Honesty in your career search, and finding a better path forward. A candid conversation with Erika Napoletano.

It seems like every time you turn around, someone is lying to you about something.

I just read about Gallup Polling being cut off from any future Federal contracts because they were overcharging the government and “indicating a lack of business honesty or integrity.” Well, that’s a problem for an organization that’s been in business since 1922…and every other business or person that is less than forthcoming in their practices.

What is it that makes people think that lying will get them what they want, when telling the truth is actually the only thing that can turn them into a trusted partner for the long term? Do they not understand that they will eventually get caught – and even if they don’t, they have to live their lies FOREVER?

I heard a Russian proverb today that resonated with me:

With lies you may go ahead in the world, but you can never go back.

After hearing an uncommonly honest talk on being brutally honest with yourself (followed by a standing ovation) at TedXBoulder, we sat down with our friendly neighborhood entrepreneur, speaker, no-BS branding strategist, and columnist, Erika Napoletano, to discuss honesty.

In our line of business, we encourage people to be themselves and to interview with honesty…just portray who they are and what they can do. Yet people try to sneak things by us all the time so they can get a job, regardless of the consequences.

Our clients pay us to have a great BS detector and to get to the bottom-line, quickly. Is the candidate a solid cultural fit for their organization, will they be able to contribute to their company in short order, and will they stick around – all questions our clients need answered (and by us). Our job is to promote in-depth discussions to quickly ascertain what is fact, and what is fiction. Thankfully, after more than a decade of listening to every excuse and half-truth in the book, we’ve gotten pretty good at determining who is full of it and who is truly a good soul.

In our conversation, Erika asked a number of excellent not-so-rhetorical questions including these doozies;

“Do you want to wake up every day and manifest mediocrity or do you want to wake up and blow your life out of the water and do things that other people never thought were possible?”


“When was the last time that you heard this: ‘You know that guy down the street that’s shady as hell? I can’t wait to give him more business!?” This never happened, did it? I didn’t think so.”

The issue is, not everyone does take stock of a situation. Most take people at face value and it’s unfortunate that you do have to look deeper, but it’s reality. Whether we’re talking about an interview scenario or the advertisement on during the nightly news. You have to think critically, and without exception.

So, ask yourself this: are you or the people you surround yourself with interested in transactional relationships and short-term one-offs or are you interested in establishing relationship-based partnerships where there is a trust and understanding between two parties? It seems like an easy question to answer, but when you’re in the middle of the situation, it’s not always cut and dry…or is it?

Erika talks about the fact that there is a decision to be made in this battle between truth and untruth. It’s between selfish people who are only interested in accomplishing what they need on their terms and those who are altruistic and generally willing to help and have an awareness of the greater good. She continues:

“Often it’s about being PC and thinking you’re going to hurt someone else’s feelings or turn them off somehow. That type of thinking needs to get kicked to the curb. Would you rather be suffocated by propriety, or oxygenated with honesty? It’s not mean or cruel to speak your truths – just explain why you feel the way you do. While they may not be happy with your rejection or explanation, they will respect you for telling the truth. And if they don’t, well, that probably says more about them than it does you.”

Why is this notion of truthfulness so difficult for most? Seriously. If you are hoping to find a new career, tell us you’re not a people person and that you prefer to work in the basement by yourself with your headphones on. Tell me you’re not interested in working for a startup. Tell me you have social anxiety and you don’t do well at networking events. GREAT! No big deal! THANK YOU for being honest, we can totally work with that, and as a result of your honesty, we can put you in a situation that you ARE comfortable with, and one you might even thrive in! Erika said it best:

”Being honest is being humble. It’s just helping someone understand your reality”.

Another important point that Erika makes is that oftentimes honesty isn’t welcome or fostered in a business environment. This can result in a stifling mess of political correctness. If nobody in your organization can speak openly, to voice dissent or defend ideas, your business will fail. It’s that simple. Erika offers,

“If you foster a collaborative environment where open communication is encouraged with inclusive feedback loops (yes, the secretary should have a say, too) and a culture of permission, you empower your employees to be successful.”

Amen, sister.

One of the things we are most proud of at Technical Integrity is that we only work with clients who have gone out of their way to create an amazing culture for their employees. One in which people love coming to work and sharing ideas on how to make things better, every day. We love hearing from our candidates how much they have grown personally and professionally in the roles we’ve placed them in. That only happens when people are encouraged to be open, forthright and honest.

That old saying “The truth will set you free” could not be more accurate. You are literally empowering yourself to get what you need, with a few extra words to explain WHY you feel the way you do to create understanding, empathy and commonality…oh, and you don’t have to cover your ass and try to remember what lie you created six months ago. You just hurt yourself with your half-truths and misleading statements.

