Is That Job Applicant Lying?

John Krautzel
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One of the most important parts of the hiring process is sifting through resumes to find the best candidates. But how do you know when job applicants are representing themselves honestly? After all, a 2017 HireRight study found that 85 percent of responding employers found lies on job applicants' resumes. As you're narrowing down the talent pool, look for these red flags — they can help you spot problems early on.

Unusual Career Progression

Career paths aren't always linear, but it's common for professionals to gradually take on more responsibilities. When you see job applicants with a big jump in job titles in a small amount of time — say, from junior sales rep to branch manager in six months — it usually means that you need to do a little digging. The candidate might be telling the truth, particularly if the promotion happened within the same company. After all, small companies don't always have a long career ladder. Even when this is true, you may find that the person is lacking the insight and wisdom that only comes from direct experience in the industry.

Work History Arranged by Year

Job applicants often feel the need to conceal gaps in their employment on their resume. The easiest way to do this without technically lying is to use years instead of months. If a candidate was hired in November of 2017 and fired in January of 2018, he might simply write "2018-2019" as the dates of employment. Chances are, your candidates aren't trying to be malicious. Instead, they're simply trying to frame their experience in the best possible light to survive the hiring process. If you're suspicious about potential resume lies, you can ask the person for dates directly or call the listed employers for a quick verification.

Exaggerated Achievements

Have you ever come across job applicants whose achievements are out of line with their education or work history? It could be a red flag. The person might be taking credit for a team effort, or they might simply be trying to jazz up a low-level job. To start your fact-checking, look into the company size. In a small business, employees often have more advanced responsibilities out of necessity. In a large corporation, they're more likely to have a limited scope of work. If you're still uncertain, you can ask the employee about the projects — if they're telling the truth, they'll be able to answer naturally and in detail.

Inflated Education

Another place that's an easy target for resume lies is the education section. Job applicants might list colleges they never attended or claim degrees they didn't earn. Alternatively, they may claim to have attended a college, when in reality, they only took one course there. As you're scanning this section, look for vague descriptions, missing graduation dates or the lack of a specific degree name. If an applicant's education history seems too good to be true, it's also a sign that you need to verify that he isn't lying on the resume.

Chances are, most of your job applicants are honest and hard-working. By keeping an eye out for red flags, you can spot the few bad apples and spend your valuable time pursuing the best future employees.

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