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Red Flag! Your Candidate is Lying


Many people lie. It's a fact of life. There are those chronic liars who never seem to have a believable story and there are some regularly honest people who have to tell a fib in desperate times. Unfortunately, fibs aren't limited to personal lives and are found throughout the business world, even when looking for jobs. That makes it important for recruiters and managers to identify any potential lies early in the screening process and verify all truths before hiring somebody.

What kind of lies are we talking about?

The most common ones recruiters report seeing are:

  • Work experience and job titles

  • Time worked at a company (specifically if they're trying to cover up being unemployed)

  • Why they may have lost a job

  • Education

  • Previous salary

  • Taking all of the credit for a team project

  • Criminal records

How can you spot if they're lying?

  • Always do your reference checks! For legal reasons, references can't always say if somebody was fired, but they can say if they'd rehire the candidate.

  • Administer tests and quizzes to validate technical skills

  • Remember, "studied at" doesn't necessarily mean received a degree from a particular institution. Clarify if they actually completed a program and always ask for a transcript.

  • Watch for "diploma mills" that sell degrees. These can be identified by sketchy websites, lack of accreditation, and extraordinarily low costs for diplomas.

  • If you're unsure the person worked somewhere, or is currently working somewhere, call the company and simply ask to speak with them. See if the response is "one moment please," "they no longer work here," or "who???"

  • You can't do background checks without permission, but you can always ask permission. If the applicant says no, they may be hiding something.

  • Check them out on social media, ideally right away. Smart liars will update their LinkedIn profile to reflect their resume, but they may make a mistake in places like Facebook and Twitter. (this is a long shot given how most professionals set high privacy settings)

  • Be sure to get strategic in your interviews by pushing for detail and watching for signs of lying such as:

    • Shuffling their feet and looking nervous

    • Sudden head shifting after hearing a question

    • Putting their hand over their mouth

    • Constant blinking

    • Repeating words and phrases

There are many reasons a person may lie to you when applying to a job and it's only good practice to suspect it and investigate right away. What you do from there is a strategic decision for you and your organization. Where is your line? Would you still hire somebody if they embellished their job title or avoided telling you that they got fired? Does it depend on the position?