July 23, 2020

Don’t Get Duped: How to Tell When a Candidate Is Lying on a Resume


It’s not uncommon for people to exaggerate on their resumes — or lie outright. While it’s not exactly breaking the law, there are still ramifications for both the potential employer and the job seeker who is lying.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused many to lose their jobs, desperate job seekers may feel more and more compelled to stretch the truth on their resumes. It’s rarely meant maliciously; it’s more an effort to help a person stand out in a crowded field where opportunities are scarce. But that doesn’t mean it’s harmless.

Employers want to be sure the people they’re hiring really have the skills and experience they say they have. As a recruiter, then, it’s necessary to spot resume fraud before a new hire walks in the door. Here are some useful tips to help you do just that:

Start With the Dates

While it is not always easy to tell if someone has lied on their resume, you can typically save yourself a lot of frustration down the line by carefully scrutinizing resumes at the start of the recruitment process.

Candidates lie for many reasons, but one of the most common motives is to cover up a patchy work history. That’s why you should pay careful attention to employment dates. A gap between roles could be insignificant, or it could be a candidate’s attempt to gloss over a job where they were fired for poor performance. Similarly, unclear time frames can be a major red flag. If a candidate is being vague with start and end dates, they may be trying to hide something.

While employment gaps and unclear time lines aren’t reasons to immediately rule a candidate out, recruiters should be prepared to probe deeper into these things during the interview process to get the full story.

Use Social Media to Check for Consistency

You can find out an awful lot about a job seeker simply by searching for them on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Most people willingly provide a lot of information about themselves on these platforms, which can possibly save you from making a bad hiring decision.

Of course, social media is not a 100 percent foolproof way of exposing resume fraud. People often present curated images on social media, but at the same time, candidates may offer some clues about their past employment. Such clues could help you verify the information on their resumes.

LinkedIn is the social media site most likely to contain the kind of information you’re looking for, so start there. Check to see whether the candidate’s listed skills and work history match with what they’ve written on their resume. Take a look at their connections, too, to see if they are really part of the networks they claim to participate in.

LinkedIn can also be a very useful way to confirm a candidate’s references are legitimate. Is the former manager they’ve listed as a reference really just a peer who was particularly fond of them? A quick LinkedIn search for the reference’s name should clear that up.

Test Their Skills

Aside from employment histories, candidates may also lie about the skills they have, or they may exaggerate their level of proficiency. Thankfully, this is also one of the easiest things to verify. All you have to do is present your potential employee with a real-world test of their skills.

For example, if you are hiring a content writer, you could ask a candidate to write a short sample piece. When possible, it is better to have candidates take these tests in person. If you allow candidates to do the work at home, a particularly unscrupulous job seeker might have someone else do the work for them.

If the kind of work you need a candidate to do doesn’t lend itself well to a test, you could always have the candidate come into the office for a trial workday. That way, you can really see their skills in action.

Perform Background Checks

Background checks may seem like a time-consuming and expensive step, but they can be worth it in the end. People who commit resume fraud may go as far as listing false references or fabricating their academic credentials, and sometimes a background check is the only way to uncover those lies.

A simple phone call to a previous employer or the candidate’s alma mater can go a long way. Getting direct proof from a third party is better than simply taking the candidate’s proof at face value, as some job seekers may even go as far as forging documents to cover their tracks.

Employing a verification service to conduct a thorough and professional background check is another option. This comes with a price tag, of course, so it’s best reserved for those candidates who have made it to the finale stages of the application process.

Resume fraud comes in all shapes and sizes, and it is crucial that recruiters develop a keen eye to identify all of the red flags they might come across. If you know what to look out for and how to verify information, you’ll be far less likely to fall for anything.

Alex C. Porter is a career expert at CraftResumes.

Read more in Recruitment Process

Alex C. Porter is a career expert at CraftResumes. He has years of experience in various business domains and is happy to share that expertise with his clients.