I sometimes interview people who start every phrase and every answer with, “To be honest with you…” or “Honestly” or “I’ll be honest with you.” Those phrases are repeated over and over again, and my truth detector sounds an alarm. These phrases can shoot you in the foot. TBHWY, when I hear that, I used to think that you were hiding something! I’m not alone in this belief because you can find articles all over the internet verifying my opinion. Many psychologists believe that a sure way to spot a liar is to hear them use one of those phrases frequently!
I don’t agree. I recently decided that many people use these phrases as place holders. They don’t exactly know what to say next, and they say TBHWY. The problem is that the phrase carries so much bad baggage that it usually alerts me to a possibility that you are lying. I then have to listen carefully to see if it’s a verbal hiccup or a sign that I shouldn’t believe you. It could just be fill-in words because you aren’t sure what to say. You may want to stall while you think about my question. It could simply be that you have become so used to saying TBHWY that you don’t even realize that you are saying it.
If you are trying to get the job of your dreams in the interview process, I would recommend not explaining how honest you are because it may seem as if you are saying it with your fingers crossed behind your back. What I really want to hear in an interview is that you understand the requirements of the job, and you believe that you can do the job and be successful.
When I hear these phrases in an interview, I keep count of how many times you say it, and I recently learned that other recruiters do the same thing. Here’s the problem: honest people use these phrases, too. One lady told me that she uses TBHWY when she thinks someone may not like her frank comment or answer. Another person told me that she says it to emphasize her honesty. (Honestly, that one doesn’t work very well, does it?)
I’m going against the flow when I say that I will cut you some slack if the dreaded TBHWY escapes your lips. Not everyone is going to give you the benefit of the doubt, and you need to be very articulate to get any job. If you say it repeatedly, I will weigh the rest of your statements to decide if you are honest.
Interviews probably make you nervous anyway, and now I’m telling you to worry about something you say all the time! I’m sorry!
How can you quit using that phrase? It won’t be easy. Try learning some synonyms. Instead of TBHWY, you could say that you are a conscientious worker. Perhaps you believe in being ethical and decent in your daily life. The problem with almost any claim is it can’t be demonstrated unless you have the job.
The best way to overcome this phrase is to keep track of it in your daily conversation. Every time that you realize that you said TBHWY, put a quarter in a jar. Your goal is to pay so few quarters that you can’t even buy a donut with the money in your jar. Try to remove TBHWY from every conversation you have. If you notice that you are saying it less and less, you’ll be ready to interview.
Just present yourself without making claims that can’t be proven until you are employed and able to demonstrate the conscientious, decent, ethical, trustworthy behavior that you know you bring to the job. If you are open and display good, common sense in the interview, you will be ahead of the game.