Paradise Lost: Why Honesty Matters During Your Hiring Process

April 18, 2019 by Josh Hrala

Right now, companies across the US have a hiring issue on their hands. Thanks to the low unemployment rate, retention has become vastly more important than it has in years past.

Organizations are finding it harder than ever to find talented individuals to fill positions while, at the same time, employees are empowered to leave their posts for greener pastures at other organizations who offer them a better value proposition for working there.

What this has created is a need for a strong employer brand that helps attract and retain talent long into the future.

However, this has led to its own problem: companies have started over promising on what they can deliver to staff members during the hiring process by using common buzzwords and and fanciful sounding benefits packages. Then, when the person actually joins the company, they soon realize that they were lied to, causing them to abandon the company or, even worse, cause its brand to suffer as they tell others about the deceit.

And that, in and of itself, is setting some companies up for failure.

To help better illustrate this, let’s take a look at a rather insane example of this type of falsehood. Except, let’s go outside of the corporate world and into pop culture with the Fyre Festival.

A Fraudulent Brand

One of the greatest scams of the decade occurred in 2017: the Fyre Festival. You’ve probably heard of it (there are two competing documentaries about the festival on both Netflix and Hulu, if you want to learn more).

Fyre Festival was toted as the greatest music fest of all time. Attendees would be treated to an array of great acts, have a chance to stay in fabulous tents and pavilions, eat gourmet food, and live a life of luxury on an island in that was supposedly once owned by famed drug lord Pablo Escobar. It was meant to be a Coachella killer.

Obviously, tickets sold out almost immediately thanks to ad campaigns pushed on social media by highly influential and famous people. However, it was all a complete fantasy.

Once on the island, guests were told that they had to sleep in relief tents, most of the music acts cancelled because they were either not paid or pulled out last second after the news broke of conditions on the island, and the food, well, let’s just say it was less than ideal:



The story of Fyre Festival is a story of fraud – a story where a brand was made, toted, and popularized, creating an atmosphere of excitement that was hollow from the very beginning. All of the hype and excitement was quickly dashed though when the first attendees arrived on the island. (You should seriously watch those documentaries. They’re insane.)

At this point, you’re probably wondering what Fyre Festival has to do with our topic today, but the sad reality is that frauds like Fyre Festival happen all of the time on a smaller scale inside organizations who promise paradise but never deliver (or even intend on delivering).

And, while being duped by social media influencers out of thousands of dollars and stranded on an island (that was definitely not owned by Escobar) is one thing, when a person is lied to about a company’s value prop, they’re actually risking a great deal more: they’re future, they’re time, other job opportunities, and much more.

Paradise Cancelled

So, why do companies do this?

Well, like we mentioned briefly above, companies are in a bind right now. They have to find a way to make their corporate brand stand out from the pack. To do this, they commonly offer a slew of different values to their employees.

As a brief overview, a company’s value proposition is what value the company is offering its workers. You can think of this as ‘why a person would want to work for Company X over Company Y’. Company X and Yin this example, are both in the same sector. They both have around the same pay, but through corporate branding and differing value props, one is always a better choice for potential workers.


To illustrate this even more, let’s look at a hypothetical situation. Say you have an interview with Company X and that they want to hire you. At the same time, Company Y has shown interest, too. This is a common situation right now thanks to the unemployment rate.

Company X knows this and they ask you what projects you’d like to do, where’d you’d like your career to go, what work schedule fits your needs, and things of that nature. After telling them all of this, they say that they can offer you a development track, provide you training, and allow you to work on the projects you really want to be a part of.

This sounds great because they are telling you everything you want to hear. However, once you start the job, you realize that there aren’t any training programs or development tracks. The work isn’t flexible. And, every time you ask, the projects you were promised never seem to be top-of-mind. You’ve been duped. How does that make you feel about Company X?

The hiring manager over promised or, possibly, lied. What are you going to do now?

Well, the first thing you’ll probably do is start to complain to your coworkers, which will lead to a more caustic work environment. The next step is disengagement as you hunt a new role outside of the organization. If you do leave, which you probably will, you’ll be sure to tell everyone you know about the awful experience.

As you can see, this is horrible for corporate branding, which is especially awful in today’s economy.

How to Avoid Over Promising

Now, there are really two types of over promising. The first is well-intentioned. For instance, maybe you really do want the new employee to work on special projects. However, it’s never the right time and you have to keep pushing it off for whatever reason.

The other is straight up lying (this is basically the Fyre situation). You know in the back of your mind that you can’t deliver on anything you’ve promised in the interview or onboarding process, but you continue to keep up the dialogue for fear of missing a new hire.

While both of these examples are different, they’re the same to the employee who is going to feel cheated either way.


So, what can you do to keep your promises? (We’re assuming that you’re not going to lie to your new hire here.)

The first step is to just be honest. Honesty goes a really, really long way in terms of corporate branding. Employees can see through the nonsense a lot more that you probably give them credit for. So, when it comes to hiring and offering special value props, you need to be completely honest.

Think of it this way: if an applicant lies to you during the job interview and claims that they have the skills to fulfill the role you are looking for (this is their value prop to you), what would you do if you found out that they actually had no clue how to perform their duties? You’d let them go – probably pretty quickly. This would then tarnish their personal brand, which may hurt them getting hired in the future.

Organizations in today’s world need to protect their employer brand just as much as workers have always needed to protect their personal brand.

The Takeaways

The real takeaway here is that organizations need to stop using fanciful buzzwords and false promises to lure talent to their organizations even though it’s so common to do so right now.

Retention is a long term play. If you hire someone and dash their hopes and spirit within the first month, they’re going to leave and you’ll have to start all over again. Turnover, as everyone knows, is very, very expensive. By over promising (or lying), organizations are setting themselves up for a world of hurt that is made all the worse in today’s economy where workers are more empowered than ever to jump ship.

Instead of taking this tactic, why not examine how your workforce is currently operating and attempting to legitimately make it better? This will organically attract top talent to your organization and keep them there for long into the future.

Try to foster engagement, provide development, offer flexible work arrangements, and things of that nature. If you do, you’ll find that workers will increase your corporate brand, be more productive, and generally give your business a big boost. It should be a win-win for both parties at the end of the day.

Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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