Should You Come Clean?

Imagine interviewing for your dream job and being asked, “What is the worst grade you’ve ever received on an exam?” Do you come clean and tell them about the “F” you received in Organic Chemistry or do you avoid answering it?

In an attempt to make a good impression, be it on a job interview or on a first date, most people prefer to withhold information to direct questions that will surely embarrass them or make them look bad. This strategy can seriously backfire. Harvard Business School reveals there is a serious downside to sweeping unflattering information under the rug.

Across a series of experiments, participants were asked to choose between two people — one who gave truthful but embarrassing answers to questions about drug-taking, bad grades, and sexually transmitted diseases, and one who refused to answer. Over and over, those who “fessed up” were preferred and viewed more positively…”

As tempting as it is to avoid disclosing unsavory information, if you really want someone to like you or hire you, you are better off telling the truth. That said, Leslie K. John, one of the authors of the paper, cautions not to take this research as an excuse to write a “tell all:”

It would be wrong to conclude from this research that we should all go out and tell everybody our deepest and darkest secrets. That would be creepy and weird.

In other words, avoid providing TMI (too much information), but come clean when you are asked a direct question, even if the answer isn’t altogether flattering. Your honesty will make you look good.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman