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I applied for a job. During the interview I had the impression that contrary to what I understood from the ad: the job focused on something a bit different, let's call it aspect X.

I was honest and said directly to the hiring manager that I wasn't the right person nor interested in doing X. To be honest, it's even clear from my CV. We discussed it for a while and he stressed this was a misunderstanding and the job was actually to focus on what I expected.

Now the job really focuses on X. I don't see what I could learn here given that X is much less advanced than what I did before and would like to do in the future. I just have several years of experience, so skill development is very important to me.

At the same time, it's not the first time this happened, and my CV is starting to appear like the CV of a job-hopper.

How can I prevent such situations? I did try to search for contacts working for the company—found no one—and searched for info online before accepting, but there was nothing strange there.

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    The word "lie" is really too strong in this situation. In large organizations, there are multiple people and multiple interests involved in the hiring process. There's always going to be incongruities between the job description, the expectations of the candidate, the expectations of the org, the expectations of the team, and what the actual job requires now and in the future. If you use the word "lie" that implies an intention to deceive-- that's rarely the case and doesn't benefit anyone. – teego1967 Mar 11 at 12:02
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    @teego1967, I don't think the word is too strong. I was very straighforward during the interview, wanted to avoid misunderstandings. I expected this to cost me the job but I was prepared to turn it down/ get rejected if the job wasn't to fulfill my expectations. The information I received during the interview doesn't seem to be truth. I don't mean subjective assumptions like "we do a lot of" vs. "we sometimes do", I mean, the very character of the role is totally different. – User38525 Mar 11 at 19:50
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    @User38525, the way you wrote your question, it gives the impression that this has happened more than once to you? I suppose it can happen sometimes that employers will try to lure an overskilled person to do something that is beneath them to gain the security of competence at a low cost, but that is rare and such Machiavellian plays end up being harmful to both employer and employee. I suspect you either have overly rigid expectations OR you are somehow falling into this trap. Maybe your salary requirements are too low and you're selling yourself short? – teego1967 Mar 12 at 0:14
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    I want to get clarification. So you applied for a job Y, turned up to find out that it was more like X, was given reassurance that this was a mistake and actually it is Y? Then you started, and it turned out indeed to be X? So you left? And this has happened repeatedly so you're concerned about looking like a job-hopper? If so, I think we need more context as to why this keeps occurring. Once is just the company being ars***les; a pattern needs data to understand. – Asteroids With Wings Mar 12 at 0:45
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    What Exodor said. Maybe append "... as the interviewee:" to the title. – mcalex Mar 12 at 4:40

11 Answers 11

66

Avoid being lied to during interviews? Not doable. You have no influence on what people want to extort from you (I treat this type of manipulation as a type of extortion).

The only way to protect yourself from this is having your responsibilities and purpose written in your contract. Then just hold the company to their promises.

You also mention it happened already. How many times? If two and this is third one then don't worry about it and just omit that part from your CV. I wouldn't put a job in my CV I've done for a month.

If it happened more often then maybe it's something that have to do with what you're doing? Then I would start making interviews with companies. So instead of telling them "I'm not interested in X" let them talk about what they expect, don't correct them (because this is exactly what they do when caught, they will lie) and just walk away if the answer is not satisfactory.

Regarding accusation of extortion, not long ago there was question that presented similar employer mentality: Employer changes working hours from flexible schedule to early mornings? Being in similar situations I noticed that, more often than not, it's a tactic done on purpose to save money by company or do a quick fix (we need X to be done, we cannot find people to do the X so we hire people that know X under pretense of wanting them to do Y).
I agree there might be some honest misunderstanding but it's usually rather to some "soft" issues. If OP says "I don't want to work with Fortran77" and HM says "oh, no, no Fortran. This job is for Java" then it's too much to be excused by incompetence.
I understand there might be some confusion with Java and JavaScript but if the ad ask for one and OP clarifies that it's that then for sure I suspect malice.

