“Stretching the truth” or lying in interviews?

I know some people will stretch the truth when it comes to certain things. However, what about straight up lying? I've never lied in any interview and don't plan to in the future. I ask this because I was talking to an analyst at a large developer (development is my goal out of school) and he told me to "kinda just lie in interviews," if I don't have experience with what I'm talking about. I do have a good internship at an investment sales shop, but we don't really do development deals, very rarely, like 2/3 a year. I feel like this is horrible advice, but is it common? Should I just lie and say I was a part of one while there?

Comments (58)

Urban Mogul, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Up to you but many times firms require certain skills and experience from potential candidates that isn't necessary. For example, a lot of the big firms want 1st year analysts to be knowledgeable about a good amount of things while also seeing good internships during college. However, it's well known that 1st year analysts go through comprehensive training programs. Therefore, this is contradictory. In my specific case, I spent months learning CRE material, networking with the right folks, and practicing my technicals. Then I got into a bulge bracket bank's CRE group just to find out that they will literally be teaching me everything from ground up. They'll even show me how to use excel and basic accounting terminology. My personal advice? Sure you can lie to get yourself in the door but know what you are talking about. Don't say you know about development but then not know what yield on cost means. Or don't talk about knowing development strategies but you can't explain what a core, urban development strategy means. Just be smart about lying. Pretty sure, many folks have lied to get their foot in the door then hustled their ass off to prove that they belonged.

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Jean-Baptiste Say, what's your opinion? Comment below:

lmao you've been asking questions about Blackstone and Apollo, but end up at Wells Fargo. What a clown lmao. Yeah OP definitely listen to this guy.

  • Analyst 2 in RE - Comm

Very rarely will your boss get called and asked about you. I've always exaggerated my influence or over talked my experience and tbh it works. If you are stuck in a hellhole rn by all means do what you gottta do. I advise lying within reason, don't say something you have no idea how to explain in detail bc everything you say is fair game to be poked at. If someone suspects you're lying you better believe they'll ask 800 questions to find out. And leave out things you are doing rn that you're trying to escape at your next job (that's realistic obviously). Someone from a big 4 told me he is good at XYZ but also haaated doing XYZ and is never going to bring it up in any future interviews specifically bc he never wants to deal with that again.

frozen assets, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sounds like real shitty advice. 

I'm in a similar position to you - coming out of school and looking for REPE/Dev roles.  Worked part-time at a PE firm throughout my second year and originally had thought about completely bullshitting my experience there.  It was a glorified admin role and I considered, briefly, making it seem as if it was something more substantial.  Didn't take too long to realize how stupid and unethical of an idea that was, so I never did.  Still have the job on my resume and when it comes up in interviews, I go out of my way to let them know explicitly that it wasn't a PE internship but something much more administrative and simple.  The response has generally, from what I can tell anyways, been super positive as I imagine the interviewers appreciate the honesty.

Another perspective as well is that I imagine people who have done their fair share of interviews have probably experienced a candidate lying to them before.  If you're honest and upfront, compared to the liars, I'm sure it'll paint you in a positive light.

Dick Steele, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I don't even I'll need to lie, I'm only now half way through junior year, so still have time. I wanted to get opinions on here about this topic. I agree it's unethical and I don't mean blatant lying, more like alternative facts.

YesYesUBS, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agree, worked for 2 years at a Tier 2 bank in Germany (now in PE) where I interviewed tons of potential interns and in my experience, people trying to exaggerate their experience was the norm. Generally took it very positive when a candidate was honest and did not try to exaggerate their experience. Ethics aside and just regarding how it will be perceived: maybe some will be able to pull off lying/exaggerating hard without getting caught, but if you do lie and are not able to speak well enough to the experience in detail, then you will either look like you didn't understand well enough what you did (which is bad and will make you seem like someone that will be a slow learner on the job) or like a liar (which is unethical; also if you exaggerate and get caught it appears like you don't even understand the job well enough to come up with something realistic).

