Articles & Resources

We provide competency-based behavioral interviewing training for interview teams including hiring managers, recruiters, and interviewers. We have been publishing articles for over 40 years to address the myriad of issues encountered in the process of hiring top talent.

Decline of Authenticity in the Interview

Newsletter • volume 4 • number 1

One of the most common questions we hear these days is "How do I know a candidate is telling the truth?" Unfortunately, deliberate misrepresentation among candidates is becoming an increasing concern for interviewers. Lack of authenticity is becoming more difficult to spot. For one thing, today's candidates are so articulate, polished, and self-confident that interviewers don't think to question their veracity. And even if job seekers seem to be less than truthful, interviewers may either downplay their behavior or dismiss it as merely part of an aggressive job-search strategy. In either case, questions regarding integrity don't get asked.

The fact that dishonest candidates can seem perfectly credible is exactly why such questions are essential. After all, people who are willing to misrepresent themselves in interviews may be willing to take other moral "shortcuts" after they're hired.

We certainly don't mean to imply that every potential employee is dishonest. Even the most upright candidates, how- ever, are likely to have been coached on the kinds of questions they'll be asked and may even have developed a repertoire of rehearsed answers. Some candidates might even claim past behavior they've never demonstrated.

Other job seekers may genuinely believe, however mistakenly, that to be hired they must appear to fit a particular character type, and they may be more than willing to sacrifice authenticity for a possible job offer.

Still others, especially graduates of top-tier schools, can view the whole recruitment process as a game they deserve to win. In fact, they may think they're entitled to a "name-brand" job simply because of the time and money they've invested in their "name-brand" educations. Unfortunately, this attitude of entitlement can be very difficult to detect in an interview.

Interviewers are further hampered by the fact that it is challenging to uncover the truth about prospective employees without using questions that are easily fielded in the moment (and just as easily shared with other candidates later on) or without relying on the kind of high-stress techniques we find counterproductive.

The combination of well-prepared or disingenuous job seekers and inadequate interview procedures has made many employers vulnerable during the entire hiring process. This is particularly true of employers who solely rely on "give me an example of a time when you demonstrated (fill in the blank with a quality)" type questions. Many candidates today know these kinds of probes will be used, and it's easy for them to create examples that demonstrate the desired behavior. Clearly, what is needed is a way to separate actual past behavior from the ability to tell a good story, without inadvertently losing honest prospects in the process.

In collaboration with another firm, we have recently developed a series of techniques that help interviewers do just that. These techniques are based on the principle that candidates who claim major accomplishments must have learned something from their experiences. While they may falsify their achievements, they are less likely to have invented examples of experiential learning. Searching for examples of learning can often help uncover job seekers whose imaginations far outstrip their actual track records.

Call us for more information, or if you would like our help in separating factual candidates from fictitious ones.