We focus so much of our energy on impressing our interviewer—but what if they’re not telling you the truth?
So much about interviewing for a job involves impressing the people doing the hiring. But here’s a depressing dirty secret—no matter how much you want or need a job, your interviewer isn’t necessarily acting in your best interest or giving you the full scoop on what it’s like to work for a company.
Here are a few red flags to look out for to make sure you’re not headed to an office with major issues:
Liars sometimes try to cover up their deed with excessive adjective use. For example, you might ask an interviewer about the vacation policy. A truthful response might be, “Oh yes, we have a flexible vacation policy. You let us know what you need and the boss is most likely to approve it.” An exaggerated response might be, “Oh, our vacation policy is extremely flexible. You can practically take off as much time as you want.”
What to do if you suspect your interviewer of exaggeration? Keep asking specific questions so you’re not surprised by a policy down the line.
2. Common fibs
Be sure to check out this list of 9 Annoying Lies Job Interviewers Tell. Of course, the tricky part is that sometimes they’re telling the truth, but it’s not easy to tell the difference.
How to handle this? When these topics come up, be sure to pay extra attention and ask follow-up questions that dig deeper to make sure you’re getting all of the information.
3. Body language
A classic clue that’s someone’s lying is when they say something negative (like “no”) but nod their head up and down (a “yes” response). Keep an eye out for these physical inconsistencies.
For example, if you ask an interviewer if she likes working at the company, she might say, “Yes, I love it,” while unconsciously shaking her head side to side—a “no” response. If this happens, keep asking questions until you learn more.
Another potential liar’s move? Defensive body positions. For example, when talking about why someone left the position you’re now applying for, if the interviewer suddenly leans back in his chair and tightly crosses his arms across his chest, it probably means the person didn’t leave on the best of terms.
It will serve you well in interviews (and in life!) to do more listening than talking—and really listen. Excitement about a potential job can make you overlook details or only hear what you want to hear. Slowing down and paying attention to verbal and non-verbal clues is one way to make yourself smarter and savvier on the job hunt.
Vanessa Van Edwards is an author and a behavioral investigator for ScienceofPeople.org.