Honest Workers Are At A Disadvantage On The Job


At the risk of losing a job prospect, job seekers may feel inclined to over-exaggerate about their skills during the job hunt.


For example, perhaps the employer asks if a candidate is proficient in a certain computer program that can easily be learned. The job seeker may feel that if they were honest, they would lose their chance of nabbing the job.

But the idea is that if you lie on your job application, you're probably willing to lie about other details regarding your professional life.

Complimentary Tech Event
Transform talent with learning that works
Capability development is critical for businesses who want to push the envelope of innovation.Discover how business leaders are strategizing around building talent capabilities and empowering employee transformation.Know More

Evolv, a data provider that uses analytics to study employee retention, wanted to find out exactly how these "little white lies" impact workers after they get hired. Instead of asking questions about honesty and integrity — which would most likely lead to employees answering in a way they think they're supposed to — the researchers decided to ask a sample of 31,000 employees about their tech skills, because the results can easily be tested for honesty.

Below are some of the computer proficiency questions from the study:


The researchers asked workers to "Rate Your Comfort Level or Understanding of the Following":

General Computer Navigation

  • Not much or Don’t know.

  • Basic – I primarily use computers for email and/or typing documents.

  • Proficient – I use computers for email, accessing the internet, photo editing, managing.

  • music, doing work, etc.

  • Expert – I’m skilled at troubleshooting complex hardware & software issues.

Use of computer keyboard, keyboard shortcuts, and mouse

  • Not Much or Don’t Know.

  • Basic – I use a mouse for most of my computer activities.

  • Proficient – I primarily use the mouse along with a few common keyboard shortcuts.

  • Expert – I use advanced keyboard shortcuts for almost all of my computer activities.

Internet Navigation (e.g. use of web browsers and search engines)

  • Not much or Don’t Know.

  • Basic – I use the internet daily for playing games, social networking, blogging, and shopping.

  • Proficient – I use the internet daily for playing games, social networking, blogging, and shopping.

  • Expert – I understand source code and am skilled at using the internet to build and design my own web pages.

After the questioning session, the participants were then tested to see if they lied about their tech skills and Evolv recorded this information along with the employees' actual tenure, performance and, eventually, reasons for termination.


The study concluded that more honest people stayed with the same company for "significantly longer and demonstrate higher schedule adherence," which means that they tend to show up to work on time and stayed as long as they're supposed to stay, even when they're not supervised.

However, honest people didn't perform as well, provided lower customer satisfaction scores and yielded lower sales conversion than those who fibbed about their tech skills.

Michael Housman, managing director of analytics at Evolv, says that the fact that dishonest workers performed better at their jobs — especially if it's related to sales — is consistent with the widely-held notion that "sales people tend to be a bit more slick and capable of telling people what they need to hear in order to close a sale."

This is the same for any type of interaction workers have with their clients. If the employee is able to make the customer feel as if they care about their needs, their service will be rated higher even if they weren't successful at solving the problem at hand.

Currently Evolv is in the process of analyzing the results as part of a peer review journal. The company is also in an ongoing collaboration with The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to study employee retention and how it affects the workplace.


Evolv typically focuses on the hourly market, and its clients are generally international companies with thousands of hourly employees.