30 Lies Everyone Tells During a Job Interview
Some instantly tank your chances. But some might land you the gig.
Honesty is a great virtue to strive for. That said, not everyone hits the mark—especially when it concerns primping qualifications in the middle of a job interview. In fact, researchers from the University of Massachusetts found that an overwhelming 81 percent of people have lied about themselves at some point during a job interview. So whether you’re a hiring manager hoping to spot common lies or a candidate trying to separate what’s okay to fabricate and what’s not, here are some of the most frequently occurring fibs that people tell during the interview process.
“My current salary is $100,000.”
Many job applicants incorrectly assume that they need to lie about their current or previous salary in order to get the compensation they desire, but usually this strategy backfires in more than one way. Not only is a hiring manager much less likely to consider a candidate who they’ve caught in a lie, but falsely inflating your current salary beyond the market standards might also lead the interviewer to assume that the position you’re applying for won’t be able to provide adequate compensation, causing them to take you out of the running.
“I’m definitely willing to relocate for the right opportunity.”
People will say pretty much anything if it means securing their dream job, but this is one of those job interview lies that can really come back to bite you. Sure, this lie might snag you the job—but if you falsely tell a potential employer that you’re open to moving anywhere in the country, then you might be unpleasantly surprised when your subsequent job offer is contingent upon your relocation to the Midwest.
“I’m a people person.”
Offices are collaborative spaces where coworkers need to work together to get results, so it’s usually in an interviewee’s best interest to lie about being a people person if the reality is that they prefer to ride solo. And little white lies like this one are generally considered acceptable, especially seeing as the alternative would be admitting to a potential employer that you don’t play well with others.
“I can handle the commute, no problem.”
When you’re desperate for a new job, you’re seemingly willing to overlook the small things—like a two-hour commute—that would normally make a position less than ideal. But even if you aren’t aware of it at the time, telling a potential employer that you’re not fazed by a crazy commute is a bold and blatant lie—and it’s not one that’s worth telling, seeing as that insane journey will likely lead to your eventual departure from the company.
In fact, one survey conducted by office rental company Regus found that nearly one in five people globally have considered leaving their job because their commute is too long, with that number climbing to 39 percent for workers whose commute is at least one hour.
“I loved my last job.”
Because nobody wants to talk badly about their former employer to the person who could be their future employer, this is a lie that comes up quite often in a job interview setting. But similar to stretching the truth about your people skills, this is a falsehood that works in your favor—especially since, according to the authors over at job listings site Glassdoor, saying negative things about your last boss or company is one of the worst things you can do in an interview.
“I’ve always wanted to work for your company.”
If you don’t conduct thorough research on the company you’re interviewing with before your big moment, any hiring manager will be able to see right through this lie. Of course, you shouldn’t ever admit to your interviewer that you have no idea what their company does, but you also shouldn’t tell them that you’ve dreamed of working at their company for years unless it’s the honest truth.
“My last position was eliminated.”
There is a huge stigma surrounding the idea of being fired, which is why so many prospective job candidates will lie about it both on their resumes and in an interview. However, a simple background check by a hiring manager will unveil this information, and it’s always better to give yourself a chance to explain what happened than it is to be caught in yet another unnecessary lie. As business owner Phil Wrzesinski explained to CareerBuilder: “I am not as concerned with bad things that have happened in [a candidate’s] past as much as how they dealt with those issues. That shows their true character.”
“Yeah, I’m an expert at that program.”
People lie about having sought-after technical and professional skills all the time in job interviews. However, these untruths are pointless, seeing as even if you get the job you won’t actually be able to do it. As Peter Harris, editor-in-chief of online job board Workopolis, explained to Business Insider: “You certainly shouldn’t lie about abilities that you don’t really have. There’s no point in being hired for a job that you can’t actually do.”
“I was senior level at my last company.”
Sure, lying about your last position might sound impressive out loud, but it will be less so when your interviewer verifies this information and realizes that it’s not true. If you feel like your actual job title doesn’t properly highlight your job functions, then you should emphasize your duties at your current company instead of making a new title up.
“I graduated top of my class from business school.”
“If you lie about a degree, you will probably get caught,” headhunter Nick Corcodilos explained to PBS. “[Or] worse, because some of these background checks take time, the truth might not turn up until after you’ve been hired—[and] then you’ll lose your new job.” And if you don’t have a degree, it’s not the end of the world: Several jobs out there don’t require a college education, and even the jobs that list a degree as a necessity are willing to overlook it for the right candidate.
“My current boss is wonderful.”
Clashing with the higher-ups is not uncommon. In fact, in one 2013 Gallup survey of 150,000 employees, an overwhelming 70 percent of people admitted that they didn’t get along with their boss. However, there is a fine line between being honest about your current managerial situation and bashing your boss to the point of being petty—and if you can’t tell the difference between those two things, then perhaps lying is your best bet.
“I took some time off in between jobs to…”
“Long gaps in résumés tend to garner attention from potential employers,” says Melissa Buerkett, a career counselor with Global Experiences. But according to the counselor, you don’t have to lie about what went on during your employment gap just to make yourself a viable candidate, especially if you took time off for personal reasons.
“There’s no need to make up a story to substitute for what actually happened, but I also don’t think there’s any need in an interview to get personal about why you may have a gap in your résumé either,” says Buerkett. Her advice? Just tell your interviewer that you took some personal time off, and leave it at that.
“I spend most of my spare time giving back to the community.”
