How to lie for the jobs you don't want while waiting for your dream job?
January 27, 2014 4:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm a recent grad with an MA in Philosophy and a BA in Economics. Tired of academia, I'm seeking opportunities in finance, not because of the money, but because of the work itself. While I'm sending out resumes, networking with alumni, etc., for my dream job, bills also need to be paid. I figure I should try to get any gig that pays at all, at least temporarily. My question is: How do I lie in the interviews for these boring $9/hour administrative positions?

For example, last week I had a phone interview for a part-time Market Research Assistant position that doesn't even require a college degree. When asked "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" I said, "I want to work as an analyst at an investment bank for a few years and then go for an MBA". Other related question included "What is your dream job?", "How long do you intend to stay at this position?", etc. I answered all of them honestly. Needless to say, I didn't get called back for the next round.

On the one hand, I know that I should have lied so that the interviewer got what she wanted to hear. On the other hand, I'm a terrible liar and I feel really bad about misleading a person, or even a company. I guess an alternative is to work as a waitress or cashier, where they don't care whatever your aspirations are. This is not feasible in my case because I'm an international student on OPT (work authorization for one year after graduation).

I think there must be many recent grads out there who need to pay the bills while having their heart set on their dream jobs. How do you make it work?
posted by shadowy_world to Work & Money (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Don't lie. What you need to do is tell some truth.

"Where do you see yourself in five years?" → "I want to continue to improve my skills and move into more and more challenging roles."

"What is your dream job?" → Answer honestly. If you say "I want to be a menial slave," your interviewers will know you're bullshitting them.

"How long do you intend to stay at this position?" → "I will be at this position for a couple of years, hopefully moving up within the organization if I have the opportunity!" Express loyalty/desire to move to more interesting positions within the company; this emphasizes loyalty.

Dishonesty is likely to result in the interview picking up on your nervousness or feeling that something is "off" about you. On the other hand, nobody wants to hire someone who's going to bolt after three months. You need to let people know that you have ambition, that you're not just a lump of meat who will fester in the job, without implying that you view the job as a temporary thing until you get something worth your time.

Of course, since you do view the job as a temporary thing until you get something worth your time, why not go the temp route? That way, both players go into the role with their eyes open.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:04 PM on January 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

Is there a reason why you're not applying to entry-level positions in the industries you'd eventually like to work in? I'd imagine these future-oriented questions would be a lot easier to answer there. You would probably be qualified to work as an administrative assistant at a financial firm at the very least. From there you could be a coordinator then analyst, possibly without having to go back to school though it wouldn't hurt.
posted by waterandrock at 5:15 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh hi interview question I hate.

I've had experience with this recently, and I think that I came up with a good answer for the "where do you see yourself in five years" type of thing; I've said that I hoped to have a better understanding of the industry, which would then enable me to figure out my next move. It's not a bullshit answer - that's how I've gotten into some of the jobs I've had, where I start working in some industry and see that there's a role in it that I didn't know was even a thing, and I tried it and it was great and I ran off in that direction for a while. And until I'd started working in that field I hadn't even known that it was a thing I could do. And since I'm making a major switch from working in finance (which I fell into as a strict admin position) to "anything but finance", it's the perfect chance to say that.

But adding that temp work may be more your thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:16 PM on January 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding the telling selective truth method. Some people call it lying by omission.

If you straight out lie, it's pretty obvious. But there must be *something* you like about each position, even if it's just the ability to get out of the house.

What is your dream job? My dream job is one where I can be challenged on a day to day basis. I hope to use skills x and y in my dream job and helping people do z. (Use actual skills you have, and something generic enough for z that's true.)

How long do you intend to stay at this position? Depending on what it is, maybe something like: I am excited for this opportunity, and would love to stay with the company as long as there are opportunities for learning and growth.

The other thing is: You don't know how long the average turnaround for an employee at this kind of a company is. Maybe most people only stay for 6 months. And you don't know how long you will be able to find your permanent job. That may be 1 year. In that case, you will definitely be working there for long enough for them to hire you. The future is uncertain.
posted by ethidda at 5:22 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Happy in a career I enjoy, doing well enough to get by and maybe have a little fun.

"What is your dream job?"

Somewhere I have a great work environment, get along with everyone, and fulfilling work that I enjoy.

