When Candidates Lie

It’s a hiring manager’s worst nightmare: you get a very personable candidate whose resume looks great, and their credentials, past experience, and education are all above and beyond. Everything seems too good to be true… and sadly, it is.

A lying candidate can cause a lot of grief for hiring managers. It probably goes without saying that you won’t be hiring them after you discover the truth, and it mean that your efforts (the calls, interviews, etc.) and your recruiters’ efforts (screening, and more) are all wasted.

The reason why a candidate lies isn’t much of a surprise—they just want to get the job. But how can you tell when a candidate is lying, and what can you do about it?

Can you tell if a candidate is lying?

Outside of pulling out the lie detector, telling if a job candidate is a liar right off the bat can be pretty hard. David DeStano, professor of psychology at Northeastern University, recently conducted an experiment to see whether or not body language can actually help you spot a liar, which he discusses at length on HBR. The long and the short of it? Don’t rely on your gut instincts too much.

Fortunately, there are some solid ways to tell if a candidate is lying, but detection does require a little detective work on the interviewer’s part. 

The most common lies

Knowing what a candidate is most likely to lie over can help you detect when they are lying during an interview. According to HireRight, here are the five most common lies told by job candidates:

  • Falsifying the degree or credential earned
  • Inflating salary history or title held
  • Concealing a criminal record
  • Exaggerating dates of past employment
  • Hiding a drug habit

All of these, of course, can be easily detected by doing your due diligence, whether that means a background check, contacting previous employers, or asking the candidate to take a drug test. Many employers get too comfortable with very positive candidates, which can easily lead to trouble later on.

Ask for specifics

Another important step to detecting when a candidate is lying is asking them specifics about their past employment. Putting someone on the spot can make it very difficult for them to maintain composure when lying. And aside from just detecting lies, asking specifics is also an important interviewing technique that can help you find a candidate who is the right fit for your company–so, really, using specifics is a definite win-win.

Unfortunately, there are candidates out there trying to take advantage of recruiters who don’t do the proper research into employees’ backgrounds. Don’t let yourself fall prey to those people—make sure to always check when things seem too good to be true.