Suspicious-looking employer

The six lies that employers will most often tell you

Peter Harris|

We recently received some media coverage for telling Canadians that they are lying about the wrong things in their resumes. What many people found interesting was the fact that Workopolis would suggest people should tell any lies at all on the job hunt. But that’s how the game is played. [See: The most common lies in Canadian resumes (and what you should actually lie about instead).]

And the fact is, most potential employers are going to lie to you at various stages of the recruitment process too. Employers commonly tell you as many white lies as necessary to protect themselves legally or simply to avoid awkwardness. Here are some of the falsehoods you’re almost certain to hear while on the job hunt.

Six lies that employers will tell you:

    The salary for the position depends on experience (or is non-negotiable). While it is probably true that the hiring manager has been given a budget for a role – salaries are almost always negotiable. And leaving out regulations in unionized environments, salaries aren’t actually based on ‘experience.’ They’re based on how much the employer wants to hire you. If a company thinks that you will be a great asset to their team, and can bring in great value, they’ll negotiate a much higher pay rate in order to bring you on board. This is based on your accomplishments and market value, not your number of years on the job.

    We’ll keep you in mind for future positions. Intentions might be good, but unless the person hired over you implodes quickly, this employer isn’t likely to go sifting through the resumes of candidates they didn’t choose last time for their next availability. If you’ve applied to a company and a year later you see a new job that you’re interested in posted, apply again. Don’t count on someone finding your resume ‘on file’ for the job.

    We’ve found a more qualified candidate. Actually, the most-qualified candidate rarely gets hired. What more likely happened is that the company found another applicant who they felt was a better fit with the team. Hiring managers chose people that they like and who they think that they will enjoy working with the most.

    You seem like a great fit, we just have a few more candidates to speak with still. While this sounds promising, I wouldn’t recommend calling off your job search in order to stay home and wait by the phone. Keep looking until you’ve signed a contract. This is just as likely to mean that the employer wasn’t blown away by your candidacy, but they want to keep you on the hook in case a stronger applicant doesn’t turn up. You’re Plan B.

    We’ll make a final decision once we’ve spoken with your references. The employer will in fact be checking your references at this point before making you a firm offer. What they don’t say is that they will also be asking around their networks to see if anyone knows someone who has worked with you in the past. They’ll be Googling you, and they’ll be checking your social media profiles. Red flags in any of these can derail your chances.

    We’ll be in touch shortly. They might be in touch shortly. They may be planning to, but hiring often takes longer than employers think. Budgets need to be approved and are often tweaked or cut with little or no notice. Stakeholders have to approve new headcounts. 44% of candidates say that they never heard back from the employer at all after their most recent interview. Which is just rude.

Employers are going to be taking some liberties with the truth when communicating with you, Which is why we recommended that candidates equally gloss over the truth to put a positive spin on their stories. On both sides, it’s politics. It’s Public Relations. See Business Insider’s coverage of our recommended lies to tell on the job hunt.

See also:
The most common lies in Canadian resumes (and what you should actually lie about instead)
The Pinocchio effect: How to spot a liar
Five job interview secrets that employers don’t tell candidates
Warning signs that you’re about to lose your job


Peter Harris
Peter Harris on Twitter


Category: Career Dilemmas, Job interviews
  • Far Side

    How true – ethics, integrity, and morality goes by the wayside due to past litigations, budgets, and the 3 F’s (fit, form, and function)

  • vyengr

    Sad. It’s bad enough that you have to play “write a resume with the right keywords to fool the screening program” and not receive any acknowledgement if you are not selected for an interview. I would never leave a candidate hanging at the end of an interview and I could never see the sense of BSing them about their chances. I would always tell them if I was going to recommend them for the position or not. And if not, the main reasons why not.

  • Dan Bray

    Yup, heard them all. I just had what I like to call a “courtesy” interview. I received a call to set up a time and date for an interview. Once that was done, the HR rep asked me where my area code was (my address was not on my resume). Once I told her, there was dead silence. The job is in the province east of me. I knew then I wasn’t going to get the job and it was just a courtesy interview. I was right.

  • Jaime Curtis

    Here is something for people to ponder…..i was recruited for this position from a head hunter for a large company in Canada. My first interview was scheduled with the HR Manager, and was told I would get a call in the next two days from the person running the new department…2 days three called to find out what was doing, was told that they moved someone in house for the position…received another call from the same head hunter for this company ( meanwhile not counting on anything from this company and still actively looking) asking me for another interview this time with the department supervisor (uumm, ok) sat down the supervisor told me “this is what I have planned for you…I will train you in this department, then train you in this department, I have set up a mentor this is her name and for the next month you will be doing this.” my reaction ok great let’s get the paper signed and we are good to go, and this is the kicker, supervisor said just before saying good by” you will receive a phone call from this person who is running this new department that we will be training you for he will cal you tomorrow….tomorrow came and gone…2 days and still nothing. Never heard back from the head hunter or the company again.
    My impression was that nobody new what the others were doing. What can you say about that

    • Outtaworktoolong

      I have gotten that round-around often enough that as soon as I hear it, I automatically dismiss them and keep searching. I have never, ever heard back when they promised they would contact me

    • john_galt99

      Maybe they noticed your spelling.

