Honesty is overrated. Here are five lies you want a candidate to tell you

By November 19, 2015 Hiring & Recruiting
Woman in an interview

Ever since we were kids we’ve heard a lot about honesty being the best policy, but that is of course not always true.

There are plenty of instances in life in which one should sometimes be less than honest. When dealing with another person’s feelings, for example. Another is the job interview.

We have written in the past that there are certain lies a jobseeker should actually tell. My colleague Peter Harris wrote, “I would suggest that honesty isn’t so much the ‘best policy’ as strategic communication is.” And, from the other side of the desk, this might seem counter-intuitive, but you don’t actually want candidates to be entirely honest with you. You want them to lie.

Of course you don’t want them to lie about their education, work history, or length of tenure at a previous employer. But you do want them to be diplomatic and savvy, and that is often demonstrated by telling half-truths, or outright whoppers.

Here are five lies that you actually want candidates to tell you.

I liked everybody at my previous job. Really? What Smurf village did they work in? There’s actually very little chance they liked absolutely everyone they worked with. But complaining about others suggests a potential lack of accountability and a disagreeable disposition that might clash with the rest of your team. No matter what they really think of their former coworkers, you want them to smile and say it was a privilege to work with such a great group, and that they’re going to miss them all.

My former boss was the best. The most common reason people change jobs voluntarily is because of their working relationship with their boss. You know this, but anyone who trash talks their boss demonstrates the above-mentioned lack of accountability and potentially disagreeable personality, which means that somewhere down the road, should things fall apart due to these possible traits, the candidate may wind up trash talking you.

We didn’t see eye to eye on some things. At the very least, know that when you hear this one, what the candidate is really saying is “I hated his/her effing guts.” If they’re being let go and you are likely to find this out on your own, they might be being as diplomatic as possible and deserve the benefit of the doubt, something you can probably glean from the rest of the interview.

The reason I’m leaving my previous job is not the boss, my coworkers, or the pay but something non-complainy like wanting a new challenge or room to grow. Even better if they say it’s specifically because of the opportunity you’re offering. You want someone who is enthusiastic about the role and who wants to work for you. So, if they showcase that, awesome. That they might be having you on but at least they know the right thing to say. Again, beware complainers. If someone starts complaining from the get go, don’t assume they’re going to stop any time soon.

My greatest weakness is something innocuous like getting bogged down in details or stressed out under pressure. You don’t want outright BS like “I’m a perfectionist who works too hard” but you don’t want someone to say “vodka, gambling, and anger” either. OK, maybe you do want the latter, because then you’d know not to hire them, but you get what I mean. You don’t want an over sharer who is going to spill their guts to you. You want someone who shows savvy and good communication skills.

Because the job interview is a communication game and you want someone who knows how to play it strategically because that demonstrates that they will also do their job strategically and show strategic communication in business and around the office. So watch for these fibs.

After all, you’ve got your own list of lies you’re going to tell too, right?

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