Personally, I was able to land in large-cap PE after being (only) at a Tier 2 bank and was very, very humble throughout my interviews and generally played down my experience rather than up, which was perceived very well. Also, when I got the offer they mentioned that one of the things they liked about me was that I am honest. Again, people exaggerating/lying in interviews at least in IB/PE is very, very commonplace and it seems like nowadays you stand out more by doing the opposite...

CRE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Please do not straight up lie in an interview. That is terrible advice. 

Commercial Real Estate Developer

  • 7
Dick Steele, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I don't plan on lying, as in pulling things out of my ass. I'm just saying... that you know... I did some things at my internship which in reality I just touched on and don't have much experience in. However, I can answer the type of questions I'll get in interviews about those topics. That's not lying, or am I just trying to convince myself otherwise lol?

Most Helpful
CRE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Everyone has a different moral code on this, but personally, I think the right approach in a situation like that is not to lie but to approach interviewing like a political candidate would. 

Making things up here since I don't know your full situation, but: 

  • Interviewer: "Do you have experience in development?" 
  • You: "The company I interned with primarily dealt in investment sales, but additionally has a pipeline of approximately 2-3 development deals every year. This gave me great exposure to underwriting not only from an investment sales perspective - taking inputs from other developers' T12s and making our own projections - but also from a development perspective while interacting with development personnel in our office." 

The key here is at no point do you claim to have direct experience in development, because you don't, but you made it clear in your response that not only did the company that employed you do development, but you interacted with the individuals, in the course of your internship, who handled that part of the business.

Perhaps you meant that your investment sales company only sold 2-3 new development deals a year as opposed to actually developing them. In that case: 

  • Interviewer: "Do you have experience in development?" 
  • You: "The company I interned with gave me tremendous exposure to new development deals, and because they sold both brand new development as well as long-term stabilized assets, I was able to notice key differences such as X and Y in the underwriting (or target buyer, or whatever). In fact, because of Z, I became more and more interested in development and decided to focus on it in my job hunt in hopes of putting what I learned into practice." 

Again, you're not saying yes, because that's a lie, but you're also not saying no. You're emphasizing your exposure, adding bits of knowledge to show you aren't full of shit, and ending your answer like a politician by getting your point - that you want a job in development - across regardless of the question. 

Anyone can and should do this type of repositioning. For instance, your boy has never built a high rise. When I talk to companies that develop high rises, they often ask "do you have any experience in high rise construction?" because I want to build high rises. Which sounds better? 

  • Interviewer: "Do you have experience with high rise construction?" 
  • You: "No." (Awkward pause) 


  • Interviewer: "Do you have experience with high rise construction?" 
  • You: "My first job out of college was actually leasing 1.5 million square feet of class B+ CBD office space in City with [company people know]. I did X, Y, and Z and found a lot of success with [whatever.] My interactions with the property owners made me realize the benefits to being on the ownership side of the business, and after examining the various options, roles, and routes I could take to get there, I decided that development best suited both my interests and my skillset. Currently, I am a development manager for a firm that creates buildings of all types, including high end town centers, standard in-town wrap projects, suburban walk up garden deals, and CBD high rises. While I haven't worked directly on one of our high rises to date, simply due to luck with staffing and deal timing, the town center I worked on in City had similar levels of complexity due to A, B, and C and also included a heavy frame steel building, developed by our office partner, as part of the master plan." 

In short, no I haven't developed a high rise building, but I'm going to talk about all of the related things I have experienced and have accomplished instead. Focus on the good, not the no. 

Commercial Real Estate Developer

  • 39
  • Analyst 3+ in RE - Comm

On board with this one. Now don't be asking for $100k base when your current base is $60k, but if they ask you current salary or expectations, there's no harm in responding in the range of $75-85k. Don't settle and be underpaid.

For the longest time, I had a number that I would not go below and I made this clear to everyone I was interviewing with. Some probably scoffed at the amount, but others seriously considered it. And after some time, the firm I'm moving to matched my number ($20k higher than current base) and is allowing me in the bonus pool for 2020 as I'm giving my current one up. Negotiations, like CRE, require delicate relationship management. Can't move too fast or too slow, just gotta read the room/person and lay it on them smoothly.

