Years ago there was a very popular Isuzu commercial that poked great fun at our perception of car salesmen. It started with a very slick looking actor who announces, “The Isuzu Impulse- it’s faster than a speeding bullet!” Below him on the screen letters appear spelling out the phrase, “He’s lying!” A few seconds later he catches the bullet in his teeth and says, “You have my word on it.” It was funny because we quickly figured out that Joe Isuzu, as he was called, was a pathological liar. The commercial was brilliant because people knew they could discount his exaggerations while still retaining the truth of his statements.
As I thought about those commercials and their implications it occurred to me that real life wasn’t a great deal different. People lie all the time, and sometimes that’s a good thing. If someone you love says, “Do these pants make my butt look big?” we all lie, and rightfully so. Sometimes we lie to protect the person asking the question or to protect the truth. Most of the time we lie to protect our own interests. Yet I have come to the conclusion that most of the time people know when we are lying. We may as well have letters appear on our foreheads that say, “She’s lying.” I don’t know how we know other are lying, for me, there is small flag in the back of my brain that goes up whenever I hear someone say something I suspect is not the truth.
It can be laughable when you see someone tell a boldfaced lie and you know they are not being honest yet they continue to maintian their innocence. More often it is simply sad and in a job interview, it is tragic. As soon as someone says something in an interview that raises suspicion, the interview is essentially over. While we can all agree that there are times in our lives when we all tell lies, they are simply not appropriate in a job interview, even if you think your prospective employer is doing their own prevaricating.
So what does that mean for you? For starters, don’t claim to have walked on the moon unless you can bring pictures. Even slight exaggerating will be considered untruths without proper verification. Try to anticipate the kinds of questions you may be asked and consider bringing supporting documents. When possible use exact numbers. Saying, “I was able to increase sales by 34%” is far more believable than “I was able to increase sales substantially.” However, even this should be done somewhat sparingly lest you be perceived as some kind of automaton.
Quote credible sources. Claims are often more believable when they come from someone’s lips. But again, this comes with a caveat to A) use this sparingly, and B) be careful to quote correctly. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve heard someone say, “The Bible says that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” It doesn’t…in any translation.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, spend some time engineering answers to difficult questions. If you have a gap in employment or have been fired you need to come up with an answer that is credible, honest and rolls off the tongue easily. Care must be taken not to be too slick or to varnish the truth, but to show how you made the most of a bad situation. No one expects you to be perfect, but they do expect you to make the most of the hand you have been dealt. If you have recently lost a job for something you did wrong, say so, but also talk about what it cost you and what lessons you have learned in the process. Most managers know that a lesson learned once at the cost of a job is seldom repeated.
Be careful also about what you say about former employers. You may reveal more than you intend. I used to complain that all of my former bosses were micro-manangers until I realized that I was essential admitting that I frequently needed to have my hand held through certain tasks. Hiring managers will also ask themselves if you are likely to say the same things about them at some point in the future. Chances are you will, so keep your remarks positive even if your former boss was a horses ass. Your mother had it right when she said, “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.”
About Lee Reed
If making a lot of mistakes makes you smarter then I must be a genius! I’ve made them all, so you really need to listen to what I’m telling you lest you make the same mistakes.