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Watch out for These Five Embellishments

March 1, 1997
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It’s been known to happen. Job applicants sometimes embellish the truth. And in over 20 years of executive recruiting, Chip McCreary, president of Dallas-based Austin*McGregor International has heard everything. Five key areas he suggests you closely watch follow.

  1. Compensation. For applicants who don’t work for public companies at which executive pay is a matter of public record, compensation is the No. 1 embellishment. Some executives exaggerate salary and bonus and stock-option programs by over 100 percent.

  2. Tenure. On average, senior-level executives spend between four and seven years with the same employer. It’s not uncommon for executives who’ve spent more than 10 years with one organization to indicate they’ve spent less time with the firm. The rationale is that an overly long stay with one company reveals a lack of initiative and drive. Other executives with less tenure may exaggerate the time they’ve spent with a firm in order to emphasize their staying power.

  3. Reasons for leaving. Leaving a company is no disgrace. But lying about why one left may be. Everyone has his or her reasons for leaving a situation that isn’t working out. It’s become practically a rite of passage in recent years for executives to be let go when a company is acquired. Yet some very capable executives refuse to admit being laid off.

  4. Age. Gray hair used to be obligatory for any senior executive. Now, many applicants over 50 tend to mask their age or simply refuse to admit they’ve crossed into their sixth decade. Although it’s illegal to discriminate against job applicants based on their age, most employers will draw conclusions about an applicant’s age through deduction (generally by checking the year they graduated from college).

  5. Hierarchy. Executives commonly will exaggerate their position on the organizational chart. One executive McCreary worked with stated that he reported directly to the CEO, when in reality he reported to the CEO only on special projects. As a vice president of marketing, he reported to the senior vice president. Though they fall more in the category of fibs than outright lies, such exaggerations tend to surface during interviews and reflect poorly on applicants.

Workforce, March 1997, Vol. 76, No. 3, p. 21.

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