Why Lying at a Job Interview is NEVER a Good Idea

Ever considered lying at a job interview? Well, don’t! Sure, a career making-or-breaking interview may be the one occasion when you need to hard-sell your skills and experience, but there is a big difference between positive exaggeration and unscrupulous embellishment. If anything, lying at a job interview is a sure way to court disaster:

Just positive portrayal?

At job interviews, absolutely everybody gives an overly idealized view of themselves. After all, you are talking to your potential new boss. Consequently, interviewees have to carefully present themselves in a good light, but without telling outright porkies. We’ve all said those silly lines at job interview, haven’t we?

How we exaggerate

It’s funny how in a job interview suddenly your worst personality trait is “working too hard”, or the meeting you chaired a few times made you a “project driver”. And remember the time when you sat in for your boss for a few hours? Naturally, that occasion gave you “important leadership experience”! But in comparison with outright lies, you really have done the overtime, chaired a few meetings and substituted your boss for half a day, so at least these scenarios are not just figments of imagination.


And yes, some companies are hives of deceit and deception. In some company cultures or certain job roles, knowing how to creatively bend the truth is actually considered a necessity and a good thing. Some sales jobs unfortunately tend to have this reputation and we have all probably met the real estate agent who told us that we’d better put down a deposit today, because there were two other people interested in buying the property we were looking at. But, unless you are going to work in a “boiler room” type situation, you really need to be conscious of the negative consequences of being caught out on a lie. Dismissal for gross misconduct, or being sued, is not an end result unheard of.

Selling yourself vs. telling porky pies

Selling yourself at a job interview is a delicate balancing act. You must come across as a confident person, who understands his or her own skills sets and experience, and knows how to explain it to a potential employer. At the same time, this needs to be done in a way that is not overly haughty or arrogant – and not an obvious exaggeration that couldn’t possibly be all true.

Typical lies people tell

For example, you might be tempted to tell an interviewer that you know how to use Photoshop, thinking that you’ll just do a bit of practicing at home or a quick course on the subject, if you get offered the job. The problem is, that if you really don’t know how to Photoshop, this will be painfully obvious to your employers when you begin the new job. Equally, your own peace of mind and feelings of anxiety at the thought of being found out will probably make the bigger paycheck not worthwhile… Imagine having to spend every night at home practice your computer skills, just to be prepared for a task the next day at work. It’s just not worth it.

Worse case scenarios

Human Resources professionals world over, will tell you about cases where employees have been sacked or sued for dishonesty.Most companies these days have HR departments, recruitment policies, employee rule handbooks, personnel guidelines and disciplinary procedures. HR recruiters and hiring executives or managers are also quite experienced at getting information out of you and if something you say does not match your CV or a statement you made earlier, you could be in trouble. Getting caught out on a lie at a job interview will not only damage your reputation with that company, but possibly also other potential employers, as your recruiter networks with other people in your industry.

Getting sacked for lying

If a company hires you because they value a particular experience or skill they think you have, and then find out it wasn’t true, they can terminate your contract and dismiss you. The gravity of the lie will dictate the outcome, of course. So a doctor, a lawyer or an architect who has forged their degree diploma, could get into criminal trouble, and additionally get sued for damages, whereas a secretary exaggerating her Microsoft Word skills would probably get off much more lightly.

Not all your fault

Employers do have a responsibility too: they need to check out your references and verify your skills. For example, secretaries usually get tested for their typing speed and accountants are given a numerical task to complete in a certain time frame. Even though it may sound surprising, some employees who have been sacked for small lies on their CV’s or during their interviews, have been able to bring a successful counterclaim for employer negligence – for not checking your background diligently enough. This is rare, however.

Just be you!

The old adage is true: you, as yourself, really are good enough. Trust in your skills and your experience. If you have been called for an interview, then a company is potentially interested in you, for a reason. Do prepare for your interview and make sure you have real life examples of achievements stored up your sleeve, ready to tell your recruiting manager. When landed with curve balls, practiced answers mean that you won’t have to resort to lying. And in the end, if you don’t get picked for the job, don’t worry, just move on. If they didn’t like you, the chances are that you probably would not have enjoyed your time at the company anyway.

Author: Johanna Bergstrom is a journalist of 10 years and originally hails from Helsinki, but now lives in Southern Spain with her husband Jose and son Felix. She has a special interest in writing about finance and money management and is currently associated with

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