Just as you might put on your best clothes, smile, and fib a little to impress a first date, job candidates sometimes do the same thing when trying to get a job. When dating someone new, you don’t get to really know the person until several dates in – when the “honeymoon” phase starts to wear off.
Hiring an employee is the same way except you don’t have very many “dates” to get to know who they really are. It’s important to find if they’re lying to you right away to prevent you from making a bad hire.
A lot of candidates lie
According to the Society of Human Resources Management, 53% of all job applications contain inaccurate information. The Wall Street journal also found that 34% of all application forms contain outright lies about experience, education, and ability to perform essential functions on the job.(1)
And to add the 9% of job applicants who falsely claim they have a college degree, list false employers, or have identified jobs that didn’t exist.(2)
These are some pretty substantial numbers – how are they getting away with this?
There are a few websites out there that candidates are using to back up their lies. CareerExcuse.com sells fake job references for candidates and boasts the following on their website:
“We will act as your very own human resource department and supervisor using one of ours/or your virtual company. Verifying your name, job title, job description, work dates and answer any questions with a positive reference in a professional, business like manner.”
It gets worse. Fakeresume.com sells a book on how to “fill in the gaps” on your resume with false information, written by a former recruiter:
“There are a lot of legitimate reasons for writing a fake resume. Perhaps your current job title didn’t properly convey all the duties or responsibilities that you had. Maybe you are unemployed for a period of time. Everyone knows that doesn’t look good on your resume. Did you assist a manager who was incompetent and wouldn’t give you a good reference if his life depended on it? The bottom line is if you know you can do the job, why shouldn’t you fluff up your resume a bit?”
Why shouldn’t you? …Well, maybe personal integrity or ethical standards, to name a couple of reasons.
And if that wasn’t enough, TheReferenceStore.com provides fake references as well. They even go as far as claiming:
“If you’re calling us from London, Sydney or even Texas, we’ll assign a voice actor with the appropriate accent to “Fit” that [anywhere in] the World!”
How to combat lying candidates
If their nose isn’t growing and their pants aren’t on fire, it may be hard to identify when someone is lying in an interview. Here’s a few ways you can spot lying candidates:
1. Take your time – ask for the same information in different ways
If a candidate makes claims that seem to good to be true, ask for more details and then ask again a different way. Don’t be afraid to be surprised at an answer. Ask “Did you really do all that?” or “What other help did you have with the project that you haven’t mentioned yet?” Asking about information in multiple ways will help you find flaws in their stories if they’re lying.
2. Use Brad Smart’s “TORC – Threat of Reference Check”
Tell the candidate as the interview starts that you will be confirming all the information you gather in the interview with the candidate’s references. It will make a candidate think twice before lying to you.
3. Ask questions only qualified people would know on your job application
If your candidate is truly qualified for the job, he/she should be able to answer some basic questions about the line of work they’ll be doing. You can even weed them out even before they step in your office by asking job knowledge questions on the job application. For example, if you’re hiring a baker, you may ask:
1. What in chocolate cake makes the cake rise?
a. Baking soda
If they answer “b. Yeast,” you probably don’t want them cooking in your kitchen. It’s best to put their application in the “NO” pile.
4. Conduct skills testing – make sure they can actually do the job
If they do answer the questions correctly in the application, conduct skills tests to make sure they can actually fulfill the basic job functions. For example, if you’re hiring an accountant, they should be pretty familiar with spreadsheets. Test them on their Excel skills or conduct other skills tests to make sure they can actually do the job, and not just claim that they can.
5. Background checks – a few bucks up front can save you thousands later
We’ve had plenty of candidates tell us that they have nothing on their record, but their background checks say otherwise. It’s better to spend the few bucks up front and find out if they have a history of theft before they start stealing from you.
Always verify candidate information
A bad hire can cost you thousands of dollars (not to mention lots of headaches), so it’s best to do it right the first time. Always conduct background checks and tests on your candidates, and trust your gut if you suspect they’re lying and verify their information.
(2) Resume Inflation: Two Wrongs May Mean No Rights, by Barbara Kat Repa, Nolo.com, 2001