Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy

Interviewing, Selecting, and the Lying Game

I know all there is to know about the lying game. I’ve had my share of the lying game!

That was cheesy, I know. Seriously though, from pretending to work, to pretending to like your job, to pretending to be interested in the job you’re interviewing for, appearances matter a lot within our current system. Like they say, appearances can be deceiving. As someone who’s been on both sides of the interviewing and selection process, I’ll share my thoughts on this issue and touch upon technological advances that may change the process of interviewing and candidate selection in the future.

Faking enthusiasm and interest in a job is an issue that spurs healthy debate. On the one hand people have learned that, with the job market being the way it is right now, you can’t be too picky. Many out there would agree that it’s important to “pull out all the stops” to get a job, any job, in order to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head. A friend told me that the “fake it until you make it” strategy sometimes works. He explained that an applicant might start off faking enthusiasm and interest when first interviewing for the job but then develop genuine enthusiasm and interest later down the road. “Alright,” I conceded, “However, what if you have two candidates: one is genuinely interested and the other is only acting interested. Wouldn’t you want a way to tell the the one who is genuine from the pretender?” His response was interesting. He stated that the one faking it is still attractive because people who are willing to bend and shape themselves in whatever manner to earn your approval are more easily molded.

Truth lies

Truth lies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re anything like me however, you tend to resist social pressure to be untrue to yourself. Moreover, your wish to maintain your identity overrides your desire to flex your acting skills in interview situations. This is challenging in the face of loved ones trying to coerce you into saying the prescribed, correct lines in order to land that interview for the job that you don’t really want and live a life of normalcy. Somehow I just can’t bring myself to fake, “I believe in the mission and values of your organization!” with enthusiasm. The pressure to do so and the hoops you must jump in order to make a living often reminds me of this classic Star Trek scene:

My friend has a point. Longtime friends and loved ones as well as certain members of the Unification Church (who tried to recruit me during my college days) would attest to the fact that I’ve been anything but malleable. Despite my general unwillingness to bend and “put on a good show” however, there are times when I’ve wondered if someone who had more of a passion for the job I had taken would’ve been selected if I had not applied. All else being equal (e.g., knowledge, abilities, and skill-set), I can’t help but wish that the candidate who has more passion for the work is selected.

At this time, the process of interviewing and selecting the right person for the job remains largely subjective as Wendell Williams, founder and managing director of Scientific Selection, notes (in The Science of Hiring):

Although many managers who conduct numerous interviews say they are apt judges of character and abilities, “the truth is that many of them are the weak links in the hiring chain because they do not know how to conduct the kind of interviews that reveal a candidate’s suitability for a specific job,” Williams said.

Too many hiring managers rely on gut instincts to determine if a candidate is right for the job, a practice that has no place in effective recruiting and hiring,” added Williams.

There is a push to develop more scientific means of selection however. Advances in technology are promising more objective, scientifically valid selection tools. Synthetic Validity is being developed for this very purpose. Job simulations are another example. Moreover, just think about the possible applications of the following technologies:

    • As mentioned in this previous post, we’ll see the emergence of technologies that can track fluctuating changes in brains and bodies with respect to emotional reactions.
    • Face-reading software being developed promise to outperform people (Face-reading software to judge the mood of the masses)

Technology is a double-edged sword of course. As a strong privacy advocate, the potential for abuse of technologies that can read internal reactions is quite apparent to me. As we march forward into the future, we will have to establish the manner in which they should be used. For example, under what conditions does use of such technologies violate our notions of good discretion and responsibility? These are issues that we need to be discussing today.

P.S. This is for those who are unfamiliar with the song referenced at the beginning of this post.

Also, stay tuned for news about the upcoming Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 video conference on enhancing collaboration of virtual teams!

These educational video conference series are geared towards organizational leaders wishing to learn more about improving collaboration and productivity through the use of online tools. Visit the Better Collaboration website or the Better Collaboration meetup page for more information!

5 responses to “Interviewing, Selecting, and the Lying Game

  1. Regan May 4, 2013 at 1:47 am

    The technology aspect of personality assessment sounds a little big brother doesn’t it? I guess in a large organisation it’s probably a useful fit to ensure you don’t hire a fake. It’s tough to figure out how passion and professionalism play out in terms of importance for a job. Passion is great and many would probably say it’s the critical factor. Sometimes I wonder if it can be worthwhile to have balance in a team, some who are comfortable in a role, professional and competent but less passionate, and some who have raw passion. Not sure? Maybe it’s better if everyone is passionate. Either way, as you say, taking a job to fit in with what other people think is not very Captain Pickard. But maybe a job that we’re not that passionate about can still help us learn other skills – even if it’s just confirming what we like or don’t – or getting the resources to do more of what we are passionate about?

    • Lynn Patra May 4, 2013 at 2:07 am

      Great comment! Thank you Regan! You’ve raised some terrific points.

      In the short-run, given no other opportunities at the time, I agree that it’s good to see the current job as a potential stepping stone (by giving you the chance to learn new skills) to future career prospects that might be more aligned with your interests. It’s my hope that everyone eventually finds themselves doing whatever it is that they love, or at least has this experience at some time or another.

      I’ve also known some people who begrudgingly stuck with the same role for the entirety of their adult lives even if they felt it didn’t suit them very well or weren’t all that interested in what they’re doing. Some people deal with this better than others, but if work is going to take up a huge chunk of one’s time here on Earth, then I can see this issue being more important for personal happiness and fulfillment.

      • Regan May 4, 2013 at 5:17 am

        Couldn’t agree more. Once we’re in a job that is ‘comfortable’ but that we don’t enjoy it is all too easy to just stick around and not make the leap to another opportunity. Often I hear of people who have been laid off saying it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to them because it forced them to move on.

  2. Alistair May 27, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Hello, I really enjoyed your article, especially the links to the face and brain tracking technologies. I’m using a more human based assessment tool for hiring salespeople at

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Lynn Patra May 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      You’re welcome Alistair. Yes, simulations overcome the limitations of interviewing by providing an essential proving ground where people can demonstrate skills and abilities. There seem to be exciting developments coming up for simulations are well.

      Thank you for sharing as well.

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