The Art of ‘Faking It till you Make It’

A definitive guide to charming your way to success…by bending the truth a little.

Can anyone really protest innocence from this? Surely we have all at some point lied about ourselves. On CV’s or in personal statements, even when talking to the hairdresser, people have a compulsive need to exaggerate their lives. Perhaps even the most famous over-achievers, including Lance Armstrong, are victims of the same compulsion and are forced into insisting that they are in fact the Buddha reincarnate?

The idea recently occurred to me whilst I was in Clown’s Bar (mildly intoxicated but that’s beside the point) and telling a very attractive girl that I was in fact an economics graduate from Cambridge. I was fully undeterred by the fact that there was a very good chance that I’d run into her on campus at some point in the future. Neither did I care that a simple Google search would reveal that there isn’t in fact a Brooks College at Cambridge or any college that sounds even close to it. Surprisingly whatever incisive question was asked I seemed to be able to dodge remarkably.

Similarly, whilst applying for a summer job, I was forced to submit a CV and provide the details of relevant references. Part of me felt that my previous and limited experiences would suffice, and that it wasn’t worth inventing anything new because my lie could be easily exposed. Unfortunately there was a much greater part of me that new I could get away with it. This part of my mind was supported by a huge sense of inferiority which felt that I could never become employed through honesty.

This may be hard given the aforementioned examples but please believe me when I say that the stuff I put on that CV was unreal. I can hardly believe now that they even took it seriously. Yet a few weeks later, during the interview, I was politely answering questions about my experience in Uganda with Medicines san Frontiers. After a pleasant 20 minute discussion about the absence of western aid in Africa I walked out with a new job and an overwhelming sense of pride at having lived through it.

Perhaps I’m alone in my compulsive need to amplify my achievements but, for those who share this feature, here are the steps you need to ‘fake it till you make it.’

  1. Make it realistic. There’s no point committing to having been a Freemason or in MENSA as few people would believe it and anyone who does is almost certainly not worth impressing
  2. Never commit to something that is worth checking. Almost anything can be validated but nobody is about to ring up your old school to check if you really were a prefect. However, they will almost certainly be calling HSBC management if you’re insisting that you helped to install the computer software for client management.
  3. Don’t pretend that you probably do have a mutual acquaintance. Even if they insist that you must know them, don’t go for it! Even if it’s the CEO of the company you can easily pretend that you never worked with anyone that senior or that you answered to someone completely different. There are only ever 2 reasons someone will ask you whether you know so-and-so: either it’s a trap (i.e. they’re fictional or dead), or they are able to check that when they see them next.
  4. If a lie is unravelling, change the subject! This is the easiest thing in the world, provided it’s complimentary or something of interest to them. The potential for embarrassment is huge if anyone is able sniff out the truth.
  5. Don’t backtrack. This never works and as soon as someone hears, ‘oh well it was a long time ago’ or ‘oh maybe I got that bit wrong’ they’re definitely going after the truth. The best tactic is to act even more confident that they are, even though you know it’s a lie. It’s not ideal to start an argument with someone but it’s better than for them to start questioning your honesty because, let’s face it, who knows what they’ll find.
  6. Research as much as you can about whatever it is. It’s definitely worth knowing a bit of jockey banter if you claim to have been a junior dressage champion. In the event that they actually happen to be passionate about it then you can appease them with a few lines and then move the subject on. Ad lib lying is never a good idea.
  7. The best defence is some good questioning. Following on from the previous point, if they really do have an avid interest in sailing or West Ham or whatever it is, fire the questions at them. Chances are they can talk for days about it and all it requires from you is a bit of insight and a lot of passive agreeing nods.
  8. Try to have someone who can verify whatever you have said. This is much easier to achieve in a club than in an office but, nevertheless, the right references can make or break a lie. Make sure that this supporting witness isn’t too shocked by whatever they’re agreeing to though.
  9. Have an exit strategy. In any situations there are a number of tools you can use to escape. Many phones have a fake call feature which should be employed as much as possible. Alternatively, a simple word or wave from a friend can easily be manipulated into a convenient excuse.
  10. Beware the aftermath. This is the hurdle at which all drunken lies fall. It’s unfortunate but no one can be expected to maintain a French accent the following day when they don’t remember it in the first place. In the event of sober incidents try to limit contact with that person in the future as much as possible. Alternatively, a short and tragic story is easily employed to deter any further questioning.