How to Spot a Lie on a Résumé

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It can’t be denied that the job market is now more competitive and fiercer than ever and many people are willing to fight tooth and nail for a position. That’s what leads 85% of candidates to lie on their résumés, according to HireRight’s 2017 Employment Screening Benchmark Report.

Hiring managers know all too well the lengths some people are willing to go to just so they can get the job they want. Some people may call it inflating, bending, or exaggerating the truth, but at the end of the day, these are people who lie on their résumés.

This article isn’t intended to be some moralist speech about the evils of lying nor is it a philosophical essay about how much can the truth be bent before it can be considered a lie. Let’s leave those subjects for another day and focus on the matter that is really practical and important to you, the HR professional: how to spot a lie on a résumé.

Spotting the Lies!

The first and simplest way to weed out a liar among your pool of candidates is by looking for exaggerated content in their résumés. It is almost comedic the number of absurd things some hiring managers find on people’s résumés. Just to tickle your funny bone, here are some examples of claims some people have made on their applications collected by CareerBuilder:

• Having worked in Microsoft, but not knowing who Bill Gates is.
• Having worked for the Prime Minister of a country that does not exist.
• Using their father’s working experience as their own because they have the same name (although the date
    wouldn’t match).
• Claiming to possess over 20 years of experience at a job when the candidate is in their mid-30s.
• Claiming to be an Olympic medalist.


The sillier or more unbelievable a statement sounds in a résumé, the more likely it is to be false. However, for the subtler lies, there are a few ways to spot them.

Conducting a Thorough Interview

Now that you’ve gone through all the applications and weeded out the ones with the most ridiculous or absurd statements, it’s time to find the subtler lies and the best way to do that is by conducting a good interview.

Liars tend to break under pressure, but you might want to avoid turning your job interview into a police interrogation. Don’t treat every candidate as if they’re filthy liars. Your job is not to catch liars and extract the truth out of them, you’re supposed to find out if the person in front of you is the best fit for your company.

Just ask questions regarding their résumés. Ask them about their past experiences, how they have handled certain cases or situations. Interview them as you’d do anyone and if you sense some inconsistency in their story, just write it down for later investigation. Whatever you do, DO NOT accuse candidates of lying right away.

Doing a Background Check

Although it can be the most bothersome and expensive method there is, it is also the most effective one: when in doubt, just ask someone who knows.
Contacting previous employers and other references is the best way to start a background check. Ask them about the candidate in question, inquire on their performance, their attitude, their level of commitment, and most importantly, why they left their previous job and if they did it in good terms.

There’s also the possibility of hiring a background checking service if you wish to go even deeper and investigate your candidate’s criminal records, financial information, or almost any other aspect of their lives.

Testing their Skills

If you have a candidate that claims that their mathematical skills can rival those of Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking, test them. There are plenty of quizzes and exams available online designed to measure and rank the level of ability a person has at a certain skill.

This is a surefire way to tell if a candidate is lying about their skills in their résumés. If they’re telling the truth, then they should have nothing to fear. Whereas, if they were lying, you will know soon enough.

Deciding the Next Step

A survey by CareerBuilder states that 51% of employers would immediately dismiss a candidate if they were caught lying on their résumés, 40% stated that it would depend on the lie itself, and 7% stated they would be willing to ignore the lie if they liked the candidate.

It is part of the job, and any hiring manager will say the same thing: people lie on their résumé for any reason. If you’re lucky, you will only encounter people that are completely honest, but that is very unlikely.

You now have the tools and knowledge necessary to spot liars in your pool of candidates. The world is not black and white, there are scales of grays and different levels of severity when it comes to lies. Whatever you decide to do, it’s completely up to you.

Edu Rojas/NEUVOO
Content Marketing Editor