By: Erika Weinstein, CEO, influencer, writer, coach and American
Lately the ‘truth’ seems to be elusive. Let’s skip the political discussion and go right to the heart of the matter, when you make up an untruth regarding your experience, accomplishments and education, you will be found out. It’s easy to search the web, call former bosses, colleagues and clients and ‘find out’ the real scoop without you ever knowing that someone is checking out your ‘facts’.
So why do we lie, embellish and fabricate?
In part, we lie because we all lie; it’s part of being human. Our motives are universal and the reasons are as old as time itself: self-aggrandizement, greed, self-protection, political ambition, erotic pleasure. Bernie Madoff’s entire career was built around lies; governments have whole organizations dedicated to lying. We have good lies, bad lies and necessary lies. We often lie in the name of a higher truth, to protect the innocent or tell a white lie out of compassion and tact.
Recently we interviewed a candidate for an SVP of Sales for an events company. The candidate claimed to have sold and nurtured an $11 million account for his former employer. The only problem with stating that to us, is we know his former boss. Naturally, we asked her what she thought of this candidate and his sales ability. Could she elaborate on the $11 million account? Sad, very Sad…she replied, “No, he didn’t sell $11million, that would have been lovely, yes he did sell $2 million”. Why did he lie? Our client seeking an SVP of Sales would have been happy with a professional who closed $2 million in business. Knowing the truth, we couldn’t recommend the candidate and we no longer trusted the candidate to TELL THE TRUTH on future interviews.
What happens when you tell the truth?
Often you don’t land the job, get your desired salary or the promotion you covet. In truth, today’s hiring practices don’t encourage the truth. We certainly aren’t looking to hire cheats and liars, but let’s face it, we want to hear what we want to hear. The candidate is perfect for your Senior Director position, but their current title is manager. It doesn’t matter that they have the credentials, experience and are successful, HR and hiring managers will often opt for the Director instead of the Sr. Director title. It doesn’t make sense, or does it? Yes, it makes cents, “why should I pay more than I have too”?
We were recruiting a Sr. Art Director for a well known Advertising Agency, . Unfortunately our client, in the name of transparency, had a conversation with his top choice candidate that the account that she would be working on was boring and at times her job would be tedious. Was it the truth – maybe. Did he lose the candidate – what do you think? To Tell the Truth is not always the best decision, but by telling a great story, you’ll have your listener’s attention. If my client said, “it’s not the most scintillating client, but we have lots of fun and we think outside of the box. Our business model and approach to brands has recently won us loyal clients”, perhaps the outcome would have been different.
Everyone Loses when it’s a Lie
There are several versions of the ‘truth’, however; I believe that lying doesn’t have a place at the table. When we lie about the facts, we are setting up ourselves and others for possible disappointment and often the consequences can be catastrophic. Time and time again, Wall Street, corporate and political scandals, lying and cover-ups, wind up costing careers, money and in extreme instances lives. Nothing can be gained by telling a prospective hiring manager that you are well versed in a particular skill when you are really a novice. Is it OK to elaborate on the truth? Yes, but to fabricate is a no, no. Besides, what’s the point? Sooner than later, the truth comes out, it always does. You may be reading this and think “what’s the big deal about lying or exaggerating about a sale’s number”? I believe that you are setting yourself up for failure, because you’ve set false expectations and you are potentially creating a situation of disappointment.
Telling the Story
If both lying and telling the truth doesn’t get us ahead what do we do? Simple, we tell a story. We elaborate with details including sales numbers, people and places. We describe our thought process and we paint the best picture regarding our experiences. We take the listener on a journey into our mind, heart and spirit. We share what hiring managers are yearning to know, “what makes us tick, what’s our secret sauce”. “Talk about a time when you were way over your head and worked out the solution”, because we all have been in the same situation and people want to work with people who are relatable.
Would we have put our $11 million aka $2 million candidate into the interviewing process based on the real numbers – you betcha. We would have been impressed if he described “how” he won and maintained his big account? Absolutely! Providing details of your trials and tribulations in closing the sale is a great story. I for one, love listening and learning about tough deals and the passion and drive behind the win.
Having integrity doesn’t mean sacrificing a great story. Integrity, honesty and humility may not be the behavioural norm right now, but these attributes often lead to healthy personal and business relationships. Successful cultures, teams and organizations attract people with these winning qualities. So, go on, elaborate, highlight and spotlight your company or background. Just keep it real!
Erika Weinstein is the founder and CEO at eTeam Executive Search. http://www.eteamexecutivesearch.com/ global headhunters who are passionate about building business with the right people.
On Twitter? Follow Erika Weinstein at https://twitter.com/eTeamsearch/