  • Maco

    “Hiring managers chose people that they like and who they think that they will enjoy working with the most.” Legalized discrimination………..

    • Outtaworktoolong

      I have found, the “hiring manager” will pick somebody who they feel is the lowest threat to them. Nothing more.

      • Zeus o’ the North

        Then that hiring manager would have a team of underperforming nobodies. A recipe for mediocrity.

        • Outtaworktoolong

          Which is why most corporations are full of mediocrity. Hence the need to shovel money into foreign-incorporated holding companies to avoid paying taxes.

      • Roustam


    • john_galt99

      Discrimination with a valid reason is ok (i.e. won’t fit into the team based on attitude, communication skills etc.)– That’s different than discriminating based on religion or skin colour for example.

      • Canucky Woman

        …or age.

    • Mike

      Discrimination indeed, only they won’t tell you that, making it legal unfortunately.

    • Zeus o’ the North

      I don’t think so. Hiring people who fit the culture of your team is crucially important. You may be the most qualified widget maker on the planet, but could be unemployable if your people skills are sub-par. This isn’t discrimination; it’s due dilligence.

      • Ray McCoy

        So if Sidney Crosby didn’t fit the culture of Pittsburg, you would trade him because culture matters? No, you bring in Sidney Crosby to make a team stronger and make MONEY which should be the bottom line.

        • Zeus o’ the North

          To answer your question, I need to give you some back ground. The definition of culture is “The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another”. Anything that you allow to happen outside the desirable culture you are trying to create, either in a business or on a sports team, erodes your team’s opportunity to succeed.

          For example, let’s say Pittsburg’s hockey culture is one where everyone on the team works hard, shows up to practice on time, prepares for opponents together and deals with inner turmoil privately and professionally. All of these cultural factors contribute to a winning team atmosphere. If Crosby, as the team’s leader, actively departs from this culture by being late to practice, showing up unprepared, negatively portraying the team in the media, etc, the desired culture is damaged an the team collectively becomes weaker.

          We know Crosby is not like this and so it’s not a problem. The impact of culture on a team’s success is most evident in sports where athletes depend on one another for success (Hockey, Basketball, Soccer, Football) and less so in sports where individual performance is key (Baseball, Boxing, Tennis).

          So in summary, yes, if Crosby was going to have a negative impact on my team culture that would materially affect the team’s ability to win and therefore make money, then yes, I would jettison him. The same way I would jettison Allen Iverson, Barry Bonds, Metta World Peace or Andrew Bynum.

          Because Crosby has good character and is a good leader, is one of the reasons why you would acquire him, in addition to his talent and performance.

          • Ray McCoy

            Trust me I understand the terminology of “culture” and what impact it has on a group. Your comment reflected the best darn widget maker in the world but if you didn’t think he was a “team” player it wouldn’t be worth keeping him around.
            Now here is another reflection, what if the “manager” who is responsible for “culture’ is an idiot and only hires idiots? This will distinguish and eliminate “ANY” type of culture managers need to stop focusing on. You may be passing up a widget maker who will then change the culture of idiots to worker bees or leaders.
            If your manager/leader leads by example, a culture is not essential to chemistry. It becomes a game of numbers which never lie and seeing as I no longer believe in Santa Claus i will choose the black and white numbers over some perceived culture that has been established. Build the foundation with solid individuals and your chance of success improves. Build it on theories of culture and make believe “fitting in” type of people and you get cohesiveness and jobs go to Mexico, India and Brazil.
            Character is built not perceived.

          • Zeus o’ the North

            Culture is ALSO built; not perceived and it is very, very real. I’m not talking about some theoretical corporate babble that company executives put forward on their mission statements and hope for the best. I’m talking about real culture. I.e. One of your team members steals an inexpensive office supply and you let it go with no disciplinary action. Your team culture has just changed so that it’s okay for people on your team to steal.

            Your comment “If your manager/leader leads by example, a culture is not essential to chemistry.” is perplexing because, by leading and reinforcing his/her expectations, that leader is creating a winning culture. You also assume that “fitting in” was a pre-requisite of a strong culture. It’s not. Often companies will make it mandatory to hire a certain percentage of external employees to fill job openings to ensure their culture doesn’t become too inwardly-focused and stale.

            I don’t appreciate your dismissive and insulting response referencing Santa Claus. It suggests you’re firmly holding on to your own narrow definition of what culture is and have no interest in expanding your knowledge. You think marginalizing someone else’s point of view is essential to reinforcing the strength of your own.

            Let’s agree to disagree I guess.

          • Ray McCoy

            Well i am not minimizing your views, expanding on your outlook because if you haven’t noticed the job market is diminishing and needs an adjustment. The job market is full of followers and over pompous attitudes who view life through a narrow straw.

            Let’s agree to disagree I guess.

          • Outtaworktoolong

            Completely agreed, I have witnessed this behavior as a consultant.

            When you factor in the disturbing detail that a surprising proportion of managers are psychopaths (See the book Snakes in Suits), the outcome is a dysfunctional work environment.

