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1/21/24 - Is lying during job interviews getting out of hand?

By Hailey Mensik

It’s getting more difficult to discern whether a job candidate is being truthful or not.

Most people aren’t totally honest when they answer questions like, “Why did you leave your previous role? “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “Why do you want to work here?” during job interviews. In fact a whopping 80% of workers say they’ve lied in a job interview before, and 44% admitted to frequently lying, according to an August survey from ResumeLab from 1,900 respondents.

And while skirting the truth in job interviews is an age-old habit, there are signs that it may be starting to get out of control. Some fibs may seem harmless, but they can lead to job seekers landing roles they’re ultimately unhappy with while they become a burden to their employers. “It obfuscates if this is the right fit, and it creates an additional mismatch challenge for organizations down the line,” said Caroline Ogawa, director of research for Gartner’s HR practice.

At the same time, hiring managers are perhaps more distrusting than ever in believing applicants are presenting themselves accurately, as more people are using generative AI to craft their application materials, like resumes and cover letters, and even answers to potential interview questions and writing assessments. Almost half of job seekers used generative AI in job applications this year, a Gartner survey found.

The ResumeLab survey also found that applicants with higher education levels — those holding Masters or doctoral degrees — reported the highest instances of lying in interviews (85%), followed by those without a college degree (71%). Candidates with a bachelor’s or associate degree were least likely to lie (63%).

Lying about “any area where there are verification mechanisms in place,” like employment dates and work history is a quick way to foment distrust and get out of the running, Ogawa said. And lies about technical skills often come to light during assessments in the interview process.

“But I think the riskier areas might be on parts about culture fit or candidate expectations, like those questions that feel more innocuous,” she said.

Lying about whether you think you’ll fit in with a company’s culture and adequately manage expectations in the role can have a big impact when it comes to performance and satisfaction down the line, she said.

Even lying about where you see yourself in five years can come back to get you. “Finding that right fit is going to be just as important as the right technical alignment, and some of the kind of more black and white box checking parameters, for both candidates and their organizations,” Ogawa said. “They are really looking to find the right fit, and the right fit for the organization long term,” she said.

One main reaction to lying when responding to those questions and ultimately landing a role is to accept an offer and then back out, she said. Between May 2022 and May 2023, some 50% of candidates accepted a job offer that they later backed out of and then started working for another employer, a Gartner survey of over 3,000 respondents found.

“It’s important to be honest because you don’t want to end up in the same position, doing the things you don’t want to do again, and then searching for another job in six months,” said Shayna Royal, director of talent acquisition at HR software firm Paycor.

Lying about where you see yourself in five years is another common one that could really create a mismatch down the line. “You don’t want to go in and say you hope to be the vice president of the accounting department within five years, if truly, that’s not something you’re aspiring to and you’re just trying to impress them,” Royal said.

“It’s just so important to be honest about who you are, what you value, and what you want, so that you can find the right fit rather than just winning the job interview and getting the job,” she said.