Recruitment Tips: How to Spot When a Candidate is Lying

By Roxanne Abercrombie

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According to a recent recruitment survey, 58% of hiring managers have caught lies on a CV. Nor do the lies stop there, with 4 out of 5 people lying about their professional attributes during job interviews. The rabbit-hole of candidate lies goes deeper than you might think, with the most commonly found subjects to ‘pad out’ being experience, skills, start/end dates and academic credentials. Whilst a certain degree of self-embellishment is expected from candidates trying to find a new job, it goes without saying that nobody wants to hire a liar or employ a candidate on the basis of untruths.

So, how can you separate the facts from the slippery realm of fiction when making your next hire? We’re sharing our top 5 recruitment tips on how to spot when a candidate is lying.

1. Use social media as a screening tool

More and more employers are wising up to the benefits of social media as a free, speedy and highly efficient background-check tool. Social media can be used as a powerful research resource, not just for digital marketing jobs but also for any industry you can name. In fact, social media as a pre-screen tool is proving so effective that almost 68% of recruiters have decided against hiring a candidate after checking out their online presence.

Don’t think of this as a privacy invasion: think of it as a practical and economical way of finding out whether a candidate has been glossing the truth. It’s fairly certain that a candidate’s LinkedIn profile will match up with their CV, so make sure you check their Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as doing a quick Google search to uncover any potential inconsistencies. If, for example, a candidate has described themselves as a “focused, target-driven individual with an energetic work ethic” but their Twitter account shows dozens of updates about boredom during office hours, you’ve probably got somewhat of a fibber on your hands.

2. Get chasing

No busy working professional has enough time to verify every last sentence within a candidate’s application. Performing a quick spot-check of key facts, however, is a worthwhile task and one which will help you distinguish reality from mere wishful thinking.

The easiest way to verify details is by picking up the telephone and making a few quick calls. Many truth-bending candidates, for example, try to enhance their references by listing a friend within the business rather than their former boss. If their reference tells you that the candidate has the business savvy of Steve Jobs coupled with the attitude of Ghandi, it’s a safe bet that they’re a friend rather than an actual superior. A LinkedIn check of the reference’s job title will also be a dead give-away.

A quick phone call can also tell you whether the candidate’s listed job dates are correct, whether their job titles are accurate and whether they really have the qualifications they’ve listed. You might feel invasive doing this, but if you’re going to invest in that candidate you need to be sure that they’re the real deal.

3. Take advantage of pre-employment screening tests

Over 60% of large businesses now use pre-employment screening tests in the hiring process and these businesses are certainly on to something. Not only does this screening help to find the best candidate for the role in question, it also provides an effective method of checking whether a candidate really has the skills they listed or whether they were stretching the truth.

As a bonus, most pre-employment screening tests come with an inbuilt ‘distortion scale’ that allows you to determine how honest and candid the candidate was with their answers. If your candidate received a low score, they’ve tried to distort their answers to make themselves look better. If they’ve lied on a test, it follows that they might have lied on their original application too.

4. Interview face to face

By far the best way to spot a lie is through a face to face interview. It’s easy to be deceptive behind the shield of a computer screen, but infinitely more difficult to do so in a pressurised interview situation. As well as the advantage of being able to read the candidate’s tell-tale body language, you’ll be able to dig deeper with any points that seem suspect.

In the hiring process, you can’t afford to be afraid of a little interrogation. This doesn’t mean holding the candidate under the threat of torture, it simply means not being anxious about appearing impolite by questioning the candidate’s assertions more closely. Always remember that lies are difficult to consistently maintain and will usually reveal themselves. Be strategic here and pose the same question with a slightly different twist if unconvinced, ask for proven examples of skills and use follow-up questions that make the candidate think on their feet. It might be awkward, but it will soon unearth any lies.

5. Test the candidate

An unexpected test is a fantastic way of determining whether the candidate in question really does have the skills they’ve insisted they come with. Again, we’re not talking anything torturous here: just a quick assessment to determine whether the candidate really is up to the job. If, for example, you’re recruiting for developer jobs, it’s a good idea to ask the candidate to complete a straightforward online programming test and allocate time for them to do so before you begin the interview.

By taking this step, you’ll ensure that the candidate isn’t all talk but can in fact do the key things they’ve claimed to be able to do. Not only will it assess their competence, a quick test will ascertain whether the candidate possesses the soft skills they’ve laid claim to such as time management and the ability to work under pressure.

 

When you’re taking these steps, remember to be reasonable. A slight embellishment can be overlooked but a whopping exaggeration about skills can’t be. Protect your investment when hiring and avoid being hoodwinked into making an expensive error.

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