The Lies We Tell in HR and Talent Acquisition!

Everyone lies, right? I mean a little. Not bad lies. It’s like the lies we tell those we love to not hurt their feelings, or we believe the lie we are telling is really a victimless crime. You know the kind of lies I’m talking about:

  • Does this dress make me look fat? (Of course not…the dress has nothing to do with you looking fat…)
  • Ordering take-out food, then putting in normal dishes and making them believe you cooked it.
  • Buying new clothes, then bringing them home in dry cleaners plastic, to make it look like it is just stuff from the cleaners, and you really didn’t go buy stuff your budget couldn’t afford! (I have the shoes I buy shipped to my office and then wear them home!)
  • What size are you? (Oh, I’m a size 3! Only at Chico’s!)

Clearly, there are different types of lies.  The ones above, while clearly hiding the truth, aren’t meant to cause pain to the parties involved, and probably, in the end, trying to hold the peace within the relationship (i.e., that what they don’t know, won’t hurt them).

Then, there are those lies (Damned Lies) that will send you directly to hell, don’t pass go, don’t collect $200.  Those are the ones that cause people to lose their jobs, their families, their dignity, and pretty much anything of value.  I think we all agree, these are the “real” lies that get people into trouble.

The problem is, our “little lies”, like those listed above, tend to be the entry drug of lies, that lead to the damned lies.  Boy, this gets really confusing, especially trying to explain this to your kids! “No, Timmy, it’s not okay to lie! But you told Daddy we didn’t buy anything today and you bought that stuff at Lulu!”

Then, we have those lies we tell in HR and TA.  These are lies meant to primarily avoid conflict, protect feelings, protect privacy, protect relationships, etc. You know these –

HR and TA Lies:

Employee: How am I’m performing, and is my job in jeopardy? (bad performer)

HR: You’re really working hard and giving great effort. As of right now, there are no plans to let you go (but 15 min. after you leave I’ll have the plan).


Candidate: Do you have any room for negotiation? 

TA: We can’t move an inch, we’ve completely maxed out what we can offer you. (But, if you decline the offer more money will magically come flying out of my butt!) 


Employee: Can I still sign up for insurance, I forgot to sign up before the open enrollment deadline!?

HR: Of course not, it’s against the federal law, marshall law, the world health organization, and Rule 3 of the Secret Society of Evil HR Pros, and not to mention the Geneva Convention! How could you be so stupid?! We reminded you 87 times via email. We’re very sorry but the government will not allow us to help you! (Or, if we really like you and you’re a valuable employee who is hard to replace, “theoretically” we could fire you on Friday, and hire you back on Monday, backdate your paperwork and sign you up. But don’t tell anyone, it’s just our little secret!)


The last one I like the best, probably because I see it happen in every (yes, I mean every) company I’ve ever worked in or with!

What lies do you tell in HR & TA?

3 thoughts on “The Lies We Tell in HR and Talent Acquisition!

  1. We used to have illegal criteria for hiring, like no women for this job or no people older than 35. We obviously didn’t say anything and if someone asked if they could apply, we told them “yes”, even if we knew they were rejected from start

    • Ah, the old “blue” job/”pink” job. Or is this a “tech” role? Does the candidate need to be “Nordstrom”?

      Yeah, just saying those again makes me all sorts of dirty inside…

  2. For me, a lot of the lies have to do with feedback. Of course, there is the feedback I’d like to, but never will give. We all know what I’m talking about (and surprisingly, it’s usually with applicant/candidates for HR roles…)

    “Can you give me any feedback to make my application stronger?”

    (What I usually say) “There really isn’t much you need to change! This was one of those situations where the other candidate just checked one more box than you. Skills and personality were on par, the other candidate just fit a little bit better!”

    (What I’d like to say): “Are you kidding me!?! You were late to your interview, condescending in your answers, talked poorly about your last team, made thinly veiled sexist comments, and believe that a piece of paper and a few letters behind your name automatically equal excellence and I should be happy to breath the air you not-so-subtly farted in!!! GTFO!”

    Ok, a bit hyperbolic, but that is a tough situation. For a poor performing employee it is a disservice to not give them a chance to see the problem and improve, but for candidates…

    I want to help, I truly do. But how do we do this and leave ourselves open for liability? How to we give feedback/help and not get into the “So you’re saying if I do these exact things, 100% like you said, I am guaranteed a job, and I’m holding you personally responsible if that doesn’t happen” situation?

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