For years, the fear always was “maybe the job-seeker is lying.” Is the new fear “maybe the hiring manager is lying?”

Don’t have a ton of science on this topic — but do have a ton of gut and experience. My job search is seemingly never-ending and has encountered more brick walls than a bad cartoon, but I persist. I saw this article on Quartz today and it resonated with me: essentially, the long-held fear in job searches has traditionally been “Well, this resume might not accurately reflect skills.” It’s a fairly common issue — people do lie on their resume, regardless of how many times they’re told it’s a bad idea — and that can lead to bad fits, and bad fits can lead to lesser performance, and lesser performance can lead to an exit, and an exit means there needs to be a new recruiting process and a new training process, and suddenly the middle managers are just seeing money fly out the door. Honestly, a company’s talent strategy should be more than a buzzword — it should actually be how they get a competitive advantage. Very few companies think like that, though; most think about products and margins, because those are easier to manipulate and manage than people and emotions. Regardless, I digress.

Consider this, via Quartz:

When it comes time to filling an open position, hiring managers are often in a mad rush. Someone has just given a two-week notice and there is a chair to fill. And from the employer’s perspective, that empty chair is seen as costly. So the old job description is quickly dusted off and posted in the hopes of attracting a top-flight replacement. That’s where the first mistake occurs.

What this approach does not take into account is that today’s jobs are constantly evolving. A job description that is a just few years old may have long become irrelevant. As a hiring manager, it’s critical to ask yourself questions about the position, such as: How has it changed since we last hired for this job? What new tasks are critical to the role? What would I like a new person to do differently? How will success at this job be measured?

This is really where stuff starts to break apart. I’ve seen this myself probably 70 times in the past six months (no exaggeration on that figure). Jobs change and evolve, but businesses are based on now now now and hey what just happened now now now. That’s a problem. You have an open head count, you want a person now. That’s what you tell HR to whip ’em into shape and get you a good list of candidates. When you want someone now, though, you’re usually just going off the most recent info and context you have about the position. Hasn’t it changed? Are there new technologies? New trends? Did the last person do anything really well, or was he/she lacking in certain areas? This can usually be hashed out in one 30-minute meeting or detailed e-mail, but … usually it’s just glossed over. Get me someone now.

This usually puts a recruiter at a disadvantage, because even though it would be nice, recruiters are often not subject matter experts in the area they need to recruit. I’ve applied for a couple of “content marketing” or “marketing” jobs in the past month even, and I’ve had recruiters say to me, “So … could you send me … some samples?” When I ask what type of samples, there’s almost always a long pause and then a brief breath and then something like, “I … I would say writing samples?” I asked one recruiter if it would help if they told me a current business problem they were facing and asked me to draft a solution. Dead silence on the line.

Here’s the next phase of it: when the hiring manager gets those 3-5 finalists in there, be it in person or via Skype or whatever it is, often he/she is now at a point of desperation to fill the role or lose the headcount, so they hardcore upsell the position (as anyone would) as something that it’s not really. That creates bad culture fit and, honestly, potential unhappiness on the part of the new hire.

See what just happened there? The fear forever has been “Oh man, this turd’s lying on his resume!” Now the fear is, “How different will this place be on Day 1 than it seems now?” Again, is this based on science and detailed research? No. Is this based on a ton of experiences I’ve had over the past 2-3 years? Yes. Take it with the requisite grains of salt.

Final thing is “on-boarding.” I actually love the idea of successful on-boarding. I have no background in it really (a little here and there) so I doubt anyone would ever give me a job doing it, but it’s literally so essential to how people are perceived, how they perceive the company, and how they perceive the work. I’ve had so many hiring managers tell me they need someone who can “hit the ground running.” That’s fine and in many ways ideal if you mean a person who has the base skills to do the job; if you’re saying that because you actually want a person you don’t have to actively supervise from the jump, then that’s, er, bad. It is literally terrible, almost regardless of work style, to have a manager who does the paperwork walk-through and the big picture with you on Day 1 for 45 minutes, then is like, “Well, I’ll let you get to it!” I’ve had so many managers like that. Consider Quartz:

Trust between a manager and new employee doesn’t happen overnight, but the first impression can be a make or break point. Be clear about the requirements and expectations of the job. Be genuinely interested in who they are (don’t multi-task when you are talking to them), and let them know you are interested in their aspirations and their growth within the company. And be open about how you like to work—your habits, quirks, strengths and the things you are working on improving.

Invariably, six weeks later, you’ve met with them twice one-on-one and they haven’t asked you once how things are going. Busy busy busy rush rush rush now now now. That gets in the way of actually developing people (goddamn, I’m using italics a lot in this post), and that leads back to the bigger idea of “If you have an opening, just go poach someone from another company.” Hiring is no doubt flawed.

If you saw a marriage where both sides were actively and regularly misrepresenting what was up (and even lying about it), would you deem it healthy? Probably not, right? So how can we deem the current hiring processes healthy, eh?

** It’s not like that everywhere, which is something I tell myself about 190 times a day (more italics).

Ted Bauer


  1. About 25 years ago began a surge of articles about resume embellishment, supposedly at least 20% then, today 33%, accompanied by much handwringing over this awful state of affairs. Yet not one asked, why? None noted the “coincidence” of increasingly ridiculous job requirements with correspondingly inflated resumes. Which was obvious to me, and to those fighting a broken hiring system, by gaming it any way they could. So my take is employers largely brought this on themselves.

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