Should You Lie to Land a Job?
By Lisa Quast
In my work as a career coach, I hear some version of this question literally every day – “Should I lie (or hide information) on my job application, resume or in my interviews?” In fact, just yesterday, during my program on Defining and Refining Your Job Search for Mediabistro’s Job Search Boot Camp, the issue came up again among the attendees.
Here’s what I’m hearing…Often, folks who are approaching 50 (or older) wonder if they should lie about or hide their age because they’re getting zero traction with hiring managers and recruiters. They have a sneaking feeling (but they’re not sure) that their lack of success in the job search process is about their age and not about their qualifications.
Are they right?
Yes, in many cases their suspicions are well-founded. In thousands of fields, industries and organizations, there is a strong bias against hiring men and women who are 50+. Sometimes it is legitimately age discrimination, sometimes it’s about the culture the hiring managers are attempting to create where age is a key factor. Other times, the organization wants up-to-the-minute skills (HTML coding, digital media sales, etc.) and they believe younger professionals have a greater grasp on these skills. And, in certain cases, it’s about the number of years of experience they want, which correlates with a certain age. You might have the right number of years, but the wrong age for what they’re looking for.
Another group that wonders about lying during the job search process are moms who’ve left the workforce for a time. Gone for a number of years to care for their children, they now wish to return but find that re-entry feels blocked. There are great challenges to re-entry indeed, especially after a significant number of years. And achieving re-entry at a level you believe is appropriate is more than challenging. The corporate world is a linear world, which frowns on off-ramping and makes it extremely hard for the on-ramper to come back again at a level or compensation comparable to the one they left.
Finally, those who’ve been unemployed for a significant amount of time wonder how to articulate what they’ve been doing.
So, what’s to be done? Should you lie about your age, or hide what you’ve been doing with your time?
My answer is an unequivocal, resounding NO! Never lie and never try to hide information.
Below are five reasons why lying or obfuscating information is to your detriment, and will only keep you from what you want (and cause you heartache) in the future:
If you lie or falsify information to get a job…
1) You’ll be living a lie
If you lie to get yourself a new employment situation (or a new relationship, or a new anything), you’ll have to maintain that lie for the rest of your time in that situation. Keeping up pretenses and falsifications is a full-time job – it’s exhausting, demoralizing, draining, fear-inducing and in the end, a waste of precious energy which would be far better spent expressing and living who you really are. Living the “impostor” syndrome is a terrible strain.
2) You grow weaker when you lie
As a REIKI master, I studied energy healing for a number of years. I worked with people’s energy, and I was utterly astounded at what an individual’s energy field reveals and discloses. And I observed this – when you lie, there are clear physiological signs that give it away and your energy reveals it. Liars speak less convincingly, their eye contact becomes more indirect, their confidence wanes, and their ability to come across as believable and self-assured is negatively impacted. In short, we gain strength and vitality when we tell the truth and when we honor who we are and our own authentic experience, and we grow weaker when we deny ourselves.
3) You’re telling yourself you’re not enough
When you lie to get something you want, you feed yourself a damaging message that you are not sufficient, not enough, not worthy, not deserving of having this desired thing unless you pretend to be someone else. This message of “I’m not worthy of this” unless I lie, seeps into other parts of your life, including your relationships, your communications, your professional behavior and your family life.
4) You become a part of a “club” that doesn’t want you
Remember that great Groucho Marx line, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member!” I’m talking about the opposite of this idea. Don’t you want to be a part of something that wants you – the real you? Do you want to work hard for an organization that wouldn’t take you if they found out the real story about you? Of course not. You want to put your time, efforts, talents, and skills towards an enterprise that values who you are. And there are plenty of them out there.
5) Lying just doesn’t work
In the end, all your hiding and lying just won’t work and will cause endless hours of wasted time and energy. If you leave off your graduation dates on your resume so no one will know your age, recruiters figure out you’re hiding something and pass on talking to you. If you make up a story about what you’ve been doing with your time, and lie that you were being paid as a “consultant,” for instance, you’ll be unconvincing and awkward when you talk about your fictitious employment. The truth comes out.
I know some will read this and resist it, saying, “Yeah, sure, Kathy, but I have to pay my bills!” I know you do – we all do. But lying is NEVER the way to getting what you want, in life, work, or relationships. Lying will always (without question, without exception) come back around and bite you. I’ve seen this too many times to doubt it.
So if you’re tempted to lie in your job search process, reconsider. I learned in my therapy training that the best way to deal with challenging information is to “reframe it.” Tell your story in the way that fits the facts, but opens the door to as much expansion, positivity and power as possible.
Be yourself. Don’t lie – you don’t need to. There are plenty of job opportunities that will present themselves when you step up with power and purpose and acknowledge the truth– the whole truth – about who you are. Accepting and honoring yourself — and learning how to speak about your contributions in a compelling way — is a far more powerful and effective job search strategy than pretending to be someone else.