It's never a good idea to lie. It typically destroys your integrity, closes doors, and creates a disconnect and/or ridiculous amounts of drama between you and with whom you lied. But what happens if you need a job, so you can pay your bills, and your normal human flaws could cause you to be passed over at job interviews if you simply admit them?
Having been in a position to hire people for over 14 years and then becoming a career coach shortly thereafter, I found the most troubling aspect of mock interviews is when the client gave me an honest answer to a question I asked and I knew the answer wouldn't work. And I have to stop him or her and say, "ummm....don't say that...."
The more I had to do this, the more it weighed on me because I could directly relate to it. I did feel I would have to lie in job interviews and I was a Director of Human Resources.
You Have Flaws?
Let's start with a basic question such as, "what is your biggest weakness?" Lame, I know, but many employers still ask that question. What if the truth is that you are the king or queen of procrastination? Or maybe you are so disorganized that it could take 10 minutes just to find something on your desk?
We are all human and those are typical human flaws. You know what your biggest weakness is but you also may know there is no way you can admit it and expect to get a job offer. So, you read some job interview books/blogs and when the question comes up you hear yourself not-so-confidently saying, "I think I need a better work-life balance. Work has always been my top priority and I often sacrifice my personal life for my job". Blah, blah, blah...The interviewers nod their heads and give you smiles. Excellent! You scored a home run on that....lie.
Employers often want their employees to come up with great ideas that make something better than it currently is. But there are many people who haven't done this. They go to work and do their jobs well but they do it exactly as they are told. Maybe they even have great ideas but are scared to say them for whatever reason. Or maybe they tried once and got crappy feedback and vowed to never do that again.
Regardless, if you are one of them and hear this, "Give me an example of a time when you came up with an idea that could change a process at work to make it better. Who did you tell and how did it go?" Are you honest and say, "Well ... I haven't really done that"? Or do you provide the one example where you got bad feedback and admit you haven't done it since. So, you can't handle constructive feedback? Really? How do you think that will go over? What do you say if you haven't done it? Do you just make something up?
Remember, jobs pay the bills so for most people, having a job isn't optional.
Stretching the Truth?
So, this begs the question: do you sometimes have to lie in a job interview?
No one wants to say yes but it's the scary truth. Many will cry 'semantics' and perhaps say, "well, you don't have to say your biggest weakness, just say a different one" or, "there's always something better but still true you can find to say". For some, there probably is. And, there is a "top 20%" in any given workplace; people with excellent work habits and character traits who truly may not have to lie (much) in a job interview. But for the 80% of the rest of us, this is our reality.
The truth is, employee disengagement starts at the job interview. When you know you have to lie, you get the message that you aren't good enough to work there whether you consciously think that or not. How can you believe otherwise when you have to hide things about yourself or even make stuff up?
The Ideal Employee
If you are one who knows you have to lie in job interviews, just to get hired, first know that you are far from alone. Most people do. But also know that the only way to find real success in the workforce is to understand all the character traits employers prefer to have in their 'ideal employee' and take them seriously. High integrity, innovation, strong communication and organizational skills, flexibility, positive attitude, willingness to help others, etc. Now, look closely at yourself. What do you need to work on?
So few people are the ideal employees but any person can become one simply by deciding to make personal and professional development a top priority. These traits are often listed in job postings yet most people take them with a grain of salt and settle with the fact they will have to lie as if they can't do anything about it. The thing is, the character traits desired in the ideal employee are the same character traits that scream success, so why wouldn't you want to work on yourself in order to become highly successful in any career?
The only alternative is to fake it and if you think hard on that, you will realize that faking it is the biggest cause of disengagement as you are not in integrity with yourself and it just makes you walk around feeling inadequate.
So how does one effectively change into this 'ideal employee'? In working on this myself, and with clients, I discovered that nothing changes until the thoughts that pop in our heads (all day, every day), change. As long as those same thoughts are there, it becomes an endless struggle to change our behavior in order to become the people we want to be.
If you never came up with great ideas at work and you really looked into why that is, you will likely discover some very normal fears that surround it. Likely, the voice in your head says something like, "they will just hate it!". Ask yourself, why does that prevent you from doing it anyway? What if you worked through that to find out what's really behind your fear of criticism and then worked to change how you think about criticism going forward? Perhaps then the fearful voice won't stop you next time and wouldn't it be great to have something real to say in a job interview when asked that question?
Learning how to change your beliefs/thoughts is also the key to finding yourself as one of the top 20% in your workplace and that is the ideal place to be in any company. You are offered more jobs, easily promoted, and given opportunities that simply aren't possible otherwise. Better yet, you will find that you no longer have to lie in your job interviews.
Many people spend their entire careers struggling to be someone they aren't as if they have no choice in the matter. I used to think that too but there is a better way! Work on becoming the person you say you are in job interviews. It takes a lot of effort but it's definitely worth it because truthfully, it takes far more effort (and stress!) to try to be someone you aren't. We just don't see it that way because we likely have been trying to be someone we aren't most of our lives. This is debilitating and destructive.
We are all works in progress but no progress is made if we don't strive to continuously improve ourselves. Knowing you have to lie is your sign that it's time to step up. What will you do with it?