Why You Shouldn't Even Tell White Lies in Interviews

February 14, 2017

One way to stumble in an interview is to lie. And often, we don't intend to lie in interviews but find ourselves doing it almost reflexively, answering a question how we think it should be answered as opposed to how we'd answer it if we were being 100 percent honest.

The truth is, it's very likely that your interviewer can smell even the whitest of lies from several cubicles away, so it's always best to give an honest answer, even if you think it might not be the one your interviewer is looking for.

For more incentive not to lie in interviews, here's how Todd Rovac, the North America CEO of Capgemini Consulting, says he hires people (this comes from a recent New York Times Corner Office column):

I start with, “What are the first five things you read every day?” People will lie, and tell you about the things they should be reading. Then I’ll say: “What do you actually read? Tell me the first five sites you check in the morning.”
I want to get to this truth that says we need people to bring their whole self to work, because we are better when we have different perspectives. We are better when we have debate. And that works only if you bring your whole self.
If you’re a Green Bay Packers fan, bring it to work. If you’re a musician on the side, bring that in. Are you willing to activate the parts of your brain that are not just about the work? I don’t need a consultant to argue with consultants. I need a banker arguing with a chef. I need a dog lover arguing with a cat lover. It’s the “why” behind diversity.

Of course, this applies to more than just the question Rovac uses above. It also applies to the "weakness" question, the "failure" question, and every other behavioral questionyou might be asked to field in an interview. It's important to remember that there's often a big divide between the answer you think you should give and the one your interviewer is looking for, so the only route to take is the honest one.

Rovac, who holds degrees from Harvard and Penn and formerly worked in the investment management division at Goldman Sachs, also says it's important for managers, especially those at the CEO level, to always speak truthfully. He says that obfuscating the truth of a situation can set you up for failure. Here's more, in Rovac's words.

It’s also not credible to say that everything is going to be fine. The biggest way to fail is to say, “I’ve got this completely figured out.” I prefer to be credible and say: “We are all on a journey. And we have a strategy. And this is what we don’t know about the path from here to there. But here’s where we’re going and why.”
And so it stops being about my vision and starts being our journey. And people will pull for a journey. The biggest myth is that in order to be a leader you have to have all the answers.
I learned that there is no more powerful thing you can say sometimes than “I actually can’t tell you this is 100 percent going to work, but here’s what I believe.”

You might be thinking that all of this is obvious, that you shouldn't lie, that you shouldn't mislead employees or your interviewers. But in an age where many chiefs, including the so-called commander-in-chief, treat truth telling like it's merely an alternative, not a given, it seems important to hammer this point home.

by Derek Loosvelt

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