  • Analyst 3+ in RE - Comm

I can't say I haven't heard this advice before. I don't recommend it. The industry is too small and close-knit that you don't want to be known as the "lying guy".

A couple years back there was a guy I used to work with, I'll call him X. One day he was suddenly fired unexpectedly. I didn't work on his team so I wasn't too familiar with him and what he was like to work with, but I suspected it was because of performance reasons or something really bad because my company rarely fires anyone. Anyhow some six months later, I grab coffee with this developer to network with. I let him know of where I work. He then goes, "I think I know someone at your company. Do you know X by chance?" I said "Yeah, I know of X. He's not with my company anymore." He then says "That's not a surprise. X would always BS about him being able to do all these things, but he could never deliver or follow through." I kid you not, this developer basically remembered how bad this guy was, how much he'd BS, and suspected he was fired from my company. I didn't say anything else other than he used to work at my company. It was probably not the best that this developer was trashing this him, but this guy I used to work with basically earned a reputation for being a big bullsh***r. This guy I worked with had 10-15 years of experience in the industry already, but was still lying so much to get these jobs that none of them were ending well.

Now this isn't to scare you. Just don't do it, or make your skill set or experience be so far beyond what it actually is. I've interviewed and hired people out of school. You're an intern working a few hours a week or a few months in the summer. Your experience is not going to be broadly extensive as it is, but you'll have some experience even if that is pulling comp-data, cold calling, taking property photos, organizing a rent roll. Not big stuff but these will still be big talking points in interviews. The big development shops are trickier places to get into and more just about knowing people, so don't earn yourself a bad reputation.

Dick Steele, what's your opinion? Comment below:

yeah, really don't want to have a shit reputation before even starting my career. I'm curious as to why this guy was lying if he had 10-15 years of experience? Doesn't make much sense to me.

  • Analyst 3+ in RE - Comm

Not really sure why. He worked a couple of different places over the years, and I think was doing some development projects on his own prior to our company. I'm guessing the projects didn't pay off but he had a family to support and was desperate to get a job for some sort of income and healthcare.

  • Analyst 2 in RE - Res

I'm in favor of doing what you need to get the job. Every front office analyst/associate position I've interviewed for have always demanded to be both a deal maker and excel modeling guru. So questions like what transaction negotiations you have led, ability to build models from scratch, etc. if you sell yourself short and portray yourself as a task doer or just imputing assumptions into template models, you will never get the job because others are pitching themselves oppositely. It's not fair, analysts and associates never get the opportunity to lead structuring discussions and don't build models from scratch daily so I can't stand when interviewers downgrade you if you are too honest and say no. Rather, I'm comfortable with leading transactions if given the opportunity and building models from scratch when needed! Every day and each project task is too varied to be able to say that you lead every discussion or model daily from scratch. Interviewers need to open up and stop being naive!

MidMarketMcLovin, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I would be careful about doing this. Real estate can be a very small world, particularly in smaller cities. If you are going to lie, at least let it be believable and be able to discuss it in detail. If someone suspects it's a lie, they may drill into it it to see if you're lying, if you are it calls into question everything else you've said.

Some examples of lies I've come across:

  • Analyst at a brokerage who claimed to do several workstreams which their team doesn't even handle. I know several people in their team and knew this was a lie as the workstreams are handled by a completely different team.
  • Former colleague's resume came across my desk. Bulk of their relevant experience was completely exaggerated , they were taking workstreams others had done and were passing it off as theirs.
  • Person claimed to have had a senior role in a college society. I was involved in the same society in the same year they claimed to have been, they weren't involved at all. Really minor thing to lie about, but I didn't trust any of their experience after reading that.

If you were to lie about development experience, it would likely be found out very quickly at interview stage. I'd take CRE's advice above and answer it politically.

