You’ve been looking to fill an important position in your small business for months now, and after hundreds of resumes and dozens of interviews, you think you’ve finally found the perfect candidate. His skills and experience are exactly what you’re looking for, he’s got a great attitude and your team loves him. So what if you’re stretching your hiring budget to the max to afford him? After all, he’s got an incredible resume …
Or does he? Before you call Mr. Perfect to offer him that job, make sure he’s not making the whole thing up.
Here are some of the lies job candidates tell—and how you can spot them.
"As the senior employee in X Corp.’s business development department, I was responsible for $1 million in new business last year.”
Reality: She was a senior salesperson, not the senior salesperson, and although she did book (almost) $1 million in business, 80 percent of it was legacy accounts left by the prior salesperson who moved on.
To get the truth: CareerBuilder says 38 percent of people have embellished their job responsibilities on a resume. Contact prior employers (not just references) and get as many details as you can about the candidate's job duties and descriptions. If employers won’t or can’t provide these, try tapping into LinkedIn to see if the candidate’s description of his or her past roles matches what’s on the resume. In the interview, dig deep into responsibilities by asking a lot of questions to make sure the person’s story adds up.
“I worked for Y Company from 2008-2009.”
Reality: This isn’t really a lie—but what looks like two years of steady employment could be only two months if the candidate worked at Y Company from December 2008 to January 2009. CareerBuilder estimates some 12 percent of candidates lie about dates of employment to cover gaps.
To get the truth: Contact prior employers and get details about dates of employment (most will comply with this request). On your job application, require candidates to fill in the month and year of employment, not just the year.
"My salary was $85,000 plus benefits."
Reality: Try $50,000. Candidates lie about salary so they can negotiate better pay with their potential new employer. You might end up stretching your budget to afford them, only to end up paying way more than the person is worth.
To get the truth: Ask for salary history when you contact the candidate’s former employers. If the employers won’t provide it (they are not required to), you can ask the job candidate to provide a W-2 form you can compare to the stated salary during the time in question.
"I have a B.S. in computer science from Merrill Easton University."
Reality: Surprise! Merrill Easton University doesn't exist. Job screening firm HireRight says 20 percent of candidates lie about their educational attainment. (Last year, former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson resigned in disgrace after lies about his college degree were exposed.) One candidate might list a degree from a school he or she attended but never graduated from. Another might “enhance” his or her degree (saying he majored in computer engineering when he actually minored in it).
At the extreme, candidates may purchase diplomas from online “diploma mills”—nonexistent universities whose convincing websites have street addresses, phone numbers and even people who verify the phony degree when you call.
To get the truth: Contact the school for specifics about dates of attendance, major course of study and degree(s) awarded. Uncovering diploma mills can be more difficult, since they often appear to be real; consult the U.S. Department of Education’s resources regarding diploma mills for help.
“I’m proficient in Adobe Photoshop.”
Reality: He once Photoshopped his ex-girlfriend out of a selfie before posting it on Facebook.
To get the truth: Conduct pre-interview tests in the essential skills for the job, whether it’s manipulating data in an Excel file, proofreading a letter or changing a car’s air filter. To avoid charges of discrimination, be sure to standardize your testing so all candidates for the same job can take the same tests. Also set a minimum standard that candidates must pass to move on to the next stage in the hiring process, and stick to it. Bonus: Pre-interview testing prevents that painful situation where you fall in love with a candidate during the interview, only to discover during testing that he can’t find his way out of a paper bag.
"Sure! You can check my references."
Reality: Your candidate's roommate is pretending to be his or her old boss and is on standby waiting for your call.
To get to the truth: No matter what information you’re checking, don’t rely solely on the references provided by candidates. A CareerBuilder study last year reports 29 percent of employers have caught a fake reference on an application. Instead, look people up on LinkedIn or Twitter to make sure you’re getting the right person—not the candidate’s roommate.
When making a key or sensitive hire, consider hiring a background checking firm. There are a variety of options, including “a la carte” background checks, affordable for even the smallest business. When it comes to hiring, penny wise can be pound foolish.
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