There is no shortage of people who will advise you to be scrupulously honest on your resume and to always tell the truth to employers when you’re looking for a job. But the fact is, those same potential bosses are going to lie to you.

So I would suggest that honesty isn’t so much the ‘best policy’ as strategic communication is. Of course you shouldn’t lie about your length of tenure at a previous employer, what your salary was, or the level of education that you’ve had. All of those things are what employers routinely verify, and they’re easily confirmed with a simple background check.

So those lies wouldn’t be very strategic. Here are five that can improve your chances of getting hired, that won’t be caught in a background screening.

The five lies that you should tell employers:

    I liked everybody at my previous job. Really? What Smurf village did you work in? You probably didn’t like absolutely everyone that you worked with. However, one of the biggest mistakes that candidates make is complaining about their former coworkers, partners or clients. Even if those people actually were the problem you’re trying to get away from, you’ll only come across as disagreeable and hard to get along with if you say so. So, no matter what you really think, just smile and say it was a privilege to work with such a great group, and you’re going to miss them all.

    My former boss was the best. The most common reason why people change jobs voluntarily is because of their working relationship with their boss. But that’s not the reason that you should ever offer future employers. Always say that your boss was great and that you consider it a great opportunity to have worked for them. Complaining makes you sound unmanageable and will have your potential new employer wondering what you’ll be saying about them next.

    The reason I’m leaving my previous job is… (Hint: don’t say anything about the boss, the coworkers, the pay, the commute, or the hours.) Employers want to hire someone who is passionate about their company and the job they’re recruiting for specifically – not someone who is fleeing a bad situation and just needs a new gig. If you were let go from your previous job, be up front about it, because the employer can confirm that. If it’s your choice to leave, no matter what your real reason for jumping ship is, say it’s because of this new opportunity. The role with the employer that you’re speaking to is just the chance that you’ve been looking for to take your career to the next level.

    You don’t want to sound like a complainer – because nobody wants to hire a complainer.

    My greatest weakness is … We all have things that we’re better at than others and some genuine weaknesses. A job interview isn’t the time to confess them. It’s also not the time to say, “I’m a perfectionist who works too hard.” That’s not a lie, it’s a cliché that will only annoy your interviewer.

    Rather invent some innocuous weakness that sounds plausible but doesn’t impact your ability to do the job at hand. Then explain how you’re working on improving the situation. This shows that you are proactive, self-aware and willing to learn. (Ideally you actually will be all of those things, but if not… well, lie.)

    I’m happy to pitch in. Once you’ve got the job, there are going to be projects that you’re excited about and others that you dread. Some things that your boss asks you to do might sound like they’re not at all a part of your job description and would be a major drag to work on. That’s when you lie. Say, “I’m just happy to be a part of the team, please let me know whatever I can do to help out.” Almost all career growth comes from doing things that aren’t part of your regular job description. Being a team player, showing initiative, and going above and beyond are the ways to get ahead.

These lies are all about perception, about the judgments that we make about people before we get to know them. Getting hired is always a competition against other candidates, and that’s why it’s important to play the game strategically. You don’t want to lie about your actual abilities in order to get hired. The last thing you want to do is find yourself getting a job that you can’t actually do. That would be a waste of your time, the employer’s time and would only end up burning bridges for you and hurting your professional reputation.

Plus, as I mentioned, employers are going to lie to you too.

See also:
The most common lies on a resume (and what HR actually checks)
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
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