Here’s something you probably don’t want to hear: candidates lie.
Think of it from their point of view: finding a job becomes increasingly difficult when the economy slows down or when a seeker has been out of work for a while. Job seekers do whatever they need to do to get themselves noticed amid the sea of applications – and that sometimes includes the occasional white lie.
Not every candidate lies, of course. But it can help to keep an eye out for fabrications that can arise during the application process.
Here are a few of the most common lies candidates tell on their resume or in the interview.
Lie #1: Previous employment
“More and more often, candidates are declaring employment that they never had to help bolster their chances of getting a position,” says Daniel Fallows, Executive Director of Garda Background Screening Solutions. “With diploma mills, there has also been an increasing trend of companies who offer the services of being a bogus employer for a fee.”
This is one of the most common candidate lies – but also an easy one to address. If you’re interested in finding out more about where someone worked or the nature of their job, a simple background check will usually do the trick (just remember to get the candidate’s permission). A reference check can also help you confirm previous employment – and understand the nature of the termination. Here’s a pro tip: during a reference check, as the former employer if the candidate is “eligible for rehire.” If the answer is negative (or complicated), that’s a red flag.
Lie #2: Skills
It’s easy for a candidate to include a lengthy list of skills on their resume – it’s harder to prove they actually have them, especially when it comes to soft skills. After all, there’s nothing to stop them from simply copying the “must haves” from the job posting with the plan to learn them later, if needed. To separate the real skills and from the candidate lies, listen to what is not being said during a reference check. If you find that a former manager doesn’t point to the skills or values that a candidate claims to have, even before you directly ask about them, take heed.
Lie #3: Dates of employment
It happens more than you’d think: candidates make adjustments to the dates they worked with a previous employer to try to gloss over a termination, a short contract, a possible bad reference, job hopping, or any number of other reasons. In the interview, don’t be afraid to go into detail on past employment. If you find inconsistencies, ask the candidate for an explanation. You can also inform the candidate that you’ll be verifying all employment history. If a candidate balks, or asks you not to call certain companies, they probably shouldn’t make the shortlist.
Lie #4: Salary
Among all the candidate lies, this one might be the most logical: seekers inflate their past or current salaries to ensure they make more at their next position. Remember: lots of people take jobs that pay far beneath their skill or experience level, and can panic when they’re looking for a new position. If the numbers seem way off, don’t be afraid to bring it up with your potential new hire or check with the former employer. If you find an inconsistency, ask them why they felt the need to embellish, and talk about whether this impacts your hiring decision.
Keeping an eye out for these candidate lies can help you make a more informed decision – and it’s not too difficult to get at the truth, considering most of them can be dealt with by calling a reference or verifying employment history. Whether they’re deal-breakers or not depends on the nature of the lie and what you’re looking for in a candidate – and whether it seems like a momentary lapse of judgement or an ongoing issue.
5 resume red flags: how to read between the lines
5 sneaky things you can learn from a cover letter
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