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    I think I generally agree with the content of your answer, but opening with an accusation of extortion seems pretty extreme, and doesn't really allow for the varied situations that probably exist in real life. What if the person answering the questions is not deliberately misleading you, but rather just answering based on their perspective (which may be limited, or may just be different than yours)? Can you expand your answer to include that potential? – dwizum Mar 11 at 12:51
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    Have you had your responsibilities and purpose written in your contract? I don't think I've ever had a job where they've written more about the specifics of my job duties than my job title in my contract. – Bernhard Barker Mar 11 at 19:30
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    @Dukeling I've never even had a job where there has been a written contract. – Michael J. Mar 12 at 4:57
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    @dwizum I agree. This answer seems to operate under an assumption of ill intent and may be incredibly misleading for the myriad of other things that could be going on here. Both myself and one of my other current teammates were employed to work on one thing and ended up on another simply because the business interests change and the needs shift, and that can change the nature of the work. – DoctorPenguin Mar 12 at 14:18
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    @SZCZERZOKŁY Well, no, because they didn't know. Which is exactly my point. There was zero attempt to extort or ill intent on the people who hired me. Business needs changed, so despite what my hiring manager would have liked me to be doing, I ended up be shifted onto something else. Nothing malicious there. No extortion involved. Hence why I take issue with the assumptions your answer is founded upon. – DoctorPenguin Mar 12 at 15:08
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If anything, I think your question speaks to the potential difficulties of communicating clearly, and in detail, within the constraints of the interview process. Yes - this interviewer may be trying to "trick" you, but ultimately that doesn't really make any sense, so it's hard to believe that it's the only explanation for this type of behavior (after all, as a hiring manager, why would you want to trick someone into taking a job that they clearly aren't interested in? You're deliberately setting yourself up for having to re-hire in the near future and/or deal with an unhappy employee. Neither are desirable).

It may simply be the case that the person answering your question isn't sure, or is ignorant of some details, or is interpreting "X" differently than you. In the same way that candidates sometimes innocently give "wrong" answers about things, hiring managers do, too. It's unfortunate, but it's inherent to the way the process works, when you've got a bunch of (imperfect) humans sitting in a room asking each other questions.

For me, regardless of whether I'm the candidate or the interviewer, I find the best way to combat this is to use multiple approaches to determine anything you consider critical. This is a good approach because it can be effective regardless of if the other person is deliberately lying, or is somehow otherwise innocently answering wrongly. If you think it's critical that you are able to work on X, or able to avoid X, then don't just ask,

Do you use X?

Instead, consider asking a variety of related questions, as appropriate:

What tools do you use?

How often does your tool set change?

Do members of the team get to self-direct in terms of the tools they use?

How are projects assigned within the team? Do people focus on specific areas? If so, how are those focuses determined?

Can you describe how X has changed recently, and how you see things changing in the future?

And so on.

One good thing about people who deliberately lie is that when you come at a topic from multiple angles, it's often pretty obvious that they're lying - either there will be inconsistencies (it's hard to make up a convincing and well-rounded lie on the spot) or it will be obvious that they're literally just telling you exactly what you want to hear.

If you are able to interview with multiple people, you can ask each of them the same questions, and see if things are consistent. This works especially well if you interview with people who will be your peers, versus your manager - and you can always ask to meet some people on the team if that's important to you, as well.

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TL;DR: You won't be lied to if you don't tell them which lie will make you sign the contract.

Your mistake was telling them directly what they need to tell you to get you on board here:

I was honest and said directly to the hiring manager that I wasn't the right person nor interested in doing X.

You just exposed yourself. If the role is doing X and you can do X, the hiring person will attempt to have you come on board and do X even if that is below your skill set/career goal. They have a choice - tell you the truth and you walk away or lie and you get hired and deliver since you are (over)qualified. The hiring manager fulfilled his objective - he hired a qualified candidate.

If you feel like you are "being honest" then you are saying too much, very likely disclosing unnecessary things against your own interest.

In this particular situation, your goal in the interview is to probe for information without disclosing things that would be a deal breaker. Then if you see the deal breakers, you can follow up after the interview to get clarity with people involved or simply not pursue that role any further.

If I were you, I would ask about it indirectly:

How much X , Y and Z do you guys do here? How much expertise do you think is required with X, Y , Z? In this role, do you think I would develop more expertise in the X or Y or Z? etc.

If they consistently stress that X is the most important then you know that's what you are going to do.

