In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught.
The above quote was given by Hunter S. Thompson, a famous American Journalist and Author, who started a new form of journalism called ‘Gonzo’. Most of his works were based on crime and criminals.
However, in the context of job interviews, we are referring to innocent lies by civilized people. Their reasons behind lying may seem petty like, better salary; higher position; probably, just getting a job in a dream company. However, from an organization’s point of view, such lies are serious offences. For these lies, the candidates are not only reprimanded, but may have to pay a heavy price. The heavy price comes in the form of not only losing a good career opportunity (forever in case of some organizations, especially multinationals), but also losing the current job (if the word reaches the present organization). There are only two ways in which a professional can achieve his or her career goals;
- The routine and boring way, but most authentic and secure – through honest performance, or;
- By being an adroit liar – the one who never gets caught
As quoted by author, Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, “interview is a conversation between two liars”, but unfortunately, the ramifications of being caught are different for interviewers and candidates. If an interviewer lies, it is a strategy, however, if the candidate lies, it is cheating. Interviewers are rewarded, but candidates perish. Candidates must always remember that the recruiters are extremely skillful in what they do. Moreover, they keep devising newer techniques to extract the truth out of the candidates, because that’s what they are paid to do. So ideally, job aspirants must never lie, but if they do, they must ensure that they never get caught. There are many questions for which no lies would ever work. However, in this article, I have come up with most of such questions for which interviewers have become really vigilant to catch any lies that candidates may throw at them. This article covers those questions along with the usual answers, which are considered as lies, and the correct approach to answer such questions.
“Why are you looking for a job change?“
“I am happy with my current job, but looking for a change now.”
Let’s accept it. Happy people don’t quit. Top three reasons of looking for a job change are, when;
- you always think that other people are getting more salary than you.
- the words management, boss, and vampire become synonymous for you.
- if the hiring company is a bigger brand or the current company’s performance is dwindling.
If a survey was conducted, most of the candidates would fall in one of the above situations. Moreover, the interviews are so structured that interviewer has already assessed the true situation. He or she is just waiting for you to accept it, and wants to observe if you can present it with a positive perspective. But candidates choose to lie as they consider it to be a safe passage. In reality, it is a pitfall.
You can’t gripe about salary; recruiter would think of you as being greedy. You can’t utter a word against our boss or management; recruiter would consider your attitude to be negative. Again, you can’t say that your company was going to be closed; recruiter would question both your loyalty and performance.
Then what to say, and how to say it? I will tell answer these questions as well, however, right now, let’s stay focused on the topic at hand.
“What’s your current salary?“
“My current salary is XYZ, but my appraisal is due next month, and my manager has indicated that I would be getting a raise of 20%.”
It’s a myth that if you say this during salary negotiation, your negotiation ground would be strengthened. However, in reality, it doesn’t affect recruiter in any way whatsoever. If a product’s price is going to increase, the seller will coax you to buy it right away – at its current price, and not at increased price. Similarly, a recruiter would always base his negotiations and offer on the candidate’s current true worth assessment, and the evidence of current salary and other benefits. If your answer is similar to what’s given above, most likely, recruiter would ask you to come back after a month – once you will receive the letter of raise. During that time, either of the following would happen;
- candidate would not get the raise (if it was a lie), and won’t contact the recruiter ever;
- even if this ‘getting-a-raise’ story was true, the position would have already been filled.
Weigh the opportunity, prove your worth, and have realistic salary expectations based on your current salary standards. You will never be disappointed.
“How do you describe your performance with your current organization?”
“I am the top performer, or the best performer. I was given ‘Employee of the month’ title.”
I was once interviewing a candidate for a large multinational organization. Coincidently, there were three more employees from the same organization, who had applied for the same position with us. The best part was that all three claimed to be the top most performers.
You really underestimated the recruitment process, and recruiter’s intelligence and preparedness if you also provided the answer mentioned above or any other version of it. Do you really think that hiring is done without a thorough reference check? Given the current economic and market scenarios, reference check process has only toughened, because companies have already tasted the fruit of bad hiring, which was nothing lesser than being fatal. So please don’t boast about or exaggerate your performance. Simply share the performance figures. Claim the titles such as ‘Employee of the month or year or quarter’, only if you have an authorized documentary evidence to support your claim. Else, reality is just around the corner, and is hardly a phone call away.
