The White Lie Interview Question |

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
The full question is, “If we ever got into a bind with a client, would you be willing to tell a little white lie to help us out?”

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Here’s a very telling interview question. “If we ever got into a bind with a client, would you be willing to tell a little white lie to help us out?” Or, “If we ever got into a bind with a user, would you be willing to tell a little white lie to help us out?”

I’m Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter, a career and leadership coach, a former executive recruiter. And for those of you who are in sales, the first question is obviously the one that you’re going to get hit on most regularly. If you’re looking for a staff position, it’s the second.

Now, here’s the fact of it. Are the proud to be a liar? Because that’s what they’re asking you about. Are you open to being a liar? And the truth is, they’re asking the question, because they want you to say no, and in sales, it’s more complicated because what you can say is, “most of the time, this is going to relate to missing a piece of product knowledge. So I don’t want to lie to a customer, because, ultimately, the firm is going to have to face the consequences of the lie. So I’d prefer not lying. That’s the fact of it.”

And the way employers are instructed to listen to this question, your answer is “if they lie, if they’re willing to lie, end they interview and escort you out the door.” So understand, the temptation is to say, if I’m in a sales situation, I might go back and confirm a detail for you before making a statement. That’s really the ideal response. Because you’re not telling a white lie then or any lie. You try to make sure that your answer is correct.

And the truth is, you don’t want to lie to a client. You don’t want to lie to a user or colleague, any more than you’d want to lie to your wife, husband, partner, son, daughter, anyone else on this planet. There’s a philosophy professionally that talks about the importance of integrity. It requires courage, authenticity, service, truthfulness, love of people, to be effective. And you don’t want to be a liar, and a firm that wants you to lie . . Do you really want to be associated with?

Stop With the Superlatives!


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with over 2300 episodes.

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5 Responses
    1. Isaac Young

      i got the question “is it okay to tell a white lie” definitely hit me in left field.. I ultimately said that it isn’t okay to white lie.. but i didn’t get into a discussion about how “everybody lies”. especially politicians.

  1. Adam

    The best way to answer this question is by asking another question to the interviewer: Do you think omission is a form of lie?
    If the interviewer says ‘yes’ then you’re dealing with a hypocrite. Do you really want to work for a hypocrite? If the interviewer says ‘no’, then they don’t know what they’re asking for. Do you want to work for someone who is clueless? Regardless of what the interviewer says, the point is made: the first question is stupid. If you desperately need the job, just say no emphatically. But not because you’re not a liar.

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