SCIENCE TELLS US TO "AIR OUR DIRTY LAUNDRY"

April 15, 2017

 

I've been thinking a lot, and reading a lot lately about integrity and honour.

 

Imagine you’re in the hot seat, and you’re asked by the interviewer to reveal something less than complimentary about yourself. For example, maybe you were retrenched or even asked to leave a company.

 

A survey from CareerBuilder of more than 2,500 hiring managers found that 56% have caught job candidates lying on their resumes. The most common embellishments seems to be exaggerating skills or capabilities; 62% of respondents say they’ve come across this, and 54% say they’ve caught applicants taking liberties when describing the scope of their role. A quarter have seen people who claim to be employed by companies they never really worked for.

 

 

 

The reasons for doing this are numerous. Tough competition for jobs isn’t a new phenomenon. Perhaps people feel they simply won’t be caught and are trying their luck.

 

It’s a shame that people do this, especially when you consider that the same hiring managers in the survey indicate that they are willing to accept candidates who only have 3/5 of the stated qualifying criteria.

 

When we are in the awkward spot of revealing our weaknesses and failings, we are often hesitant. But most of us feel uncomfortable with a bold-faced lie. Some of us deal with this by avoiding the question altogether.

 

But does the strategy work? Do we come of better when we ‘take the 5th’ or provide a cursory ‘no comment’ in these situations?

 

 

In a study led by Leslie John, an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, they asked people for their thoughts on people who opted not to answer questions. The premise was to understand how saying nothing compared to actually admitting indiscretions. The question the participants were asked, was simply “who would you prefer to date”?

 

Given the oft-cited notion that recruiting is like dating, you can draw a parallel here with hiring talent. The survey intended to answer:

 

Would you rather date someone who freely admits to having a shady past (a ‘revealer’) or someone who abstains from answering personal questions (a ‘hider’)?

 

The study concluded that honesty IS the best policy, even when it entails revealing some very serious indiscretions (example: have you ever neglected to tell a partner about an STD you were suffering from?).

 

64% of respondents confirmed that they would date the person who was truthful about their past.

 

Apparently, this is because it’s in our DNA to feel a sense of affiliation with those who disclose things about themselves. The reason for this is because honesty and self-disclosure is a basic building block for intimacy. Those people who provide ‘no comment’ are therefore viewed with some suspicion. Our preference for people who reveal is so strong, apparently, that it tends to favour those who admit the very worst faults, relative to people who abstain.

 

To conclude, science now confirmed what we always knew. It’s better to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when you’re being appraised for a career opportunity.

 

 

 

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February 10, 2019

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