The Little Lies You Should Never Tell in a Job Interview

job interview


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job interview

When you find the right job, you might be willing to do anything to get it. Even tell a white lie. After all, one little fib never hurt anyone.

Not to sound like your mother, but lies always catch up with you. Whether it’s during the job interview or a few months after you’ve been hired, chances are someone is going to figure things out. And depending on how big of a lie you told, it could cost you that perfect job.

Here are four common white lies that interviewers can see right through, and what to say instead:

1. “My greatest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist.”

Every job seeker dreads the question “What is your greatest weakness?” It just feels like a trap to reveal information that will lead to you not getting the job. Of course, you don’t want to say something like, “I’m always late.” So instead of telling the truth, you tell the interviewer that you’re a perfectionist, overly focused on the details, or a workaholic because those traits have an upside that appeals to employers.

But those answers miss the point of the question. The hiring manager is not looking for a reason to reject you. Nobody’s perfect and they know that. They’re just trying to get to know you better and see how you deal with challenges. Be honest during the job interview about what flaws you have and how you’re working to improve them

For example, a great response to the weakness question would be: “I am not naturally great at time management. It’s easy for me to lose myself in a project without realizing how much time has passed. However, I’ve started setting alerts for myself on my phone so I can more effectively break up my workday.”

2. “I have experience with [insert random skill here].”

It can be particularly frustrating to find a job that requires three years of experience and you only have two and a half years. In that case, it’s tempting to round up. What difference does a few months make? It can mean a lot if an employer finds out. And they do find out.

A 2015 CareerBuilder survey found that one of the biggest things job seekers lie about is the extent of their experience. Sixty-two percent of employers said they had caught a job seeker embellishing their skill set.

The funny thing is that being under-qualified isn’t always a deal-breaker. The same survey found 42% of employers would still consider a candidate who only met three out of five key qualifications. 

So instead of risking getting caught stretching the truth, spend your energy highlighting everything you do have to offer and show how you’d be a great fit for the company. In most cases, an employer would prefer a good-listening employee who is open to criticism with a little less experience than one who has exactly what they want, but will quit in a year.

3. “I’m fluent in Spanish.”

Knowing multiple languages is always a nice bonus to be able to add to your resume. It’s even essential in some industries. But as anyone who has studied a foreign language knows, there are a lot of levels between when you begin and when you’re fluent. And it’s easy to exaggerate how well you really know the language. However, if an occasion ever does arise where you need to translate something or converse with someone who doesn’t speak English, it’ll be very obvious you lied. 

Instead, be completely honest about your proficiency with other languages by listing what courses you’ve taken or even by offering to conduct part of the job interview in the other language. That way, there are no surprises for you or the company later on.

4. “It was just time to leave my previous job.”

Having the interviewer ask why you left your last job could easily open up a can of worms. Especially if you quit because you had a terrible boss, it might seem like the less information you give the better. But when you give such a vague reason, it sends up red flags for the hiring manager. They might even begin to imagine scenarios that are way worse than reality.

The fact of the matter is people have nightmare bosses. Today, bad bosses frequently lack empathy and do not express recognition for their employees’ accomplishments. According to Businessolver, 92% of employees identify that recognition is crucial to retention, and 93% say it boosts overall work productivity. 

That doesn’t give you the liberty to be unprofessional and call your last boss a jerk who never appreciated you. Instead, calmly explain what it was about their management style that didn’t work for you. Specify that you didn’t feel your ideas or accomplishments were recognized. You could follow up by asking how the company you’re interviewing with recognizes its employees so you’ll know for sure you’ll be acknowledged in the new role.

As tempting as it may be to fib a little during the job interview, it’s never a good idea. And if you get caught in a lie, you could lose your job. If you’re open and honest, however, the hiring manager will thank you for it.

Want to tell the truth in interviews, but you’re afraid you don’t qualify? Here’s why you should go forward and be true to yourself anyway: Why You Should Apply For Your Dream Job, Even if You’re Not Qualified 

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.