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How Often Do People Lie in the Hiring Process?

Published: Tuesday 28th April 2020

Telling the odd white lie during the hiring process is probably something we’ve all done at some point, whether it was interviewing for that first entry-level role or trying to climb the ladder in our career. But how often do we lie and which professions see lying at work as most acceptable?

A recent study from office furniture and stationery suppliers, Viking, sought to find the answers. They surveyed 2,012 UK workers, asking them when they started lying in their job and the types of lies they see as most acceptable in the workplace.

How many people lie at work?

The survey found that almost one-in-seven UK workers (69%) are guilty of lying in the workplace, with 47% saying that they tell up to five lies in a day. This means that, based on UK workforce statistics, 22.7 million UK workers have lied at work, and up to 77.3 million lies are told in workplaces around the nation each day.

Young woman, employee told secret to wondered colleague and showing sign shh during collaborating at laptop devices in coworking space

The most common lie is one that job seekers may recognise, as 26% said they’ve lied to their manager and colleagues about their reasons for booking time off. One likely outcome here is that people aren’t 100% honest about booking time out of the office when they’re attending an interview for another role, perhaps with the fear of upsetting their current employer in mind.

Behind this came another lie we’ve possibly all told occasionally – 25% of people have lied to get out of a social situation with colleagues. Sometimes those after work drinks on a Friday just don’t compare to the thought of a night on the sofa with a takeaway. Of all the lies told in the workplace, only just over a quarter (26%) of respondents said they’d ever been caught out for bending the truth at work, showing that a culture of dishonesty in the workplace is potentially being encouraged by a lack of consequences.

Lying to get a job

Adding a few details to a story in an interview or leaving off some potentially important (but not good!) information from your CV isn’t uncommon for job seekers – after all, it’s a competitive job market out there and finding a way to cut through the noise can be difficult.

Green overhead road sign with a Beware of Lies, Lies & More Lies Next Exit concept against a partly cloudy sky background. Lie in the workplace concept

Almost one-in-five (18%) UK workers said they started telling lies from the job application stage and in their interview. Further to this, 29% of people think that it’s acceptable to lie on a CV, with 26% saying they think it’s ok to lie about your qualifications before taking on a role.

The most surprising statistics come when looking at different industry splits. Despite often being considered as the upholders of rules and morals in the workplace, a huge 83% of HR workers said that they lie at work. 38% of HR workers, a department often involved in the hiring process, said that lying on CV is acceptable.

But does this mean that it’s ok to lie during your job application? Whilst there might not seem to be much harm in ‘fluffing up’ the truth a little to put yourself in the best light possible, it’s worth remembering that lying about skillsets and qualifications could well come back to haunt you when you actually start in the role. Being honest about your abilities and expressing a willingness to learn new skills is a much better route to take.

What lies do we call ‘acceptable’?

Multiethnic group of sneaky, sly, liar people women and men plotting something.

If you were to ask anyone in the street “is lying to someone ok?” they might well be inclined to immediately say that it’s wrong and dishonest, but considering how many people do lie at work, there must be a large number who find it perfectly acceptable.

Well, the good news is that the lie most workers think is acceptable is done with the best intentions. 58% of UK workers said that they think lying to make a colleague feel better is an acceptable lie. This could range from a simple and harmless “your new hair looks great!” through to a more questionable lie such as telling a colleague they’ve done nothing wrong despite making a harmful mistake. 55% of respondents said that lying about liking your employer was acceptable, putting this in second place, followed by lying about liking the company (54%) and lying to a client or customer (30%).

Although many of these lies might be told in good faith, with workers hoping to avoid a colleague feeling upset or an employer questioning their commitment, lying at work is always a dangerous thing to do. Especially for the 24% who said it’s acceptable to take the blame for a manager’s mistake or the 22% who are comfortable lying about results, if you’re one of the 26% who are caught out for lying at work, it can have bad repercussions.

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