What Do I Do When I Think a Candidate Is Exaggerating on Their Resume?

Spotting an exaggeration on a resume can be hard. After all, every job candidate wants to present themselves in the best light. Still, some applicants take the process too far. These tellers of tall tales go far beyond spinning the truth and into the territory of flat-out lies.  

Your job as an interviewer is to identify when a candidate is stretching the truth well beyond the norm for a typical eager job applicant. What’s more, you need to know how to respond, and how to get the facts you need to make an informed choice. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you think a candidate is exaggerating on their resume: 

Know the Signs 

Having some common red flags in mind will help you root out suspicious claims. By calibrating your internal spin detector, you can better identify when an applicant is embellishing their skill set or embroidering their work history. 

Lack of Detail – Is the candidate being strangely vague about certain points on their resume? It might suggest something unusual in their story. Watch out for general terms (“top,” “best,” “very successful”) without specific data to back it up.  

Story Doesn’t Add Up – Watch for discrepancies in your candidate’s background. Dates don’t add, or one certain claims contradict others. Stay alert to small details…that’s where exaggerations tend to break down. 

Too Good to Be True – It’s the age-old “buyer beware” advice. Don’t fall for a “too good to be true situation. Sure, it’s possible that someone with a dual degree in law and medicine wants to apply for your entry-level position…but you might want to take a second look before making any commitments.  

Ask Follow Up Questions 

Once you identify a possible exaggeration, it’s time to take action. The interview provides an excellent opportunity to ask follow-up questions about any seemingly shady topics. Target suspect areas and focus your inquiries there. 

Drill Down 

Remember: details are key. As you try to establish the truth, ascertain as many specifics as possible (preferably ones that can be checked independently). Apply this strategy to your interview as a whole. When you craft you interview questions, create ones that require detailed answers. This will lower the opportunity for exaggeration in the first place. 

Check References and Social Media 

Once the interview is over, you can check their story against independent sources. Note the areas where you have the biggest doubts, and ask about the details you discovered. Ideally, you’ll want to ask about specific claims, such as “is it true that that they were the top salesperson in March 2018?” That level of specificity is more likely to get you decisive answers. 

Social media provides another source of outside information. You can scan your candidate’s social media feed to see if it lines up with the information they gave on their resume. If they posted pictures from Florida at a time they were supposed to be toiling through an intensive study-abroad internship in Madrid, you may have discovered an exaggeration. 

Trust Your Instincts 

Ultimately, you can rely on someone you don’t trust. If something feels off about a person’s background, don’t ignore your gut reaction.  

One warning on this: you should do some soul-searching before finalizing a decision. Talk with other members of the hiring team to see they share your impression. You don’t want paranoia or a personal pet-peeve to ruin your chance at a good employee. 

Finding trustworthy and qualified workers is critical to creating a winning corporate culture. By partnering with a strong staffing firm, like SmartTalent, you gain access to top talent, perfectly suited to your organization. 

Contact SmartTalent today to learn more. 


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