) or criticize a former employer for incompetence (however justified you may be), you might as well stay home. Most interviewers are just ‘tick-box’ administrators. They want to see if you have this education or that experience, etc. They want to see if you know how to bathe and dress yourself. They want to see if you can handle yourself with deportment and dignity. They may even throw in a couple leading questions to get you to whine about some of your more painful experiences. They most certainly do NOT want someone who is willing to share every employment-related disappointment, conflict or travesty with a complete stranger at the drop of a hat, even if they did manage to rise above it and wrest success from the clutches of failure. What am I saying here? 1) Never complain. Everything was always great, everywhere, all the time. 2) Never admit to failure. Even if you DID f-something up hideously, learn to look at it as a positive learning experience. Truth, after all, is relative. 3) Always express appreciation and thankfulness for your former employers who so generously gave you the opportunity to learn and excel in your former positions, even if you were working 16 hours a day in a West Virginia coal mine and the learning process involved little more than learning how to survive a week in the pit.

  22. D says

    No wonder I have not been able to get my next job. I told the truth. Thanks for the article. I will have to redo my answers. It is a real shame we have to LIE to get a job.

    The other sad part in my part of the world all the companies are so inbread that everyone knows you or has people in the company that knows you. So even it one is a VERY hard worker if one is perceived as “whatever”. The whatever over rides the truth of being a hard worker.

  23. JC says

    Unfortunately, not only are potential employees lying, but employers are too! I moved for a position only to find it was not as advertised then they said I was “not a good fit.” This left me in a new area of the country with a new house and no way to support my family. So much for trying to make the job work!

  24. msca says

    Of course, it is NEVER a good idea in an interview to spend a lot of time whining (e.g., last job was terrible, hated the boss, failed at xyz, etc.), but it is ALWAYS a good idea to be honest while not dwelling on the negatives and quickly highlighting lessons learned and how those lessons will be translated in the new job/organization to yield positive outcomes.

  25. Brian says

    Agree with some of the ideas. If you are sharp enough to get the interview, you should be sharp enough to understand what the company is looking for.

    Had recently applied for a Sourcing style role with a cell phone manufacturer. Had worked in Sourcing for another cell phone manufacturer for 12 years. 12 mind you.

    Spoke with the hiring manager and virtually would not give me the time of day… when I have worked in HIS type of position. Figure that one out…

  26. darnell says

    I dont know, or think that it is a matter of lying but rather, the applicant’s number one job is to land a job, To often we finfd ourselves being gate keepers for the company as oppose to being ambassadors for themselves and often time it means that you get to reframe the question such that you could answer the asked question so that it puts you in the best light. The company didn’t tell you all of their dirty little secrets and you are not compelled to to tell all of yours.

  27. Ranger says

    I see no reason to consider any of the sub-topics a reason to lie. I can choose any past position, and in a positive way answer every single one of them in a truthful and positive manor. I’m not saying that every job I have ever had has been a fantasy of wonderfulness, I am saying that I can find at least one example to answer every question in a positive way. Even Judas kept his sandals nicely polished.

  28. Bruce says

    Do we REALLY call it “lying”, more than stretching the truth to fit the situation?

  29. MiamiHeat says

    Sad but true. In a day and age where everyone appears to be perfect. If you don’t say the right thing someone else will, and usually get the job. It is how you look at things also, since we have all learned from former jobs and co-workers and employers and hopefully not make the same mistake twice. In a bottom line world, if you want to be employed say it so. I totally agree with this article…

  30. says

    The article’s title is a little “jarring” at first, but I understand where the author is coming from. Given the heavy competition for specific job types, it becomes necessary not to lie but to bring forth strategy in your answers to specific questions where employers look to see how you have handled difficult situations (i.e. failed tasks, failed businesses).

    Shedding a positive light on an adverse situation during a job interview is always the best approach in the long run.

  31. jasonb39 says

    At least one point in this piece is wrong; during an interview once I was specifically asked to describe at least one example of a past failure and what I learned from it. So some hiring managers are interested in something other than your past successes.

    I got the job but that was not the only employer to ever ask me a question like that.

  32. Dwayne says

    When interviewing with a company,There are no answers that will benefit you unless you stretch the truth a little now and then. When companies hire you, there job description isn’t necessarily what you will be doing or for how long. Be wary if it says: Must be able to work all shifts,
    holidays or weekends. These are the one’s that will take advantage of you. This comes from past experiences. Do your research and reviews of the company before going to an interview. It will be beneficial in the long run.

    Dwayne

  33. D says

    For every person that has been against the article you people must not have had the issues that I have had getting past the interview part. When I was finally hired in 2011 I was hired on a whim. The woman that interviewed me was not the boss, she had a whole other position that had nothing to do with hiring and was thrown into it, and then when the boss finally did show up she didn’t even have a job description or duties she expected for the job. So yeah you have to do some stretching of the truth to get a “real” job to consider you. For the person with the 12 years experience, the reason they didn’t want to deal with you is two things (this is coming from someone who has been on the hiring side of human resources and dealt with the owner of a company and knows what they want and don’t want). The first thing is that you have a lot of experience working for a different company, which means they may not want to deal with you doing things the way you learned on that job. They would rather deal with someone who doesn’t know so that they can train and mold them the way they want them to be for the company. The second is that they don’t want to pay you the amount of money that they feel you would expect for those 12 years. Again going back to the last job I was hired on a whim. Reason is because she specifically didn’t want anyone with a degree or with “too much” experience. Her lame excuse was because she felt they would be bored. The real reason (found out from her sister) she didn’t want to pay them the amount that she knew they would be looking for. So again I say to those that think they don’t have to fudge a little either already have something that they expect to be in or don’t care to have to use this technique. If you have been looking for a job for as long as I have (4 years) and have had absolutely no luck then yes you stretch a little bit, just enough to get the job and bust your butt to make sure you keep the job.

  34. Michael Meinholz says

    Never, ever, lie! Sooner or later it will come back to you. The lies in this article are unrealistic; every boss isn’t brilliant, you don’t get along with everyone, not even in your own family so why would you get along with ALL your co-workers. Have some integrity, be honest!!!

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