Exactly How Honest Should You Be During a Job Search?

Honesty During a Job SearchHow far would you go to get a job? Would you bend the truth? Exaggerate your work history, education and skills?  Blatantly lie during a job interview?

The Greek word parrhesia means “freedom of speech.” It also implies that one is obliged to speak the truth even if that involves a degree of risk. And most certainly: unless done with care and skill, it can be risky to speak openly and honestly about yourself when applying for jobs.

Here are three areas where you can trip up, and where a lack of authenticity can cost you a job offer:

Resume and Application Forms

Employers highly value honesty when recruiting people for their organization. They want to know you are trustworthy, your values align with the company’s, and the facts you declare on your resume or application are true (as the recent Chairman of the Co-operative Bank found out).

Never lie, and do not exaggerate to an extreme. But by all means maximize every ounce of your experience – and position yourself optimistically – to show you can do this job.

Online Profiles

Until LinkedIn finds a way of of assuring that what people put in their profiles can be verified as accurate, the world’s largest professional network is open to abuse. Don’t fall into this trap; see LinkedIn as an opportunity to be open and honest about the kind of person you are.

Do not, take this too far, however; being too open and honest can be unhelpful.  For instance, avoid saying “unemployed” or “between jobs” as these might be seen as negative and they do not present your best self. Instead, get on the front foot and put down what you want to be known for or the role or expertise to which you aspire. For example, Aspiring Music Production Professional” or Project Management Specialist. That way employers and recruiters can identify you more easily when using LinkedIn as a search engine.

Job Interviews

The moment the interviewer asks, “What is your greatest weakness?” can send shivers down the spine. Take a breath, and then choose to be honest with yourself first. We all have limitations and we can’t be good at everything – and that includes the interviewer! Never say you do not have any weaknesses. Avoid clichéd answers like “I’m a bit of a perfectionist” which interviewers are more than wise to, and are tired of hearing.

Instead, talk about a current limitation rather than a weakness. This approach immediately reflects a mindset of continuous improvement. Don’t, however, rule yourself out by putting forward a limitation that would conflict with an essential requirement of the job. If the role specification asks for a person great with numbers, don’t say math was never your favorite subject at school!

In other words: Filter your responses to avoid failure!

Another segment of a job interview that can tempt you to stretch the truth: Gaps in your career history.

We all take jobs for personal reasons whether to pay the bills, or develop or build on our interests and expertise. We leave jobs for a variety of reasons too, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not. Instead of concocting a false history, identify your unique story; weave a narrative together that explains your motivations and reflects the learning from your experiences. Most important, make your story compelling, positive and relevant to what each employer is looking for.

In each of these scenarios, job seekers have a choice: to be 95% honest and 5% optimistic, or to be less-than-honest. Decide who you want to be. Determine your boundaries. And then proceed through your job search with the goal of presenting the best, and most trustworthy, version of you.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Learning to Leap!




David Shindler AuthorAbout the Author: David Shindler is the author of “Learning to Leap, a Guide to Being More Employable.” An experienced coach and people development expert, David specializes in developing and accelerating employability. He also runs the Employability Hub (a social learning community and resource center) and the Learning to Leap group on LinkedIn and Facebook fan page. Tweet David, or contact him via his website.



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