Fair Warning for Job Seekers: Potential Employers Might Well ‘Spy the Lie’

Don Tennant

If you’re looking for a job, no matter how desperate you are in these difficult economic times, it’s essential that you never allow yourself to lie about your background or credentials. That admonition is being stressed by a well-known career advisor who’s making the point by citing the book I co-wrote, “Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception.”

In an article headlined, “Little Lies Will Catch Up with a Job Seeker,” syndicated columnist and career consultant Andrea Kay has done a great job of encapsulating some of what my QVerity colleagues and I wrote about in the book, and applying it to the job-seeking experience. Kay warns her readers, “Lying to be competitive in the job market — whether it’s claiming someone you never met gave you a recommendation, taking credit for work you didn’t do, listing a degree you don’t have or denying a criminal background — eventually will catch up with you.”

Kay sets the stage by introducing a potential employer she calls “Bob,” and notes that he may well be on the lookout for signs of deception when he’s interviewing you:

First, Bob and other potential employers will verify information you tell them. But even before that, they will be evaluating your words closely, including what you don’t say — especially if they read a book like “Spy the Lie.”

In the book’s chapter about what deception sounds like, the authors point out things that Bob will want to watch for in an interview:

— Showing an inappropriate level of politeness.

Let’s say you respond to a question. Then you suddenly increase the level of niceness by injecting a compliment such as, “That’s a great tie, by the way.” The compliment is significant, they say.

The idea is “that the more we like someone, the more we’re inclined to believe him and to shy away from confrontations. The person is using politeness as a means of promoting his likeability,” the authors say.

— Making referral statements.


This is when a deceptive person responds to a question and refers to having answered the question previously. He or she might say: “I would refer you to my earlier statement when I said or “As I told the last guy.”

The idea here is to build credibility through repetition.

— Using qualifiers.

These potential deceptive indicators are “exclusion qualifiers” that let people “who want to withhold certain information to answer your question truthfully without releasing that information.” They’ll say things like “basically,” “for the most part,” “fundamentally,” “probably” and “most often.”

And some “perception qualifiers” are used to enhance credibility: “frankly,” “to be perfectly honest” and “candidly.”

— Going into attack mode.

This is what can happen when a deceptive person feels backed into a corner. Whatever the question was, the deceptive person responds by going on the attack, trying to impeach the interviewer’s credibility or competence with questions such as “how long have you been doing this job?”

“What he’s trying to do is to get you to back off, to start questioning yourself on whether you’re going down the right path,” the authors say.

“Will all employers be this savvy in discovering lies?” Kay asks. “Probably not. But all they have to do is sense a lie, and your credibility goes down the drain.”

She’s right. Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to succumb to the temptation to embellish your resume to get your foot in the door, or to exaggerate your accomplishments during an interview. Have the self-confidence to win the position on the strength of a fully truthful account of what you’re bringing to the prospective employer, and of the experiences that have molded you into the person you are. Your ultimate success will depend on it.



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