How to spot when a candidate is lying on a resume

How to spot when a candidate is lying on a resume

Here's something you probably don't want to hear: Candidates lie — often. In recent studies, 78% of job seekers admit to lying on a resume. But you have to think of it from their point of view. Finding a job can be challenging, particularly for those who have been out of work for a while or are just getting into the job market. Job seekers do what they need to do to stand out in a sea of applications, and that sometimes includes the occasional embellishment.

The need to stand out may also come from wanting to make every second count. HR managers admit they spend less than a minute initially looking at a resume, and nearly one in five spend less than 30 seconds. So yes, sometimes candidates get caught lying on a resume. But how can you identify a dishonest candidate? Read on to find out.

Why candidates lie on their resumes

Candidates admitted to lying on resumes for a variety of reasons. Most believed their lies to be moderate, such as lying about employment dates on a resume to cover gaps in employment history. However, some lies can be more extreme, such as lying about a degree on a resume. People lie to get a higher salary, but they may also lie for the following reasons:

  • They lack the education required for the role.
  • They don't have the skills listed in the job description.
  • They really want a specific job or to work for a certain company.
  • They haven't been in the job market long enough to have the experience required.

These are some of the lies that employees put on their resumes, according to data from Business News Daily:

  • Listing skills they don't have
  • Adjusting employment dates to avoid mentioning working for a certain company
  • Stating a GPA that's higher than what they earned
  • Replacing a job title with something more prestigious
  • Including a degree they haven't earned yet
  • Listing a university they didn't actually attend
  • Listing awards and achievements that they don't really have

You'll have to decide how severe the lie is and how you want to handle it if you spot a falsehood on a resume. Some embellishments may be more forgivable than others.

How to know if a candidate is lying on a resume

To avoid hiring the wrong people for your team, you need to know what to look for when skimming through resumes in search of the perfect employee. You can use these helpful tips to spot when candidates are lying on their resumes:

Look for unusual job duties or skills

When you read through a candidate's list of job duties and skills, look for anything that doesn't seem to match up. For example, if they were previously selling restaurant supplies but list skills such as knowledge of programming languages and AI software, you may want to dig deeper. There's a chance they took a class or practice these skills as a hobby or side gig, but they could be including the skills just because you had them in your job description.

Look for dates that don't align

Look closely at the dates on a resume. If employment dates overlap or there's a gap in employment, you may want to get more information. You can also check when the potential employee earned their degree or graduated from high school and compare these dates to their employment dates. If they were too young to have graduated when they claim or couldn't have had the number of jobs they've listed, you know you've caught them lying on their resume. 

"To avoid hiring the wrong people for your team, you need to know what to look for when skimming through resumes in search of the perfect employee."

Conduct research on the internet

The internet is a powerful tool. If you decide a candidate is worth hiring, you can look at their profiles on social media platforms that list professional details about them. If anything on their profile doesn't match what they put on their resume, you'll want to do some more research or possibly remove them from the application process.

Look for discrepancies between the application, cover letter, and resume

Compare a candidate's application to the details they include in their cover letter and resume. A candidate who puts one thing on an application but has different details on their resume may be lying. If they're just making up the details, it can be difficult for them to remember the exact embellishment they put on one or the other.

How to handle lying on a resume

If you catch a candidate lying on a resume before you hire them, you can simply remove them from your list of potential new hires. Candidates who show promise and lie about small things could still be worth considering. In this case, you may want to confront them about the lie. Base your next move on how they react when you ask them about the lie.

On the other hand, if you've already hired a candidate before you realize they were lying on their resume, it can be more difficult to handle. While you can terminate the employee because they lied, you have to consider that you've already spent time and money recruiting, hiring, and onboarding that person. They may have lied about their work experience or education on their resume. But perhaps they've gained the skills they need or demonstrated innovation in some way, and now you don't want to spend more time and money to find someone new.

Knowing how to catch a lie on a resume is the first step, but once you know you've been lied to, you'll have to decide how to handle it. Lying on a resume often ends in termination or disqualification from the hiring process. However, there are times when you may want to take a second look at a candidate, despite the fact they were dishonest.

More tips on hiring the right people to fill your open roles:

Learning to source candidates faster can help you fill open positions sooner than ever before.

Considering hiring someone who was recently laid off? Here's how to do it.

Get employees to stay by making an irresistible counteroffer.

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