Competition in the job market is fierce. While unemployment is staying low, that means those without work are competing for fewer jobs. Nearly every open roles receives a wide range of applicants of varying skill levels, and many of those applicants are so desperate for work they misrepresent themselves in an effort to land a steady paycheck. In fact, recent data from HEC Paris shows that 81 percent of candidates have lied in a job interview.

Last week, I spoke briefly in line at a Starbucks with a hiring manager who went through more than 500 resumes and only came up with four viable applicants. Three of them bombed at the interview table. One of those three directly and boldly lied on his resume and at the interview table about his professional experience; he couldn’t correctly answer several simple process questions related to the job he was applying for.

“This is actually why interviews aren’t a very good indicator when it comes to filtering what is and isn’t true during the interview process,” says Nick Cromydas, CEO of recruiting service Hunt Club. “While many interviewees tend to exaggerate their experience, the bigger issue is that interviews are completely subjective. They require a hiring manager to assess a candidate based on emotion, which changes based on their life experiences — and even their experiences that day or week. The same goes for the interviewee. Their performance during the interview will correlate to whatever happened to them that day, that week, or in that specific interview.”

Interviewers: Be Prepared

No matter how many tricky questions you ask, it can be difficult to gauge a candidate based solely on an interview alone if you don’t quite know what you’re doing or what you’re looking for. Ultimately, hiring managers are affected by innate biases, personal preferences, flattery from candidates, and a wide range of other factors that can influence a hiring decision.

“When hiring managers assess candidates using this subjective model, they can easily allow their biases to get in the way,” Cromydas says. “They end up hiring someone who isn’t necessarily the best person for the job, but someone they like or someone they can see themselves working with from day to day. This is why interviews make hiring so difficult. It’s a people process, not a mechanized one.”

While recruiters and HR professionals may have some training in weeding out dishonest or bad applicants, hiring managers typically don’t. A hiring manager in the finance department is trained in finance, not in people skills. It’s up to companies to ensure that hiring managers develop the skills they need to assess candidates properly.

“It’s critical that hiring managers are trained properly,” Cromydas says. “They need to have a clear understanding of which skills, experience, and personality traits are needed to be most effective in the role. This is about going above and beyond the job description to have a strong sense of what they’re looking for in a person.”

Cromydas offers the following example: Say you’re hiring for a company that sells enterprise resource planning software to manufacturing plants. You need 50 account executives, but you might not be able to find 50 account executives who have sold software in a similar B2B sales environment.

“For this reason, you need to look beyond finding candidates with sales experience,” Cromydas explains. “You need to find someone who will do exceptionally well in this specific environment faced with these unique challenges. This could be someone who is more introverted but analytical and process-driven, rather than your typical extraverted seller.”

The only way for hiring managers to know what to look for in candidates is to define interview criteria before they walk in the door.

“Hiring managers should know exactly what they want in an interviewee based on the needs of the business,” Cromydas says. “Without defining this criteria, hiring managers will end up selecting a candidate based on emotions rather than objective benchmarks or standards.”

Cool It, Pinocchio

It should go without saying, but lying on resumes and in interviews is a bad way to conduct a job search. Rather than inventing experience, a job seeker should analyze their actual skill sets and explore how they could be relevant to the role at hand.

Cromydas recommends that candidates ask themselves these four questions when preparing for an interview:

  1. What are my strengths?
  2. What are my weaknesses?
  3. What are my accomplishments?
  4. What am I looking for in a position?

“Once you have a better understanding of who you are and what you are looking for personally and professionally, you are less likely to misrepresent yourself in an interview,” Cromydas says.

The risks of dishonesty in the application process or in an interview simply aren’t worth it. You don’t have to lie to impress a hiring manager if you can make your actual experience speak for itself.

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