Even if you just started your first job yesterday, you probably know that it’s generally a bad idea to lie on your resume, or about your salary history, or about your skills and abilities. Why? Very simply, it’s because most liars get caught – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually, and publicly, and usually with a lot of embarrassing fallout. As Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Still, anyone who’s ever spent time with someone who is 100 percent bluntly honest knows that a little truth-bending is sometimes an important part of professional life. Today, on National Honesty Day and in the spirit of irony, we offer you just a few times when it’s OK to be less than truthful at work.
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1. When you’re looking for a job.
“If your company is like most, they’d lay a line of BS a mile thick rather than let you know that they’re thinking about outsourcing your department,” writes Geoffrey James at Business Insider. “Just as they have a right to investigate options, you have a right to look for another job without suffering the consequences.”
Does that mean you should start lying your face off at every opportunity? Heck, no. Be as honest as you can be, but don’t hesitate to be less than forthcoming – or to fudge the facts a little if you get stuck. Do your job searching and networking after hours, and plan your interviews for personal days whenever possible, but don’t feel that you need to volunteer the fact that you’re looking or confirm your boss’s suspicions if he asks. You can get fired for looking for another job, no matter what your friend-who-thinks-he’s-a-lawyer might assure you.
If your corporate culture is social, you’re not going to escape every dinner and happy hour – at least, not without doing serious damage to your career. But if you need some space, it’s OK to make vague rumblings about other commitments to avoid having all your free time go to the company. Just try to keep it simple, and don’t overuse your excuses.
3. To conceal a gap on a resume.
“Wait a second,” you’re probably thinking. “Didn’t you say, right at the beginning of this post, never to lie on my resume?”
True – but that doesn’t mean you can’t finesse the truth in very specific ways. While you should never claim to have a job you didn’t have, or inflate your experience, you can choose a resume format that emphasizes your accomplishments and skills over your linear job history. That’s not lying, but it’s not volunteering damaging information either.
And therein lies the real truth about lying at work: it’s less about being dishonest and more about selectively presenting the facts.
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