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1 in 3 candidates lie. Will you hire a liar?

Applying for their dream job, or any job, can bring out the worst in some people.  Studies consistently show that at least a third of all candidates are prone to ‘embellish’ their suitability for the job they want.

What do candidates lie about?

The three most common lies you will encounter in a recruiting situation are:

1. Falsifying or exaggerating qualifications, often including courses that were started but never finished.

2. Inflating experience or expertise by inflating past salaries and titles, perhaps by exaggerating the level of involvement in important business deals.

3. Discrepancies in employment dates such as extending end dates to cover periods of unemployment.

How do you know you’re being lied to?

Experienced interviewers are good at reading the signs, but even obvious ‘clues’ may be misinterpreted:

  • Body language can be unreliable as an indicator of honesty in job interviews.  Perhaps anxiety, rather than dishonesty, is causing your interviewee to fidget or avoid eye contact.  How could you be sure?
  • Verbal cues may indicate incongruence between the facts and what they’ve claimed in their CV.  This may show up in extra words, fillers like ‘um’ and delayed answers to your questions as they try to think of the next lie.  On the other hand, this behaviour might be entirely natural under the pressure of a job interview.

There are some more subtle indicators of untruths in the interview:

  • Generalising and hypothesising when asked a behavioural question, such as ‘Can you tell me about a time when…’.  Behavioural interview questions work because they alert you to past behaviour, an excellent predictor of future behaviour.  If you get an answer starting with ‘I would have’ or ‘We did’, it’s time to drill down to what actually happened (as opposed to what might happen) and who was responsible (ideally, your candidate).
  • Avoiding answering the question.  Politicians are the experts at this!  When interviewing, you need to be like the persistent journalist:  If your question isn’t answered, repeat it until you get a satisfactory answer.

Why would you want to detect deception?

There are two main steps in the recruitment process where candidates are prone to deception in order to improve their chances:  the CV and the interview.

If these are your only sources of information for recruitment decisions, you are at risk of employing someone who may be dishonest in other aspects of their relationship with you, your colleagues and your clients.

Five steps to minimise the risk of hiring someone ‘careless with the facts’

1. Screen carefully for minimum eligibility requirements.  Don’t be dazzled by a sparkling resume if there are gaps in qualifications or experience.  The best way screen is by using an application process that includes an application form, either physical or online.

2. Check qualifications with the issuing institution.  Job applicants can – and do – falsify diplomas and transcripts.  Is not checking worth the risk to your business?

3. Use structured interviews with clear, concise and relevant questions, including behaviourally based questions.

4. Always reference check and include the question ‘Would you hire this person again?’

5. Use a personality test that specifically identifies deception and other behavioural tendencies that might lead to future problems.  The Harrison Assessments questionnaire is the most deception-proof in the assessment industry.

About Susan Rochester

Susan is Senior Consultant and Coach at Aster HR. She also co-hosts the Work Wonders podcast with Angela Gauci. With over 20 years experience in consulting and coaching, Susan provides clarity and insights for our clients based on past experience and the latest research.

3 thoughts on “1 in 3 candidates lie. Will you hire a liar?

  1. I think it is interesting that 1 in 3 candidates lie. But what about the recruiter? Do they lie? I would suggest that they do, particularly if they take your advice and use your 5th recommendation and use a personality test….

    One of the first things that the recruiter says when handing this form to the candidate is “there are no right or wrong answers” but is this a lie?

    Find out more at my blog

    Is it possible that 1 in 3 candidates lie but 3 in 3 recruiters using a personality test lie. Are we concentrating on a lack of ethical behaviour on the wrong side of the table?

    1. Thanks, Ian, for your provocative comment and interesting article. To say “there are no right or wrong answers” is not a lie, as the purpose of any testing is to find out about the person, not about their ability to provide the ‘right’ answers. Admittedly, there may be an overall profile that will be most suitable for a role, but it is unlikely that the candidate will be able to ‘fudge’ the answers sufficiently if proper internal checks are in place.

      Many personality typing tests are not intended as recruitment tools, which is why I don’t use them. Harrison Assessment reports, when used for recruitment, are job specific (ie. only looking for those traits specific to the role, rather than making judgements on personality type) and measure work task and environment preferences, motivations and interests, as well as behavioural traits.

      Do I think they’re foolproof? No.
      Do I believe they should be used alone to justify a hiring decision? No.

      Do I defend the right of employers to gather as much relevant information as possible before investing in a new employee? YES!

      Why not try Harrison yourself?:

      By the way, here are the real lies told to candidates every day: “We will call you tomorrow.” “You are just too experienced.” ” This is the best place to work, you’ll love the culture.” Add your own here:

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