August 08, 2018 6:27 AM

How to Know When Your Candidate Is Being Dishonest

Bending the truth, porkies, or just plain old lies, whatever term you choose to describe it, dishonesty is the bane of the busy recruiter’s life. Not only is it a time waster but in some cases, like for example when you choose one candidate over another for an interview, it can mean a missed opportunity for a genuine candidate. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to weed out the Pinocchios from your recruitment efforts and improve your interview game.

 Why candidates lie

Let’s be honest; we’ve all lied a little at some point in our lives especially when it comes to our skills and ability. But there’s a huge difference between telling your friends you can ride a bike very well and telling a hiring manager that you know the CEO personally (yes, this actually happens more often than you think).

The most common lies though are the slight exaggeration of skills, education, and previous wages. And it’s easy to see why candidates would fudge these facts in their attempt to land a better role for themselves or to earn a little more money.

But as for the blatant lies about inventing machinery or once working closely with a billionaire tech founder, we can only assume that it’s down to a candidate’s feeling of inadequacy. Perhaps they feel that the only way they can land a role is to impress the interviewer with outlandish claims. If this is the case, then it’s certainly not someone you want working in your office or speaking to your clients and customers.

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How to spot lies on a resume

Like we said earlier, people tend to exaggerate on their resume. Perhaps they will give themselves more responsibilities in a previous role than they actually had or maybe they’ll say they spent a year as a manager when they only spent six months.

In fact, 62% of candidates embellish their skills while 54% do the same with responsibilities. And as for job dates, 39% of candidates intentionally mislead recruiters on those. Those stats are from a CareerBuilder survey back in 2015, and we’re guessing that the figures are probably even higher right now.

While many candidates see these embellishments as harmless white lies, we recruiters know that they can have a seriously detrimental effect on our efforts to find the right candidate.


Check to make sure that all dates are specific and not year-to-year. You want the months they started and finished in any role and if you see any gaps, ask about them. Remember that if a candidate makes it look like they spent longer in a role that could suggest that they have skills they do not which will only cause problems later down the line.


This is an easy one to check up, but it takes a lot of time to verify certificates and degrees when dealing with a hundred candidates. Look for mismatched dates or overlapping work and education dates. Sometimes those who tell porkies make simple mistakes that are easy to spot.


These are tough ones as no candidate will offer a reference that is anything but amazing. So pay close attention to the point of contact for each reference. Why does their most relevant role have no reference available but one from three years ago does?

Also, double check the titles of the people who you will contact for references. You should be talking to a senior level employee who supervised your candidate and not one of their colleagues.

We also recommend that you look closely at a reference’s contact information. Some candidates have been known to have a friend pretend to be their former boss so they can get that essential glowing reference. If in doubt, try contacting the person through the company they work for.

If you do manage to get through to the right person, make sure to ask them about the responsibilities of the role and the skills involved as opposed to the candidate’s performance. This helps you verify that everything on the candidate’s resume is on the level.

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How to spot lies in the interview

Learning how to read a person’s body language can give you a significant advantage in the interview stages. From a person’s mannerisms, you can learn a lot about their confidence, personality, and even their soft skills such as how they might communicate with others. But most importantly (for this article anyway) is the ability to spot dishonesty.

It’s all in the eyes

If a candidate fails to make eye contact with you throughout the interview, this could be a sign of nervousness or even shyness. However, if they avoid eye contact when answering specific questions, the chances are they aren’t being 100% truthful with you.

The skilled liar though will look you straight in the eye, so you need to delve a little deeper. If they always look up when thinking about an answer but then deviate from this for certain questions it could indicate a lie is in the making. If this happens quiz them further on the particular question that caused their brief lapse in focus.

The voice

Stammering when they don’t usually stammer, clearing their throat mid-sentence, sudden pauses, and the tell-tale ‘too much information’ reply are all considered signs of nerves. But if you’re already unsure about a candidate’s honesty, then they could be a sign of something else.

A nervous candidate will probably exhibit one or more of these indicators throughout their interview. A dishonest candidate, on the other hand, will exhibit them only when a particular subject is touched upon.

Oh and don’t pay much attention to the myth of a high-pitched voice being an indication of lying. That too can often be put down to nerves.

Body language

Again we have to remind you that uncomfortable shuffling of the body could be a simple indicator of nerves as could lip biting or hand movements. But if they suddenly occur in a candidate who was previously cool and calm, then it could be a strong indicator that something is not right.

If your candidate immediately begins to shuffle their feet or put their hand to their chest or mouth when answering a question, you need to grill them on that topic.


While it is possible to eliminate dishonest candidates from your talent pool through the methods above, an even better option is to improve the quality of your candidates in the first place. And yes, you guessed it, high volume sourcing of great candidates is something that we love to do here at vsource. So if you’re looking for a way to remove those porkie-telling Pinocchios from your candidate pipeline get in touch with us today and our super-talented sourcing consultants can help you improve the quality of your candidates.


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