No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.
Don’t exaggerate your qualifications on your résumé or in your interviews. The fact of the matter is there is no good reason to do this. I have a secret to tell you, and it is something far too many people fail to understand when they are conducting a job search. It is something that can change how you approach your job search forever. Before I share this with you, however, I want to tell you a quick story. It is a story that has stuck in my mind for a long time, and it relates to why you never need to exaggerate in interviews or on your résumé. Several years ago, I was once interviewing with a New York law firm for a position. I went out to lunch with a group of associates and they told me that the attorney I would be speaking with after lunch “did not like anyone.” They also made some statements about how strange the guy was. When I went into the attorney’s office (he was a tax attorney), I immediately noticed that the chair he asked me to sit in was turned at an odd angle to where he was sitting at his desk. Essentially, this meant that I had to turn my head very awkwardly to the side in order to speak with him. The sight of me sitting in such an awkward position probably would have appeared freakish to any onlooker.
Given the extreme order of his office, I realized before I even sat down that I should not move the chair. I understood that this attorney had a sense of order that could be considered obsessive, and that I should not disturb that sense of order.
Around this same time I had read a book about neurolinguistic programming (NLP), which discussed how we tend to like people who are like us. The meaning of NLP is much more complicated than this; however, it essentially states that we can better relate to people by “modeling them” in terms of their posture, body movements, breathing, language, and so forth. I liked what I read about NLP and believe that, in some respects it did work in terms of helping me gain trust and get into the minds of other people.
Sitting there in that chair, I tried to imagine why this guy would want me seated in such a strange posture. I looked at his desk and noticed that everything was very well centered. The books were in excellent order. I realized after a short time that he probably liked me sitting the way I was because of the fact that it made him feel like he was in control, and that I could not make any sudden movements towards him. It made him feel like he was guarded and protected.
In my interview I spoke about the importance of order, the importance of protecting oneself (in general terms) by doing good work, and other topics I thought he would appreciate, in response to his questions. I could tell this made him very comfortable, and it seemed to make him like me a great deal. What I realized right then and there was that it did not really matter how good my qualifications were or how good my résumé was. What mattered most was that I was likable to this interviewer.
Over the years, having worked with thousands of people as a recruiter and having spoken with thousands of individual employers about their interview experiences, I do not think I have heard more than a few times of an interviewer complaining about someone’s qualifications. What I have heard employers complain about, however, is that an interviewee was awkward, rude, or bragged too much. This response, which I have heard from numerous employers, has shown me how important a candidate’s likability in the interview is–over his or her résumé.
A few years ago I was interviewing a potential manager for our company. Everyone around this manager thought that he was exceptional in all respects. His mind picked things up very well and he was always able to rapidly recite various statistics about his department. All of his statistics were accurate and he had, by all accounts, a lot of potential.
When he interviewed, I had left the decision of whether or not to hire him to other managers at our company. The other managers made the job offer to him, and then came back to me stating that the individual (who was already very highly compensated) would not accept a new job unless he was paid an additional $200 a month. His justification for this demand was that he was changing jobs to make more money than he was currently making with another employer.
I told the managers right then and there that I did not approve of this hire. I told them the manager would probably leave for a higher-paying job the second it came along. The man also told me he was leaving his current job because he needed to gain more experience. All of these reasons signaled to me that the guy would probably be doing the same if he worked for our company, regardless of how the job went. Despite my protests, the manager was hired.
The manager started and, after a year, he was doing very well. I was spending a lot of time with him discussing various projects. One day I asked him how he liked his job.
“I am getting very good experience here,” he told me. “Which is good for my résumé.”
When I heard this I knew the manager would not be around for much longer. I was reminded of the events that had happened when he was hired. I realized that this was a person who would simply move on, in order to gain more experience or better pay.
Every few months, I get calls from former employees asking for references. I want nothing more than success for my former employees because their success is a reflection on me. In these telephone calls, the former employees often ask me to lie about their experience and responsibilities at the company. I have had people who work in my call center ask me to say that they were computer programmers for our company. I have had people who were recruiters ask me to say they had previously worked for us, managing a team of twenty people. Of course, this was not true either.
What is so sad about these telephone calls is, deep down, I know that the employee must feel a profound sense of inadequacy. I have always cautioned employees and job seekers to be truthful. People are typically hired because they find common ground with an employer and they are likable, not because of some isolated accomplishment from their past.
Achievements are important. What you have done is important. The most important thing, however, is how likable you are. This is generally why people are hired. Your achievements can be shaded any way the interviewer wants to shade them.
The thing that upsets me most about people who lie on their résumés or exaggerate their achievements is that they are missing the boat. All of us are human, and no one is perfect. You don’t need to exaggerate. Potential employers will either sense in an interview or find out shortly after you are hired that you do not have the skills or experience you boasted about. My career advice is that it is more important to be yourself and to present yourself as a likable individual and a team player.
The most important thing you can do when going into interviews and writing your résumé is come across as someone who is interested in trying hard and making an effort. Someone who learns from mistakes. Someone who is going to help the company and be very loyal. Someone who is going to be a stable addition to the company.
Your résumé is what it is. There is no need to embellish it. There is no need to try to make yourself out to be more than you are in an interview. You want people to like you. You do not want to be seen as insecure or pushy. You want the company to like you. Being caught up in a lie or exaggeration is not in your best interest and it weakens your case dramatically in the eyes of an employer.
In this article Harrison explains why you should never exaggerate your qualifications on your resume or in your interviews. Achievements and what you have done are important, but the most important thing is how likable you are. Come across as someone who tries hard, makes an effort, learns from mistakes, is loyal, helps the company, and who is going to be a stable addition to the company. People are not hired because of some isolated accomplishment from their past. It is very important to be yourself and to present yourself as a likable individual and a team player. Being caught up in a lie or exaggeration is not in your best interest and it weakens your case dramatically in the eyes of an employer.
About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the Founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter himself. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in a search and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.
About BCG Attorney Search
BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive that gets results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities that its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.
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