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    brilliant advise, interviews are 2 ways, you are there to find out just as much info as the person sitting opposite – PeterH Mar 13 at 11:02
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You can ask to interview with your future colleagues. They're less likely to lie to you. But do consider it a red flag if the manager doesn't want to leave you alone with each person.

Then ask open-ended questions. Ask multiple variations of the same questions to different employees. And don't be satisfied with theoretical answers, otherwise they may just give you the answers you want to hear. Ask them when was the last time they did something, or ask them about the current week they're in.

And checking LinkedIn was good too. That idea didn't pay off this time, but it may pay off one day.

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  • This is a solid suggestion. Colleagues will be way more reliable. – Justice Mar 11 at 16:54
7

You are asking about a conversation, and we are only getting on side of the conversation. Odds are good this is an incomplete picture; but, you have the privilege of being on both sides, so here's a few tools for you to apply.

Never assume malice when ignorance would suffice

Is there any way that your resume is open ended enough that the original position could have been considered a fit? Or, is the act of X a natural progression in your field from a person who has your background and experience?

Most jobs are not a perfect fit. Those that are tend not to provide any new challenges. It seems that somewhere in your in-interview avoidance of X, your interviewer offers up what you ask for "not X" which is a lesser role in your career progression (otherwise they wouldn't have it readily available). You've mastered that lesser role, so you probably will find that role less fulfilling over time.

This explanation makes sense if X is something like "manage" or "mentor" and makes a lot less sense if X is something that typically doesn't align with a better job for the masses.

If you're trying to do things differently than the masses, remember you can forge your own path, but only at your own cost. It's very hard to get society to offer up the path you wish, and easy for them to give you the path they already offer.

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    Comparing it to software dev., x is testing, my field is development. I dont want to become a tester. – User38525 Mar 11 at 13:06
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    @User38525 Well, then provide the specific example in your question. By calling it X, you introduced the ambiguity. There's an opinion thanks to test-driven development, that developers should be writing tests. The rationale is, as a developer you should write code that (at least somewhat) works. If you can't be bothered to show it works in some fashion, you can write at much lower code quality levels, creating undue burden on the testing teams. People who disagree with this rationale often worry companies that agree with it. To them it implies "above reproach" programmers. – Edwin Buck Mar 11 at 13:21
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    Or even worse: I worked as a developer and want to stay in development but now i do helpdesk support. – User38525 Mar 11 at 13:28
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    @User38525 It sounds like you aren't arguing a specific thing that happened now, but are arguing multiple possible examples. By being vague in the asking, and changing the example twice mid-answer, perhaps you won't find an answer that suits you. In any case, I'm not going to chase down your new example, or the next ones that might appear. If you can reform the question with better specifics, I'd recommend re-asking it in a more specific way. – Edwin Buck Mar 11 at 13:34
  • FYI this aphorism is called "Hanlon's Razor". – Eric Lippert Mar 11 at 20:38
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You Can't

If there were reliable ways to avoid being lied to in any kind of situation, we wouldn't need laws against fraud, catfishing wouldn't exist, there would be no spam, etc. The best you can do is play the hand which you are dealt.

Leverage

Use the discrepancy as leverage. Presumably, the hiring manager is also your reporting manager, and so they are the person who told you one thing and is now asking you to do another. So you have a history doing X, they assume you are good at X, they know you hate X and would never have accepted the job to do X, but here are you doing it anyway. If you quit now, it looks bad all around. If you roll over, you lose all life satisfaction. So don't do either of those things. What you need to do is turn the situation you have into the situation you want, and that requires some effort and investment.

First, do X. Do it well. Do it so well you impress the heck out of everyone: your boss, your coworkers, people on other teams who don't know you directly, but just hear about how awesome you are at X. This builds your credibility, which means "political capital." Once you have proven that you are a valuable asset to the team and company, you will increase your ability to make demands. But it will require maybe 6-12 months of solid investment (read: sucking it up) to reach this point. Obviously, this is only worthwhile if the company is a place worth working at for several years (say, 5 years minimum).

Even though your boss has asked you to do X, on your very first meeting, you should voice your displeasure: "I specifically told you that I wish to do Y, not X. I understand you need me to do X, and I'm going to do that, despite your unethical misdirection. But I'm so good at X, that I'm going to do 100% of the average worker's effort in only 80% of the time. The remaining 20% of my time, you will give me projects involving Y. Over time, I will demand that my workload transition towards 100% Y, but I understand that this will be contingent upon my performance on X. If you fight me on this, I will shop around the other teams in the company and find a manager willing to let me work on Y. I hope we can come to an agreement."

