How Not to Get a Job, Part 3

I’ve reserved for its very own blog entry what may be the most important tip I have for job-seekers: Never lie on the resume or in the interview.

Employers detest lies and usually can smell them. And a half-truth is considered the worst of all lies, as Alfred Lord Tennyson once observed.

When someone claims to have done something that is not associated with the job he or she held at the time, or when the applicant cannot provide details of an assignment or job, that’s usually a good sign that some unhealthy fibbing has occurred.

My favorite example is a lie we didn’t smell, but still uncovered through some standard checking.

After hiring an advertising professional a few years back, we called the company that he claimed was his current employer to do a standard check, only to discover that he had been laid off six months earlier.

I immediately rescinded the offer of employment because our business operates on a basis of trust. We are trusted because we are trustworthy. It takes only one lie to a client to destroy what years of honesty have built up.

The sad thing is that being laid off from an ad agency during a recession was, and is, no big deal, and would not have affected in the slightest what we thought of the job applicant.

A special type of lie is to submit a work sample that was not yours.  In my business, the most frequent work samples are writing or design samples.  Unbelievable as it might seem, in 20 years of doing business my company has uncovered three instances of people claiming writing that someone had done at Jampole Communications was their own work product! 

You ask, how could people be so dumb?

In one case, a former employee responded to a blind ad with work samples that others had written at the agency.  In another, the applicant had taken the work sample from a former employer who had engaged Jampole Communications to write it for them.

My last example is a bizarre variation on the theme of lying about a work sample: A client called us because someone claimed he/she had written something while employed at Jampole Communications. Now it was true the person worked briefly (and well) at my company and it was also true that the person had written the work sample she had submitted to my client.  Unfortunately she had not written it for us, but rather as a writing test as part of our hiring process.  While the sample was well written enough to get an entry level job at Jampole Communications, we would never have released it to a client or the public.  And our client (thank goodness!) recognized that the quality of the writing was beneath our high standards immediately. To claim that a writing test was work you did for a company as opposed to being a writing test to get a job is a fairly self-evident kind of lie to virtually every employer.

So what have we learned, class?

Follow directions, avoid mistakes, do research, never lie. If you run down this list of tips for job seekers, you’ll find these suggestions are precisely the skills that make for good employees. Sometimes they are called good work habits. But call them what you may, they not only increase the chance of landing the job but also help employees to thrive on the job and build successful careers.

One thought on “How Not to Get a Job, Part 3

  1. When we advertise for candidates for an academic position, we ask applicants to submit copies of their vita, academic records, recommendations, publications, research and teaching experiences and plans, etc. Select candidates are then requested to visit us for extensive on-campus interviews. Some years ago we invited a desirable candidate to campus, with many accomplishments on his record. In an informative and detailed application letter, he mentioned that he had graduated from his prestigious academic institution summa cum laude. After he had arrived for the interviews, a sharp-eyed faculty member, while re-reading the voluminous materials in his file, saw that his college transcript (from nearly a decade earlier) listed him as magna cum laude. When asked about this discrepancy, there was an embarrassed silence and a mumbling that he didn’t know anything about it. It is reasonable to assume that this had been his standard practice for all applications, and that we were the only ones to pick this up. So pointless; who cared about that detail except the applicant himself? For the next couple of days, we were just going through the motions.

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