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.