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Smoke out applicants’ lies with savvy interviews, testing

by on
in Hiring,Human Resources

Issue: Experts say that up to 30 percent of job-seekers stretch the truth or flat-out lie on their rèsumès.

Benefit: By approaching applicants and their rèsumès more skeptically, you'll have a better chance of avoiding hiring disasters.

Action: Poke holes in applicants' claims, and teach new managers to do the same, using the following nine tips.

Think of each job applicant's rèsumè or application as a car advertisement: The candidate is trying to sell you something, so you need to adopt a "buyer beware" attitude.

Between 10 percent and 30 percent of rèsumès include nontruths. Some lies are told more than others. Here are nine ways that you and your hiring managers can spot dishonesty:

1. Require all interviewees to fill out applications. Look for inconsistencies between the rèsumè and application, especially time gaps and lateral moves. Scrutinize the details of both. Applications should include at-will statements and an "accuracy statement" saying omissions or lies are cause for termination.

2. Spell out your testing and work standards. Example: A Florida company gives people an agreement to review before they even apply. It spells out the company's policy on testing, efficiency, safety, dress code, conduct and qualifications. After reading it, 13 percent of people walk away, which saves the company time and money.

3. Test for skills. If applicants claim proficiency in a computer program, for example, you or the hiring manager should test those skills.

4. Probe academic credentials in interviews. Education tops the rèsumè-fudging list. Ask "Is Mason Jeffrey still teaching Accounting 101 at your college?" If you made up the name and the applicant says "Yes," you know he's lying.

5. Obtain details on supervisory, self-employed duties. Ask "How many people did you manage?" Don't be satisfied with a number. Ask "What did those supervisory duties involve? Did you assign work, evaluate employees and conduct reviews?" True managers would have done all that, and more.

When applicants work for themselves, it's easy for them to cook up titles and experience. Encourage hiring managers to obtain details, plus names and numbers of past clients who could back them up.

6. Ask open-ended questions. "Well- thought-out, open-ended questions are practically impossible to answer with stock answers," says employment-law attorney John McLachlan of Fisher & Philips. Example: "What was your biggest frustration/success/problem on your last job and how did you deal with it?"

7. Listen more, talk less. Applicants should talk about 80 percent of the time during the initial interview. That first interview is not the time to sell an applicant on how great your organization is. Use that time to understand the person's qualities to better gauge his or her potential for the position. You'll have plenty of time to sell the job once you've narrowed the field.

8. Question claims of saving the company money. Comments like "made staffing change to cut clerical time" may mean he trimmed a half-hour off his secretary's lunch hour. Demand details.

9. Don't skip background/reference checks on anyone. Just because a friend or employee recommended the person doesn't earn them a free pass.

To encourage past employers to provide more complete references, require applicants to sign a liability release and give it to their previous employer. Simply asking the former employer, "Is this person eligible for rehire?" will tell you a lot.

Final tips: Don't shrug off minor rèsumè exaggerations; they tell a lot about character and effort level. Also, don't probe more deeply into the backgrounds of people in any particular group (females, minorities, etc.), or you'll risk a bias lawsuit.

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