Degrees of Honesty

Posted on: June 25th, 2013 by
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Situation:  An applicant during a telephone job interview

Interviewer: What would you consider to be your greatest weakness?

Applicant: Honesty.

Interviewer: Honesty? I don’t think that honesty is a weakness.

Applicant: I don’t give a damn what you think.

Would this exchange really happen?  Probably not, but it brings up the question of how honest or how much to “fudge” the truth without actually lying.

A real case in point:  While interviewing a candidate for an Acquisition Team, he said that he was a key Acquisition Team member in another company.  In pursuing the question to the fourth level of detail I found that he took notes, got the coffee and set up the scheduled meetings.  Did he lie?  No, as he was part of the acquisition team.  But had he not “puffed up” his role as a key player he might have been considered for one of the mid-level positions since he understood the acquisition steps and content.  However, he fabricated his actual experiences in hopes of getting a senior position.  Had he gotten the job, his performance would have been marginal and the project handicapped.

What could he have said to position him in a positive way?  “I’ve been an Acquisition Team member in a support role.  My objective now is to play a more substantive role and contribute to the success of the team through my prior knowledge and experience”.  That response would have been true, honest and impressive.

So, what are some ground rules to consider?

  1. Never tell an untruth.  If you lie and get the job you can be terminated
  2. Try to give short and powerful responses, that state:  This was the issue to be resolved, this was the action we took and this was the result we achieved.

Example:  “The margins on our core product were beginning to slip.  A cross-functional team researched alternatives, with me as the lead, and determined three primary causes of the slippage.  After top management approval, we implemented our strategies resulting in a 1% monthly increase in revenue and a reduction in costs”.

  1. Try to respond to questions in a straight forward and positive way
  2. Tilt your information so you’re seen as a primary contributor to results
  3. Don’t be boastful nor too understated, but remain as factual as possible
  4. Never blame others or the organizations for missteps.  Defensive behavior is a loser.
  5. Try to smile or at least not frown.  One objective is to relate with everyone.
  6. Try to assess then fit into the culture of the organization, including the dress code.

And lastly, be prepared with insightful and thought provoking questions of your own.  This is the perfect time to demonstrate the quality of your business acumen through your questions.

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