You should never lie in an interview… but think twice before you tell the truth.

a desk light

Are you showing yourself in the best light?

A colleague of mine recently  asked a recruiter what was the most memorable answer she’d been given in an interview. Her reply: ‘I asked a candidate why they had got involved with a charity. They said that they didn’t particularly care about the charity in question but that it looked good on their CV and would help them to secure a job.’

I know everyone tells you to be yourself in a job interview, but is that taking the advice too literally?

The interviewee’s answer was honest, but it doesn’t present them in the best light.  And often in life, it’s not what you say but how you say it that counts: how, in fact, you choose to package the truth.

The reason why, as a recruiter, I would not appoint this candidate isn’t that I would particularly care about their true feelings towards the charity. I would care about their communications skills and their lack of awareness of what is and isn’t appropriate (and tactful) to say in a business context such as a job interview. I’d also feel that they were somewhat naïve about how the job-hunting process really works.

Doing something because it looks good on your CV is not in itself a bad thing. But you need to know why it looks good on a CV.  Working for a charity (or in a shop or a pub, for example) makes you more employable because it gives you experience of the working world, develops your work ethic and gives you transferable skills that will be useful in a graduate job. And it improves your CV because it allows you to demonstrate those achievements.

So, when asked, a better answer would be: ‘I wanted to develop my skills and make myself more employable’.  You are actually saying the same thing about your underlying motives, but using different words to explain it.

That’s not lying, it’s still the truth – just presented in a more thoughtful way. Then, of course, you have to provide evidence that it worked, and be able to discuss the skills that you developed from the experience.

As a recruiter, I wouldn’t mind how the applicant felt about the particular charity (if they felt too strongly, I might worry about their motivation for working for me!). But knowing that they had been proactive about getting useful experience – and are able to communicate this well – would impress me, regardless of their level of altruism.

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