In a recent interview, Trent Griffin-Braaf, president of Tech Valley Shuttle in Cohoes, N.Y., discovered a job candidate was lying, stating that their current position was a managerial role. Through fact-checking, Griffin-Braaf confirmed this was untrue.
Hiring managers can likely relate. A recent ResumeLab survey found that 70 percent of workers lie on resumes, with the largest percentage—37 percent—saying they lie frequently. Applicants with master's or doctoral degrees admitted to embellishing or telling untruths in cover letters and job interviews most often (85 percent), based on the responses collected from 1,900 U.S.-based workers in August 2023. Seventy-one percent of candidates without a college degree said they have lied, while 63 percent of candidates with college or associate degrees have done so.
"Honestly, I wasn't surprised about the survey results," Griffin-Braaf said. "The job hiring process is a competitive one, and like all competitive things, you will have people who take shortcuts and cheat to get the results they are looking for."
Lynette Weatherford, founder and president of Human Resource Advantage LLC in Springfield, Mo., adds that the pressure to hire, and hire quickly, may open the door for misinterpretation.
"I'm not saying it is not happening. Maybe a candidate is so anxious to get the job they claim to have more experience than they do and hope to wing it if they get hired," she said. "But is it also that the employer is so anxious to get a position filled that they were willing to compromise after hearing the candidate say they had limited experience in a given area?"
What Do Job Seekers Say They Lie About?
Respondents identified these areas as the places they were most likely to stretch the truth on their resumes:
- Responsibilities in general (52%).
- My job title (to make it sound more impressive) (52%).
- How many people I actually managed (45%).
- The length of time I was employed at a job (37%).
- The name of a company that employed me (31%).
- An entire position (24%).
- Metrics or accomplishments I achieved (e.g., sales numbers) (17%).
- My skills section (15%).
- Awards or accolades (13%).
- Volunteer work (11%).
- My education credentials (11%).
- A career gap (9%).
- Technology capabilities (knowing tools like Trello or Asana) (5%).
Knowing where a candidate may be more apt to stretch the truth on resumes and in interviews gives hiring managers an opportunity to develop a screening process to confirm the experience the applicant claims.
Reading Between the Lines
With 80 percent of workers saying they have lied during an interview and 44 percent admitting they frequently lie, Weatherford and Griffin-Braaf agreed that hiring managers should use behavioral-based questions that ask for real-world experience to dig deeper.
"I like to move toward behavioral questions such as, 'Tell me about a time when you were faced with an ethical dilemma,' " Weatherford said. "Managers have an ethical responsibility for overseeing employees, and it can be challenging at times. Asking this type of question lets me see how they dealt with the situation."
Weatherford has also asked managerial candidates to provide a reference that includes an individual they supervised. Then she asks questions to gain insights on how the candidate was perceived as a supervisor. She acknowledged it's difficult to know if the reference is a "friend," but asks the reference to confirm dates and other details to ensure they align with what the candidate has said in their interviews.
Griffin-Braaf uses another strategy. After some time has passed in an interview, he will circle back to a previously asked question to see if the story has changed from the initial response.
Establish a Process and Stick to It
Consistency is crucial. Weatherford emphasized that even when a red flag arises about a candidate, it's essential to stick with the process.
[SHRM Resource Hub Page: Background Checks]
"If this is the first time you are hiring for this position, I think the sky is the limit within the legal limits of reference checking and vetting out a candidate," Weatherford said. "However, if this is a position you have hired for before, have a suspicion about a candidate and the person learns you're doing extra digging, you can get in hot water fast."
If it is necessary to make changes to the process midstream, you better make sure that you're sticking to it, it is not a one-off and you intend to follow the new process going forward, she added.
"The interview process is one that any organization should hold sacred. It's vital that your next addition is the best addition," Griffin-Braaf said. "Try your best never to rush hires and be sure to do your due diligence during your process to assure your fact-checking and that this person has the skills and experience needed to be successful in their role with your team."