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Expect to Encounter Untruths

On the job hunt? Ignorance, apprehension, and confusion often cause interviewers to mislead you one way or another about what the position really entails

Job seekers know better than to expect an interview to consist of strictly heartfelt, down-to-earth, open-the-kimono conversation with human resources screeners and hiring managers. A certain amount of information-withholding on both sides is standard, and a dose of corporate "We'll tell you what we can tell you when we get ready" evasion is par for the course. Still, job interviews today have become more one-sided than ever, helped along by the rough economy. Plus there's a shortage of great opportunities for talented people. Job hunters are wise to be prepared for the sort of conversational sleight of hand that turns an out-on-Sunday, back-on-Friday-night assignment into "There will be some travel in the role" and that converts "You'll be one of our key players" into an unannounced and unrewarded assistant-manager job on top of whatever the full-time role is. Why do employers fail to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth on job interviews? Some of the less appealing aspects of a job may be uncomfortable to talk about. Often the recruiter isn't especially familiar with the assignment, and the hiring manager isn't tuned into the role enough to realize that "You'll be working every other Sunday, by the way" might be a critical piece of information for a prospective hire. On top of that, many hiring managers treat an interview as their chance to learn whether an applicant is qualified, forgetting about the candidate's need to understand the job requirements in their entirety. Apart from a shortage of full disclosure in describing the job, employers can often leave out critical facts (or outright dissemble) when discussing the time line for hiring, the salary range, and other essential information to a job seeker. Sharp job candidates can deal with these veiled references and misstatements as long as they're using our handy translation guide, the "Twenty Lies You'll Hear on a Job Interview" slide show—complete with tips for surmounting each lie with a pithy question or workaround.

Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.

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