OK … I got a fun question for you today …
Should you LIE during a job interview?
Before you answer, let me give you a bit of context as to where this question comes from…
My First Job Interview, in 1999
I was 14 years old, at my first interview at McDonald’s.
I remember wearing a suit that was way too big for me (my grandpa insisted I dress up) and I was sitting in front of a manager. The interview was going well and all the questions were fun and light. I remember laughing a lot and thinking she was really nice.
Then came a trick question… The manager asked, “If you worked here for one whole year, how many times do you think you’d be late for work?”
Since I was raised to be 100% honest, I thought about the question for a second. 🤔 Hmmm… I thought… out of 365 days, how many days would I be late?
My answer was 5. I told her that “I would probably be late 5 times.” You know, because of traffic, or sometimes my siblings hog the bathroom in the morning, or the train might be late coming home from school, etc. Shit happens, and I was just being honest!
The manager looked disappointed. Really disappointed. She shook her head. Obviously she was hoping my answer was ZERO. Employers want their workers to be late ZERO times each year! But, I was just an honest, innocent little 14 y/o boy trying to tell the truth. I didn’t know any better. 🤷♂️
Luckily, they hired me anyway. I worked there for 4 years – and if memory serves me correctly, I wasn’t late once!
Anyway, that interview changed me. I remember thinking afterwards… Maybe I should have lied? Maybe I should have just told the manager what she wanted to hear so I could “impress” her more?
Telling People What They Want to Hear
Maybe it was my training in sales. Maybe it was my immature desire to always be liked… Whatever the reason, over the years I got pretty good at telling people what they wanted to hear.
An interviewer once asked me: “How do you feel about cold-calling people?” I replied that I had cold-called hundreds of CIO’s in my sales career and closed many sales deals from it. I know how to do it and I’m good at it! (This is technically 100% true.)
But what I didn’t say is that with each outbound cold-call, my heart dies a little. Although I love making money and will do anything asked of me, I truly don’t enjoy interrupting busy executives in the middle of their day to push my agenda over theirs. Cold-calling sucks!
But you can’t say stuff like that in a job interview, right? You have to hide some of the truth, right?
Same with the “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question… I remember once a district manager asking me this, and I replied, “Sir, I would love nothing more than having a position like yours in 5 years. I hope to climb the ranks here and get promoted internally. I think this company could be my forever home.”
But what I didn’t share were my true thoughts, which were like… “Sir, in 5 years I see myself handing you my resignation and telling everyone here byyyeeee 👋. I’m secretly buying rental properties for passive income and I really dgaf about your corporate ladder.”
Too Much Lying Can Backfire …
Upon reflecting, I think hiding too much of the truth is one of the reasons my sales jobs never worked out over the long term. I’ve now learned that lying in interviews can be like lying to myself. It’s a red flag that things probably won’t work out with that employer.
If the interviewer/employer doesn’t like me – the REAL me – then I’m signing myself (and them) up for disappointment.
Today I have no problem telling interviewers exactly how I feel and my real thoughts. I won’t lie. I just can’t do it. And thankfully, things are working out just fine. I’ve been offered some killer roles over the past few years and found an awesome home with my current employer without having to hide any truths.
But, maybe I’ve just been lucky recently?
Should You Lie During Interviews?
I definitely want to hear your thoughts. But, I’ll leave you with 2 final points.
First, it’s no secret that employers sometimes lie. Have you ever been promised something in an interview, only to start working there a few weeks later and realize it’s actually the opposite? Companies tend to tell you the good things about working there and brush over bad details. Is it just expected that both sides are lying during interviews? We’re all saying the same shit just to land the job/worker.
Second, if you’ve had an interview lately, no doubt you’ve googled “Top Interview Questions” to prepare yourself. The internet is full of articles that not only tell you the questions that will be asked, they tell you how to respond and what to say. This is just like telling interviewers what they want to hear. Is this lying if everybody does it?
Those of you interviewing right now… What’s your experience?
Any recruiters in the crowd who want to chime in?
Joel is a 35 y/o Aussie living in Los Angeles and the guy behind 5amjoel.com. He loves waking up early, finding ways to be more efficient with time and money, and sharing what he learns with others. Rise Early | Retire Early!