Analysis

The statement above might seem overly bold, but it is not. The manager is lying about X because they are desperate and nobody they are looking at wants to do X. That's the only reason they would risk lying about the position in the first place. They think you are also desperate, which is why you have been doing X all this time instead of Y. They know you must have some competence in X, or other companies wouldn't have had you doing it in the first place. And they know they can dangle Y in front of you as an enticement to do X. So let them. This is the game, and you have to play it.

But, you also need to recognize whether you are holding an unmatched 2, 6 or pocket aces. If you are really above-average at X (which you need to be for this strategy to work), then your new manager needs you more than you need them. This is why you can make demands. If they are reasonable, they will recognize that you are both an asset and a threat, and they will play ball to get what they need and keep you motivated. If they respond badly, then they are just a bad actor all around, and you don't want to waste your career working for such a person. You should just quit immediately, and ask HR for an exit interview, in which you explain that you were assured work on Y, but were asked to do X instead. This will put the hiring manager in a tough spot, because now others in management will know this manager is giving the company a bad reputation in the potential-employee marketplace. And if that doesn't happen, then the entire company is full of bad apples, and you want to run away from there as fast as you can.

Demands

If your title implies you do X, tell your boss that you want a title change that reflects Y, along with the relevant compensation. This might cost the manager a bit, but make it clear that they are not going to get what they want unless they meet you halfway, and this is part of the cost of lying about the position. This is important, because you want other folks in the company who look you up in the contact database to see that your title matches your aspirations, and not the drudge work you got stuck with. If there is no difference in titles between X and Y, then you're golden.

Finally, getting the work you want is similar to getting a promotion: don't wait to get promoted to do the work at the next level. Do the work at the next level, and use your competence to argue that you are already operating at that level, and the promotion is simply a recognition of that fact. The same logic applies here. Do as much Y work as you can independently. This includes things like subscribing to relevant internal mailing lists where people discuss Y, going to talks/events relevant to Y, networking with other folks doing Y, finding out the hot opportunities elsewhere in the company involving Y, etc. Basically, participate in Y as much as you can, within the scope of your actual job.

Many employees think that their job is a rigidly defined box with precise boundaries specified by their job description and an employee handbook. This is nonsense. A job is more like a balloon which expands to fill the space allowed by managers, coworkers, company culture, and personal ambition. Two people with the same title and theoretical position can have vastly different scope and responsibilities, depending entirely on their particular team environment and personal actions. Do every little thing you can to make your job more like Y, even though your boss wants you to do X. As long as you are doing well at both, your boss will be happy and go along with it. They just need results, and eventually, you can likely both get what you want and need. But you will need patience and you will need to pay your dues for a while so the company learns what you are really capable of. Good luck!

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    If you follow this advice, you will end up being told to "just do X a little bit longer" for the rest of your career. If they were willing to lie to you to get you to sign up, they will definitely be willing to lie to get you to stay. And if they were so desperate they couldn't find anyone other than someone who explicitly didn't want the job, they still won't be able to find anyone to replace you. Absolutely no one will be impressed with your skill at doing X, they will just be happy that they don't have to do it themselves. – user3067860 Mar 12 at 18:56
  • If you operate as a passive order-taker, you are right. That's why you must take control of your destiny by pushing back as you build up political capital. You can't really do that out of the gate, because nobody at the company really knows your value yet. However, I have seen people transition out of roles they didn't like, so I know it's possible. – Lawnmower Man Mar 12 at 21:29
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That happens a lot on IT business. Companies like to lure people using hot buzzwords, they make these job postings full of top edge technologies like Artificial intelligence, data science, blockchain etc.

When you go for the interview and wants to work for example on blockchain, don't go ignorant about the technology. Even if you are very junior, its your job understand the maximum of available information before apply for the job. Let me be more clear, if you are asking for a position on blockchain, like an internship, its on your best interest to guarantee that the place you are signing its not using fancy words and really understands the deep of these concepts and have the means to implement them.

