During a job interview—and, in fact, during the entire application process—your goal is to make yourself seem like a desirable candidate.
How do you do that? Typically, candidates focus on the positive when responding to interview questions. They talk about their experience and skills while avoiding mentioning weaknesses, knowledge gaps, and so on. Coming up with answers to interview questions involves being strategic. After all, it’s smart—and expected—to frame your responses to your own advantage.
However, there’s a difference between cherry-picking which details you share (and choosing ones that show you favorably) and outright fibbing. Sometimes that line can feel fuzzy to candidates. In fact, according to a survey from Checkster, a company that checks candidate references, 78% of job candidates said they would lie, or actually did lie, on a job application.
Here's what you need to know about why job applicants aren’t always truthful, and why it’s not a good idea to lie when you’re job searching.
- Many employers conduct background checks that will catch discrepancies in an applicant’s work history.
- When job applicants misrepresent themselves during the hiring process, it can cost them a job offer.
- Even if you don’t get caught during the application process, lying can be grounds for termination in the future.
Why Job Candidates Lie
There are a few likely reasons why candidates may fib during job interviews. Here are some of the most common.
Getting Carried Away
When a potential employer asks about your skills in using a program, it’s easy to want to inflate them. For example, you may claim you’re an Excel whiz even if you’ve only just seen the icon for the program on your computer.
Employers don’t expect you to have mastered all the programs out there or to have all the skills in place. If you haven’t used a program, there’s no need to lie. Instead, you can say, “I’m generally very quick at picking up technology, so while I haven’t used Excel on a day-to-day basis, I’d be able to learn it fast.”
Wanting To Get More Money
Changing your job title or claiming you make a higher salary at your current role than you actually do are deceptions that could lead to a higher salary or a better title in the job you're applying for. But these lies are very likely to be discovered during background checks.
Disguising Unpleasant Aspects
Sometimes, candidates may lie because they want to avoid talking about something unpleasant. For instance, a candidate may claim to have left a job voluntarily when they were actually laid off or fired.
Why You Shouldn’t Lie During an Interview
However tempting it may be to lie during a job interview, there are some really good practical—and moral—reasons to avoid it.
It’s Easy To Get Caught
If you’re not a proficient liar, you might give yourself away during the job interview; for example, you might blush or stutter. Interviewers may ask follow-up questions that quickly reveal you don’t have a skill you claimed to have.
Even if your interviewer doesn’t catch the fib, it could be revealed during a background check. For instance, a background check might uncover lies candidates tell about employment dates, salary, grade-point average, or job titles. A lie discovered at this point in the process could result in a job offer being rescinded.
Of course, some lies won’t get caught, at least not right away.
If you’re hired after telling a lie, it can feel as if you’re home free. However, there are still nearly endless opportunities to get caught. For example, your current manager may run into a former manager at a party and idle chit-chat may reveal your deception.
You Could Damage Your Reputation
Say you’re caught lying. Regardless of the timing, your interviewer—and others at the company—will know that you’ve lied. Not only will this potentially knock you out of contention for the job at hand, but it could do some real damage to your reputation.
Word of your dishonesty could spread throughout the industry, leading to difficulty finding jobs, making connections, and being taken seriously in the future.
Getting caught damages your reputation. It could also have other consequences. If you’re employed, and a lie from your interview or application is uncovered, it could lead to your dismissal.
You Could Wind Up in a Job You’re Not Suited For
Even if you never get caught, lying is stressful. You may feel guilty. You may find yourself in a job for which employers expect you to have certain abilities (based on your own words) that you do not have. For instance, if you said you’re great at making cold calls but aren’t very skilled at it, you may find yourself in an uncomfortable position.
While presenting yourself in a positive light is a good move for job applicants, once you find yourself shading the truth or telling outright lies, you can be headed down the wrong path.