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How to tell whether a Candidate may be lying to you

By George Waggott, founder, and Roberto Fonseca-Velazquez, summer law student,

George Waggott Law

When it comes time to hire a new employee or employees, the clock begins to tick right away. Often recruiters or hiring managers cannot afford to allow a position to remain vacant for any significant amount of time. This means that there is often not an extensive amount of time to verify the claims made in a candidate’s resume or what they say in an interview as thoroughly as the hiring manager might otherwise prefer. More often than not, this is not a problem as candidates sincerely prepare their resume and are genuine about their previous work experience and skills. However, sometimes a candidate will strategically stretch the truth about their work experience and skills or openly lie in order to get the job.


There is likely some element of “creative fiction” in most resumes. In one study published by HireRight, the review found that 85% of employers caught applicants lying on their resumes or applications, up from just 66% five years prior. Some of the most frequent lies on resumes include the following: padding (extending) dates to cover employment gaps; falsifying academic degrees or qualifications; and exaggerating job titles.


Without catching these lies, the phony candidate can have a negative impact on the organization even if the candidate is only hired for a short period of time. Taking the time to replace the phony candidate will add to the overall time to hire and thereby cause unnecessary economic loss. So, the next time you are hiring, use these tips to sniff out if a candidate might be overstating or lying about their experience.


Their Resume Doesn’t Match Their LinkedIn Profile


One of the easiest ways to double check a candidate’s background is to cross reference their resume with their LinkedIn profile. The resume and profile do not necessarily have to be identical (in fact many recruiters say they should offer different views into a candidate’s experience and skills). However, key data points should be the same. These includes the dates candidates were at an organization, the organization name and key job responsibilities. It is also a good idea to see what skills these candidates have been “endorsed” for by their peers. If a candidate claims to be an expert in a skillset, this should usually be highlighted in some way on their profile.


Vagueness


Phrases such as “involved in” or “familiar with” on resumes are incredibly vague, especially on a resume. Such imprecise phrases are often used to present a skillset that the candidate has very little experience with. Hiring managers should be straightforward with the candidate and use specific questions in interviews to dig into what appears to be vague experience or skill, all in an effort to determine the exact amount of experience a candidate has. Some hiring managers go so far as to administer an interview test (depending on the required skills or experience) to determine if the candidate is as qualified as they claim (and as is needed for the role.)


Body Language and Interview Style


Trust your gut in the interview! Most people can pick up on body language that indicates deceitfulness. This can include a lack of eye contact or fidgeting. This is not a guarantee of dishonesty (it could just be interview nerves!) but body language will often show the interviewer if a candidate is confident in their answers or not.


Very Few References or None at All


References are one of the easiest ways to check up on a candidate’s listed experience. At times, there are barriers to references specifically if a candidate is still working with an employer while applying for new jobs. However, this should not mean that a candidate does not have any previous contacts that can speak to their experience or skills. Further, these references should be able to provide concrete examples of a candidate’s experience, together with at least some evaluation of their skill set and competence. Most organizations will also be willing to verify that a candidate previously worked for them if a hiring manager puts a call into the HR team. This can be handy to verify a candidate’s length of employment and job title, and act as a valuable cross-reference to what the candidate submits or says.


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