You don't expect a data science task that run millions of records using ordinary computers like we use for simple development like a core i7 with 8gb of ram. It's required servers to do the job at some level of quality, if they don't provide the hardware or fails to explain for you how do you work with that X, they are probably lying and you can't accept the offer because clearly you won't work with that.

I understand your question perfectly, I seen that before and the best way to protect your interests is doing the right questions using the most available details possible to understand if they are being serious about the terms they used on the job posting.

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Isn't that the purpose of a "probation period"? It's for the company to evaluate you and for you to evaluate them. And if there's no such period in your contract, usually you're in an at-will employment environment, so it functionally doesn't change anything.

If the company lied to you, you should feel free to omit a 3-week job in-between more long term, stable jobs. If for a legal reason you must include all your experiences, even ones that last one day, it's easy to explain that the company lied to you during the hiring process, it won't reflect poorly on you.

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    It probably is. But 1) it means losing reputation: it doesnt look good to have a gap in the CV or to quit after several weeks or months 2) it means losing time. I need to start applying again. I lost several weeks during which I wasnt applying, since I was certain I had found a job. – User38525 Mar 11 at 10:04
  • @User38525 A gap of several months is a problem, albeit an explainable one. A gap of a few weeks is nothing. – 520 says Reinstate Monica Mar 11 at 11:27
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    @520saysReinstateMonica People who won't or can't relocate sometimes take longer than several months to find a better job. Accepting a quick few-weeks turnaround could land you in a situation worse than what OP is already complaining about. – Aaron Mar 11 at 19:14
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Your mistake was to believe them when they told you what you wanted to hear, unfortunately. When you find out information that is contrary to what you're hoping to hear, believe that the first time - don't believe them when they say "no, no, that's not what we meant at all". Of course they're going to lie to you to get you to come on board if you're a great fit.

It's no different than from their point of view - interviewers don't just ask you "are you good at programming X Y Z", they ask questions that find out that information without directly asking it. They either ask you about some job history details (tell me about a place where you did X), or they ask questions that require showing some skill.

You can do the same - and maybe you did? Instead of saying "I don't want a job where I only do X, I want a job where I do Y", you can ask indirectly about Y and X. Have them describe a day in the life of a person with this job. Ask what technologies this person will use. Ask open ended questions, for the most part, where they will either give you the information - or not, which is just as informative. Then trust your intuition when they answer.

Similar to Marcus Gee, I'll say: don't tell them what you want to hear, unless you've already decided not to take the job - in which case you're welcome to tell them why you're not interested. Just don't change your mind based on their assurances at that point.

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I will assume that rather than "avoid being lied to," you meant "not be pulled in by lies," as you have no control over what other people say or do. As such, the only way to avoid this is to:

  1. Get better at lying, and
  2. Get better at telling when other people are lying

I would love you as an applicant for being honest as to what you expect the job to be - if I really want you for a job, I can pitch the job in a way that fits your criteria without it necessarily being wrong. However, if you get better at speaking at what you want obliquely (one method of lying), and you study their expressions and mannerisms as they tell you what they expect, you can prevent them from reading your hand, so to speak, while seeing if what they are saying is genuine.

This has the added benefit of, if you are paying closer attention to them, it makes you look more attentive and alert, increasing your hirability for places that do actually meet your skillset.

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Here's the thing, the company wants a butt in a seat to perform a specific task. If you sound competent and not over-qualified to perform said task then they will want you to do that task.

Lots of people get jobs completely unrelated to their degree so pinning someone in a position lateral to their degree is not viewed as a transgression; at least not by the employer.

Your best defense against getting pinned into these situations is to ask questions, lots of questions.

What is the typical day that I can expect when working for you?

What software do people in my position use to do their work?

Is this a development/programming position?

I can apply myself best in aspect Y but aspect X sounds important. How much of aspect X will I be expected to do?

If you start getting non-answers or something is revealed which you don't like then you will be in an informed position to decline further progression of the job opportunity.

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  • Unfortunately, OP's second paragraph suggests that these questions were asked, but not answered honestly... – Chronocidal Mar 13 at 16:52
  • @Chronocidal The "misunderstanding" is what should have given OP the cue to decline further progression. – MonkeyZeus Mar 13 at 16:58

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