5
  • In a first interview (with the head and global head of the department) for a senior researcher position in a multinational company, I hesitated and said that I'm currently employed instead of telling the truth: that I was let go 4 months ago.

  • The reason I did this: in the past 5 years, I changed companies 3 times. No specific or performance issues.

  • I did amazingly well at the first conversation. My background is a perfect fit for the position.

  • Now that I was invited for a second interview (Skype, since we are in different continents), with more people (a HR rep., head and global head of the dep't, and another analyst in a correlated area), I feel I should tell the truth.

HOW can I do this without drawing attention to the fact that I omitted/lied about it? Would it be a good idea to not tell them the truth?

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    First of all, you shouldn't have lied as they will find out regardless. But now that you are in that position, to help answer this question, what were the terms of your termination 4 months ago, and what have you been doing in those 4 months time? – Zibbobz Nov 19 '15 at 18:26
15

The fact that you are currently unemployed would probably not be a big deal. The fact that you intentionally lied is a huge one, however.

You can bet that they will run background checks on you, especially since they're such a large company.

I think your best bet is simply being honest:

"Before we start, I'd like to say something. Out of a misguided desire to impress, I said that I am currently employed. I was actually laid off 4 months ago. I apologize about my behavior, and hope we can continue to move forward."

I won't lie .. the situation is worse if you ALSO lied on your resume, because that can't be put down to a spontaneous impulse - that would be a premeditated lie.

Good luck!

  • I agree. If you lied on a resume you already gave them you are in a lot of trouble. Or hopefully haven't lied in an application, maybe a word doc could be 'accidentally' out of date. You might be able to bring it up in an out the way (I want to let you know why I was let go from my last job and why I'm confident I will be a great asset for you), treat it as if it isn't new information to them. However, this only works if it was a layoff not if you were fired for cause I'd think. – TechnicalEmployee Nov 19 '15 at 20:05
  • This is really terrible advice. Any decent manager wouldn't hire a liar. A flaky liar is even worse. – blankip Nov 20 '15 at 16:05
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    @blankip - the truth is going to come out anyway. If you preemptively say that you misspoke, or submit yourself to their mercy, you may have a chance. Your honesty might be appreciated. What's the point of having another interview and pretending nothing is wrong? The worst thing that can happen is you are rejected. The best, is that they MIGHT get over it. Since if you don't speak up rejection is 100% the expected outcome, what do you have to lose? Please enlighten us as to how you would approach this situation. – AndreiROM Nov 20 '15 at 16:10
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    @blankip - that chance is non-existent, in my opinion/experience. I have, in the past, "bent the truth" a little bit in an interview. It became obvious that they would catch on, so I clarified that I had misspoken. There was some suspicion, but I got the job in the end, because I showed them that I had a sense of honor, even if I had been a little misguided. People may very well forgive a moment of weakness. They will not forgive a blatant attempt to pull the wool over their eyes. The best policy, of course, is not to lie. In this day and age, no secret is truly "secret" – AndreiROM Nov 20 '15 at 16:29
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    What? I work for huge huge multinational. The fact that data might get misplaced, miscommunicated, told wrong, whatever from background check service through HR to manager is normal occurrence where I work. If anyone lied to me about their employment as a manager and then told me there is a 1000000000% chance I don't hire them. – blankip Nov 20 '15 at 19:09
4

Hope they ask you again in the second and answer truthfully. If they call you out that you said different in the first then just say "I am sorry I misspoke". Not a great answer but it might work. But it also might be better to just come out up front and say I misspoke in the first first interview about my current employment status. Lie again if they ask is probably not the way to go. It is likely they will check your most recent reference (especially if they asked your employment status twice).

  • @Erik "Oops, I forgot" Did you mean to comment on another post? – paparazzo Nov 20 '15 at 10:50
  • No, just a poorly worded comment on my part, sorry. I meant I think it's very unlikely anyone will take saying you have been employed while you've been sitting at home for the last 4 months as "misspeaking" is very slim. Thinking you can get out of it by just saying "sorry" and treating it like a few mixed up words is likely to make things worse. – Erik Nov 20 '15 at 10:57
  • @Erik What? Misspoke does not mean he was confused about being employed. Misspoke: express oneself insufficiently clearly or accurately. "I am sorry I lied" is going to make things better? – paparazzo Nov 20 '15 at 15:08
  • Yeah, "I am sorry I lied" is accurate and honest. Saying you have a job when you don't, is not a mistake and treating it like one will not go over well with most people. – Erik Nov 20 '15 at 17:11
  • @Erik Mispoke is not limited to a mistake. I gave you the definition in the last comment - mistake is not even in the definition. If you look up thesaurus on misspoke it states "as in lie". thesaurus.com/browse/misspoke?s=t – paparazzo Nov 20 '15 at 17:27
3

You're not going to avoid drawing attention to your lie if you try to set the record straight.

Make a phone call, right now, to your contact at the company (no easy email for this). Explain to them that you lied (misspoke, etc., whatever the word you use, they'll hear 'lied'). Tell them that you wanted to set the record straight before proceeding any farther, and submit yourself to their decision to proceed, or not.

