Job interviews are an art; a special kind of art where you, the interviewee, are both the canvas and the artist, and the interviewer is the critic. At the beginning of the interview, you are just a blank canvas. And then the interviewer hands you a color (asks you a question) and expects you to paint him something that will impress him. Something that will blow him away. Something that will compel him to rise from his chair and say: “You’re the person I’ve been looking for! I will hire you immediately, you gorgeous painting, you.”
That is why I lied during my job interview a few years ago. I wanted to be that beautiful painting. I’m not proud of this, but I was fresh out of college, had just moved to the big city, and needed money. The job was entry level, but I knew there were at least twenty other job candidates who had far more experience for me, and the thought of me walking into that interview as a quivering blank canvas and then barely being able to draw so much as a doodle was too horrible to bear. So instead, I lied on my application, and suddenly I had all the colors of the rainbow at my disposal.
I’m not sure what my thought process was at this time; did I just expect the interviewer to believe what I had written down without doing any fact checking? Did I expect him to believe my 20-year-old friend Mark Haberman, whom I had listed as my former boss, when he told him that he was indeed the successful CEO of a business company that I had made up? I’m really not sure. I think all I really cared about was being that beautiful painting for him; as long as that happened, the rest would just work itself out. But in any case, none of that ended up mattering, because the interview didn’t get that far.
Here is exactly what happened. The interviewer’s receptionist called me into his office, where I took a seat in front of his big, black desk. I remember he didn’t look at me at all when I walked in and took a seat. He was reading something in front of him. I could only assume he was going over my application. I sat there, inside his office, for what seemed like forever, as he took his time reading.
“It says here,” He finally spoke. “That you have two years experience at ______(made up company).”
And just like that, I knew I was the pretty painting that he wanted. My sweet little lie was the first thing he brought up. Clearly this impressed him. Clearly, I impressed him.
“Yes, sir.” I replied cheerfully. “Those were some great times back at ______ (Made Up Company).”
“I’m sure it was.” He said while smiling. “I’m sure it was.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to this, so I didn’t say anything. I just held my tongue and waited for more.
“The thing is, someone with your kind of experience is overqualified for this job. We’re looking for someone who is more of a beginner, someone we can train. But I’m sure with qualifications like yours, you won’t have any trouble finding a job, a better job more suited towards your capabilities.”
I sat there for a moment, trying to comprehend what had just happened. As best as I could figure it, I had just lied my way out of a job. A job I wanted. A job I needed. Part of me wanted to say: “Gotcha! That was just a joke I was playing on you! I’ve never worked in this field. Hell I’m not entirely sure what this field actually is, or what’s expected of me.But I’m willing to learn. Just give me a chance!”
But doing that would require me to admit my deception, risking spoiling the pretty picture that he enjoyed, even if he wasn’t going to buy it.
And so instead, I just left. I returned to the cold real world, where my deception meant nothing, and my pretty colors were non-existent. That was a rough day indeed.
But it did teach me an important lesson. Job interviews are an art. But maybe, sometimes, art isn’t about being the most beautiful painting in the room, but about being a painting that the art critic can afford to buy… or something like that.
Also, don’t lie. It’s not good to do.