Dick Steele, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm not going to do it lol. Just doesn't seem worth it, too much of a risk if you can't back up the things you say and as you said, real estate is a small world. Don't feel like fucking myself over before I've even started. 

redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is an interesting thread, I hope there is a consensus view lying on a resume, linkedin, or interview is insanely stupid. Clearly, the upside is you sneak one past the goal keeper then what?? Or they call you out and your fucked, upside isn't really that much, downside massive.

To go further, let me really address the OP's point, what to do when you don't have the experience or skill being asked about.....

1. IF you were honest on your resume/linkedin, then you have no reason to assume this question is a "deal breaker". The OP is interning at a brokerage and wants to go work for a developer, thus the dev exp question could happen. BUT, they will know he is a intern at a brokerage!!!! So, the question is probably just probing or part of a standard sheet. They probably don't care, and if it is entry level, they expect most applicants to have little to no exp as such. Bottom line, DO NOT assume this question requires some form of a yes answer to go forward. That said, answering what what you know about the skill/exp asked about can be fine (I took RE Dev in college, had developer clients at the brokerage, have always loved it and studied it, etc.), just don't think you need to embellish to impress them.

2. Be ready to explain your experience, training, desires, interests, skills.... ideally in stories that relate to your job (or internships), schooling (if a recent/upcoming grad), social/profession org life, volunteering, etc. Then when you get whatever question, you are prepared to fit the story that best meets the question. If you happen to answer a "different" question, that is fine, if they want to clarify, then can (then do a fairly simple yes/no obv). Interviews should be conversations, not depositions in a courtroom. 

3. If the exp/skill, is a major factor (or the job description makes it seem so), and it's not something your resume could give away one way or the other. Then, I'd say, just confidently say no, or explain with story, etc. If it is a deal breaker, then let it be! If they don't like you for you, then so be it. Move on, a better job is out there. If you are new, it could be that this is just the NEXT job. HINT, this may actually impress them and they offer you the job you are actually suited for or omit this part from your duties, or offer to train you. Let it be their issue, not yours. (minor exception to this policy... excel functions and hyper-specific skills that are easily learned. Example, they ask if you know VLOOKUPs, but you really don't know them well if at all. They are not hard, I would say something like "I am generally experienced with excel, familiar with VLOOKUPs, and while I do not use them everyday, I am confident I can quickly get up to speed for these tasks). So long as you know WTF a vlookup is, you are not lying, you can learn this in a weekend before you start (and you better). Don't miss a job over this BS, but also, don't say something like "Oh yeah, I invented the VLOOKUP during my war days", just get through the question.

Bottom line, you may be "lying" or "exaggerating" for something that doesn't matter. Better to be confident about who you are, and sell that, than try and contort yourself to answer how you think the interviewer wants you to answer. 

Dick Steele, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I appreciate the answer, and for the record, I'm not planning on telling outright lies for a job. I was more just wondering how common it was for people to make stuff up in order to get the job and if his advice was shitty as I thought it was.

redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:

def shitty advice, this thread and what you said this person gave me as advice makes me think it happens more than people admit.

I think there is a lot of "embellishment" of the nature of roles.... Like analyst who "completed over $5 billion in transactions" or whatever, some seem to want to make it sound like they were the deal kingpin, taking credit for the whole firm's success. I think people see the title "analyst" and know the role played, so its more humorous than offensive.

In fairness, it is slippery language, so maybe never a "lie" when this stuff occurs. But, overall, the whole concept is people who are insecure, that is the real strike. It comes off bad. People who lie/embellish probably also lease stupid expensive cars they can barely afford to look cool. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov

Any time I get asked a "tell me a time..." question, I just straight up lie my ass off. One time I made up that I stood up to my high school's dean because he wouldn't let our diversity club take a trip to the holocaust museum after synagogue in our town burned down.

I am a straight white republican and there was never a burned down synagogue or trip. Sorry!

Dick Steele, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Can't tell if you're trolling or not.

Couldn't they just search up whatever town you're from  and see if a synagogue was burned down or not? 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov

No. You really think they're gonna comb through hundreds of search results to find one hate crime from 5-9 years ago, because one kid told a story in an interview?


