Resume-liars managed to climb the corporate ladders at Yahoo, Bausch & Lomb, MGM Mirage, the U.S. Olympic committee, and more.
Most recently, as the Wall Street Journal notes, a top Walmart spokesman was outed for having lied about his education.
If they’re working for household-name companies on high levels, resume-fibbers are likely applying for your company’s open positions, too.
According to a recent Harris Poll survey, 58% of hiring managers say they’ve caught lies on a resume. Padding of job experience, skills, and fudging start/end dates were the most common fibs. One-third of the managers reported finding falsified academic credentials.
“It’s not that people are being deceptive or malicious, often they delude themselves that their experience is more than it really is,” career coach Ford Myers told Fast Company in April. “I do believe in framing your experience in the best light. But there is a difference between spinning and lying. If you lie, you will always lose in the long run.”
How can you catch an otherwise charming, charismatic, and (seemingly) qualified candidate in a lie? Here are a few tactics:
LinkedIn says they went to Cornell, but Facebook says they went to the School of Hard Knocks and majored in Frisbee Golf. Finding a job applicant’s social media accounts before even making first contact isn’t stalking; it’s important research. Most of us have several online profiles, and our presences are scattered around the web. A quick Google search doesn’t always cut it: Cross-checking each profile helps spot inconsistencies, and gives a multi-faceted view of the candidate’s personality.
If they’re taking hours or days to reply to your emails, screening your calls, and pushing you toward text-based communication, that’s a red flag. Hiding behind a screen makes it easier for people to lie, “because people can easily conceal their identity, and their messages often appear credible,” says Brigham Young University information systems professor Tom Meservy. The sooner they’re sitting across from you, the sooner you’ll be able to read their body language.
One of the surest ways to see if someone is embellishing skills, an in-interview test leaves no doubt about a candidate’s real ability. Monica Rogati, VP of data at Jawbone, gives candidates a dataset and three hours to solve it, revealing their technical skill, creativity, and communication. Joanna Bloor, VP of sales operations at Pandora, knows that the ability to think critically is more important than what fluff is on a resume. “When hiring, people are brought into companies to solve a problem, not to check the boxes on the list of requirements of a job description,” she says. “There’s usually more than one problem to solve.”
Whether it’s for donuts or white lies, willpower wanes as the day goes on. If a job candidate is telling the truth on paper, but stressed out and nervous by the time your 5 p.m. appointment rolls around, they could be more tempted to embellish.
Ethics researchers Maryam Kouchaki of Harvard University and Isaac Smith of the University of Utah found that people were more morally aware in the morning, and more likely to engage in unethical behaviors in the afternoon. Conducting interviews earlier in the day also allows you to bring your sharpest ear to the table, and make better hiring decisions–without carrying the stress of the day to the interview.
Getting paranoid about whether a candidate’s skills are legitimate or just a little puffed up adds time and energy to your hiring search. We’ve advised job hunters to craft resumes carefully to highlight their strengths, and downplay weaknesses, and even disguise their age.
After all, hiring someone with scant experience over a seasoned pro can be a shot of inspiration into your company’s culture–you just don’t want a liar on board.