Dishonest Job Candidates: 3 Steps for Weeding them Out
By Julie Ellis
Everybody writes their resumes in ways that enhance their best qualities and obscures their weaknesses. In the same vein, people answer interview questions in the most self-flattering way possible. This behavior is perfectly acceptable and should be expected from recruiters and business managers. The problem comes when interviewees tell out and out falsehoods about their experience, skills, education, or intentions.
When a person is hired under false pretenses, the company is out more than the salary and benefits they’ve paid the prevaricator. They also must absorb training costs, recruiting costs, relocation fees, hiring bonuses, etc. If a recruiter sends a candidate to an employer who has lied on their resume or during interviews, they lose their fees and suffer damage to their reputation.
The question is, what can be done about this? To be frank, there are no easy solutions. For example, a candidate can easily create a false reference and have a friend cover for them. They can even create a fake job to cover up a gap in employment history.
There are even websites that candidates can use to create falsified job history, education, and references. All the job seeker needs to do at that point is write a cover letter. To have a good chance at weeding out dishonest job candidates, recruiters and employers must know where lies are likely to occur, knowing how to ask the right questions and using the right screening methods.
Finding the Lies
The single most likely topic that a candidate will lie about is job history. Typical lies include:
- Fabricating jobs to increase years of experience or hide gaps in employment
- Fudging start and end dates to hide short employment duration, frequent terminations, and job hopping
- Exaggerating the position(s) held
- Lying about reasons for leaving
Other likely areas of dishonesty include references, where job seekers will have buddies stand in as personal and professional references; education, this can be as simple as fudging a GPA or as extreme as fabricating a degree; and skill set, this is very common in IT fields where job candidates will use manuals and technical forums as ‘on the job training’ while they learn skills they promised they already had.
Ultimately recruiters and employers know their industry and what is important. Are degrees and certifications key? Then lies will likely appear in the education section. Are years of experience most important? Then it’s best to look at employment history.
Asking the Right Questions
The best way for interviewers to weed out dishonest candidates is to ask them detailed questions. The best way to accomplish this is by doing a bit of research. Does your candidate claim to have worked at a Fortune 500 corporation? Try researching that company.
Does your candidate use the right ‘vocabulary’ to describe their position and duties? If something seems off, be prepared to ask them lots of detailed questions about what their duties and how their performance was measured. If a major event impacted their employer while they were there, ask them for details.
The same strategy works when verifying educational history. If an employee claims to have a degree, look into the college. Who was the department head over their academic area? Ask them about extra-curricular activities and well-known on and off-campus events.
One business owner once tripped up a dishonest candidate who didn’t know the name of their university’s sports team. Unless you are dealing with a real sociopath, most candidates will get caught up in the details.
Using the Right Tools
Fortunately, there are more ways to discover resume fraud than intuition, research, and questioning. Recruiters and employers can use screening tools such as background checks, skills tests, and psychological batteries.
Many assume that a background screening will only show criminal history. This is not true, a thorough background test done by a professional company will also show financial information and employment history.
Psychological batteries may not illuminate dishonest statements, but they are a great tool for determining if a candidate is possibly a liar. Finally, skills tests are a great way to determine whether or not a candidate possesses the skills he or she claims to. These can often be found through professional groups and standards organizations.
These tools aren’t free to use, but in many cases they may be less expensive than firing an employee and recruiting new talent. As a bonus, simply knowing that they will be vetted may be enough to chase a few dishonest characters away.
Photo by: Alexa LaSpisa
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