Nervous young man drinking water from glass during a job interview

100% of people would lie during job interview, study shows

Unique interaction is seen more as a game or competition, researcher says. But being deceptive can come back to bite you.

Nervous young man drinking water from glass during a job interviewAccording to Joshua Zuchter, a Toronto-based life coach, you won’t need to lie about anything when you’re confident in yourself going into the interview (Shutterstock/LightField Studios)

Just how far are you willing to go to land your dream job? 

A University of Guelph study found that 100 per cent of respondents would be willing to stretch the truth during a job interview. 

The study, which will be published in the Journal of Personnel Psychology this year, presented subjects with different interview scenarios, varying the number of competitors and the ratio of those who would eventually be hired. Posed with 16 different deceptive behaviours—from including exaggerating your responsibilities on previous jobs to inflating the fit between your values and goals and those of the organization—respondents used a 1-5 scale to express the likelihood that they would employ these deceptions.


Researchers weren’t terribly surprised by the outcome because of the unique nature of job interviews. 

“I think at first instinct, deception might seem very tempting to engage in,” says Jordan Ho, the lead author of the study, and a PhD candidate in industrial and organizational psychology at the University of Guelph. “Not that it’s even with malicious intentions, but maybe intuitively feels like the natural thing to do.”

A simple white lie during a job interview might not even be seen as wrong or unethical. Ho says it even seems like a common strategy for some.

“People might not even consider it deceptive,” he explains. “They might see it as a game or competition, rather than a hiring process.”

Other deceptive tactics in the study included distorting an answer to emphasize what the interviewer was looking for and even making up stories about previous work experiences. Ho says his sense is that few people would engage in the most deceitful things, such as fabricating stories or completely making up credentials. 

“I think what’s most common is that people start off telling the truth, but as they talk, they might embellish the truth—just to change the story a little bit,” he says.


If a person is deliberately bending the truth and they’re discovered, it’s a surefire way to get let go by the end of the probation period, says Joshua Zuchter, a Toronto-based life coach.

“I don’t know many coaches that would encourage someone to bend the truth,” he says. “It’s not the best strategy.”

While the consequences make it a risky undertaking, Zuchter isn’t surprised by the study’s findings, though he questions what bending the truth might mean to different people.

Deception during a job interview can come in different ways, including your most recent salary, why you’re looking for a new job, interests outside of work, educational experience and even previous work experience. But Zuchter says the more dire the situation is, the further one is willing to go.

“If someone has been out of job for eight months or a year, I think at that point they start getting a little bit more insecure,” he says. “So they might feel like they have to bend the truth to get that position.”


Zuchter says you won’t need to lie about anything when you’re confident in yourself going into the interview. 

“The only reason why individuals would want to bend the truth is because they’re afraid they won’t be hired,” he adds. 

Instead of falling back on deceptions, Zuchter suggests going into the interview prepared. That means knowing the company and practicing the answers to some common interview questions, such as your strengths and weaknesses.

“But when I’m working with someone, I don’t recommend doing a ton of prep, because I want them to be as relaxed as possible going into the interview,” he says. “When you’re relaxed, things are more effortless and you’re able to speak more freely and calmly.” 


Learn how a professional coach can help boost your prospects and take your career in the right direction. And for interviewers, read more about hiring the right person for your organization.