“What is your biggest weakness or what are your weaknesses?”
“Being a perfectionist is my biggest weakness.”
And there are many other versions of the answer given above. Almost every interview expert must have advised the same that is, to disguise one of your strengths as a weakness. Even I must have advised the same in one of my previous articles. But then, being updated with latest management tactics, and to stay abreast with the current norms are the keys to success. What prevailed 5 years back, is now obsolete. The organizations these days are really focused on employee development, and before hiring someone, they would like to determine the training needs and development areas of that candidate. Every candidate, who prepares for an interview through internet, is aware that a question on weakness is inevitable. But the key to prepare is to identify the areas, where you need improvement and development, and share it candidly with your recruiter.
“Why have you chosen us?“
“Because I always wanted to work for your company.”
Most candidates use the above answer as a safe exit point for this question. However, such answers may become the way to exit door from the company premises. The moment you supply this answer, a recruiter’s next question would be, “What do we offer that your current company or any of our competitors don’t?” Most candidates will either be dumbstruck or at best be able to come out with something like, “Yours is a bigger brand”. Flattery doesn’t take you anywhere, however, adequate research and being prepared does. The reason for not being able to answer this question, adequately, is the lack of research. Just 10 minutes of internet browsing can’t equip you to answer a question like this; sorry! questions like these, because the number of such questions would be more, and in a variety of forms.
“But you don’t have any experience in this sort of role.”
“In fact, I do have it. (In the form of part-time assignments, fictitious organizations, forged experience stories)”
Usually in case of fresh candidates, the moment this question is posed, they become defensive, and try to accentuate their false claim of having experience pertaining to the role offered. The reason is simple – ‘the fear of rejection’ because of no experience. Some claim to have worked in part-time assignments or dummy projects. Often, people do not even hesitate to mention fictitious companies owned by their relatives or friends. However, they fail to realize two important things:
- Every organization has a strong background check mechanism, which unveils every truth about the candidates. Because of increasing number of such fraudulent incidents, a few organizations have even hired third parties or external agencies to carry out a thorough reference and background check of every incoming candidate. So lying, actually, won’t help.
- Candidates reach the interview stage after a resume check. Unless, the job advertisement mentioned the specific experience desired, and you, categorically, mentioned your fictitious experience to deceive the interviewer, interviewer would ideally know that you were a fresh candidate with no practical experience. Still, this question was asked, because there was a valid reason behind that. Interviewer actually wanted to check if you could cover up your inexperience with the theoretical understanding; if you were enthusiastic enough for the role, and researched about it, thoroughly. He or she would also like to judge the amount or effort of training that would be required in your case.
“Are you currently not working or have you already left your current job?”
“I am still working, but serving a notice period.”
No candidate, who has either been fired or had left the job, would admit of being unemployed, because of the common notion that being unemployed makes it tougher to get a new job, especially, if the previous job had gone due to negative reasons. Ask a question about it, and pat would come a lie. The results of such lies being caught are damaging as well as humiliating.
I know of a candidate, who was employed with a leading multinational bank. He was laid-off during recession of 2008. He, somehow, joined another bank by forging his experience details. The truth was exposed to the new bank within three months of his joining. He was immediately ‘excused’. Can you imagine the humiliation that he must have had to suffer? Additionally, his track record got tainted as well. It happened in 2009. Last conversation that I had with him was in 2012, and he was still searching for a new job.
But the problem is that if you were laid-off or were relieved due to irreconcilable conflicts, it would become extremely difficult to find a new job as it wouldn’t be easy to obtain a positive reference from previous manager. Ideally, you should never reach a stage in your job, when you can’t even get a positive reference for yourself. This can be easily done by maintaining cordial working relationships, good conduct, and best performance. If still such situation arises, then strategize and search for a new job, while you still have your previous job.
“Have you ever managed a team or handled a project, single-handedly?”
“Yes I have, when my boss was on the leave; or had met with an accident; or suffered an illness; or… “
The replies of many candidates, whom I interviewed, were similar to the examples provided above. But they were unaware of the stream of questions that was about to be followed.
“What are the essentials of project planning?”
“What are the factors that directly influence project deadlines?”
And many more. Trust me the answers and reactions deserved a range of adjectives – from absurd to hilarious. Before claiming any such accomplishment, candidates must be aware that a recruiter comes laced with a wide assortment of questions pertaining to various situations, neatly arrayed in his or her mind as a flowchart waiting to be deployed.
