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Are Candidates Lying to You in Job Interviews?

Published July 23, 2020 (last updated on May 15, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator


Do you have systems in place in your recruitment process to ensure that who you are hiring is who they say they are? We’re less talking about identity fraud here (though that can come into it) and more referring to the collective dishonesty that is commonplace among applicants for jobs in any industry.

The bottom line – companies need to look out for the details when you’re considering job applicants, as it’s highly likely that the majority of them are lying to you.

A recent study by Checkster reveals that integrity – which can also be defined as honesty or truthfulness – can be an accurate predictor of job performance. The research concluded that having smart employees isn’t enough to feel confident in the success of their work – what is needed is an employee who also has strong ethics. So this begs the question – how do you find this kind of employee?

It’s not enough to trust a CV. This study revealed that finding a strong employee is not as clear-cut as trusting a great CV. The ethical qualities of a prospective employee relate to how truthful they are being in the application process.

The results of this study showed that a staggering 5 in 6 applicants – or about 83% –  surveyed reported inflating their CV in some way, with only 1 out of the 6 reporting their skills and experience with complete honesty. This goes to show that not all applicants are ethical.

How many people lie in their CV and interviews?

Though the extreme misrepresentation was only at 3.3%, there was still 28.6% who claimed to lie a lot, and 45.7% admitting to being dishonest a moderate amount of time. In short, there is a widespread willingness to misrepresent information during the hiring process. The most likely misrepresentation to make is reporting mastery in skills that they barely use (like coding or software use), which was 60% of the respondents admitting that they have done this or would do this at least once.

Another common lie was to claim to have gotten a degree from a prestigious university instead of their own, at 39.25%. In the interview process, common claims were to have worked on a key project in a significantly inflated role than what was really enacted, with 49.50% expressing this, as well as 39.50% of applicants inflating their previous salaries by more than 25%.

There are many more lies that applicants make, including:

  • 74% providing false references (like a friend claiming to be someone else)

  • 50% claiming to have no criminal record when they have one

  • 26% reporting to have received a notable achievement that they didn’t actually get (like award or press coverage).

The study reveals even more trends, and you can read the full study here.

Why do applicants do it? The answer is simple; to get the job. The more desire someone has to secure their role, the more they may be willing to embellish the truth in order to seem like the superior applicant. It would be rational to say then, that the more desirable the role (especially salary-wise, or holding a specific title) the more chance there is of an applicant making some untruthful claims to try and get a leg up on the competition.

How these lies impact on your hiring process is going to be at your discretion. It’s very different to accept that an applicant doesn’t actually have the required excel skills (when the job predominantly requires data analysis), rather than the applicant going to a different university than their resume says.

Similarly, a criminal record coverup is a big deal when it comes to public servant roles than someone being dishonest about receiving an award that they said they did. This is why a need to be clear about what your non-negotiable qualities are in a prospective employee is crucial, and to have systems in place for those who are recruiting to be able to gather the necessary information.

Common signs to spot dishonesty:

  • Inconsistencies with dates on the application and their verbal answers during the interview.

  • Vague descriptions on their CV (such as ‘obtained university degree’, rather than including dates and details of the degree).

  • Too many buzzwords and sentences that can be used on any type of resume, with duties/skills not very relevant to the role that they are applying for.

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What can employers do about it?

It’s often difficult to detect a dishonest CV during the hiring process, and it isn’t until after the applicant begins working for the company that the performance begins to show discrepancies in what was claimed on their CV, and how they’re actually showing up.

Having a consistent process of information gathering in the hiring stage, especially if there are multiple people involved in the recruitment, is going to help support transparency in the applicant’s honesty, as well as being in alignment if hiring managers are permitting some slight embellishments to the truth in the process.

The survey also revealed that recruiters can often have a lot of discrepancy between what they let slide, and what others deem as not ok. Your team has to be on the same level here.

Utilizing tools such as background checks and reference checking software and manual checks will really help your business feel more comfortable in who you are taking on board. This will have follow on effects for your business performance, success, and credibility with having a solid and ethical team.

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