How to Tell if Someone is Lying on their Resume

It’s estimated that 40% of people lie about or embellish the information on their resumes. If you’re not adept at interviewing, background checks and skills testing, you may find yourself hiring the wrong person based on bad information.

What are the most common lies told on resumes?

In 2015, Workopolis reported that the five most common areas where people lie on resumes are:

  • Education
  • Employment dates
  • Second language proficiency
  • Job titles
  • Technical skills

How do you spot a lie on a resume?

Depending on how well a resume is written, it’s not always easy to spot embellished information at the first read through. That’s why it’s so important to interview skillfully, perform reference checks and background checks, and conduct skills testing to confirm a candidate actually has the skills and abilities that they say they have.

Here are some tips for verifying resume information:

  • Education: If a degree or specialized education is a requirement for the role, you can verify education in a few ways. Have a recruitment firm conduct a background check to verify educational credentials. Or, you can ask that the candidate, prior to receiving an offer letter, provide you with documentation of their education, such as a copy of their diploma or school transcripts.
  • Employment dates and job titles: Today, many companies can be tight lipped when it comes to providing employment references. That can make it frustrating when trying to confirm resume information. Most, however, are willing to confirm employment dates, job title and salary. Be sure to get employer references from any candidate you’re considering and their consent to contact the reference.
  • Second language proficiency: Testing for language proficiency can be tough if you don’t speak the language yourself. If that’s a must for your role, a professional recruitment firm will have the resources and skills testing facilities to grade a potential candidate on their proficiency in languages.
  • Technical skills: If a technical skill is essential to the role you’re filling, then it’s equally important to test the skill prior to presenting a job offer. Not only is this an area where it’s been shown people will often fudge the information; levels of competence are wide open to interpretation.

For example: Let’s say that you want to hire an administrative assistant with intermediate Excel skills. An applicant may have worked in a similar role for 5 years completing daily input into pre-designed Excel spreadsheets provided by their employer. They list their skills as intermediate. Your idea of intermediate skills includes creating spreadsheets from scratch, formulas, pivot tables and macros. Unless you sit your candidate down at a computer and have them demonstrate their skills, you may not learn about the discrepancy until it’s too late.

Why it makes sense to work with a recruiting firm

When you’re already strapped for time and anxious to get that open position filled, sorting through those resumes to weed out the 40% that may have lies and embellishments in them can seem daunting. A professional recruiter is trained in what to look for in a resume. They’ve also seen enough of the fudging to recognize the signs and inconsistencies to pick out the lies. Recruiters use hands-on skills testing and screening to identify the true skill levels of candidates. And they have the resources to perform background checks to confirm things like education, employment dates and job titles.

In a nutshell, what a poor hire, based on bad information, will cost you far outweighs the cost of hiring a professional recruiter to hire right, the first time.

About the author
(Voted Barrie’s Best Employment Agency 7 years running, ESS Direct offers recruitment and temporary placement services throughout Barrie and South Simcoe County, specializing in helping companies identify, attract and hire administrative and office heroes.)