When to Lie in an Interview

I interviewed recently to be the assistant to an EP on a network TV show. My interview philosophy has changed over the last few years. When I first started out, I lied my way through nearly every question in an interview.

Mentiroso, Yo?
Liars Are Universal

When they’d ask what I wanted to do in Hollywood for the rest of my career, I’d tell them that I basically wanted to do their job… forever. If I was applying to be an agent’s assistant, then I wanted to be an agent. If I was applying to be a producer’s assistant, then I wanted to be a producer. If it was a manager’s assistant desk I was after, guess what: I wanted to be a manager.

But over the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to develop a pretty decent PA resumé. So I quit the lying business altogether. This is how my LIAR, LIAR strategy plays out:

Interviewer: What’s your ultimate endgame in this business?
Me: …I could lie right now. I could tell you that I want to be a [insert job here], but I’d rather tell you the truth, which is that I want to become a writer. That doesn’t mean that, if I get this job, I’d be sneaking away to my laptop to work on my screenplay. If I get this job, I’ll try my hardest to be good at it and learn as much as I can, and I’ll figure out the writer-thing on my own time.

I’m pretty proud of that answer. It’s honest, direct, and sensible. It plays to my strength while acknowledging my apparent weakness, that I haven’t spent my whole life dreaming of this job.

But I’ve said this on my last two job interviews, and I’m sitting in my bedroom right now, unemployed, so do with this information what you will.

Also, for what it’s worth, it’s probably unwise to admit on a TV job interview that you don’t own a TV. What can I say. My candor got a little carried away.

5 Comments

  1. When you walk into an interview what do you want to do? Get that job, and you’re interviewing for it so you can stomach it and get it done. You don’t have to lie to tell them about their position and that you want it, it’s the truth or you should get the hell out of there. Who cares if you want to be a writer at that moment, you don’t have to ignore that part of yourself but it’s just a job, they don’t need to know everything about you. Why not tell the truth about what is relevant to the position but not blow the interview over-talking your ultimate dream career?

  2. It is a great post, regardless of what anyone says. For whatever reason -in my experience (8+ years)- interviewers in production want to hear that you are very specifically passionate about [XYZ]. Sure, if they reached deep into their truthometers, they’d surely find that it’s quite likely not the case, but who has time to reach there? As you’ve noted, the work is usually on the more temporary side of freelance.

    So, as I’m writing this, it’s starting to make sense to me. A department head wants to get the job at hand done, and done by someone who could at least fake it for a while. Most people, early in their career, regardless of their endgame, want to follow through and do a good job, because we’re good people AND, we also know that it’s a painfully small world. Long story longer, in agreement… If you go into an interview, while it might feel good to be honest, what you might be doing is painting a picture that you’re already giving yourself an out before you’ve even taken on the responsibility.

    I’m not a great interviewee, but I think I’ve just had a revelation. DECEPTION! Woooo.

  3. As a recruiter this is terrible advice and I see why it took you so long to get the positions you desired.

    The reason people choose to interview you for a job is to do THAT job. They often don’t care about what you WANT to do they just care about what they NEED you to do.

    The second most people (lying or not) say they want to do the job of the person interviewing them they’re eliminated from consideration. Imagine if you interviewed someone for your job and they admitted during the interview that they are gunning for you day one. Would you hire THEM?

    Plus don’t like during the interview everyone can tell you’re lying, if you got hired before even when you lied it’s because they didn’t care.

  4. My research on interviews has said to refrain from saying “To be honest..” or “I could lie right now…”
    Saying a form of those words together makes a subconcious thought enter the interviewer’s mind that says, “This person lies a lot, but this one time they are coming clean to try to get the job…NOT HIRED.”

    P.S. Customer Service gets boring. Filmmaking does not!

  5. As I sit on the couch smoking a ciggy, while all my other friends are at work, I too am proud to have told a prospective employer that while I am completely capable of this salaried customer service job, I have aspirations beyond the available position. Dumbest mistake in the last two months.

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