How to Know When a Job Candidate is Lying

Exaggerating your experience or job title on a resume and using your best friend, clergy, and neighbor as personal references on your job application used to be standard practice. Everyone did it and every employer knew it. Little white lies, such as exaggerating your role in turning around your department or ignoring a gap in employment, were rarely caught and considered fair game. As long as you didn’t screw up in the job if hired, your new employer lived with the no-harm-no-foul rule. But desperate times calls for desperate solutions.

A series of new Web-based businesses, such as, have popped up this year to help a growing army of unemployed workers provide fake work histories and references for candidates on the job hunt. Resume padding has morphed into a work of fiction.

Ripped from the headlines of, the site promises to provide a career history, tenure, and salary of their own choosing. They then provide a “real” company with a “real” address with a “real” Web site with a real “800” phone number to close the deal when a prospective employer calls. Don’t believe me? Just look for yourself!

How does it work? Joe Candidate creates a resume that he worked as a chief cook and bottle washer at a fake company for a few years. He inserts a totally false reference for good measure. HR responds by calling the employer and references to confirm the information. The phone rings at, where someone will “verify” this information confirming the work of fiction created by the candidate. Of course, the former bosses and HR managers are paid by the candidate to lie…but how would the unsuspecting hiring manager know that?

Fortunately, most candidates aren’t going to that extreme. For desperate candidates with a few scruples and a smaller budget, they might turn to appears to be the do-it-yourself version of FakeResume offers a guide with tips and techniques that “help fill the gaps in your employment history….add experience to your resume…get fake resumes.  They claim to reveal “the main reason good liars get job offers and honest people don’t!”

While the last statement might be true, it doesn’t make it right. But who said life is fair? FakeResume wants to help “disadvantaged” unemployed workers, too. They want job seekers to know “The UGLY Truth About How People Are Outsmarting you!”

Over 53% of job seekers lie on their resumes. Over 70% of college graduates admit to lying on their resumes to get hired. Can you afford not to know the techniques, tricks and methods they use?

Many employers, especially small businesses, are just out-gunned and out-manned in this CSI-like scrimmage between jobseekers and job openings. Due diligence is really the key for employers in exposing the resume lies and false references. But the scarcity of time and the sophistication of the jobseekers is making it difficult for average hiring manager or human resource professional to do their jobs effectively.

But there a few simple steps every employer can take to protect themselves:

  1. Perform an Internet search on a previous employer. “Google” the company and check it out on networking sites like LinkedIN or the Better Business Bureau. Call a nearby Chamber of Commerce to see if they are a member or anyone ever heard of it.
  2. Perform a reverse telephone search on the Internet. Find out to whom a telephone number is registered. If it’s a mobile number, call the number and request a land-line number to call back.
  3. Search for the candidate in LinkedIN and other sites. Make sure the history on LinkedIN and the resume the candidate submitted match up. Reach out to the candidate’s connections. Even if you can’t get a reference, you should at least be able to verify his whereabouts during the time he said he/she was employed.
  4. Perform a background check including work history, residences, dates of employment, etc. Look for discrepancies between what the candidate submitted and what the reports reveal. 
  5. Use pre-employment screening tests. Beside job fit, many assessments include a distortion scale that reveals how “honest” the candidate was when completing the assessment(s). If they tried to fudge a pre-employment test, maybe they tried to create a better impression in other aspects of their presentation as well. One strike shouldn’t be a definite knock-out a candidate but three strikes? That’s the rule in baseball and good rule to follow when screening candidates, too.
  6. Be fair — mistakes do happen at reporting agencies and with former employees, particularly with small businesses with not dedicated HR staff and companies that have shut their doors. If you find a discrepancy, contact the candidate and give the opportunity to explain him- or herself.
  7. Use common sense. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck….it’s likely a duck.

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