Job interviews are intensely stressful occasions. If you really want the job, the stakes are also incredibly high—you might feel that a single mistake could cost you the chance at landing the position of a lifetime.
Given all that pressure, you might be tempted to, well, fudge your accomplishments and background a little bit. By inflating your projects’ outcomes and maybe adding a few years of experience, you figure, you’ll triumph over other candidates. And what the interviewer doesn’t know won’t hurt them, right?
Although the Internet is jammed with stories of people who successfully lied during their job interviews and got away with it, lying is a risky strategy with huge repercussions. And as social networks surface more and more information, and recruiting tools that dig into candidates’ histories become more and more sophisticated, it’ll become easier to bring those lies to light.
In other words, you shouldn’t lie during job interviews. There are better ways to put your best capabilities and experiences on display. Here are some specific things you definitely shouldn’t fib about:
Tempted to say that you finished a degree when you really haven’t? This is one of the easiest lies to uncover, as there are lots of background-check services such as the National Student Clearinghouse that can help verify degrees and enrollment.
And even if you lie and get away with it during the job interview, there’s every chance you might get caught later. You never know when you might run into a co-worker or client who attended your school or program. This is a huge, ticking time bomb.
When in doubt, just be honest about your education. At the moment, big tech firms such as Apple and IBM seem to care less about formal degrees and certifications if you can demonstrate that you have the necessary skills.
During the job-interview process, the interviewer will no doubt ask you about previous projects. Again, it’s tempting to inflate your accomplishments—or even make up new ones. Sure, you worked on that project to port your former company’s app to Android—and your work almost singlehandedly guaranteed that user engagement shot up eleventy-billion percent quarter-over-quarter.
You might figure it’s hard for a prospective employer to check out your claims in detail. In the relatively insular world of tech, you’d be wrong. Hiring managers, recruiters, and team leaders generally have large networks; it’s easy for them to shoot an email or phone a friend and ask: “Hey, did this person really do what they said they did?”
The other issue: If you’re hired on the strength of false accomplishments, your new company will expect you to exhibit similar performance. Get ready to boost those engagement numbers by eleventy-billion percent, sucker!
What You’re Being Paid
Talking about salary is one of the trickiest parts of your job interview. An interviewer or recruiter will often ask you, flat out, what you’re making right now. It’s best to offer a range, or tell them that your salary is “competitive with the industry.” But inflating the number is a really bad idea.
“I make a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year,” you might tell the interviewer, even though you make ninety thousand dollars annually, because you want them to offer you an even higher amount of money. (This example is extreme, but stick with us.) The problem is simple: Hiring managers and recruiters spend all of their time examining the tech industry, and they know what other companies pay. If you offer a number well outside the standard range (which hopefully you are being paid), they’ll know you’re lying.
As to why you’d purposefully deflate your salary… well, there’s no reason to do that. With the tech industry at historically low unemployment, companies are ready and willing to pay a premium for all kinds of tech talent, which means you don’t need to lowball yourself (or lie about it).
What You Love to Do
It’s important to use interview time to break down your passions and goals. However, telling the interviewer that you love something you don’t really like, just because you think it’ll boost your chances of actually landing the gig, can quickly result in disaster.
Let’s say the job demands someone proficient in QA and squishing bugs. Although you’ve always hated that part of the development process, you spend a big chunk of the job interview saying how much you love finding and destroying all kinds of software vulnerabilities—it’s the best! And let’s say the interviewer, pleased by your bug-whacking prowess, decides to hire you. That’s great—until the company decides to put you on a heavy bug-hunting/QA detail. Suddenly you’re trapped doing something you hate.
Whether You Were Fired
This is a spectacularly tricky one. If your job interviewer asks you, flat out, if you were fired from your last job, don’t lie. Yes, previous employers will often tell a recruiter or hiring manager only your dates of employment, and not the reason why you left (they’re afraid of lawsuits—no company wants to face accusations of blackballing former employees). But your prospective employer could still find out the reasons for your termination from any number of sources, including employee networks.
If you’re asked whether you were fired, you might panic. It’s important to keep control, though, and don’t come off as defensive. Say that you weren’t a good fit for your last organization, that you learned some good lessons, and that you’re ready to move on. Take special care to not say anything negative during your job interview about former bosses or co-workers, no matter how badly you might want to; it’ll only reflect badly on you.