Should You Ever “Bluff” During the Hiring Process?

Despite record growth in the job market, the double standard between employers and candidates has never been clearer.

You’re supposed to be an open book, instantly providing any and all requested information without complaint.

Yet they can withhold all SORTS of important information from you.

Like the fact that they’re 99% convinced to go with an internal hire for the role, but want to go through the motions of interviewing you anyway.  Or the fact that talks are nearly complete for a merger that will make your new department redundant within a year.

Which brings up the topic of “bluffing” — presenting something a bit differently than the reality.
Is it kosher to do so?

Here’s where hiring managers will scream, “Never!”

But let’s face it, these people are not on your side. They’d prefer to keep things one-sided, because it makes their lives easier.

Here are my recommendations for situations where you should consider bluffing:

 #1) When You’re Being Pushed to Reveal Previous Salary Details

We all know that you should never reveal your real salary details to a prospective employer.

But what if they ABSOLUTELY won’t move on until you give them something?

Well, in these cases, bluffing isn’t just an option — it’s a necessity. Being honest with what you made at your last position will CRIPPLE your ability to negotiate a new offer. Here’s the workaround:

-Create a “fully loaded” range. Take your base salary and then ADD A DOLLAR FIGURE for every possible perk you get (and some you may not, but which are considered common within the industry and job type). For example, if your base is $200K and the total value of the perks you receive is $80K, the low end of your “fully loaded” range is $280K. Note: be extremely generous when adding up perks and benefits here.

-When you’re pressured to reveal previous salary details, and they won’t take no for an answer, say something along the lines of, “I made in the range of $280-300K all in.” Using a term like “all in” is crucial, because you’re making it clear that it includes EVERYTHING. This way you still give them something in the way of numbers, without negatively impacting your ability to negotiate an offer.

Also read: When and How to Discuss Salary in the Interview

#2) When You’re Being Questioned About A Dormant Skill

Look, it’s impossible to simultaneously stay an expert in 100 different things while making meaningful progress in your career. Professional success is all about WHAT you choose to focus on WHEN. So if a skill you haven’t used heavily in some time forms a core part of the opportunity you’re interviewing for, ask yourself:

“Can I realistically get up-to-speed on this skill in order to deliver for these guys?”

If yes, then you should bluff in this situation and make it clear you can execute what’s needed.

If it feels like too much of a stretch or the risk of falling on your face is simply too high, then don’t bluff. Instead, acknowledge the issue, lay out a plan for resolving this knowledge gap, and bring the conversation back to shared goals.

Also read: 3 Hidden Triggers in Hiring (and How to Use Them)

#3) When Things Did Not End Well At Your Previous Employer

There is almost no way to honestly broach a negative outcome with a previous employer and NOT have it look bad on you. No matter how wronged you feel, I can’t impress on you enough how important it is to make peace with the situation prior to pursuing new opportunities. Otherwise, it’ll just come across as someone who is bearing a grudge…and that’s a big no-no with employers.

So my recommendation here is to “bluff” being ok with the situation, even if you aren’t. And instead of launching into an awkward monologue about all the things they did wrong, simply focus your answer on something like having plateaued on the growth front, and how this opportunity is a natural next step in that evolution and you’ll be fine.

One last point: bluffing is very different from lying. Please don’t take things beyond the point of no return by using tactics such as fake job offers or inserting skills within the resume which you have no experience with. Your credibility is more important than any one situation and must be protected at all costs. If this is at risk, back off and find another way.

About the Author

Anish Majumdar is a nationally recognized Career Coach, Personal Branding Expert, and a fierce advocate for transitioning leaders. His posts and videos on disrupting the "normal rules" of job searching and getting ahead reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. Go down the rabbit hole of Anish’s career videos at, and connect with him on LinkedIn to receive daily career tips and advice.