How Honest Should You Be in the Interview?

A study at the University of Guelph found that 100% of respondents admitted they would engage in some form of deception or exaggeration during job interviews under certain circumstances. That’s right—every single one.

And they’re not alone.

Nearly 40% of hiring managers surveyed admitted to lying during job interviews, often about the role’s responsibilities, growth prospects, compensation, and the company’s financial health.

We all know why people lie in interviews. Job seekers want to secure the position, and hiring managers want to fill roles. But let’s talk about the downsides of not being completely honest. Spoiler alert: they’re significant.

The Risk of Mismatched Expectations

Lying during an interview might get you the job, but at what cost?

If you exaggerate your skills, you could find yourself in a role you’re unqualified for. This isn’t just bad for your employer—it’s stressful and demoralizing for you.

On the flip side, if a hiring manager oversells the position or the company, new hires might quickly become disillusioned and disengaged when reality sets in.

The Long-Term Impact on Trust

Trust is the cornerstone of any professional relationship. If you’re caught in a lie—even a small one—it can severely damage your credibility.

Employers value integrity, and one slip can make them question your honesty in other areas.

Similarly, if an employee discovers their new role isn’t what was promised, their trust in management erodes. This can lead to high turnover rates, low morale, and a toxic work environment.

Performance and Satisfaction

When you’re honest about your skills and experiences, you’re more likely to land a role that truly fits your abilities and career goals. This alignment leads to better job performance and higher job satisfaction. Conversely, a misrepresented skill set can lead to poor performance reviews, increased stress, and ultimately, job dissatisfaction.

The Ethical Dimension

Beyond the practical downsides, there’s an ethical dimension to consider. Honesty in interviews is about respect—respect for yourself and the potential employer. It sets the tone for a relationship built on mutual trust and transparency.

When both parties are upfront, it fosters a healthier, more productive work environment.

How to Balance Honesty with Self-Presentation

Being honest doesn’t mean underselling yourself. It’s about framing your experiences and skills in the best possible light without crossing into deception. Here are some tips to help you strike the right balance:

  1. Highlight Achievements Truthfully: Focus on your real accomplishments and the impact you’ve had in previous roles. Use specific examples and metrics to back up your claims.
  2. Be Clear About Your Skills: If you don’t have a particular skill, acknowledge it but express your willingness and ability to learn. Employers appreciate candidates who are honest about their gaps and proactive about addressing them.
  3. Ask Questions: Use the interview to ask insightful questions about the role and the company. This shows you’re genuinely interested and helps ensure the position is a good fit for you.
  4. Address Potential Concerns: If there are aspects of your background that might raise questions (e.g., a gap in employment), address them directly and honestly. Explain the situation and what you learned from it.

The Relational Approach to Interviewing

An interview shouldn’t be a transactional exchange of information. It’s a two-way street—a chance for both the employer and the candidate to evaluate whether they’re a good match.

When approached as a relationship-building exercise, interviews can lead to better hires, improved job satisfaction, and longer tenure.

Next time you’re in an interview, remember that honesty isn’t just the best policy—it’s the smart one. It paves the way for a fulfilling and successful professional journey.