85 Percent of Job Applicants Lie on Resumes. Here’s How to Spot a Dishonest Candidate

85 Percent of Job Applicants Lie on Resumes. Here’s How to Spot a Dishonest Candidate

A new study shows huge increase in lies on job applications.

By J.T. O’Donnell, Founder and CEO, WorkItDaily.com 

According to HireRight’s 2017 employment screening benchmark report, 85 percent of employers caught applicants fibbing on their résumés or applications, up from just 66 percent five years ago.

Given we have the lowest unemployment rate in a decade, you have to wonder why people would feel the need to lie. Well, here’s why.

Employer Applicant Tracking Systems Expect an Exact Match

Most companies use some form of applicant tracking system (ATS) to take in résumés, sort through them, and narrow down the applicant pool. With the average job posting getting more than 100 applicants, recruiters don’t want to go bleary-eyed sorting through them. Instead, they let the ATS do the dirty work by telling it to pass along only the résumés that match their specific requirements for things like college degrees, years of experience, and salary expectations. The result? Job seekers have gotten wise to the finicky nature of the technology and are lying on their résumés and applications in hopes of making the cut.

3 Ways Recruiters Spot a Liar

The problem with lying on a résumé is that the odds of getting caught are high. Especially when recruiters are wise to the fact that so many people fib on their résumés. Many recruiters are skilled enough to do simple searches on social media to determine if a candidate’s résumé is accurate. But even if dishonest candidates slip through the initial screening process, here’s how recruiters spot a liar before they hire:

  1. Using behavioral interviewing techniques. By asking detailed questions about a candidate’s work experience, recruiters can tell by the depth of the response if the person is lying. For example, if a candidate claims to have 10 years’ experience as a team leader, the recruiter will ask for examples of how the person has hired, trained, and even fired talent. The quality of the responses will show if the experience is real.
  2. Purchasing an online background check. Detailed reports can be purchased to validate past work experience, degrees acquired, wages earned, criminal records, whether certifications are current, and much more. Companies would rather pay to find out now if a candidate is lying than to have something bad happen on the job.
  3. Backdoor reference checks. Some recruiters research and secretly contact ex-colleagues of a candidate to inquire about his or her performance. Their goal is to speak to someone NOT recommended to them by the candidate, since most references have been coached to say only good things. Instead, the backdoor reference catches the unassuming colleague off-guard and provides the recruiter with a way to validate what the candidate claims to have done on past jobs.

Once recruiters find out a candidate has lied, one thing is certain–the person is marked in the ATS as a “do not hire,” and this ruins any chances of that person getting a job with the company.

No Need to Lie. Just Network!

Studies show 80 percent of jobs are gotten via referral. Many companies offer their employees hefty referral bonuses as incentives for referring good candidates to their jobs. By making friends with employees on networking sites like LinkedIn, job seekers can demonstrate how their personalities and aptitude are a match for the employer. This makes not having an exact match in experience less of an issue. When an employee walks down the hall to the recruiter and says, “I spoke to this guy and he seems like he might fit in,” the chances skyrocket that he’ll get a phone call. Now the candidate has the opportunity to share how he or she is qualified for the role, in spite of not having the exact requirements.


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