We interviewed Elly Johnson, an expert in truth dilemmas. In this Four-Part Interview Series, Elly sets the stage by explaining how truth and lies live in the workplace. She guides job searchers in ways to handle the question, "why did you leave your last job?" when the real answer may scare you to disclose. She offers some helpful ways to explain gaps or quick changes in employment, and some questions to ask your interviewer to encourage honesty on all sides. Learn from this truth and deception expert how you can encourage more truth from others, accurately read behavior, and spot signs of deception early.
MAC- In an interview situation, we are often asked about things we'd rather not talk about or would prefer to portray in maybe a slightly different light than how things went down. How honest should we be about our previous roles, and precisely the question, "Tell me, why'd you leave your last company?"
Elly - I'm always going to lean towards being as truthful. Be as honest as possible. I think the more you lie in those sorts of situations, the more you can get yourself in a tangle, and you can come unstuck very quickly. If anyone is good at reference checking and checking the information that you've given, you're going to come unstuck quite quickly if you have told lies. Then when they come back to you, or you don't get the job, and you don't know why you didn't get the job, and it's because there's a mismatch between what you've told someone in an interview or on your application. Then what they were able to find out through external sources, and now they might find that out on your Facebook page, or they might find it out through some other avenue rather than your actual references.
MAC- How do you overcome the fear of what might happen if you tell the truth, and what are some tips or skills to practice doing that in a low-stakes way where you’re not going to get fired if you're brutally honest?
Elly - There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this, and it does depend on context. If it's in an existing relationship or an existing job, what sort of relationship do you want to have with the people around you? What are you trying to achieve? How do you want to be known? So perhaps you wouldn't go from one day hiding lots of truth to all of a sudden saying, "I'm gonna tell you how it is." You might need to work into that to start to become someone that's known as a more honest and transparent person. To do that, you have to start having different discussions with people, and explain, "I want us to have a more honest relationship," and that's the same in personal relationships too. You have to start having different conversations in a different way to take it to that next level. When it comes to interview questions like this, practice with friends by honestly describing what happened, and get their feedback on the best ways to tell the truth while putting yourself in a positive light.
In Part Three of our interview with Elly Johnson, she shares how to explain gaps or quick changes in employment when you’re in an interview situation.
Looking for truth in your life at work?
Make sure to check out all four parts of our powerful interview with Elly Johnson: