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The first step toward greatness is to be honest...or is it?

Posted by
19 Oct 2016

I recently read an article about a man who almost ended up in prison having lied during a job interview. When asked if he had any previous convictions, this individual answered ‘no’ which turned out to be false. As a result, he was given a suspended sentence and made to pay a fine. Had his dishonesty not been identified, he may well have been offered the opportunity, thus resulting in another candidate missing out.

Of course we are led to believe that honesty is the best policy, especially when questioned around something as significant as previous convictions. However, this particular article led me to question; how honest should we be during a job interview?

The world of job hunting is a pretty tough one and despite talent shortages constantly being reported, you’re highly likely to come up against competition when applying for that perfect opportunity. You may find yourself telling a white lie or two during interview in an effort to represent yourself as the ‘crème de la crème’, but what impact will this have in the long-term?

I was once involved in a situation where a candidate stated to both myself and my client during interview that they were ‘advanced’ in the use of Excel, an essential skill required to successfully fulfil a particular requirement. Once in the post, it quickly became apparent that this was not the case, as said candidate could barely perform the simplest of Excel tasks and consequently, their contract was terminated. Had this individual been honest from the outset, we could have saved a lot of time, effort and indeed embarrassment for all parties. 

Richard Branson was once quoted saying: "If someone offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.

Encouraging words indeed, but if down the line your white lie comes to light, what does this say about your integrity and where will this leave you? Is it worth the risk?

The other side of the argument is that there is of course the possibility of being too honest and disclosing more than you possibly should during an interview. For example, if questioned around team work and your relationship with others, the interviewer does not want to hear you single out an ex-colleague who you perhaps didn’t see eye to eye with. Although you may be speaking the truth, it doesn’t paint a positive picture. Relationship woes, embarrassing illnesses and your financial situation are just examples of topics you should steer clear of during an interview.

We all have skeletons in our closet, however you should avoid going to the extreme of the ‘honesty policy’ by revealing absolutely everything to prospective employers.

A job interview is about more than just you. It’s an opportunity for a business to identify whether they will benefit from bringing you on board. Don’t hold back any information which could be detrimental to your success i.e. previous convictions, and although honesty is an essential quality and of course ‘the best policy’, be mindful of your audience when discussing anything which could be deemed unnecessary or unprofessional.

For further careers and interview advice, check out our candidate resources page. Candidate Resources
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