If you think candidates lying to you isn’t something you’ve ever had to worry about, you’re probably wrong: In a recent survey, as much as 37% of candidates admitted they’ve lied to get a job, and 83% of those who lied said they were hired! But how do we prevent candidates from pulling the wool over our eyes?
Let’s not kid ourselves here – most candidates will embellish the truth to some extent during the hiring process, but there’s a big difference between downplaying your weaknesses and purposefully deceiving a recruiter in order to get where you want to be.
And whilst some candidates will go on to perform well in a job despite having told a few fibs to get there, others will fail to live up to the lies they’ve told – in which case, fingers will be pointing at you for not digging deeper.
So, what do candidates most commonly lie about during the hiring process, and how do we discern a lie from a truth?
The secret job hopper
Sometimes, a CV will drop in your inbox that shows a candidate with so much great experience that you can’t quite believe your luck. But when this happens, be sure to pay close attention to start and end dates, as these can reveal a lot!
For example, if there are time overlaps between one employer and the next, it’s likely the candidate is exaggerating the amount of time they spent working there to cover-up the fact they tend to job hop every six months.
Or maybe the dates on their CV don’t match the dates on their LinkedIn, which is a strong indicator that they’re lying on their CV (candidates are much less likely to lie on LinkedIn – as a public platform, it’s much easier to get caught out). Candidates will often just assume you don’t pay close enough attention to dates, so prove them wrong.
A fake reference
Unfortunately, we all know some candidates are bold enough to submit fake references – and if they feel it necessary to do so, this is not a good sign! So, what’s the easiest way to spot a fraud?
You can normally work this out pretty quickly just by doing some online research. Your first stop would be to Google the company in question to make sure it actually exists (if they don’t have a company LinkedIn page, this should ring serious alarm bells)! If you’re satisfied with the results and can be sure the company is legit, you can then move on to establish if the reference works or has worked there just by looking them up on LinkedIn before reaching out.
As we saw with our job hoppers above, it’s far less likely that someone will lie about their previous experience on LinkedIn for fear of being caught out. If the referee isn’t connected to the company they’re said to know the candidate from, they probably aren’t who they say they are.
If you notice something fishy, asking the candidate straight up on the phone or in person (so they don’t have too much time to think up an excuse!) will quickly reveal if they’re lying to you.
Skills they don’t have
You’re always going to see situations where a candidate exaggerates how much they know about a certain skill in order to qualify for an opportunity. However, there are also the situations where a candidate will lie through their teeth in a way that comes back to bite them (and you!) once they start the job – the result being that they’re in and out the door within a month. A situation like this is extremely costly to any business and if you’re an agency you risk losing your client as a result.
The simple way to confirm if a candidate is telling the truth about a skill you’re not so confident they have is to simply put them to the test. Again, this is best done over the phone or in person so they don’t have too much time to think about (or research!) an answer. You don’t necessarily need to quiz them with tough technical questions (you can’t do their job, so how can you assess their answers?), but even just probing for more details can often catch a fibbing candidate off guard, leaving them flustered.
If it’s fake qualifications you’re worried about, you can easily verify a candidate’s university grade using this website.
Responsibilities they’ve never been given
It’s common for candidates to lie about the levels of responsibility they’ve been given during interview stage – normally in an attempt to negotiate a higher salary.
And aside from obvious shifty body language, vague responses to questions about situational experiences are normally a dead giveaway that a candidate is not confident in what they’re talking about. If you ask a competency-based question like, “tell me about a time when you’ve demonstrated good management” and they give you an answer completely devoid of any specific details, or the situation they describe sounds unrealistically straight forward, then they’ve probably made the scenario up on the spot.
Using silence as a way to probe is also extremely effective in face-to-face meetings. If you find long silences during meetings uncomfortable, imagine how the interviewee must be feeling! Every time you interrupt a silence to move the conversation along, you’re saving the candidate from an awkward situation where they might have to admit to an untruth. Why not let them squirm a while and see where it takes you?
If you suspect that a candidate is lying to you, it’s always best to trust your gut and do some investigating. You’ve got nothing to lose in probing further to reassure yourself (often the candidate won’t even realise you’re checking up on them) but you do have a lot to lose if you don’t dig deeper on your suspicions and the candidate turns out to be a bad hire.
Katie once headed up the Firefish blog and marketing team. She now works as a freelance copywriter and continues to contribute to our award-winning blog.