STARTUP

Are You Unintentionally Lying to the People You Hire?

Even with the best intentions, small lies can creep in and undermine your business, according to a startup CEO and HR expert.
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Rebekah Campbell the CEO of Posse, recently asked one of her angel investors what he thought the key to success was. His response: "The secret to success in business and in life is to never, ever, ever tell a lie."

As Campbell reports in a recent New York Times piece, the comment got her thinking. She was, she realized, guilty of telling many, many small lies, as are many of us. "I have been guilty of exaggerating a metric here or there or omitting facts for my own advantage," she writes. She decided to quit cold turkey.

"It was harder and more frightening than I expected," she reports, "but the results have been striking." In an investor pitch she owned up to budgeting mistakes, for example. The investor was impressed by her transparency and invested. The experiment, she concluded, was a success. 

"I’ve stuck with this philosophy ever since. It’s transformed my sense of peace and coincided with our company’s most productive period ever. Coincidence?"

The First Place to Tackle Dishonesty

All of which is interesting, but maybe you’re not looking for investment at the moment or unwilling to completely give up every white lie in your life. Is there a place you should start to root out untruths in your business? It turns out Campbell isn’t the only one thinking and writing about the borderlands between everyday BS and outright dishonesty lately. On Quartz HR expert Patrick Sweeney calls out leaders who let lies creep into one area in particular -- the hiring process.

"We often hear about job candidates exaggerating their accomplishments," he writes. "This stretching of the truth, however, is not a one-way street. Many new employees have told us that they felt they were misled in interviews about either the responsibilities of the position or the culture of the company."

How do these misrepresentations slip in and how can you ensure that doesn’t happen at your company? Sweeney offers three situations where lack of thought can let lies sneak in:

  • The job ad. You’re in a time crunch, so you just grab an old job ad that worked before and make minor adjustments even though the new role will be significantly different.

  • The interview. When you interview, if you only talk about the candidate’s resume (and therefore her past), you’re not talking enough about the future, i.e. what the job will look like and entail.

  • The onboarding process. Is the impression you give new hires in their first few days an accurate portrayal of what they can expect from their tenure at the firm? Really?

How honest are you in being throughout your hiring process?  

 

Last updated: Mar 20, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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