HR and Recruiting

How hiring managers can catch lies on a resume

Written by Eric Titner

As a hiring manager, almost nothing is as important as ensuring that your company has unfettered access to the best available talent in your industry whenever you have an open position on your team. That said, something that’s just as important is protecting your organization from candidates who lie on their resumes—including everything from small lies that may seem insignificant but could come back later to haunt your team, to bigger lies that may have a real adverse and lasting impact on your company.

After all, in many ways you’re the gatekeeper between your company and the world, and your instincts and expertise as an HR professional will help decide who gets to play a key role in supporting and building your company. That’s a great responsibility, and one that should be taken with great seriousness if you want to fully support the company you work for. There’s just no upside to offering shady candidates keys to your kingdom—if they’re willing to start things off on a foundation of lies, it’s a real reflection of their compromised moral and ethnic judgment and decision-making abilities. And if they’re willing to be dishonest on their resumes, who knows what other duplicitous activities they’re capable of?

You likely don’t need us to tell you how important it is to ensure that your HR pipeline remains as free from inaccurate and lie-laden resumes as possible—but are you confident that you’re going about it in the most effective way possible? Keep reading for ways you can help make sure that you’re catching resume lies when they show up at your company’s doorstep.

Look for inconsistencies

Candidates who are intent on lying on their resumes will make a real effort to cover up their tracks, but you may (or may not) be surprised by how many of these deceitful images can be caught at their own game by a careful resume review. When reviewing resumes, look for things that simply don’t make obvious logical sense. Dates of employment that don’t line up or that unexplainably overlap, odd jumps between jobs (going straight from an intern to a vice president might be a red flag), or jobs that don’t seem to align with a candidate’s background or education (a candidate with a BA in psychology working as the head of a hospital’s psychiatric team might be questionable) should all serve as triggers that something fishy might be going on.

Conduct careful initial phone screens

We know you’re busy and taking the time to carefully screen every potential candidate is time-consuming but trust us—it’s well worth your time. The truth is, the best hiring managers have well-honed lie-detection skills and speaking to a candidate can help reveal some truths that they were trying to keep under wraps.

Look for classic “tells” that might indicate someone is lying—these include things like misplaced overconfidence, over-explaining points on one’s resume, and curious nervousness and anxiety that comes and goes during the conversation. Also, be on the lookout for candidates who mention something that contradicts with what’s written on their resumes—sometimes they may not have committed their lies to memory and slip an accidental truth in while talking.

Don’t short the reference checks

As an HR professional this may seem obvious, but trust us—the reference check often gets shorted in the process when things are busy, especially when a candidate makes a powerful and positive impression during interviews and you really want to hire her or him. Lying candidates are counting on this, and their lies are essentially a gamble that you won’t catch them up by performing a detailed background check.

Diligence includes everything from requiring a comprehensive set of references to contacting them and following up if they aren’t immediately available. Yes, sometimes actually getting in contact with a reference can be a real chase, but it’s worth your time to be persistent. If there are any things that still seem odd on a resume, even after meeting with a candidate, the reference check could be a place to effectively get to the truth. Also, be sure to scour social media and LinkedIn, which may also uncover some discrepancies between what a candidate says on their resume and reality. 

If you want to do everything you can to ensure that deceptive candidates don’t make it far along in your hiring process, you must screen them carefully—and the resume review process is a great place to get to the truth. Use the strategies and advice presented here to help support your efforts.

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.