Can I Lie in a Job Interview to Make Myself Look Better?

By Pritam Bhuyan, Olivia Agate and Simon Blake on 08 July 2020

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We interviewed some of our experienced consultants (Pritam Bhuyan, Olivia Agate and Simon Blake) to get their take on white lies in an interview. Spoiler alert: it’s almost never worth it. In fact, to quote Liv, “always tell the truth or it will come back and bite you in the ass.”

About whether you have been fired before

Unanimous no from our consultants. In Defence industry, where everyone knows everyone, it’s not in your best interest to lie about a sticky situation in your past.

There have been multiple times someone hasn’t passed probation based on an opinion, as opposed to a level of skill – if it was an unfair dismissal, then tell your recruiter and they can investigate and explain the situation to the client. One of our consultants recalled the time someone got fired for talking about their salary to someone on a lower salary. The candidate was upfront with our consultant, and so they were able to put him in front of the client and explain the situation. Being a mistake, that wouldn’t happen again, the client didn’t mind, and the candidate was hired.  

About what you are being paid

This is a tricky one, and you’ll see conflicting advice on the interwebs. If you’re being underpaid at your current role, it’s reasonable to ask for a sizeable salary increase. But you need to be ready to back it up with a reason. Our annual Salary Survey results are a good source to see if you are being underpaid, and to use as ammunition to get you that increase.

Going through a recruiter is another good way to ask for a higher salary and have that extra level of backing for an increase.

Another reason you shouldn’t inflate your current pay, especially to a recruiter, is that you might price yourself out of a job, or even out of a recruiter’s mind for future roles.

About your skillset

Job ads these days can contain a long list of requirements, and it’s rare that you’ll tick all of the boxes. It can be easy to say that you are skilled in something or have experience in it when you don’t. Sometimes you can convince yourself that you can learn that skill through some frantic YouTube-ing before the job would start, and therefore you can tell the interviewer you already know that skill. This approach doesn’t work that well when it comes to Defence, as a lot of the skills are niche and hard to learn from the internet.

Luckily, the hired candidate often doesn’t tick all the boxes either. You’d be better off being upfront about which skills you are lacking, and then offering up an example of a time where you learnt a skill really quickly for a new role, to show you have the capability to upskill in order to do your job. This approach will work much better than you getting caught not knowing how to do something.

Your thoughts on your boss

Another shady area. While again it’s never advisable to lie, you want to choose your words carefully when talking about your previous role. You don’t want to bad-mouth a previous boss that you had a poor relationship with, as it can make you look like you are difficult to work with. 

In Defence Industry, there is also the high chance your new boss knows your old boss, so an emotional rant about them in an interview won’t look good. However, this also means that if you did have issues with a past manager, and they are friends with your new one, than chances are they know already, and if you lie and say things were happy days you’ll get caught out. 

Your best bet is to be truthful, and phrase it diplomatically: “There were some cultural differences with my previous employer”/ “The management style didn’t align personally”. It happens all the time and is a common reason for people to seek a new role, so don’t feel like you need to lie to cover that reason.

Recruiters’ pet peeves

There are a couple of common lies that really can irk your recruiter. Lying about what you’re being paid happens a bit, and when it’s found out it can be disappointing. Another is not being clear about any leave you have planned when you are about to start a new role. Rarely will planned leave or holidays affect your chances at a role, but it can affect your new company’s opinion of you if it is only announced last minute. Recruiters also ask that you are transparent around other jobs you are applying for at the same time – again, this won’t affect your chances at a role. In fact, it might even push the company to get back to you with an answer quicker, so it’s often beneficial to be upfront about it.

So in conclusion...

Be very upfront and truthful with your recruiter, and they can help you best shape your negative experiences into a positive, or back you when you want to go for things like higher pay. Getting caught lying to a recruiter puts a bad taste in their mouth, and recruiters are the ones in the ears of everyone in the industry.

Ultimately, nothing is worse than being caught lying, especially in such a small industry. You might be able to get away with it in other industries, but not Defence. Obviously check yourself before you wreck yourself with the way you tell some truths, but overall honesty is always the best policy.


Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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