Honesty Is The Best Policy
It’s often difficult to walk the line between impressive self-marketing and truthful advertising as we present our stories to employers on paper, web and in person. Of course we want to present our best selves—and sometimes this may entail “stretching” the truth or embellishing an accomplishment. I advise clients that the key question to ask yourself in these dilemmas is, “How comfortable am I in responding to deeper questions which may arise about the story, incident or accomplishment… and how specific and clear are the examples or evidence I can provide to back up my claims?”
Statements of accomplishment without evidence come across pretty lame. Evidence translates to numbers, proper nouns and measurable outcomes.
Parker Palmer says we need to honor our limitations and sometimes this means we have to admit that we hadn’t done the work, achieved the accomplishment or secured the deal.
“No, Ms. Spencer, I’ve never had responsibilities with XYZ technology with a logistics problem of that nature….I am confident with ABC tools, however, and have successfully applied them to several procurement challenges. I believe there are valuable connections between the two technologies.”
Journal entry August 6, 2015
I’m discouraged today as Mom is not responding to any of my conversational gambits. It’s clear she is working hard at making the transition from this world. I can hardly blame her for being unresponsive to my lame attempts to engage her in conversation about the weather, grandchildren or my work. She’s tired and weak, her eyelids are heavy and her beautiful blue eyes don’t shine.
I decide to take a chance. I put my face up to hers and say in a mischievous way, “Mom, Mom….now might be a really good time to tell me that of your four sons, I was always your favorite. I wait, with a little anxiety. Then she beams a smile—wide and long and begins to shake her head back and forth. Her answer is clear without saying a word. And the way she did it had me chuckling. She was honest, eloquent and entertaining in giving me the bad news.
Study the description of the position you’re interviewing for and write down your weak points. Come up with “bullet points” for how you want to respond to these issues and how complementary strengths can still make a positive impression.
Review your resume and LinkedIn profile for any distortions or enhancements—are you comfortable and confident responding to questions about them?
Reflect back on times you might have been more honest and open when responding to difficult questions—how can you use this intelligence next time you face similar situations?
Think of saying something to an employer which is a little “out of the box” or surprising but which might elicit a positive response. Check it out with a trusted colleague before doing it.