If you find yourself ready to get a new job make sure you have great interview prep. Read below to get some insight on answering interview questions. Is it acceptable to lie in business? The
If you find yourself ready to get a new job make sure you have great interview prep. Read below to get some insight on answering interview questions.
Is it acceptable to lie in business?
The Real Question: What are your core values?
Top-line Tactic: Show that you leave lying to people who are content to win that way.
The world is unfair. Proof? Almost everybody lies, yet nobody wants to hire a liar.
Regardless, if your interviewer gets onto the topic of lying, you should play it 100 percent straight and say that lying is always unacceptable, and that you have moral and practical reasons for saying so.
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Those reasons are writ large in the work of the Dutch management academic Fons Trompenaars. In his article Did the Pedestrian Die? Trompenaars poses a hypothetical moral dilemma:
Imagine you’re a passenger in a car driven by your best friend. Your friend is breaking the speed limit, driving at 35 mph in a 20 mph zone. Suddenly, a pedestrian steps out. The car hits him. The police arrive. The matter goes to court. There are no witnesses. Your friend’s lawyer says that if you are prepared to testify under oath that he was only driving at 20 mph, it may save him from serious consequences.
Does your friend have a right to expect you to protect him?
- a: My friend has a DEFINITE right to expect me to testify to the lower figure.
- b: He has SOME right to expect me to testify to the lower figure.
- c: He has NO right to expect me to testify to the lower figure.
Trompenaars has asked this question to literally thousands of business executives around the world. His results show, among other things, that the first thing many of us do when faced with a dilemma is squirm and bargain our way out of it, usually by suggesting a set of qualifying circumstances (in his example, by asking if the pedestrian died). In a job interview, this kind of squirming and wheedling and bargaining is not a good look. Trompenaars’ work shows that it is incredibly easy to tie yourself in knots once you get onto the subject of lying. Consequently, the best tactic at interview is to aspire to perfection but also to acknowledge that people are often less than perfect. It’s also wise to show that you know about the business consequences of lying:
It’s never OK to lie. People do, of course, usually for some short-term gain, but I don’t think it’s ever worth it in the long run.
It’s easy to make bad choices under pressure, and some businesses are even run in such a way that people don’t know they’re lying—like Enron, where half their employees genuinely thought they were innocent because they were simply following company policy.
I prefer to treat people the way I want to be treated myself, and nobody wants to be lied to. Life’s much simpler if you always tell the truth. And most people will forgive you for making a mistake, but they’ll never forgive a lie.
There may well be a fine line between a lie and withholding the truth, but an interview is not the time to reveal you’ve ever needed to think about it.
Interestingly, Trompenaars’ work shows big national differences in answering his traffic-accident dilemma. Leaving aside the issue of what people say they would do versus what they would actually do, the world seems to be split between countries where there is more outward support for moral rules, and countries where it’s more important to stick by your friends. (One interpretation of Trompenaars’ data is that you should marry a Brazilian but drive slowly in Germany.) It all goes to show that lying is highly complex. And in interview, you don’t have time to tease out those nuances—you might regret you even tried.
Lying is lying, no ifs or buts.
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