Want to Get Hired? Lie, but only a Little

According to a new study, embellishing one’s abilities can improve one’s chances of getting hired. “In the employment interview, interviewees are motivated to portray a suitable image in an effort to maximize their chances of receiving a job offer,” said Brian W. Swider of the Department of Management at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University. Swider, lead author of a new study examining how lying during an interview affects offers of employment, said that many people use impression management (IM) tactics to improve their image. “Although employment interview research has long skirted the issue, interviewees can, and do, employ IM tactics that are intentionally deceptive in an attempt to present themselves in the most favorable light possible,” said Swider. “Although lying is common in everyday life, studies show that creating or maintaining a deliberately false impression requires considerable effort and attention.” He added, “On the basis of the response quality and difficulty associated with effectively deceiving others, we propose that interviewees who rely on more deceptive IM tactics may actually reduce their chances of interview success.”

Self-promotion, image creation and extensive image creation were the three IM tactics that Swider and his colleagues examined in the study participants. The 112 test subjects participated in a formal interview consisting of a short rapport-building session followed by a 30-minute structured interview. The researchers found that self-promotion increased interview outcomes, as did image creation, but extensive image creation had negative consequences. “Interviewers expect, even demand, that interviewees describe their past experiences positively when given an experience-based question during the structured interview. Thus, when savvy interviewees ‘polish’ their image and convey they are valuable employees (i.e., self-promotion), they benefit,” said Swider. “When interviewees ‘cross the line’ into creating an image through intentional misrepresentation, however, our results suggest that the positive effect may actually disappear, or perhaps even become negative.” They added that the effect of the IM tactics could be relative to the position being sought. “Perhaps effective IM usage in the interview predicts job performance in jobs that involve higher levels of interpersonal interaction with relative strangers (i.e., sales people) but is detrimental in situations that demand cooperation (i.e., workgroups).”

Swider, B. W., Barrick, M. R., Harris, T. B., & Stoverink, A. C. (2011, May 30). Managing and Creating an Image in the Interview: The Role of Interviewee Initial Impressions. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024005

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • anne


    October 19th, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    I would never lie that I posses knowledge of something or some skills if I didn’t really have them.But hiding one or two negative things about you(like you hate having to go to different places) is fine I think. But I would never conceal anything that would make me someone who gained a job on the basis of lies.

  • danielle


    October 19th, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    Accentuate the positive and play up the highlights while downplaying the weaknesses. That is not exactly lying but only putting yourself in the ebst light possible. And honestly in today’s work force and job environment you have to do everything possible to create a positive spin on the things that only you can do to put the company that you work for in a great position. That is only taking care of yourself and I see absolutley nothing wrong with that.

  • Wayland A.

    Wayland A.

    October 19th, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    @danielle: “That is only taking care of yourself and I see absolutley nothing wrong with that.” Seriously? Dress it up however you like but it’s still lying. I don’t think lying is appropriate in a job interview under any circumstances.

    Just for the record, HR professionals can spot it in the blink of an eye and will ask you more questions designed to either blatantly trip you up or see how far you’re willing to go with your deception. Either way, you’re toast.

    Would you employ someone you knew lied their butt off throughout the interview? I wouldn’t. I’d never be able to trust them.

  • rene powell

    rene powell

    October 19th, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    There’s a difference between simply presenting yourself in a positive light by making the best of the skills you have, and presenting yourself in a positive light through lying.

    Say for example you exaggerate how important your role was in your previous job. And say they are dumb enough to believe you and you find yourself employed in a similar role to the one you claim to have done before. How long do you think it would take for them to see you don’t have a clue how to do it? A day? A week? Maybe two if you’re a good bluffer. Not long, that’s for sure.

    Congratulations, you now have to explain to your next employer why you were sacked within days. But I guess you think it’s okay to lie about that too eh.

  • JasmineLee


    October 19th, 2011 at 7:01 PM

    I wouldn’t risk it. I’d rather they thought I wasn’t up to it at the interview stage than employed me and let me prove I wasn’t.

    Word travels fast too within industries. Don’t think personnel staff in one company don’t have friends in the same job elsewhere. Especially with social networking encouraging you to build bridges with other local businesses via places like LinkedIn, and so many niche conferences now, staff (at every level) often meet their counterparts from other companies.

    If you mess up at Company A, Company B’s going to hear about it.

  • Yvette Burgess

    Yvette Burgess

    October 19th, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    Polishing yourself is fine. You’re not going to turn up unshaven, in crumpled clothes and late. That’s Interviewing 101 stuff.

    Personally any applicant that insists on telling me how fabulous they are puts me right off them. I like to hear them admit to at least one flaw or show a sense of humor. Nobody wants to work with an egomaniac.

  • Gennifer


    October 20th, 2011 at 4:13 AM

    I can see both sides of the argument.

    But my gut tells me that you should be as honest as possible.

    It is fine to poiish the silver, but don’t go around flashing a cubic zirconia but trying to pass it off as a diamond.

  • harry


    October 20th, 2011 at 8:21 PM

    its never easy to impress an interviewer and I think that is the reason why most people tend to boast or lie at least a little…nevertheless that should never and can never become a reason to go out there and lie yeah?little things here and there is fine but nothing big!

  • K.F.


    October 28th, 2011 at 12:38 AM

    No no no no, bad. If an employer finds out that you lied even slightly on an interview, he’s going to do one of two things. Fire you on the spot or go over your background with a fine-toothed comb and possibly fire you anyway because you lied to him during an interview.

    You need to be totally honest with your employer because trust is very important in a work relationship. Withholding information however… ;)

  • B.W.Quentin


    October 28th, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    @anne: I keep those things quiet as well, I would come off as a very whiny person if I listed every last thing I didn’t like, but it’s not likely more than 2% of them will even come up anyway. I’ve had quite a few jobs and I let them know my dislikes and flaws over time so they don’t overlook my skills.

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