How to spot a Lie on a Resume
How many resumes have you read in your life? Hundreds? Thousands? No matter the amount, do you know how to spot a lie on a resume?
According to data from ResumeLab, 36 percent of applicants openly admit to lying on their resumes. But when asked if they’d stretch the truth to seem more qualified, the results rise to 56 percent. Don’t ask me why percentages changed when lying was redefined as stretching the truth … .
That’s a huge number of people lying on their resumes. Or, ahem, stretching the truth. In all honesty, the best way to confirm that a resume is fully truthful is to perform due diligence and fact check each aspect of the document. But who has time for that?
As a short cut, here are seven ways to spot a lie on a resume without having to fact check every one that comes across your desk:
Your gut is usually correct. If you’re reading a resume and have a visceral reaction that something isn’t right, then listen to that feeling. That doesn’t necessarily mean the candidate goes to the “no” pile, but definitely the “maybe” pile. You can always fact check later if they still seem like a top candidate against the others, but don’t ignore your first impression.
2. WEB SLEUTHING AND LINKEDIN
More often than not, a quick Google or LinkedIn search will bring up a ton of information on a person. Look for discrepancies between their LinkedIn profile and their resume. It’s a huge red flag if the two don’t line up.
To keep from getting too paranoid, keep in mind that not everyone regularly updates their LinkedIn profiles. I came across a job hunter recently who hadn’t changed their location, which was an innocent, easily overlooked mistake.
3. DATE ALIGNMENT CURIOSITIES
Speaking of lining up, sometimes scanning through employment dates will get confusing and not make much sense. Is the candidate muddling information to hide gaps, job hopping or something else? Are they trying to stretch dates? It may be hard to say, but a lot of people have pretty straightforward career histories. If they don’t, dig a little deeper.
4. COPY AND PASTE
Too many candidates are copying and pasting the employer’s job descriptions straight into the experience section of their resumes. I’m not sure if that can be blamed on the rise of advice that resumes need to be tailored to job positions or not, but it isn’t uncommon.
If you come across one of these, I would be concerned that they’re omitting something about themselves.
5. BIG ADVANCEMENT
Big jumps in job titles in a very short period of time, either at one employer or between two companies, is worrisome. There is a certain progression of titles in almost every industry. For example, moving from an HR assistant to an HR director may be a lie on a candidate’s resume.
I’m not saying this type of career progression is completely impossible, especially if the candidate moved from a large company to a small one. But one common trait among job seekers who stretch the truth on a resume is an inflated job title. As one career guidance expert says, “some people give themselves the title they feel they deserve on their resume instead of the actual title they had.”
6. QUESTIONABLE DEGREE
Many job hunters’ highest level of education is a high school degree or the equivalent. Yet many employers still require a college degree.
Look out for candidates who add education in a vague manner, such as:
Bachelor’s Degree | BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY
Did this applicant earn a degree? If so, what year? The interviewer won’t know because it’s not specified. Consider this a red flag.
7. ODD JOB DESCRIPTIONS
A survey by OfficeTeam found that 76 percent of people expanded the truth in the experience section of their resume, while 55 percent lied about their duties. A huge red flag is when you see achievements, duties and descriptions that don’t match the job title.
What if You Catch a Lie?
Now that you are familiar with how to spot a lie, here are three ways to catch the culprit in the act of lying:
1. MORNING INTERVIEW
People tend to be more honest in the morning. According to sleepio.com, people are 20 percent to 50 percent more likely to lie in the afternoon. They say this is because as the day wears on, people become more tired, and their ethics and morals begin to slip.
This isn’t as easy as it used to be given pandemic restrictions and remote work, but you can still host a video conferencing interview to get the same effect. If the person resists doing either an in-person or video conferencing interview and keeps pushing for e-mail communication or texting, consider this a huge red flag. It’s easy to hide behind screens and much harder to lie face-to-face.
3. IN-INTERVIEW TESTING
There is an abundance of testing tools available to administer during an interview. SHRM has a great member-only toolkit with a ton of information about pre-employment skills testing. So, if you’re questioning the validity of the person’s experience and skills, consider testing their skills right away.
It’s good to have a healthy dose of skepticism when reading resumes. But getting too paranoid will add quite a bit of time and energy to reviewing candidate profiles. Use these tips as a guideline when something isn’t sitting right while you’re reading resumes. And be sure to trust your gut.