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Is it OK to lie in an interview to say the "right" thing?

Let me just say it, no matter how you cut it, lying in an interview is not a good idea and could destroy your chances of landing the job.  You are there to sell yourself, not the perfect version of yourself (and nobody’s perfect!)  A little embellishment might be good in terms of expressing interest for a particular job or industry–vs- the ‘I’ll take anything I can get’ approach, which won’t go over well either (never act desperate to get a job, even though you may be feeling that way!).  Maybe you are interviewing with your top 5 companies, but obviously one is probably your ultimate favorite. It’s OK to express a lot of interest in the others as well and be as enthusiastic with the 1st as you are with the 5th. In time, you will learn which one is a better fit for you.

Here are the top things candidates lie about (and the first 3 can be found out during a verification process):

  • Salary history
  • Your responsibilities/experience or length of time at an employer
  • Past firings or “forced” resignations
  • Using friends or relatives “secretly” as references (which is why a lot of employers don’t weigh references too heavily)

Even if you lie during the interview and don’t get caught before being hired,  it will catch up with you eventually! Don’t take that risk.

However, being too honest can backfire as well.  If the question is “tell me about a difficult time and how you overcame it” and you talk about losing a pet and start crying uncontrollably, then you need to pick a better example!  Try to keep it focused on work experiences whenever possible...and be sure to focus on the proactive steps you took to get through it.  Also avoid saying things like “I’m never late.” Or “I get along with absolutely everybody, everyone loves me, I’m a real people person!”  These are lies, and these people do not exist.

OK, so you’ve been called for the interview. Just put your best self forward, find that good “middle ground”,  believe in what you have to offer and how well you fit with that job and company!  If you have practiced and have some answers “at the ready” for those questions that come out of the blue, you’ll be good as gold.  

"When you stretch the truth, watch out for the snapback."
-Bill Copeland

About the author

Amy Thaci

Amy Thaci is the Director of Engineering Career Services.