We all want to put our best foot forward in a job interview. Sometimes, that involves exaggerations and white lies. In fact, most of the time it does.
A survey of employees and hiring managers from the Interview Guys, a career website, found that the majority of employees exaggerate and pad their résumés by overstating their qualifications. Some of the most common lies are about their skills and accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses, and previous job responsibilities.
Candidates also admit to lying when they tell potential employers that they see themselves still working at the company five years down the road. And they often inflate their likes and dislikes to match the organization’s values.
“Seeing how competitive the job market can be, many resort to lying or exaggerating to separate themselves from the rest of the pack,” says Mike Simpson, CEO and cofounder of The Interview Guys. “We found that over 77% of prospective employees feel pressure to exaggerate their competencies to try and gain favor with a potential employer, and almost 65% have also overstated their qualifications on their résumé when applying to a job that was in high demand.”
The greatest motivation for lying was to secure a job offer, says Simpson. “If it means landing a job, almost 83% of prospective employees would have no problem throwing in a white lie here and there in the application process,” he says. “From our study, other common motivations for lying include receiving a higher salary, receiving a better job title, and fostering better relationships with prospective coworkers.”
Telltale clues a hiring manager should look for
That’s a lot of lying. But hiring managers are onto them, saying they know a lie when they hear it.
“It’s their job to vet and weed out applicants, so the odds of an applicant lying and not getting caught are pretty low,” says Simpson. “Almost three-quarters of hiring managers can tell if someone wasn’t telling the truth during an interview.”
The biggest tell that an applicant is lying is when they clearly lack the knowledge or skill when answering specific questions. “Over 7 in 10 hiring managers that we surveyed said this was the biggest sign that a potential employee is lying during their interview,” says Simpson.
Other indicators include nervous behaviors, such as voice changes and fidgeting, and when an applicant’s response has an excess of detailed information. In addition to lying, there are a number of red-flag behaviors that could leave a bad taste in an employer’s mouth.
“These include talking poorly about past and current employers, being negative or overconfident, and answering questions with an unnecessary amount of detail,” says Simpson.
What to do if you suspect the candidate is lying
When hiring managers catch candidates in a lie, the most common response is to dismiss them as a candidate. The Interview Guys survey found that more than half of hiring managers wouldn’t think twice about rejecting a potential employee if they were caught in a lie. But if everybody embellishes, is that the right response?
It depends on the lie. Complimenting the company simply to gain the employer’s favor, or overstating how much your values align with the organization, might be overlooked, says Simpson. Overstating your experience, however, will likely get you shown to the door.
“Generally speaking, throwing in a white lie here and there during the application or interview process is a risky play,” says Simpson. “That being said, lies don’t necessarily correlate to performance.”