The truth about Australians lying in job interviews

Narayan Maharjan/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • 41% of Australians think it’s okay to lie during a job interview.
  • Men are more likely to lie than women, and more than half those aged 18 to 34 think it’s okay.
  • The topic people are most likely to lie about is their current salary.

Many Australians think it’s okay to lie in a job interview.

A survey of 4800 people, conducted by Perspicacious on behalf of SEEK, shows more than half of Australians (59%) don’t think it’s acceptable to lie in a job interview.

However, that still leaves more than two out of five people who would lie and there are others willing to conceal the truth, depending on what’s being asked.

The survey found men are more inclined to stretch the truth in an interview, with 48% saying it’s acceptable to lie compared to 32% of women.

Men are also more likely than women to say it’s acceptable to lie about what their weakness is compared to women (21% vs 13%).

The younger you are, the more inclined you are to polish the facts — 54% of 18 to 34 years olds think it’s okay to lie in an interview.

This drops to 36% for 35-54 year olds and even further for 55-64 year olds at 24%.

For both men and women, the most acceptable topic to lie about is the old question — “Why are you looking for another job?” — with 18% ranking it as something they might not be entirely truthful about.

This is closely followed by topics such “What are your weaknesses?” at 17%.

Men are more open to lying in general, particularly about the salary of their most recent role (18% versus 12% for women), their weaknesses (18% versus 11%) and their previous experience (13% versus 6%).

For 18-34 year olds, salary is the most likely topic they will not be truthful about with 23% agreeing it’s okay to tell a fib.

But is it okay to lie?

Kendra Banks, ANZ Managing Director from SEEK, says interviews are a crucial part of the hiring process with opportunities for both hirers and candidates to determine whether they will be the best fit for one another.

“By lying or misleading in interviews, candidates undermine a hirer’s trust, negatively impact their reputation and may unjustly gain advantage over fellow candidates,” says Banks.

“Over the past few years, in Australia and abroad, there has been several reported cases of candidates lying about their experience, qualifications and on their resumé.

“This has even extended to senior and executive level employees, who have had their employment terminated as a result of being found to have lied.

“With salary the leading topic that candidates lie about, we advise candidates to be well-prepared for interviews, so they are able to have open and honest discussions with their prospective hirer.”

The latest research indicates that authenticity, and not trying to be perfect, is the key to winning a job at an interview.

A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology by UCL, Bocconi University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and London Business School, found that high-quality candidates who strive to present themselves accurately significantly increase the likelihood of receiving a job offer.

“what we’ve found is that high-quality candidates, the top 10%, fare much better when they present who they really are. Unfortunately, the same isn’t true for poorer quality candidates who can actually damage their chances of being offered the job by being more authentic,” says co-author Dr SunYoung Lee of the UCL School of Management.

So the message is that interviewers perceive an overly polished self-representation as inauthentic and potentially misrepresentative.

But if you are a high-quality candidate, you can be honest and authentic.

You will be more likely to land that job.

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