Years ago, before Tom Hiddleston picked up the helmet and destroyed New York City, a friend of mine told me a story about Loki. The story goes that one day (probably due to boredom) everybody’s favourite Norse god went down to the mortal realm to get a job working for a King. The King, while grateful for his interest, told Loki that he sadly had no place for him in his retinue. Loki thought this through, and then asked the King if he had anybody in his employ that could defend him in battle. The King replied yes. Loki then asked if the King had an advisor to instruct him on political matters. Again, the King said yes. Loki kept asking questions: did the King have anybody who could cook, sing, dance, entertain, speak multiple languages, read, write, perform magic, or fight with any weapon he could name? The King answered yes to every one of Loki’s inquiries. Finally, when all the questions had been answered, Loki simply smiled. “But,” he asked the King, “do you have ONE person who can do ALL of these things?”
Loki got the job.
Although I can’t find any mention of this myth in either the Poetic or Prose Edda, (although they don’t mention his destroying New York City either, so how reliable are the original texts anyway?) this is probably my favourite job interview story of all time. Despite all the parallels I could point out about presenting yourself well at a job interview, the impact of door-knocking, or having a good elevator pitch, there’s one point that stands out as being the most important:
If the God of Lies doesn’t lie on his job application, you probably shouldn’t either.
Despite this, committing fraud in a job application (and yes, it does legally constitute fraud) is on the rise. Reports from the HEDD (Higher Education Degree Datacheck – a UK service used by employers to screen the CVs of potential applicants) indicate that a third of the CVs they receive contain embellishments to the academic records. When you think of the size of some of the companies that regularly recruit graduates, it’s a fairly shocking statistic. While it’s tempting to lose the minus symbol next to that ‘B’ grade on your academic record or to tell your prospective employer that you wrestle sharks for fun, there can be serious repercussions. Last year in the UK alone, 324 people were prosecuted for fraudulent job applications: One graduate was given twelve weeks in jail for claiming to have a Master’s degree when he didn’t. He was really let off quite lightly – the maximum penalty is up to 10 years imprisonment.
So don’t risk it. Instead (and this is the only time I will EVER say this) think like Loki. Play to your strengths, and highlight the things that you do well. If there are any embarrassing spots on your CV, prepare ways to address them in your interview, or pre-empt them in your cover letter. Remember, your employer is looking to see if you are a good fit for their company. And let’s be honest: the chances are that people will notice if you claim to have an A+ in Art and then can’t tell one end of a pencil from the other. Even little white lies and exaggerations that can’t be screened for are risky – Do you really want to be given a position where you’ll have to pretend you’re somebody else every time you go to work?
(Unless you’re pretending to be Loki. Because that would just be awesome.)