You Dirty Rotten Scoundrel – Interviews and Lies.

don't lie to candidates fistful of talent

I was talking to my friends little brother, Sam, over the weekend and after a year of working at a bar and living in his parents’ basement he landed his first job out of college and started three weeks ago. It’s a customer service/sales position with a huge, very well known (and often disliked) telecommunications company.

Of course, I thought this was great but my excitement was met with his disappointment.

In the interview Sam was told that this was a light sales position with a heavy focus on helping existing customers streamline and bundle their services to save money. He was told that he would be sent to current customers’ offices to examine their existing packages and help them with their growing needs.

Lies, all lies!

He found out his first day that they define ‘current customers’ as any office where one or more employees use this service for work or personal use. Let me remind you, this is a MAJOR telecommunications company. Every office has someone who is a customer. There is no doubt about it this is a cold call sales position.

Sam is terrible at this job. He’s not a cold call kind of guy and hasn’t come close to hitting any of his targets. He’s looking for a new job because he thinks he’s getting fired this week. If the position had been described as a cold call sales position he never would have taken it.

Now one might argue that Sam didn’t do his due diligence during the interview process. After all, it’s just as much up to the candidate to ask questions and dig into the inter-workings of the company as it is for the company to dig into his background. I’m not going to argue that point because it’s true.

But as a company it’s just as important to be honest about the not-so-fun realities of the job someone is interviewing for. I’ve worked inside two nationally recognized great places to work and I can tell you first hand, even the best companies in the world have positions that some people would struggle with. Every company has a little bit of dysfunction. Some people will thrive in that dysfunction and others will crumble. It’s up to you to find out which ones will thrive and the only way to do so is to be honest about it during the interview process.

When I coach business leaders on this point of transparency I often get push back because it’s hard to be honest about the challenges a team faces to a candidate you’re trying to ‘sell’ but there are four very valid reasons for doing so:

  1. Candidates appreciate the transparency and can use the disclosed information to make a stronger decision about accepting the position. If they decline, then they probably weren’t going to do well when faced with that particular issue anyway. Find someone who will thrive in it.
  2. Being transparent in the interview process allows you to see the candidates’ reaction to the specific dysfunction and can help you make a more educated decision about whether or not that person will be able to overcome that challenge once they work for you.
  3. Hiding the dysfunction means you are more likely to hire people who aren’t prepared or willing to help overcome it. They often feel resentful for being blind-sided and that’s never a good thing.
  4. Employees who come into the dysfunction, but knew about it during the interview process, would often come to me and say things like, “Oh shiznat, you were right”. Because they knew about it before they took the job they were much more likely to feel empowered to be part of the solution.

I understand that as a company it’s hard to be transparent to candidates in the interview process because you see it as your job to ‘sell’ good candidates on the position but the way I see it, it’s our job to give candidates all the information they need to make an educated decision about whether or not they want to be part of the team. If they don’t think they can handle it, they probably weren’t going to be a good hire anyway.

What can you do to build more transparency into your interview process?

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Marisa Keegan
Marisa is a Culture Coach for small and quickly growing organizations trying to establish the infrastructure required to create a company full of passionate, motivated, and engaged employees. She has held culture and engagement roles for two nationally recognized great places to work, founded the research and networking group Culture Fanatics, and is an industry recognized blogger. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and twin boys and is looking forward to the day she can bike across the country to raise money for MS research. @marisakeegan.

4 Comments

  1. Rob says:

    I agree 100%. I’ve followed this philosphy for many years and have often times been chastised for doing so, especially when it results in someone not accepting a position based on something I shared with them. I owe it to the candidate to be honest with them so they can make an educated decision about whether or not the role and company are right for them. I don’t want surprises because chances are I’ll be looking to fill the same position again in a few months if I’m not transparent.

    Reply
    • Marisa Keegan
      Marisa Keegan says:

      Rob,

      Thanks for your feedback. When I was working inside organizations I too was often questioned for this philosophy. It comes down to the simple fact that if that nugget of truth was enough to turn a candidate away it was also enough to cause that candidate to leave. It just wasn’t worth the turnover to me. Eventually most people joined in on this practice and it always worked out great.

      Reply
  2. Darren says:

    I agree completely. I always give an honest assessment of the job and anything else I get asked about. Candidates are often surprised with my honesty but I find it rarely causes anyone to turn down a job offer. In fact I have found that the honestly entices good candidate even more. They know the good and the bad making the change easier than it otherwise would have been. They see it as a positive sign that someone is willing to give a honest answer rather than sell them.

    Reply
  3. Antonia Siemaszko says:

    Oh, how I hate companies that do this. I can sell, I’ve done customer service for years that have upselling or cross-selling requirements. But, and this is critical, after years of doing this, I made myself one absolute promise. I would never again take any customer service job where there was a sales metric that had to be met as part of the job requirement. Because while I can do it, I am of the firm believer that good customer service often means not asking a customer with a problem to buy something else. Not that I wouldn’t offer if it made sense, but to be required to even when it doesn’t? Or to be penalised even though I’m not in the sales department, for not selling enough? Never. Period. Full stop.

    Why companies would waste their time and mine, and possibly a few days pay and the cost of training, to have me quit and give my reason as “they misrepresented the job?” I have no clue. I always ask “is it sales?”

    I just had a friend hired by a cable company that did this. “Is it sales required?” They clearly and specifically said “no.” Two weeks into training they started in on the sales requirements. Why would they waste all that money when if they’d said yes, he would have not taken the job. How does that give them a happy, invested, well involved work force? What on earth is the point to hire miserable people who they’re probably going to end up firing for cause when they can’t make those sales quotas?

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