Candidates chose to lie, whereas, they could have politely said that they didn’t have such a chance in their professional environment, however, they could have safely detailed an experience from their personal lives in which they demonstrated management or team handling skills. Remember all the time that recruiter has a thorough understanding about your company, profile, and responsibilities. So he would already know if your existing role involved team handling or not.
“Why is there a gap in your employment?”
“I was on a sabbatical (or took a break because of a personal problem)”
I met with a senior supply chain executive in a large multinational organization. While sharing his interesting professional history, he mentioned that he once left his regular employment to begin his entrepreneurial journey. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a debacle. But he was a true professional. When he started hunting job again, whenever this question came up, he always mentioned truth along with details of his learning out of this debacle. I won’t hide the fact that it took him some time to get hold of a job again. But finally, he got the job of Country Manager – Supply Chain with one of the largest cosmetics chain in the world, purely on the basis of his entrepreneurial instincts and experience.
The reason of sharing this instance is that many people, while following their entrepreneurial dreams, meet their worst fate. But it’s no shame. Instead, they should be proud of the fact that they had the guts to try as not everyone has the courage to tread this path, knowingly, that it may lead to the biggest disaster of their lives.
However, this article is meant to address the people, who lie to hide the gaps in their employment.
The most common answer is, “I was on a sabbatical.” Sabbatical means ‘resting period’. Recruiter understands only one of the two things out of this word;
- lack of seriousness or direction or
- lay-off due to non performance or organizational conflict
Both of the above are not dealt with great tolerance in hiring process. Please remember that a gap in employment is the most thoroughly scrutinized situation during reference and background check. Moreover, if you stayed out of job beyond six months, from a recruiter’s perspective, you must have lost your edge by now. If you still choose to say ‘Sabbatical’, then be prepared for the next set of questions;
“Why did you go on Sabbatical?”
“What was lacking in your previous job or education, which forced you to take Sabbatical?”
“What did you do during this break?”
“How did you ensure that your skills and experience didn’t go waste?”
“How is this Sabbatical going to add to your performance, and our company’s growth?”
I know – loads and loads of questions! But it was you, who kick started them.
Second most common answer is “because of a personal problem”. Do you really meant to say that no one else has a personal problem? Unless this personal problem was a serious injury or an illness, which was documented through right medical channels, this would be taken as just an excuse. Obviously, every case is not a lie, however, most of them turn out to be blatant lies, and interviewers are extremely cautious about such issues. The candidates with real problems would be able to prove it, however, for the rest, interviewers have got all the means to catch you.
“How long do you plan to stay with our company?“
“I am a person with long term vision, and would like to retire from this organization as a senior executive.”
This is the most amusing lie that I have heard from almost every candidate that I interviewed. It, almost instantly, brings smile to my face. And I forgave many fresh or junior candidates. However, the treatment with job aspirants with three or more years of experience was different, since I expected maturity if not the brutal truth that is, “I will stay till you pay handsomely”. People belonging to Gen X and Y are not stable. It’s a given, rather proven fact. Recruiters also don’t expect them to stay forever. However, the answer must be dealt with sincerity.
Recruiters wish to ascertain the factors that engender loyalty and commitment in a candidate, and an answer like ‘adequate money’ would highlight nothing, but their shortsightedness. The interviewer would prefer an answer like, “I would like to stick to an organization, which would continuously spur my professional and personal growth.” Now, such an answer would do two things:
- It would straight away take interviewer away from this evil question.
- More importantly, now the interviewer would be more interested to hear your views on questions like, “What do you mean by professional and personal growth?”
I am sure that this second question can be answered with great aplomb, because of the research that you carried out about the interviewing company, its vision, objectives, employee policies etc.
Before I put a full-stop to this article, I would like to remind the readers that most of the lies can be caught simply by experience and understanding, which every seasoned recruiter would possess. However, to confirm the truth with evidence, every company, especially the large ones, have employed external agencies, who perform a thorough audit of a candidate’s background including, the criminal or police records. And it is becoming more stringent, because of the increasing numbers of corporate frauds. So beware!
Frauds come prepared, and I know that you are not a fraud, but simply a clueless candidate. So don’t resort to lies. They are such a waste of intelligence!