This is one of those job interview lies that can actually work in your favor if executed properly. “If you’re going to list interests at all on your résumé or discuss them in your interview, make sure they relate directly to the job or the culture of the company you are applying to,” Harris said. “Does the company page include photos of the team on charity mountain bike rides? If so, your interests include mountain biking and charity fund raising.”
“My greatest weakness is that I’m too much of a workaholic.”
Interviewers aren’t asking you about your weaknesses just to see if you can figure out creative ways to talk more about your strengths. Rather, as personal finance author Ramit Sethi explained on an episode of The Tim Ferris Show, this question tests whether you can acknowledge that you have flaws and whether “you are self-aware enough to be working on them to improve it.” And for more workplace advice, don’t miss The 50 Top Secrets of a Perfect Work-Life Balance.
“Sorry I’m late—my car broke down!”
Being late to an interview is never a good look. And if for some reason you are tardy, the last thing you want to do is lie about the cause of your delay. Most hiring managers will be sympathetic to uncontrollable circumstances like traffic or delayed subways—but if they somehow find out that the real reason you were late is because you overslept or were simply too engrossed in a Netflix marathon to get off the couch, then you can say goodbye to whatever position it was you were pining after.
“I’m always happy to help out wherever I can.”
Nearly every job you have during the course of your career is going to require you to perform tasks outside of your core responsibilities. So if for some reason you find yourself unwilling to help out in other parts of the company, then yes, your best bet is probably just to lie and say that you’re a team player.
“I’m not big on office gossip.”
According to one survey conducted by staffing service Accountemps, 18 percent of CFOs and 28 percent of workers find office gossip to be a common breach of workplace etiquette. And given the number of people who disapprove of this practice, it’s little surprise that so many job candidates fib about their involvement in obnoxious office tittle-tattle.
“In five years, I see myself here, at this company.”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” Job interviewers ask this question all the time, and interviewees lie in response just as often. Why? “Nobody knows where they will be in five years,” career coach Darrell Gurney explained to CNBC. “Taking a job is like marriage vows on the part of both employee and employer—you state your intentions, and then you just give it your best shot.”
“Feel free to check my references.”
The lie here isn’t the statement, but rather the references themselves. When job candidates are worried about what a former manager might say about them, they try to take control of the situation by fabricating their references, listing the names and numbers of friends and roommates in the guise of contactable coworkers. This is such a common fabrication during the job hunt that there are even companies out there that you can pay to be your reference, and they will even go so far as to make up an entire company for you.
“I had 10 direct reports at my last job.”
As Buerkett explained, emphasizing certain experiences that are “valuable to your new job” is fine—especially if you’re venturing into a new career field—but making duties and details up is definitely not. For instance, if you worked on a managerial level as an unpaid volunteer, then it’s absolutely acceptable to mention that when asked about managerial experience, but you begin to cross into to the murky realm of untruths when you make up directorial duties at your last job just to sound like you have the necessary experience.
“I’ve never been convicted of a crime.”
Because employers tend to have an unreasonable negative perception of ex-convicts, people feel the need to lie about their criminal pasts just to get their foot in the door. However, this detail will come out during a routine background check, so it’s best to just be honest about any past run-ins with the law and, once that information is out of the way, focus on your strengths.
“I’m absolutely perfect for this job.”
Try as hiring managers might to find them, the perfect candidates just don’t exist—and if they did, they definitely wouldn’t talk about how perfect they are. So instead of blurting out this exaggeration during your job interview, focus on highlighting the duties of the role that you can perform nearly perfectly, backing up your claims with anecdotal evidence and former job functions.
“I was promoted twice at my last job in just one year.”
Why would anyone leave a company where they were being promoted with such frequency? Interviewers can see right through this all-too-common lie—and even if they can’t, all they have to do is phone your former employer to find out the truth.
“I’m fluent in French, and Spanish, and…”
Lying about being fluent in a foreign language to a recruiter’s face is even worse than lying about it on a résumé. In a job interview, your interviewer can ask you to demonstrate your proficiency—and it’s going to be pretty awkward when all you know how to say in French is hello, goodbye, and where is the bathroom?
“I majored in business in college.”
When job listings include a specific college major as one of their preferences, candidates will often lie about what they studied just to give themselves a supposed leg-up in the interview process. However, your experience says much more than your degree does, and any company worth working for will overlook the semantics of a college major for a qualified candidate.
“I have my CPR certification.”
People commonly lie to hiring managers about having various licenses and certifications—but in some cases, such as when a person pretends to be CPR-certified, this fib can be fatal.
“This résumé includes my total work history.”
Though leaving roles off of your résumé is technically lying, this is one instance in which omitting the truth is actually a good thing, at least according to Michelle Aikman. When putting together your résumé, the resume writer explained to Glassdoor that you should always “consider how important the experience is to convey your ability to do the job and whether it is absolutely critical that you communicate your qualifications or past experiences with a timeline attached to it.”
“I am extremely organized.”
If you were known at all of your previous jobs for having the desk with the rancid rotting food on it, then don’t bother pretending that you’re Martha Stewart-level organized. And if you want to work on your organization skills before you start your next job, then check out these 20 Easy Tips for Keeping Your Desk Organized.
“I’m looking for an opportunity that will allow me to grow as a person.”
If you’re still at your job, then one of the questions you can expect to hear during an interview is, “Why are you looking to leave your current position?” But if your real answer to that question involves a meager salary or a terrible boss, then you’re probably better off just making something up about wanting to explore new growth opportunities.
“I’m happy to work weekends and holidays.”
Nobody wants to work weekends and holidays. But if you lie and tell the hiring manager that you love working Saturday shifts, then be prepared to forever be the go-to guy for weekend and holiday coverage should you receive an offer from that company.