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How honest should you be in a job interview?

Allen Associates, News & Blog

It goes without saying that honesty is the best policy, but in some interview situations, this isn’t as easy as it first sounds. If you’re speaking to a hiring manager, who has the ability to offer you your dream job, it’s also important to impress. In reality, there’s a fine line between selling yourself and lying, between answering a tricky question and giving away too much information. Here’s how you can navigate the twists and turns of an interview, coming across in a positive light.

Be genuine

It’s a catch 22 situation. It might feel that, in order to succeed in an interview, you need to give Employers the answers they want to hear. After all, this is a competitive situation and it’s important make sure you’re top of the hiring list. However, if you want to make sure that the organisation you’re interviewing for is the right place for you, you’ll need to be open about what you’re looking for. Being honest allows managers the ability to better assess cultural fit, which will benefit both parties in the long-term. Don’t be tempted to smooth talk. Experienced hirers will soon spot a candidate who’s not being genuine.

Be honest if you don’t know the answer

Interviews are bound to contain some tricky questions, in order to test your skills, knowledge and experience. So, when you come across something that you don’t know the answer to, it’s best to say rather than bluffing. Hiring managers have these questions to hand for a reason, they want to test you, to know how you react under pressure. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, taking time to think about a question in order to demonstrate that you’ve really thought about it. Always try to give a response, but if you’re unable to answer, turn the situation into a positive by mentioning that this is something you’d like to learn more about.

Demonstrate self-awareness

Some Candidates are confident, and some come into an interview extremely nervous. Whichever category you fall into, it’s important to be self-aware – to make sure that you’re not coming across as too sure of yourself or, on the other extreme, that you’re not downplaying your skills and experience. Think about your weak points and be prepared to talk about these, which will show a desire to improve as an Employee. This will impress organisations looking for applicants who are enthusiastic about self-development, willing to change and able to self-critique – because, as we know, this is the only way you’ll be able to improve in the future.

When you talk about past employers, stay professional 

Every interview panel knows that the reason you’re applying for a new job is because you want a change. It’s a given that there’ll be a situation in your current job which has triggered a thought process, causing you to start applying elsewhere. Of course, hiring managers will want to know about this, and you should be able to talk about your reasons for moving on, but bad-mouthing a former or current Employer will raise a red flag for them. If you have gaps in your CV, due to a tricky time, such as a redundancy or period of sickness, make sure you explain this, but don’t dwell on these periods. Focus on where you want to go next, rather than where you’ve been so far.

Tell the truth about your qualifications and experience

If there’s one area where you need to be completely honest, it’s this one. Don’t be tempted to embellish when it comes to talking about your qualifications and experience, as this will cause you trouble later down the line. At some point you’ll be tested on what you’ve said, whether it’s on the job or through your references. Of course, many people apply for positions which are a step up from their current role, and you may not tick all the boxes on the job description. For recruiters, this can only be a positive as it highlights the fact that you’re looking for a new challenge, you’re ready to learn and you’re an ambitious Candidate.

There are some questions you don’t need to answer

An interview should always be about your ability to do the job. Any other types of questions indicate potential discrimination within the hiring process and should be left at the door. Employers will know this more than anyone, so if you do get asked a personal question – be it about your age, race, religion, sexual orientation or maternal status – don’t feel obliged to answer. Of course, if you want to make sure that a potential Employer can accommodate your needs, it may help to have a conversation about this. However, if you don’t feel comfortable with a line of questioning, it’s probably time to politely direct the conversation elsewhere.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 have opened our first London office, to service Clients in the capital.

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