Your Job Applicants Probably Lied On Their Resumes: How To Separate Fact From Fiction

by Ryan Kohler

You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that one or two of your recent job applicants lied on their resumes – after all, there’s a few bad apples in every barrel. But would it shock you to know that more than half of all resumes include exaggerations, falsifications, and flat out lies? In a study by Accu-Screen, 78% of resumes included misleading information and 54% contained outright lies like fraudulent degrees, altered dates of employment, and inaccurate job descriptions.

Misleading resumes are a huge problem for employers, because companies are responsible for the conduct of their employees. If you hire someone who has hidden a criminal background or who is not really qualified to do their job, you could be on the hook for all kinds of damages, not to mention the expense of firing and rehiring.

No company is immune from resume deception. In 2007 MIT lost their admissions dean Marilee Jones when it was revealed that some of her science credentials and her doctoral degree were a load of baloney. And Chef Robert Irvine lost his Food Network contract in 2008 when some of his bona fides like “cooking for the royal family” were revealed to be false.

So how can you protect your company from fictional resumes? How can you find and hire honest employees?

How To Separate Fact From Fiction On Resumes:

1. Fact Check Even The Most Basic Details

You might think that no one would lie about volunteer experience or being a member of Mensa, but the truth is people will lie about anything. If you catch a candidate lying about something silly, then you know not to trust them on the bigger issues.

2. Pay For Extensive Background Checks

One of the most important measures you can take to protect your company is an extensive background check. This will root out candidates who may be using a false name or have an undisclosed criminal history.

3. Pay Attention To Small Inconsistencies

It’s difficult for candidates to be consistent in their falsehoods. If an applicant claims to have taken a sabbatical and then later mentions a job not listed on their resume, it’s probably not a slip of the tongue, but rather an allusion to information they’re trying to conceal.

4. Ask A Lot Of Questions

Most people aren’t great liars. If you question job applicants closely on the small details of their resume, liars will eventually contradict themselves, become flustered, and blow their cover.

5. Use A Hiring Panel

The more people involved in the hiring process, the more likely that someone will notice inaccuracies and inconsistencies, and the less likely everyone will be tricked by a smooth talker.

6. Trust Your Gut

If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. As Malcolm Gladwell says in Blink: The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking, “Our world requires that decisions be sourced and footnoted, and if we say how we feel, we must also be prepared to elaborate on why we feel that way…We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that – sometimes – we’re better off that way.”

Accu-Screen has been tracking resume falsification for over 15 years. They have charted spikes in resume lies whenever the economy experiences a downturn and labor markets are weak. This means that in our current environment of fiscal uncertainty and high unemployment, employers need to be extra vigilant in examining their applicants.


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