Specialists in Supply Chain Recruiting

The perils of overselling in the interview process


Ross Reimer

Jan 9, 2024

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As long as human beings are hiring human beings, there will be misfires in the interviewing process. Multiple factors may contribute to hiring the wrong person – in the case of the company – or accepting the wrong position – in the case of the individual. But in my experience as a recruiter, no single factor plays a bigger role than overselling during the interview process. I’m referring to overselling on both sides – the company and the candidate.

Let's face it: The interviewing process is an extremely important part of business. If people are the most essential asset driving business success, and they absolutely are, then getting it right in the hiring phase is critical. So, there’s significant inherent pressure to do just that. In the company’s case there’s almost always a time crunch associated with bringing on a new person. In a situation like this, it's very tempting to oversell the position, the company’s culture, and all the wonderful benefits associated with working in a particular organization. The interviewing manager wants to get the process over with and put the right person in the job. In addition to overselling the benefits, they may greatly undersell some of the specific issues around the job that could make it difficult and that might send some people looking in a different direction. It’s dangerous territory for the hiring manager to be in.

On the flip side, we have all been in important job interviews, and recognize them as some of the most critical times in our lives. We know we want and need the position in order to fulfill all of our obligations, not to mention build a successful career. Once again, the tendency to oversell is clear and present. Overselling might appear as significantly embellishing past experiences or skill sets. Or steering away from career mistakes that could influence the decision maker. Once again, this is treacherous ground for the potential job seeker.

It’s important for both sides to remember that the truth will come out, usually within just a few days.

Overselling during an interview can easily be compared to a first date. Imagine it. Both parties are on their best behaviour, essentially emphasizing all of their worthy benefits while avoiding mentioning any deficiencies. Of course, it makes sense to put our best foot forward – for both the company’s position and the potential candidate’s background. But long-term success on both fronts will be served best with scrupulousness in these critical interviewing situations.

Fruitful long-term relationships are built on honesty from the get-go. It’s best to realize there is no perfect company or position and no perfect employee. We do best when we recognize the positives and the challenges on both sides, and work to see if a genuinely excellent fit can be found. Interviews based on true and factual information are a refreshing experience and will lead to the best outcomes, whether that means the position is filled, or both parties need to continue looking for a better fit.

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