To get at the truth, you can invest in or interrogate reluctant references. But there are more efficient ways.
Keep a log. Always telephone an applicant before an interview and take copious notes. Then compare what you learn in these early phone chats with what comes up later.
Example: If a candidate mentions on the phone that he quit his last job “two weeks ago,” but he says in the interview a few days later that he left “a few months ago,” clarify the discrepancy.
Note squishy answers. When you ask basic questions, you should get concise, factual replies. Beware of candidates who are repeatedly evasive or who keep qualifying or changing their answers to even the simplest questions.
Ask for names. As candidates tell you stories or give examples of their behavior, get the names of people who can verify these accounts. Say, “You mentioned your boss. What’s that person’s name?”
For best results, follow up. But just by asking for names, you can gauge how quickly and forthrightly they give you the information you need.