It is best to tell the truth. Next best is to come forward on your own and set the record straight. Worst is lying and being discovered while thinking you're still maintaining the story.

You might have made a deal-breaking mistake. If so, learn your lesson and move forward. If they decide to move forward with you, you will be so much more at ease and able to focus on your next interview if you're not dealing with a growing pile of worry in the back of your mind while you're talking with them.

And do yourself a favor: Practice your answer to that question so in your next interviews your muscle memory blurts out something favorable instead of something regretful.

3

I suggest trying to discuss this with your HR contact at the company, before your second interview, for two reasons:

  1. If this is a non-negotiable issue, they may not even want to have the 2nd interview.

  2. It will look bad for you to introduce yourself to an additional group of interviewers as someone who lies to get ahead. It would be better if they heard about your situation privately from the HR person, rather than you give a speech at the start of your interview and then they have to put on a good face for the rest of the interview. It is also possible, that even though you admit your mistake to the HR person they may not mention it to everyone anyway - perhaps they already know or they just feel it isn't a big deal.

Whether or not it's a good idea, depends on you. If it's not a moral issue for you, then it's not a moral issue for you. If it is, then you should act accordingly.

2

You just don't talk about it anymore. Keep the lie going if you need to. Play dumb if asked a follow up question.

They aren't hiring the liar. You might as well just pass over it. Calling them back to tell them the truth is silly. As a manager I would love it because I could not worry about interviewing you. Think that a manager has a certain degree of liability to his company (or loses their job) so if they hire a known liar and liar lies about something that costs company money, then manager is as culpable.

You now must lie in the bed you have made - just quit lying in the future.

  • Changed one word (to 'silly') in your answer to make your response a little more credible. Feel free to edit it back if you really feel strongly about it. – Kent A. Nov 20 '15 at 21:23
  • @KentAnderson - no problem - didn't even remembered what I had typed. – blankip Nov 20 '15 at 21:24
1

They certainly will validate employment dates with a previous employer. Your only chance of continuing with the company is actually to bring it up, face it boldly and call it what it was: a mistake. You can explain that you answered out of reflex rather than an intention to deceive (hopefully this is true) and that you'd like to set the record straight before going forward. Then set the record straight.

At issue here is integrity. It is a rare and precious commodity, and you've damaged yours with this company. It may be irreparable, but for something as small as this I doubt it. However, bringing it up, taking ownership of it and not waiting to be "called out" on it will speak volumes more about your integrity. Certainly it would be better if the answer had been honest from the start, but it is not irreparable and you don't want to hide from it.

As a word of advice, they are going to quiz you on the topic and the reasoning for your original answer. You should know ahead of time how you will address the topic and what "attitude" you want to present with it. Do not memorize answers or responses to questions you think they will ask. If they ask you something slightly different, your hesitancy will only look like more dishonesty.

Do this as soon as you possibly can, even before the Skype call if possible. If they decide this is a deal breaker, it is better for everyone not to waste any more time on the issue.

Learn from this, and be honest and deliberate with your answers to all questions in an interview.

-3

Would it be a good idea to not tell them the truth?

In any situation where you have to make a decision, but can't estimate the probability of a certain result, it is helpful to create a matrix. You write down the actions you can do (tell the truth, not tell the truth) as row, then what you don't control as column and in the fields the consequences and benefits.

Then you pick the row that looks the best, which means choosing the best looking interval of results and accepting it as fate / good / bad luck that any of them can come true.

If you do this with your problem (tell the truth, not tell the truth, they find out, they don't find out, ...), you will see that there is one row with guaranteed success - you don't tell the truth and they don't find out. The worst consequence of this row in all columns is that you don't get the job. This worst consequence is also the worst consequence of the other row, telling the truth. So by not telling the truth, you can have a guaranteed success without increasing the impact of the worst consequence at all.

From a purely logical point of view, not telling the truth is the only way to guarantee the job. The possibility to not get the job or lose the job in the future is part of the interval anyway, no matter what you do.

This approach does not take morals into account. If you feel bad about questionable actions, it is usually best to honor your own morals and accept the consequences.

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    Of course there is approximately a 0% chance that a large multinational corp won't do a background check and find out the lie, so your analysis is flawed. – HLGEM Nov 19 '15 at 19:54
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    @AllenZhang Because basing decisions on what provides better results? – John Hammond Nov 19 '15 at 20:42
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    @Frisbee It's not a risk analysis. A risk analysis would mean that you can estimate the probability. If you can't estimate the probability, your best bet is to reduce the interval of [worst, best]. If you don't know where you end up in the interval, because it is a matter of unknown probability, you can only choose the best interval. – John Hammond Nov 19 '15 at 20:46
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    @AllenZhang No offense, but are you telling me now how the HR department of my company works? – John Hammond Nov 19 '15 at 21:00
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    @HLGEM As a side note: As he stated that he still works there, it would be completely unreasonable for any large company to call the previous company without asking the job applicant before whether it would be okay to contact the previous employer or not. The job applicant might not have disclosed yet that he is looking for a new job. – John Hammond Nov 19 '15 at 21:17

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