March 16th, 2015 | Sterling

How to spot a dishonest job candidate


It is fast becoming a candidate market in certain industry sectors, whereby employers are competing to recruit the very best staff. It can be difficult to spot a fraudulent applicant at the best of times, but with growing pressure to secure the top candidates it can be tempting to cut corners when checking references and perhaps even overlook a seemingly minor indiscretion. At the same time, the financial and reputational costs of making a hiring mistake have never been greater1. So how difficult is it to spot when a prospective employee is lying to you?

Our forthcoming webinar will look at the challenges of recruiting the right candidate and the benefits of background screening. For now however, let’s look at some practical steps that may set off alarm bells and prevent a potentially costly hiring mistake.

1. Candidates lying on their CV

It is human nature to see the positives, and in the case of a CV we’re more likely to try and match the candidate experience to the job criteria than look for red flags on the applicant’s history. That may be the primary function of a CV for a recruiting manager, but this is also the first opportunity to detect questionable applications. Indeed, in a recent study 58% of hiring managers claimed to have caught job applicants being dishonest on their CV. Fortunately there are a few things to look out for.

  • Are there suspicious gaps or date inconsistencies in the employment history? In some cases a job applicant will fear a period of unemployment on their CV and may ‘stretch’ the dates of previous jobs in the hope of covering up the gaps.
  • Does the university or college sound familiar? There are a growing number of diploma mills out there offering degrees for money based on ‘life experience’ and no studying.
  • Is it worth using professional social media as part of an employee vetting process? Some employers chose to compare candidate details on the CV to that on their LinkedIn profile.

We should remember that there’s a limit as to what can be gleaned from a CV, although the general rule is to look for any obvious inconsistencies.
2. Catching dishonest candidates at the interview stage

The next opportunity to detect fraudulent applicants comes at the interview stage. While unscrupulous candidates are quite capable of lying without hesitation during a face-to-face interview, cracks may appear when you look for more inconsistencies.

  • Do the answers given fully support the information provided on paper?
  • Do they sound confident when discussing the experience they claim to have on their CV?
  • If you phrase a similar question a number of ways do you get different answers each time?


The CV and interview stages clearly provide opportunities to identify the star candidates while also filtering out those who may be less appropriate. Ultimately however, you’re still basing your decision on what the applicant is telling you. There are essentially two options available from this point: One is to be satisfied with what your potential new staff member has told you and invite them to join the organisation; The other is to check the background of the candidate with someone other than the candidate themselves – someone who is likely to give a less biased opinion!

3. Revealing candidate discrepancies via a background check

This process of due diligence may come in many forms depending on the type of hiring organisation and the position being applied for. From basic reference checks with previous employers to meeting strict security screening standards, the hiring organisation must decide in advance what makes for a sufficient employment screening programme for its business. In regulated industries, such as finance and legal, this will also need to reflect their legal obligations. A good background screening provider will be able to support you with this process.

Most candidates are nothing less than honest, but the cost of a bad recruitment mistake means there’s often just too much to leave to chance. As a summary, here are a few things you should remember when it comes to spotting a dishonest candidate:

• Look for inconsistencies at all stages of the vetting process
• Compare the information on paper against what you’re told during the interview and perhaps even against social profiles
• Carry out recruitment due diligence by checking the background of the candidate
• Ensure you are meeting your legal obligations when processing your background checks

For more on how you can identify a dishonest candidate register for our free webinar, ‘Recruitment Essentials: How to avoid a bad hire in 2015’, to be hosted by HRZone editor Jamie Lawrence on 31 March 2015.

1. Safeguarding Your Staff & Business – Screen Now, Save Later

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.