Lying on a resume may be more common than you think. Taking the time to vet job candidates carefully can save trouble or even disaster down the road.
According to a recent study, 36% of people admit to fibbing or fudging a bit on their resume, and 93% say they know someone else who has. HR and other leaders need to know how to look beyond resumes and detect lies before they hire an unqualified worker.
Most commonly, people stretch the truth—or outright lie—about job experience (25%), job duties (21%), employment dates (16%), skills (15%), and salary (10%). Additionally, people confess to the following:
- Stretching the dates of a position they worked at (33%).
- Saying on their resume that they’re good at something that they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing if asked to do it (29%).
- Exaggerating results from their previous position (27%).
- Indicating on their resume that they have the experience/skills for a position they are not really qualified for (25%).
Desperation seems to drive most people to lie on their resume, as 37% of respondents say they fibbed because “I was unemployed for a long period of time.” Other reasons include:
- “I didn’t think I would get caught.” (18%)
- “I wanted a higher salary for that position.” (18%)
- “I was not qualified for the position.” (17%)
Men (58%) are more likely to admit to lying than women (41%). At the same time, resume fudging is slightly more common in younger people (38%) than older workers (30%).
Interestingly, about 23% of people say they’ve lied even though they thought they were qualified for a job. They did this, they say, because they thought it would get them a higher salary or give them an edge over the competition.
Lying on a resume isn’t without consequences, respondents suggest. These include not getting hired (35%), getting fired (30%), and being reprimanded (22%).
There is some good news. Over a third (38%) of respondents say that ethics and morality (the idea that lying is wrong) keeps them from fibbing on their resume. However, 31% say they’re more afraid of being caught on their falsehoods. Elsewhere, close to 70% of people in the healthcare field say they have never lied on a resume.
Hiring managers may catch a job candidate in a lie during the interview via detailed, well-thought-out questions, such as:
- What software and other tools did you use in your last job? Give an example of how you used one of these to solve a problem.
- Share an interpersonal conflict you had with a coworker and how you resolved it.
- How did you integrate a change or innovation in your last job?
However, there are a few additional steps you can take to uncover falsehoods:
- Perform a standard background check.
- Check references and confirm employment dates.
- Administer a pre-employment skills/screening test.
Trust your instincts. If the job candidate is fidgeting, hedging, avoiding eye contact, or telling stories that seem questionable or outright unbelievable, these are signs the person may be lying; and it makes good sense to verify any questions or inconsistencies.