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I find this quote thought-provoking: “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” While the message itself is inspiring, it depresses me that it was made around 1,900 years ago by Marcus Aurelius. It feels like we haven’t progressed much as a society since then.

Perhaps I’m being dramatic, but much of what Aurelius wrote in his Meditations feels like it could have been written in the past 20 years.  His reflections on human nature, personal struggles, and the search for meaning are as relevant now as they were in ancient Rome.

Recently, I spoke with a CHRO of a fairly large company. I asked him, “What is one of the things that concerns you most about your company’s hiring process?” His response was, “Candidates lying to us.” Wait, what?!!  I pressed him, thinking he might be joking. He explained that this was a genuine concern: both candidates and employees tend to stretch the truth, misrepresent themselves, and even flat-out lie to him and his team. I was gobsmacked.

As I reflected on the situation, I recalled a conversation from about 10 years ago with one of the top financial services companies in the US. They were implementing Body Language Observation as an additional tool to assess candidate truthfulness. They already used standard tools like Behavioral Event Interviewing, Reference & Background Checks, Situational Case Interviews, and Assessment Tests. But they wanted to increase their “truth serum” by observing eye contact, facial expressions, posture, and microexpressions. At the time, I found Body Language Observation fascinating but unnecessary. Now, I’m not so sure.

I’m not naive enough to think that people don’t lie. What I don’t understand is why someone would lie to gain employment. Let’s play this out with a simple example:

A candidate spends months preparing to find the right job – the candidate gets invited to a company for an interview – the candidate stretches the truth or lies about their experiences – the candidate receives and offer and accepts it – the company learns shortly thereafter that the candidate “sold” them, which puts the candidate on the shortlist of losing their job – the company lets go of the individual – the candidate starts looking for a job again, with the added burden of explaining why they only lasted only a short time at their last employer.  Which seems like a perfect time for the candidate to then lie about this past employer.

Sadly, I uncover candidate deceptions all the time. With some probing questions, I can discern whether someone truly “owned and drove” an initiative or if they were merely one of many participants on the project. The individual may have played a significant role and been critical to its success, but inaccurately framing it as “owned and drove” on their resume casts doubt on their honesty. This raises the question: what else has the candidate misrepresented on their resume or during the interview that needs to be readdressed?

A common question I ask candidates is “Do you want to win the job or do you want to find the career opportunity that truly fits who you are?”  If it’s the latter, don’t you want the company to have a strong understanding of your strengths and areas for growth?  Isn’t it more ideal for both sides to have an honest reflection of each other?  I’ve always maintained that relationships last longer when each side understands the other in detail, flaws and all. Therefore, lying, mistruths, embellishments, etc have no place in the interview process.

This brings me back to the quote about being a good man.  In his writings, Marcus Aurelius described being a good person as someone with integrity, virtue, compassion, resilience, rationality and humility.  These are the table stakes for being a good person.  And by extension, table stakes for being a good candidate.

Hire Thought
If you have swayed from being a person with the highest degrees of integrity, virtue, compassion, resilience, rationality and humility, today is your lucky day because you get to begin again.  If you are truly a good person, everything else, including career and recruiting outcomes, will align well in your world.

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