The Tales We Tell in Our Resumes

The Tales We Tell  in Our Resumes

- 60% of candidates lie about having a mastery of skills they barely use (e.g. software operation, foreign language)
- Approximately 50% lies about employment dates
- 41% exaggerates the framework of their duties at a previous job (claim that they had a director title when the actual role was a manager)


Congratulations! You are not the only one. Nowadays, the number of candidates that are lying in a job application or at a job interview is increasing and it can get scary.

What do candidates mostly lie about during the recruitment process?

TLDR: Skills

This is Hayk (because men lie about their qualifications more than women). He wants to apply to a Mid-level Project Manager position. Yet, he has realized that his experience is not enough for that level: he has only one short-term Junior Project Manager experience. 

“Who cares? At least I will get an interview”.

He thinks and starts adjusting his resume according to the job description.

First, he lies about his skills, because how on earth will the recruiter find out the truth about his leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills, right? Even Hayk doesn’t know whether he possesses those skills or not.

Then he notices that his junior short-term experience might not be enough for the Mid-level position. So, he deletes the “Junior” and changes the employment dates (makes them longer, of course).

Shortly after, Hayk goes to the “Languages” section and changes his English level from intermediate to advanced. Deletes it again, and writes near-native.

This is followed by changing the name of his university into a more popular one, that will be a better fit for the job. Because, no one in his life ever asked for proof at a job interview, after he mentioned he had a degree. Why would this one be an exception?

At last, he reads the job description again and copy-pastes some of the responsibilities into his CV.

He thinks he nailed it when in a week, a recruiter calls him for an interview.

The recruiter asks why did he leave his last job?

Hayk didn’t really leave his job, because it was not even a job. It was a 3-month internship, which simply ended, and he wasn’t among those lucky bastards who got a job offer.

So, he says that he didn’t have enough room to grow with his previous employer. Hayk surprises himself with such a neat answer, that was so close to reality… or was it?

Why do job seekers lie in their CVs?

About 75% of people feel that they are not qualified for the job.

There are so many reasons out there, but the most important one is:

“I was looking for a job for a very long time”.

This is what Hayk answered as well when the recruiter found out that he was lying.

From the job seekers’ point of view, with the new technologies and methods used in recruitment, it feels unfair that with the current War for Talent they still can’t manage to find any kind of job that will remotely suit their expertise. 

Since everyone is looking for top-notch talent or passive job seekers that already work in a different company, the candidates that have been unemployed for various reasons don’t feel qualified enough for any job ad that they read.

With the market being so competitive, they think there is no choice other than to fake it until you make it.

“ATS works against me”.

And if we say it doesn’t, we would become big fat liars. The majority of job seekers think that ATS (applicant tracking system) makes it way harder to have both a resume that will be short, to the point, and will have enough matching keywords to get their CVs in front of an actual human being. So, it is not about the skills anymore, it’s about search engine optimization for these tools. 

People who know how these things work, or simply have enough money to pay for another company to make an ATS-friendly CV for them, have more chances to get an interview, than the ones who might actually have the right experience and motivations.

It clearly isn’t fair, so why shouldn’t they cheat?


How to find out that an applicant is lying?

1. Using behavioral interviewing techniques. 

These kinds of questions can be implemented both in the job application process and Interviews. However, it will be easier to detect the lie when the person is right in front of you.

What questions can you ask to detect the lying candidate?

The answer is: follow up questions

They can be about Problem, Action, and Result-oriented questions which usually ask more specifics about their previous experience. 

Ask about the Goals and Objectives of a certain project or the specific Responsibilities they had and what did they manage to accomplish during a specific project.

Your typical questions would start with the following phrases:

- Describe a time when…

- Can you bring an example…

- Tell me more about…

You can read more about the deception-detecting techniques in this article

2. Actually check the candidate references

In this case, you can either find a company that provides an online background checking service or simply do it yourself. 

Some recruiters find it easier just to ask for reference contact, however, you never know who you are actually speaking on the other side of the phone. It can be a friend or a relative of the job seeker, who is playing the role of the supervisor and telling you how amazing the candidate is.

Doing your own research and finding company contacts where they worked before will be more time-consuming, of course, but much more accurate. So, you will need to prioritize accuracy over time.

3. Research your candidates on social media

Nowadays, our social media can tell more about us than any other legal document in the world. So, if you are looking for the real personality behind the curtain of the interviewee, this is the right place to go. By simply checking their social media posts, or the about me section, you will find way more information than you think.

4. Check their skills through assessments

It’s a common way of dealing with this problem. However, it is also time-consuming, since you need to organize everything and then check the results. So, we advise using this method only if you are having doubts about a specific skill that is essential to the position. Plus, try to avoid organizing these kinds of assessments online, since you don’t know who will be next to the candidates during the test helping them out.

What to do after you found out your candidate lied on his resume?

It really depends on the recruitment situation in your company. Try to ask yourself how much do you need an employee right now, and even if you know that the person is lying, are their skills still a good fit for the position?

Depending on your answers you have the following options:

1. Tell them you know about the lie, and learn their reasons
2. Consider training the candidate that lied about the lack of specific skills
3. Decrease their salary or title of the position, until they prove themselves
4. Reject the candidate

 At the end of the day, we are all human beings, and there is always a reason behind lying. If you can get the answer to the question “Why?” and it is satisfying enough for you, then the next question is “Why not?”

So, don’t be too judgemental, think about what is best for your company at the moment, and Sign up to get more tips and tricks on the best Recruitment practices. Good luck!


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