Think of each job applicant’s résumé 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% and 30% of résumés include untruths according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Here are ways you and your hiring managers can spot dishonesty:
1. Require all interviewees to fill out applications. Look for inconsistencies between the résumé and application, especially time gaps and lateral moves. Scrutinize the details of both. Applications should state that omissions or falsehoods 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% 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 résumé-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. 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% 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.