Job Interview Lies: Why, When & How

Recruiters – how many times have you suspected that a candidate may be stretching the truth in their interview or on their resume? In reality, virtually everyone lies to a certain extent in this setting. How many non-accountants do you know that are actually “proficient” at Excel?


While some little white lies are to be expected, the main differentiating factor is how much is light embellishment, and how much is flat-out misleading. A study from 2019 found that 100% of job seekers would lie to some degree during a job interview.


Read on for some insight into the phenomenon that is the job interview lie, and how to manage it in a professional setting.


Why Do People Lie?


While becoming a great liar is not something to aspire to, it is important to note that people typically don’t lie for inherently malicious reasons, especially in the workplace. According to research conducted by psychologist Robert Feldman, the average job seeker will tell 2-3 lies during a 10-15 minute job interview. This may seem like a lot, but in an increasingly competitive job market, job seekers may feel the need to bend the truth in order to present themselves as the perfect candidate.


From the moment a job seeker begins interacting with a hiring manager, they are likely to embellish their achievements and experience to better fit a job description or to develop a rapport with their interviewer, and they may continue those lies for the duration of their professional relationship. “Fake it until you make it”, as the saying goes.


But the question lingers: why do people feel the need to lie?


The psychology behind most lies in the workplace is driven from a fear of criticism, a strong need to be liked or to fit in, or out of embarrassment; they can also be borne out of a need to be competitive or self-serving. When you take these reasons into consideration, to the candidate, lying in a job interview setting feels more reasonable than portraying this same behavior in everyday life. Candidates are quite literally tasked with selling themselves as the most favourable option to their potential future employer.


The Lies that Everyone Tells


Searching for or starting a new job is ranked to be one of the most stressful events a person may experience. Presented with the possibility of perpetual job interviews, most job seekers are likely to pump up their work history and achievements in order to land a position. Common job interview deceptions from job seekers include:


  • Covering up or avoiding talking about professional mishaps, such as their reason for leaving their last position or reasons for resume gaps
  • Their overall personal passion for and knowledge about the position, department or company in question
  • Their interpersonal skills – qualities like communication and teamwork skills can always be improved upon and can be hard to quantify


Lies are not confined to the job seeker hoping to get hired – interviewers and hiring managers are also likely to fluff the truth to some degree in order to make a job sound more appealing. Also, Dr. Feldman believes that in a job interview, the interviewee wants the person sitting in front of them to be the perfect candidate and wants to believe everything they say to be true – so they aren’t likely to challenge statements that they think may be inflated. Not calling out a lie goes hand in hand with lying in the first place.


Keeping track of the exaggerations you tell is important, because you never know when they might come up again in the future. For example, if you said you had some experience with Photoshop when you have actually never used the program, it may not be the worst idea to learn the basics.


mindscope lies job interview


The Lies You Should Never Tell


While some twists of the truth are commonplace (your flaw is you’re too perfectionistic?!), completely lying about certain aspects of work experience or skills is likely to land employees in hot water. Eventually it becomes obvious that the claims made in an interview were simply not true, which will inevitably lead to bad performance and general mistrust in that person. The same study that found 100% would lie to some extent in a job interview found that only around 25% would tell an extreme lie, such as fabricating work experience or making up a degree.


The same sentiment rings true for employers. Making promises in an interview that you know you won’t be able to deliver on, such as benefits or working hours, is a sure-fire way to quickly sully your reputation. Bluffing about what you can offer not only sours the relationship with your current employee, but can lead to bad reviews online or through personal networks, tarnishing your employer brand.


Honesty is always the best policy, and confident candidates and employers that are perfect matches may not find themselves in many instances where they feel the need to lie.


Mindscope is always eager to contribute to the conversation surrounding workplace culture, interview tips and the overall job search. We are also committed to providing recruiters the best search tools on the market – contact us today to find out more or start your free 7-day trial by clicking here.