Lying in Sales Interview

Peak conducts tens of thousands of sales interviews a year. The majority of candidates with whom our interview teams meet with are ambitious, capable, diligent, and accomplished professionals looking to advance their career. And quite simply, honesty is profitable. However, from time to time, we come across those candidates who are inclined to bend the truth about their career accomplishments.

Furthermore, some candidates are remarkably good at lying and if it weren’t for a series of useful tests and tricks we employ, they might slip through our process undetected. Luckily it is easy to spot most liars since they overconfidently assume they are smarter than the rest of us and that no one is on to them – arrogance is usually pretty easy to catch.

That’s why our assessment team offered to share the five most common lies they hear in interviews, what they actually mean, and how interviewers can extract the truth.

1. “I was laid off but it had nothing to do with my performance”. 

Real meaning – My previous employer didn’t feel I performed well enough to keep me on the team, but was kind enough to lay me off rather than fire me. It is almost always about performance and employers rarely part with a performer without a fight. (Related lie – I was on contract and left because the contract ended.)

How to get the truth: Request the candidate’s performance metrics over the past 5+ years.

2. “I can’t use my previous manager as a reference because I am not sure where they are now.”

Real meaning – We didn’t have a strong relationship when we worked together and still don’t. Previous employers offer significant insight into what it is like to employ a candidate.

How to get the truth: Request the candidate to provide you permission to contact other members of their sales team to describe their experience with the manager.

3. “I wasn’t able to be successful at my last company because the company didn’t support the sales team.” 

Real meaning – I need the sun, moon and stars to line up in order for me to make a sale. Top performers let nothing get in the way of closing business and don’t have time for excuses.

How to get the truth: Request that the candidate describe how they have successfully overcome challenges in their sales career. Be on the lookout for patterns in their ability to meet or exceed their sales targets in previous roles.

4. “My career is not about the money.”

 Real meaning – I don’t know how to make money or how to negotiate a good compensation package. Businesses exist to make profits and people work for money. Anyone who says it isn’t about the money probably doesn’t have much. Except in rare instances, it is about the money.

How to get the truth: Ask why the candidate is in sales. Ask about their lifestyle outside of the office and if they would take a pay cut to join your company.

5. “I worked for my wife’s consulting business for a year and a half.”

Real meaning – I interviewed for a year and a half, but couldn’t find employment, so I have put my wife’s home business on my resume to fill the gap. This is not a lie if candidate successfully closed several thousand deals and made his wife a millionaire.

How to get the truth: Ask the candidate why they are still not interested in working for the business.

If you have other lies you have seen, please post them below and we will be happy to share them with our readers.


Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.

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