So- back to that rhetorical question;

Do you want to wake up and manifest mediocrity or do you want to wake up and blow your life out of the water?

The secret to going down this path truly is making a commitment to telling the truth, giving yourself permission to be honest, and for the love of all that is holy, STOP APOLOGIZING for being honest. Be comfortable in your own shoes. Stop assuming that half-truths are just a part of everyday life because you hear them on TV daily, your Congressman blows smoke to get what he wants or your favorite sports figure lies to win races. STOP THE MADNESS and be cool with explaining your reality, whether or not it jives with someone else’s.

Surround yourself with great people who love life and who are straight shooters.

Embrace others who give you permission to be yourself, to be honest and forthright and even (GASP) candid with them about your thoughts.

Erika concluded our chat with this:

“The art of being successful in life – or anything – starts with you and your words and your actions. Your dreams can only come true if you are honest with yourself and with others.”

I’ll raise a glass to that.

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10 Responses to Honesty in your career search, and finding a better path forward. A candid conversation with Erika Napoletano.

  1. Mila says:

    I like the information of this article. Thanks

  2. Artrotter says:

    True. I belive in onesty first of all with oneself

  3. Mithu Hassan says:

    Not only great and interesting but also very helpful for those we are looking for job and wants stable the career for long future !!

  4. @ And if they don’t, well, that probably says more about them than it does you.”

    Well said. Erika, what is YOUR daily secret/exercise to keep up the good attitude ?

  5. Liz says:

    I think there are a variety of reasons why people are untruthful and it is not a good vs. evil, black and white situation:

    1) It can benefit them to be untruthful.
    2) Being honest can be penalized in some work environments
    3) They are bored and lies are more interesting than reality.
    4) They are less than honest about problems because they truly think that they can be solved without worrying their boss or client.
    5) They want to project what they aspire to be rather than where they are at.
    6) Other people know so little about the situation that they aren’t in a position to evaluate what is true or how true something is (it’s not a 0% or 100% situation, most times)
    7) There are no checks and balances and it is unlikely that anyone will care enough to check on whether the person is telling the truth. That is, there is no cost for lying and the person could lie for profit, to protect their self-image or just to amuse themselves.

    Many people I know have, in job interviews, when asked, affirmed that they had job skills they didn’t have but easily picked them up once they were hired and on the job. They didn’t go into the interview intending to lie but they knew that if they said “No”, they wouldn’t be hired but they had confidence that they could add whatever tasks to their skillset. In these situations, being honest can cost you a job and telling a falsehood can put you in a situation where you will either sink or swim. To many people, that seems like a worthwhile gamble to take.

  6. Chris Sandys says:

    While I agree with the interview and the prior poster’s (Liz) comments, I have found that the overwhelming majority of lies can be traced to one facet: fear.

    When people lie, it is usually because they fear the consequences of the truth. The fear can stem from being held accountable for their own actions (or lack of), a diminished self projection, or foregoing a reward.

    The curious thing is, when being interviewed, I’ve always welcomed the opportunity to answer honestly on a topic that may be less than perfect. It helps establish that you have an integrity for truth. I don’t know about other people, but from viewpoint, that value is priceless.

    I am still amazed at how many adults still think deception is a worthwhile course. Having to continually live a lie(s) seems like an incredibly arduous and stressful life, but people still do it.

  7. Judith Kavanaugh says:

    As someone who has already taken retirement I have the privilege of being outside the cultural norms. Because of that I have the luxury of being able to tell my truth in situations that if I had to provide for my own living I expect there would be half truths to survive the working world.

    I like what you stand for and your assertion that if you stand up for integrity and only surround yourself with people of the highest integrity We could have the world that many of us believe in.

    Unfortunately, I still believe that complete honesty is left to the Children, the old and the infirm. I am glad you are trying to change that!

  8. Michael K says:

    Well, yes…I must agree with Liz and also Chris. There are many reasons for being untruthful…

    + In several cases it does not pay to be truthful as youre blamed for it and maybe even penatlized. E.g. do you belong to some parties, labour organisations etc? Well those questions are even banned in Germany e.g. but these are rubber paragraphs as the questions are asked.

    + In several cases people see they may get the job by lying regarding several experiences and expertises. The basic knowledge becomes intermediate etc.

    + In other cases (and now this is bit difficult to translate in english for me) the people react by expectant expecting which IMHO means, they answer that what they expect the interviewer likes to hear even if this is lightyears apart from the own opinion. This is actually done very often as I can report this from several interviews I was taking as technical Assessor.

    + I can speak for myself. I own a smaller IT-company but I also applied for several really high level projects. In this case you attend an assessment and also an interview. I AM truthful as I know it’s better to sell yourself as something you’re not. The client I need to lie to get a project will never be my client. Either he takes me for my competence and skill or he/she leaves it.

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