Or you could say something really pie in the sky that isn't a literal career goal that people work towards, like "I'd love to own my own bookshop." Especially great if you follow that up with some way that relates to this particular job or your outlook as a person in general. So "I'd love to own my own bookshop, but print media is dying, and I'm curious about where the future of media is taking us." Or "Tenured philosophy professor, but in the mean time, I love the idea of getting to dig directly into the data of how people think and what they want."

"How long do you intend to stay at this position?"

As long as it's a good fit for me. I can see myself moving up eventually, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

In other words, keep it vague.
posted by Sara C. at 5:23 PM on January 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

No one likes to be asked these questions. Unfortunately, they're asked to see if you'll go along and respond they way you're supposed to. It's like dressing up for the interview. The employer wants to know that you will pretend the job is the most important thing in your life while there. If you can't do this, I wouldn't expect to be hired anywhere, though you never know.
posted by xammerboy at 5:38 PM on January 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

You could try tailoring your response to that question based on why you thought you were qualified in the first place.
posted by sm1tten at 5:58 PM on January 27, 2014

FWIW, none of the work I did during my OPT was related to my field. I think it's unlikely that the INS will check up on that, so long as the job is not something illegal.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 8:22 PM on January 27, 2014

It's tax season - get out there and work on a temp job doing taxes and make a fortune!
posted by aryma at 8:58 PM on January 27, 2014

Have you looked into actual Temp jobs? Signing up with a temp agency, or targeting seasonal jobs. For example, right now is a great time to get into tax preparation. It's slightly sleezy, because you'll be encouraged to sell high cost refund anticipation loans, but it is temporary, and you wouldn't have to lie.

Ditto other seasonal stuff.

Another option is to target entry level jobs in the Financial industry. "I think this would be an excellent stepping stone, I love finance and your institution is awesome, I'd love to make a career here."

So check out customer service gigs or temp pool admins in financial institutions.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:31 AM on January 28, 2014

My go to answer for the five year question:

"I'd like to be somewhere making a decent salary, doing work I enjoy, with people that I like.".
posted by josher71 at 6:09 AM on January 28, 2014

I understand the need to be compulsively literally painstakingly minutely honest about the "where do you see yourself in five years" question. Or any other interview question for that matter. But I think that interview questions are much less about What specifically you say, and more about How you handle them. This is not about Lying and Not Lying, which is reductionist and not helpful here. This is about giving an answer that Illustrates or Telegraphs or Illuminates something about you, your capabilities, your potential. This is a "you're young and you haven't done anything yet" question, "so we'll gleam what we can from whatever we can get" question.

I was once asked that terrible "Five years" question. I was asked this in a tiny, narrow office. In fact the office was tiny and narrow because *before* it was some poor television producer's office, it was Barbara Walters' personal shower. There was a temporary carpet on the floor covering the tiles and drain.

So anyways these two producers were interviewing me in this tiny space, so tiny they're basically in my sitting in my lap, an interviewer on each knee. And as I start answering, some answer about how I wanted to be an investigative journalist or maybe a producer of celebrity interviews or isnt 60 Minutes the only integrity left in the world or I just wanna get paid enough to do this for a living, one of those things I said, I don't know which, my contact flipped out of my eye

And onto my cheek

And I kept talking about where I saw myself in five years (White House Press Corps? Baghdad?)

And then the quivering dry contact flipped from my cheek to my boob

Where it quavered for a good three minutes, my interviewers basically breathing on it, staring fixedly at it, six inches away in the tiny shower office, while I finished up my answer.

Then I excused myself to go to the bathroom and pluck my contact from my blouse and shove it back into my eye .

I have no idea how I answered that question, and neither do my interviewers. BUT I got that damn internship, because I was calm and collected in the face of physical chaos. I was told, DUUUDE you were so chill and certain and sure that that told me more about your abilities to be a breaking news producer than any answer could.

Point is, when you're young, people want to know what you're about, what you think is important, how you handle difficulty. All of that is the meta interview that trumps any LITERAL thing you say, so don't get so hung up on the literal details. Find a story you're comfortable with - general about your specific goals, but specific in your ambitions to learn and grow and discover and become a whole good full person. And just be calm and confident. The corporate world is not made up of people who are liars and not liars about why they're there. People seek work for different, important, individual reasons and people hire for different important individual reasons. Be honest about your intellect and your hopes to build and matter. If you are emphatic and genuine about that, it will trump any specific details you muster of a five year scenario you couldn't possible be fully prescient about.
posted by sestaaak at 6:15 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

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