Have you ever considered embellishing the truth on a job application or interview? After all, everyone at some point in their career will experience a “questionable departure,” or have some experience on their resume that worries them about their chances to land a new job.
You wouldn’t be alone considering that. Fortune Magazine reported that in early 2016, 88% of recruiters, HR staff, and hiring managers indicated they had caught some kind of misrepresentation on an applicant’s resume.
If everyone – or at least a majority of people – are embellishing, exaggerating, or outright lying, is there harm to doing it yourself?
The short-term consequences of misrepresenting ourselves should be obvious. Caught on a resume/CV, during an interview, or during a background check and we won’t get the job. (plus HR systems have Google-like memories, and a disqualified candidate is unlikely to ever be hired by that company)
We might lose our job when our new manager discovers we can’t do the job for which we were hired. But there’s something even more at risk if we lie during the job seeking process: our self-image.
Have you ever heard of imposter syndrome, the condition where we believe ourselves to be frauds no matter what happens externally? This psychological phenomenon, first documented in 1978, has become more and more widespread since its identification:
Imposter syndrome is a psychological feedback loop which causes us to discount our successes, while filling us with anxiety, self-doubt, and worry. Left unchecked, imposter syndrome may cause depression and severely compromise our ability to do our best work.
We put ourselves at greater risk of imposter syndrome when we misrepresent ourselves to land a job. Even if we’re hired, we suffer from enduring self-doubt, knowing that we misrepresented the truth. We take a hit to our self-image, to our self-esteem – and because imposter syndrome is a feedback loop, escaping it becomes more difficult over time.
The Antidote to Imposter Syndrome
The antidote to imposter syndrome is honesty, aligned to values. At SHIFT, we emphasize our core values in every aspect of our work and interactions with our people:
Connected, Smart, Dedicated, Positive, Honorable, Creative, and Ballsy.
These values don’t exist just for the benefit of the company; they exist for the benefit of our employees. Honesty and behaving honorably means being honest not only with our coworkers, but also ourselves. We may have items on our resume which don’t necessarily paint us in the best light. By being completely honest and focused on our values, we can overcome doubts without resorting to deception.
For example, suppose we have hopped jobs frequently in the last couple of years. That might raise a mental doubt about whether we will be perceived as dedicated or not. Our way to show dedication would not be to mislead about our job history, but show another form of dedication:
- We might illustrate our longstanding commitment to a charity or cause
- We might demonstrate our dedication with thorough, effective followup
- We might pre-empt questions about dedication by doing prep work in advance
If we are radically honest and demonstrate how we align to values, we will be able to overcome reservations about what’s printed on the flat sheet of paper without setting ourselves up for a future of self-doubt. We’ll be able to make rent, enjoy a robust career, and sleep at night knowing we are the best, most honest version of ourselves we can be.
I look forward to meeting that version of you at SHIFT.