            That fact, along with plummeting job possibilities, tends to deflate whatever claim a pro-HR person makes

          • Ernie

            But what if one of the values of the team is “speaks Mandarin as a first language”?

            There’s a good many very good hockey players out there that don’t speak English very well, and you could potentially make the case that they” don’t fit the culture of the team”. But you’d still be hiring based on something other than how awesome they are at playing hockey.

            Now just apply that to other “cultural barriers” like being black, or not being a raging misogynist. Sometimes a team could use a different point of view from time to time.

      • Ernie

        That’s nice, but you can *easily* hide flagrant racism, sexism, cronyism and nepotism behind that little statement.

        Take a close look at the diversity of the company when they show you around the office and draw your own conclusions.

    • Roustam

      I couldn’t say better.

    • The Werewolf

      Technically, that’s not discrimination. It’s just lousy hiring practices.

      A company can hire for pretty much whatever reason as long as there’s no indication that they’re rejecting candidates for reasons that are not permitted which includes among other things, age, sex, race or religion (the list varies by country and location within the country).

  • aribadabar

    Finally some insight about the employers’ dirty tricks.

    • Roustam

      We have known about most of those tricks already.

      • Outtaworktoolong

        At one time though, employers used to be very sneaky and tricky about these tricks. Now they are common knowledge because nothing is done to stop it

  • Sue Leocha Sadowski

    I love your article. I left home around age 17 and without a degree , struggled for decades with jobs. I was nearly 50 years old before an employment agency informed me that I could apply for (some) certain jobs even if I did not have a formal degree. It was the first anyone had told me about ‘transferable skills’ and that employers don’t always expect you to have 100% skills they ask for. I was elated and devastated in the same breath as you can imagine after so many struggles. I now write human potential programs that are metaphysical in nature which help empower people to use their inner guidance system (intuition) when searching for jobs or to remain out of fear based thinking. I was shocked to see how fearful many people were at employment programs…totally feeling victimized. This is why I believe programs like mine are so important. So that people can navigate in empowered ways instead of by default.

  • anonymous

    I got a telephone interview with a recruiter recommended company. I was considered the best among the three and advanced to skype interview. I got one technical answer wrong but the interviewer asked me to be prepared to learn about the project. Gave me links to the project. Asked me if I can work half an hour longer initially till they get the new project going and I train the fellow members. Be ready to start on July 1st…I will tell my manager to approve your candidature. Then no calls. I called my recruiter only to find out that they hired someone else and he had no reason as to why. Now I consider trust worthiness of recruiters to the same level of used car salesmen. If they don’t want to hire me atleast say ‘we have more candidates to interview, don’t call us, we will call you if selected’ not this BS.

  • kazi

    A few years ago i applied and got an interview for a job described having multicountry responsibilities,i prepared and presented my skills working at a regional level only for one of the interviewers, who heid the regional job to tell me at the end ,the job was a single country responsibility.I pointed out the ad read very different from the job he described,they apologised,never heard from them again.Wasted my time and effort.

  • Reader2212

    I always like the “we pay competitive wages” one… translated its “we pay the lowest possible wages that we can get away with and if you are dumb enough to take the job expect to be underpaid and abused as long as you are stupid enough to work for us”

    • Outtaworktoolong

      Yep, exactly.

      These companies are also the first ones to go whining to Federal and Provincial departments that they need more TFW’s. Due to that “skilled labor shortage” here in Canada

  • saabwe harrison

    Each game has its rules. Those are the bitter rules that govern that hiring game of theirs. However, what I find discomforting is their assertion, in a bid to sound what they think is polite, that you were ‘unsuccessful’, I just find the yard stick for measuring success a bit clumsy bearing in mind that “every dark cloud comes with a silver lining”.

  • Sandi Adams

    Actually, I can’t completely agree with the 4th “lie”. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people over the years and by the time the interviews are arranged the candidates have already been well “vetted” for related skills, experience, etc. And while there were times when a particular candidate stood out in an interview over and above their qualifications I always tried very hard to be impartial going into the 3 interviews I had yet to conduct. When I tell the individual being currently interviewed that he/she is one of several candidates competing for the position and that a decision will be made once that process has been completed I mean exactly that. And yes, I make an absolute point of contacting the unsuccessful contenders.

  • tokoloshiman

    one other common lie is how much commission you will earn.

  • The Werewolf

    “44% of candidates say that they never heard back from the employer at all after their most recent interview. Which is just rude.”

    Yes. And becoming more and more common. Seriously – it takes five seconds to send an email saying “Thank you for applying, but we don’t feel you’re the right person.” Heck, you can make it an email rule in Outlook.

    My take on it is if the employer can’t be bothered – I’ve probably dodged a bullet because it says a LOT about the quality of their management.

    Worst example I’ve had – a potential employer arranged a first phone interview.. AND FORGOT. Then arranged a second interview – and was late. The third interview went well and I was called back for a fourth.. but a day before the interview they cancelled it letting me know that they’d hired someone.

    I was actually *relieved* not to get hired by them. :)