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The White Lie Is the Right Lie: Surviving Your Job Interview

September 8, 2011

You got the interview. Now: Will you get the job? Let’s be honest—or, more precisely, dishonest. This is no time to be candid. When you’re asked a potentially “troublesome” question, the only thing to do is to polish the turd of your dismal employment history and reprehensible personal life into the sparkling diamond of a steady paycheck and free cake on your birthday. While a drastic situation might call for a complete whopper—“No, ha ha, different Manson Family”—a real pro knows how to transform a grain of truth, a mere sesame seed, into an entire bagel of lies, served up with a schmear of confidence and panache. Or, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “When in doubt, tell the truth, only think of ‘truth’ as what they want to hear.” Here are a few suggestions to get you started. And, for God’s sake, be sure to put on some deodorant before you leave the house, since it’s almost universally considered bad form to do it during the interview.

Wrong: “Ninety percent of my resumé is completely fabricated bullshit.”
Right: “I like to take a creative approach to my work.”

Wrong: “I was fired from my previous job for having sex on the copier.”
Right: “I felt the time was right to explore a new position.”

Wrong: “During morning meetings, I will occasionally nod with a sage expression on my face, thoughtfully stroke my chin, and spend the entire time thinking about my itinerary for the weekend.”
Right: “Long-range planning is a particular skill of mine.”

Wrong: “Expect me to spend half of my work day surfing the internet.”
Right: “I think you’ll find that I have a wide range of interests and an aptitude for thorough, in-depth research.”

Wrong: “I’m habitually late to everything.”
Right: “I’m not a clock watcher.”

Wrong: “I like to begin my weekends early, drinking-wise, so you can pretty much write off any ‘work’ I turn in on Thursdays and Fridays.”
Right: “I like to show up on Mondays ready to hit the ground running.”

Wrong: “If you think I’m ever coming in on Saturdays, you’re insane.”
Right: “I’m an observant Jew” [adjusting collar to cover pentagram and “Satan Rulz” prison tattoos on neck].

Wrong: “In five years, I’ll be far, far away from this shithole.”
Right: “In five years, I expect to cover a lot of ground.”

Wrong: “I have a reputation for stealing office supplies and equipment.”
Right: “I think my former employers and coworkers might describe me as resourceful.”

Wrong: “I want to f*ck your brains out.”
Right: “I hope we have the opportunity to get better acquainted, and that you’ll allow me to pick your brain sometime.”

Wrong: “No, I’m not a team player, and I could give a shit about your management ‘philosophy.'”
Right: “I’m a self-starter who can work with very little direction.”

Wrong: “I’m a cannibal.”
Right: “I enjoy learning about other people’s tastes.”

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. September 8, 2011 2:53 am

    College was rough for me and barely graduated with a 2.0. But on applications I always put down that I graduated 12th in my class. It was a special summer term. There were 12 of us. Maybe I was dumb but I had integrity.

    • September 8, 2011 2:51 pm

      Twelfth of twelve, huh? Even Jesus must have had a least-favorite apostle. The one who always got sent to pick up the carry-out.

  2. September 8, 2011 3:30 am

    How much would you charge to be a surrogate interviewee?

  3. September 8, 2011 8:28 am

    i’m currently debating whether to add, “lies well under pressure,” to my CV. thoughts?

    • September 8, 2011 2:42 pm

      “It says here that you lie well under pressure. Is this true?”
      “No.”
      “Are you lying to me?”
      “Yes.”
      “So you don’t lie well under pressure?”
      “No.”
      “‘No’ you do, or ‘no’ you don’t?”
      “I don’t know.”
      “Can you work a deep fryer?”
      “Yes.”
      “Welcome aboard.”

      • September 9, 2011 5:48 am

        lol, well i guess it’ll be a conversation starter if nothing else. might have to consider adding that to my bucket list: ‘lie my way into a job’

      • sonnypi67 permalink
        September 9, 2011 2:06 pm

        I think better than lying your way into a job would be to just show up at a place of business and simply occupy and empty cube and act as if you work there and see how long it takes them to find out you don’t.

  4. September 8, 2011 9:12 am

    I think my favorite gaffe at an interview was when the interviewer said, “You have an impressive resume” and I kind of scrunched my nose and replied, “Really?”

    • September 8, 2011 2:29 pm

      Mine was not asking for an ashtray. I got cigar ashes all over the floor of the O.R., and in the incision.

  5. sonnypi67 permalink
    September 8, 2011 9:15 am

    It’s eerie how much this sounds like my own recent interview. Except that it does not include the joke that Iike to work into the conversation about how I like to take giant dumps and not flush the toilet, and then sit at my desk giddy with the excitement that someone else is seeing my poo.

  6. September 8, 2011 9:58 am

    So you think my bringing up being a cannibal during the interview may have had something to do with not getting that last job? Hmmm. Really good points to ponder here, thanks.

    • September 8, 2011 2:10 pm

      It’s also not a good idea to respond to your interviewer with your mouth full. Of them.

  7. September 8, 2011 12:39 pm

    Great Advice! Now if i could just get an interview, i know I’d have it licked!

  8. September 8, 2011 2:13 pm

    Licking is usually an interview no-no, but I guess it depends on your line of work.

  9. September 8, 2011 2:40 pm

    Delightful, but now I wonder what you really mean when you say something. Or does your clever white/right lying only apply when there’s money involved? 😉

  10. September 8, 2011 3:03 pm

    You can take everything I say at face value, except when you can’t.

  11. September 8, 2011 5:18 pm

    Quite observant work, japecake. You know you’ve written something good when the reader can imagine someone saying and meaning everything you’ve written here. How do you propose I tell my boss that his wife’s vagina has more references than my resume?

    • September 10, 2011 11:52 pm

      The phrase “highly recommended” comes to mind.

      • September 11, 2011 4:56 am

        Shit that’s clever. I wish I could write comedy like that. Promise me you won’t turn into Kevin Smith. The world does not need another him. Stick to the biting, critical sarcasm you write now. I could never get tired of reading it.

      • September 11, 2011 8:04 pm

        Thanks, Tyler, and no worries; I’m more of a Jay than a Silent Bob, anyway.

  12. September 8, 2011 6:52 pm

    You are hysterical! And,correct! Complete honesty doesn’t pay during interviews. However, B.S. and confidence almost got me a promotion last week! When informed they hired someone else with more experience, my only consolation was being told that my interview was “phenomenal”. LOL.

    Thanks for making me laugh and for another great blog!

  13. September 10, 2011 11:57 pm

    Thank you. Your next move seems to be spreading unpleasant rumors about the person who got the job. Try smirking at your coworkers and making the rotating-your-finger-around-your-ear “crazy” gesture whenever he/she says something.

  14. September 13, 2011 11:40 am

    Most interviewers seem put off by my ability to creatively lie under pressure until I remind them if they don’t give me the job I could just as easily go and lie for their competitors.

  15. September 15, 2011 3:23 am

    Good post. I actualy laughed. I don’t do that very often.

    • September 19, 2011 2:21 pm

      To paraphrase the bumper sticker: Laugh more, bark less, unless you’re a tree.

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