5 Ways to Tell If a Candidate is Lying in Their Job Application

According to Statisticbrain.com, over 53% of resumes and job applications contain false or exaggerated information.

Additionally, nearly 70% of recent college graduates surveyed said they would lie on a job application to get a job they wanted!

If you’re a hiring manager this is a huge problem because it is no longer enough to simply find the applicant who appears the most qualified for the position. Nowadays, you must also determine if that applicant is accurately representing themselves in their application.


5 Ways to Tell If a Candidate is Lying in Their Job Application


So how can you figure out if an applicant is lying in their application? Here are five key ways to solve this problem.

1. Reference Checks

One of the easiest and best ways to determine if a candidate is lying is to check theirreferences.

In addition to your normal reference check, make sure to confirm whether information on a resume is accurate like dates employed, position titles, responsibilities and more. Ask open ended questions like “What were XYZ’s main responsibilities?” rather than generalized yes or no questions like “Was XYZ a good employee.”

Pro Tip:To take it a step further, ask a candidate’s references for the contact information of other employees. Calling these references will ensure you get a less biased, cherry picked evaluation of the applicant’s performance and background.

2. Background Checks

One of the most common lies on a job application is failing to report felonies. As a result, it may be a good idea to perform a background check on applicants before you hire them. A background check compiles information about employment history, criminal activities, commercial activities and more.

The price of a background check ranges from free for certain individual tests to over $100 for a comprehensive check. There are a number of companies that you can use to background check applicants although backgroundchecks.comis a good starting resource.

3. Social Media Checks

Today you can learn a lot about an applicant from their social media profile. Often this is a great resource for finding what an applicant is like and to cross check their job application.

Although it is extremely easy to log on to social media and check out candidates, employers must also be careful not to consider factors that are not legally allowed like religious views, pregnancy and more.

Make sure to only consider factors which help you evaluate if a candidate is accurately representing themselves in their application.

4. Skills Tests

One of the most effective ways to determine if a candidate is telling the truth about their experience is to test their skills either through a short project or skills test.

Create a project that tests a specific skill and takes no more than a few hours or a day of work.

For example, if you are hiring someone for content marketing, perhaps have them write and promote a piece. Then, monitor their actions and performance to determine if their skill level is adequate and if you are satisfied with the quality of their work.

Another option is to use tests available online or to have current employees in the same role compile a test that on key topics. These tests, if administered properly, can reveal an applicant’s knowledge level which will allow you to infer if they are lying about previous experience.For example, if they claim to have five years experience programming SQL but cannot answer basic questions, you know they are not being completely truthful.

5. Interviews

The interview is a great place to determine if an applicant is a good fit but also a great place to determine if they are being truthful.

When interviewing, don’t take everything at face value but dig into experience by asking specific interview questionsabout what an employee did.

For example if they list a project, make sure to ask specifics on how exactly they contributed and what skills they used.

Always go three levels deep as seen in the example below:

Position: Content Marketing Manager

You: Tell me about a project you did using content marketing
Candidate: I worked on a piece of content that generates 500 page views per month!

You: What did you do to make that happen and did you work with anyone else?
Candidate: I helped promote it by building links and worked with a few other team members

You: How did you build those links? Did you work on creating the content? Candidate: Um I reached out to websites and I helped edit it

You: What websites and how did you reach out? What edits did you make, any that affected improved SEO?
Candidate: …

As you can see, drilling down to specific skills will help shed light on any lies or exaggerations an applicant makes. On the flipside, if a candidate is being honest this line of questioning will give you an even better idea of their skill level and make it easier to hire them.


Ensuring that you are hiring the candidate you think you are may seem like a tedious and unnecessary process. However, preventing just one bad hire could save your business tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of lost time.

Although following these five tips doesn’t totally prevent a less than truthful candidate from slipping through the cracks, they will dramatically reduce the probability that you make a bad hire.
Did we miss anything? Do you have a tip you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments.


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Will Zimmerman

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