  • Analyst 3+ in RE - Comm

I think interviews are very much sales pitches to the employer. You certainly shouldn't lie about skills or experience you don't actually have. However, you do need to be able to sell to an employer what other skills, experiences and qualities you do have. Based on what you have, you have to sell it to them why you're going to be good at the job. I've seen people be good salesmen and their "personality" get hired despite shortfalls in skillset that are clearly missing on paper. Obviously YMMV with this because you're just going to fall short on certain qualities they might be adamant about having in a candidate. Not much you can do there except to push on and find the next opportunity

Pierogi Equities, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think this is the most accurate advice. As altruistic as people want to view themselves as, this is still a selling based industry and interviews are no different. Outright lying is not good because it's easy to get called out on, you have to constantly worry about it, and if you don't know what you're talking about, you'll run into a serious problem (not being able to deliver, having your integrity questioned, etc.).

However, I think interviewers themselves take things with a grain of salt due to the interview setting. Not only are they seeing how you perform in a situation with little information, but they are also seeing how you'd perform beside them in a client-facing situation, and obviously don't want to see you bullshit your way through that.

Outright lying is an ethical thing but also can professionally bite you in the ass. But since so much of life is sales, I think people understand when others are trying to get ahead and won't knock you for it.

Quant (ˈkwänt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

  • 5
pineappleicecream, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agreed, it's more about sales skills and good preparation for the specific interview. No need to lie. But no need to be brutally honest either. It's about pivoting from questions you might not be able to answer directly. For example, no experience in development? No problem. Discuss your skills and knowledge and exposure to the business. If you're really excited about development, the authenticity and passion should show through in your preparation for interview questions. You have to understand most successful people in this business live and breathe real estate, they want to be around people who like it just as much. Sometimes those already in the industry took a circuitous route to get to where they are at, so they might understand the grind to get into the business.

For example, if you are going into an interview with a development shop, just spend a bit of time learning about their company, what they specialize in, what recent projects they've built, what opportunities/challenges their company might be experiencing. Then think about how you can help the company in that position, or what you can bring to the table to help them achieve their goals. If they focus on urban infill projects, then read up on that beforehand. Sign up for a course to signal your willingness to learn.

Lying just shows a weakness in character, laziness/cowardice in not being able to handle and present truth, lack of confidence in being your true self and lack of preparation. No one wants to be around people like that (unless you have something valuable they want, like access to deals, capital or connections).

It's also fairly easy to sniff out lies. Most lies only go one or two questions deep. And if you get caught, that might stay with you for a long time.

Something to think about is that reputation sometimes matters in this business. I'm not saying if you lie you won't be successful. There are lots of successful people who lie. But lying might introduce friction to your professional life if you start get stuck with a reputation as one who is untrustworthy.

donut_cum_38291, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It's very fair to overstate your importance as long as you can back it up with things you've done. Crafting your story carefully accomplished this IMO

Smashing F9, what's your opinion? Comment below:

There are only three ways to get ahead in life: be faster, be smarter, or cheat.

Interviewed at a PE shop out of kindergarten - told them I had a major in astrophysics and that I was the lead deal maker for KKR.

Got the job. 

  • Prospect in RE - Comm

I had an interview at a small firm for an internship and got nervous and wasn't able to communicate my skills and they attacked me and cut the interview short in 10 minutes. I think they think I lied on my resume even though I didn't. The principal is really influential in the city the company is located in and I'm scared that my reputation is ruined because I want to live there after graduation. What do I do? I forgot to mention that I am not a liar in my thank you note and it's been a few weeks.

big_fox_plus263, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Depends on the lie. Obviously you can't say I'm a Java pro when you're not because when you get the Java assignment you can't do it. But obviously you can bullshit behavioral qsns like tell me about a project you failed. I don't think anybody is ever truthful on those things because most of it you might never have even experienced it but you can't say that as an answer.

ag monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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sk8247365, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Kunalshinde, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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