…”lying?!! But everybody’s doing it… look at Hillary”

This is what I heard from a candidate this week. And this wasn’t some entry-level kid. This was a 20 year veteran who been an EVP at a well-known company. He was complaining because one of our clients was considering him for a regional VP job and just plain stopped when they found out that he lied. He worked at a company for about six months a number of years ago and didn’t have it on his resume. It was 10 years ago and he figured that it didn’t have anything to do with his most recent career so he left off his resume. It so happens that one of the people working at our client company recognized his resume, said that he knew him because they had worked together a number of years ago at the company… that wasn’t on his resume. Our client interpreted this as lying, which in the strictest sense, it was. So, unfortunately, they passed on him.

It was devastating to all of us, including our client firm’s CEO. Most everyone had their heart set on hiring this guy and he had his heart set on taking the job. I have started my 43rd year in this profession and I have to admit that I’m still torn about this kind of thing. Being educated from childhood by Benedictine nuns, Augustinian and Jesuit priests, I’ve always been taught to never lie. (Of course, the Jesuits would probably also consider the philosophical relativity of lying.) Even Sister Mary Peter, In third grade told us that, “if somebody comes to the door and asks if your mother is home and she’s not, you can tell them that she is, but she just can’t come to the door right now.” Or, when we were in seventh or eighth grade and read The Diary of Anne Frank  and discussed in religion class a hypothetical question, “What would you say to the Nazi trooper who came to the door and asked if there were any Jewish people in your house.” Of course we would lie.

Regarding getting a job, I have known thousands of candidates over the years who eliminated short stints on their resumes, took sole credit for accomplishments their team actually accomplished, fudged on their title, embellished on their performance, elongated the time they were at a particular company, lied about the amount of money they made, who they knew, their name change (I still will never understand the why of this), their marital status, whether or not they had a drivers license, an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree, where they were born, how long they have been married, how long it took them to graduate from college, languages they were fluent in, their golf handicap, why they left their last job and the jobs before that, where they lived, the number of DWIs they’ve received, the ages of their children… Well, I’m sure you get the idea. Some people lie about important stuff as well as the most inconsequential, ridiculous stuff you ever heard of.

In spite of modern technology that can verify just about any fact, candidates still lie about things like having a degree when they don’t, length of time spent at a job, titles and some of their last positions etc. This is crazy! One phone call can reveal, for instance, if a person has a degree from any school. Why would someone lie about this? It can be “fact checked” so easily. The resume a candidate sent over the Internet three years ago is likely to be somewhere out there in cyberspace. If that same person’s resume is a lot different today than it was three years ago, the candidate will be eliminated if it is discovered. It’s that simple

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right answer for this dilemma. The most moralist among us would justify lying under certain circumstances. Regarding a job search though, the job seeker needs to realize that they are going to be held to a higher standard than Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and all of the rest of the politicians who lie/embellish/stretch the truth/deny what they said/forget/reframe.

I have to tell people “don’t lie.” It probably isn’t going to do much good, people will lie anyhow. Just remember that employers are looking for just as many reasons not to hire you as they are to hire you. If anyone lies about anything in their job search, a prospective employer has no choice but to eliminate that candidate. It has nothing to do with the candidate’s ability to do the job or not. It has to do with the fact that if the candidate is hired in spite of the known lies, a hiring authority will be held responsible for an inept, downright stupid decision to hire a liar.

I can understand people feeling like the risk is worth running. The job someone had for three months 10 years ago probably won’t make one bit of difference in person’s performance on the job they are seeking today.  The same might go for a DWI a person got 15 years ago. Does it make a difference on how people perform if they have a degree? I know a number of very high level managers in the city who lied about having a degree, even the schools they attend. They do a hell of a job. But there’s still liars.

It’s pretty sad that we will accept outright lying from our politicians and be appalled by those who may “embellish” about their grade point in college. That’s reality! Cursing it doesn’t matter one iota.

Don’t lie.

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