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Five Lies You'll Hear On A Job Search

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The job market is picking up. We get as many inquiries in our office now from talent-hungry recruiters and employers as we do from job seekers.

People who’ve tolerated unexciting jobs waiting for things to turn around are looking around the talent marketplace. People who’ve been out of work for ages are seeing a little more recruiting activity.

That’s good news, right? It’s mostly good. The danger for a job-seeker is to get sucked into the Vortex.

The Vortex is the force that takes over when you start to get traction in a job search.

“This is cool!” you think. “These guys like me. Maybe I’ll get this job offer and get out of my horrible job.”

If you’re not working, you think “Maybe I’ll get this job and pay off my credit card debt, finally!”

The Vortex is powerful. When an employer starts to show interest in you, it’s easy to get sucked in, whether the job is good for you or not.

We like to be liked — it’s normal!

When you’re working and another company is interested in you, it’s like a secret life. Your colleagues don’t know you’ve got something going on the side. It’s like having an affair (not that I would know anything about that).

These new people seem to like you more than your colleagues do. How alluring! How magnetic!

This is exactly the point where the Vortex can take over and impair your judgment. Ignoring your gut in the Vortex can land you in a job that’s worse than the one you left, and worse than another month of unemployment.

The big red flag for a job-seeker is to be lied to by someone on the employer side of the desk.  Job-seekers hear lies from recruiters,  hiring managers, and other people involved in the selection process. I’m not hating on anyone.  As in any population, some people are confident, trusting and truthful, and others are mired in fear.

When people get fearful, they lie.

They say things like “Oh yes, we’re putting in a new system to improve Accounts Payable” and it’s only months later, when you’ve asked your new boss a hundred times what’s happening with that software upgrade, that you realize your boss was just shining you on.

Your boss couldn’t sell the CFO on a software upgrade if her life depended on it. She lied to you when you were a candidate for the job.

People who lie to job-seekers aren’t necessarily trying to mislead them. They have high hopes at the moment they say whatever fanciful thing they say. But they’re lying, because in their gut of guts they know that what they’re telling you is a pipe dream, removed from reality.

Here are five more lies we hear every day from our job-seeking clients.

When people are feeding you a line of baloney in the recruiting process, your job is to run. Don’t work for people like that.

If they have to tell you stories to get you in the door, what do you think it will be like to work with them?


We’re still sorting out the job description, reporting relationship and salary range for the job.

How ridiculous and unprofessional can you be, to waste job-seekers’ time and your own HR team’s energy in an interview process before you know what you need? That’s almost sure to be a lie, and if it’s true, it’s a massive red flag.

What does it mean?

“We’re still sorting it all out” often means that there’s dissension on the management team about just what the new person should do. Sometimes it means that somebody up the ladder has misgivings about the job opening itself, the reporting relationship or the salary budget. Either way, it’s not a sign of a well-run shop.

What do I say when I hear this?

You can say “Thanks for that info. Let’s put our conversation on hold until those details are resolved. Obviously it’s silly for us to talk about an assignment whose contours haven’t been established yet.”


You’re definitely a finalist for the job, but an internal candidate has just emerged.

This is probably a lie that means they’re stalling for time. If it’s true, they’re incompetent.

Every hiring manager and recruiting partner has a responsibility to identify internal candidates before going outside to promote the job.

A last-minute internal candidate in the mix is a sign of a non-functional (or dysfunctional) talent engine.

What do I say when I hear this?

You can say “Oh, that’s great. I’ll bow out of the process in that case and wait to hear from you if your internal candidate isn’t interested. Obviously I’m not going to get between your trusted employee and an advancement opportunity.”

Get on the bus, Gus.


After you’ve climbed over piles of broken glass in pursuit of a job opportunity, it’s finally time to meet the VP.

The recruiter calls to say, “The VP got called away on a family emergency and we’re going to have to reschedule.”

Maybe a VP in this situation had a family emergency one or two times in all of recorded history, yet job-seekers hear this excuse all the time.

VPs want their subordinate managers’ business pain to disappear, but that doesn’t mean they like to interview candidates. The ones who do will jump on the opportunity, and the ones who don’t will delay and avoid the interview. They almost always use the family-crisis excuse, horrible karma for them. The recruiter will force you to go through the whole social sham:

RECRUITER: I’m really sorry but Kent, the VP of Marketing, is out of the office dealing with a family crisis.

YOU: Oh, that’s awful! Nothing dire, I hope?

RECRUITER: No, it’s fine, he just can’t meet you for three more weeks.

Chances are excellent that Kent’s family is in tip-top shape and the family crisis was manufactured to get Kent out of interviewing you today.
What should I say when I hear this?

Assuming the VP is buying time rather than blowing you off completely, you can say “Thanks for letting me know. Shall we look at dates three weeks out?”


All the requirements in our recruiting process — the honesty test, the writing test, the drug test and the psychological exam – they’re all perfectly standard, and here for your convenience.

In reality the expensive, tedious, insulting and pointless selection-pipeline exercises are in place mostly because a vendor sales rep did a great sales job on this HR department.

That salesperson got the employer to believe they could Improve the Quality of Their New Hires by making their selection pipeline more complicated than it already was.

This is an especially heinous lie because the worse the recruiting process is, the more likely talented people are to drop out of it. Don’t believe the lie “Our process is perfectly normal.” If it’s a slow, inhuman process, then it’s not.

Talent-aware employers don’t put their valued job candidates through hurdle after insulting hurdle, then add insult to injury by telling them “We do it to improve our company.”

What do I say when I hear this?

Decide how badly you want the job. People who defend Godzilla practices are not typically hired into the sparkiest and most human organizations, the ones that can grow your flame and your resume, but you have to gauge the energy throughout the entire selection process.


If we hire you, you’re going to come in and be a Change Agent, with the executive team’s full support.

You  have my permission to laugh out loud if you hear this howler at a job interview. Executives who can’t envision themselves and their organizations making important changes love to hire Change Agents and set them free to receive as many arrows as their poor backs can hold.

If your boss really wanted change, he’d use the obvious power in his role to make that change happen, hire competent leaders and stop pretending that a new hire can be more effective at bringing about change than the boss himself could be.

What to say if you hear this: “Tell me your vision, and how you’ve made it real since you started in your job.”

Remember that the point of a job search is not to get any job, but a job that deserves your talents. Keep the Vortex in mind and keep your Lie Detector turned up to full power. Only the people who get you, deserve you.


Source: Ryan, Liz. "Five Lies You'll Hear On A Job Search." Forbes. March 6, 2014. Web. http://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2014/02/23/the-truth-about-job-references/

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