Will Lying at a Job Interview Come Back to Haunt Me?

Job InterviewA few years back, two researchers at the University of Massachusetts published the results of an eye-opening study about the incidence of lying during job interviews.

Based on an experiment in which 59 job applicants were quizzed as to their truthfulness in job applications and job interviews they had just completed, the study indicated that an astonishing 81 percent of the job seekers had used some degree of deception.

The study, published in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, showed that participants in the experiment told an average of 2.19 lies in every 15-minute job interview. Researchers Brent Weiss and Robert S. Feldman noted that applicants tended to be most deceptive in interviews for jobs that required a high degree of technical expertise.

 

AOL Survey Found 25% Lie

In a somewhat less scientific survey, AOL found that fully 25 percent of respondents admitted to outright lying or embellishing the truth on resumes or in job interviews.

In the face of such overwhelming evidence of lying among job seekers, you may be tempted to use a bit of deception yourself to try to win the job of your dreams.

Consider for a moment what Mom might say: Just because everybody’s doing it, that doesn’t make it right.

 

Honesty Is Best Policy

It turns out that honesty is the best policy in every aspect of your job search, especially the information you supply on your resume or in the job interview.

Countless thousands of job interview or resume lies may go undetected, but many are found out, resulting in embarrassment and, often, job loss.

In a 2011 article for AOL Jobs, Barbara Safani profiled some of the high-profile folks who lied to get their jobs and eventually suffered unwelcome consequences. Here are a few of those brought low by fudging the truth or telling outright lies:

 

High-Profile Deception

Michael Brown headed the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the summer of 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast.

Taken to task for FEMA’s failure to react promptly, Brown eventually resigned. In the wake of his resignation, Brown’s resume came under close scrutiny, revealing that he lied when he claimed to have led emergency service operations for the Oklahoma city of Edmund.

Furthermore, it was found that Brown had falsely claimed to have been a political science professor at the University of Central Oklahoma where, in fact, he had never taught, according to Safani.

Joe Biden, then a U.S. senator from Delaware, torpedoed his 1988 bid for the presidency when a couple of whoppers from his past were revealed.

Safani notes that Biden claimed to have attended law school at the University of Syracuse on a full scholarship and to have graduated in the top half of his class.

As it turned out, he had only a partial scholarship and graduated 76th in a class of 85.

So even the high and mighty aren’t immune from suffering the consequences of lying to get their jobs.

 

You Could Get Caught

Even if the simple virtue of being honest isn’t enough to convince you to come clean with prospective employers, perhaps you’ll be given pause by the growing likelihood of being caught in a lie.

In a 2013 article for CBS MoneyWatch, Suzanne Lucas interviewed Patrick Barnett, an investigator for ARS Employment Background Screening.

He warned that hiring managers and human resources directors are fully aware of reports of widespread lying by job applicants and are on the lookout for signs of deception.

 

Information Widely Available

The widespread online availability of background information makes it even more risky to lie in job interviews.

Today, it’s far easier for employers to check out some of the claims you make on your resume or in your interview.

If your little white lie is far outweighed by the positive qualities you offer, you may still get the job, but your employer will probably never fully trust you.

Using deception to get a job also puts you on a very slippery slope.

If the lie goes undetected and you get the job, you’ll probably be more easily tempted to fudge the truth in the future.

And someday, almost inevitably, one of those lies will be discovered, putting your entire professional career — positive contributions and all — into question.

 

About the Author: Jay Fremont is a freelance author who has written extensively about personal finance, corporate strategy, social media, and online reputation management.

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