Red Flags that Could Mean a Candidate is Lying on Their Resume

If only there was a lie detector machine for resumes. You could just strap them in and get to the truth. As it is, you need to rely on less scientific methods. You need to look out for red flags that could mean a candidate is lying on their resume. 

One study suggests that more than a third of people (36%) admit that they have lied on their resumes. Statistically, then, about one in three of those resumes waiting for your perusal include fake info. That fact points to a murky situation. 

So how do you find clarity? How can you separate truth from elaborately constructed fiction? Luckily, there are some signs. Look closely and you can spot many fabrications through a close reading of a candidate’s resume.

Here are some of the red flags that could mean that a candidate is lying: 

Suspicious Job Titles 

A candidate’s previous job titles should match their level of experience and should square with the type of job they are applying for. At the same time, there should be a general progression over time. The resume should show a candidate moving to higher and higher levels of achievement and responsibility.  

Breaks from these patterns represent a red flag. Keep common sense in mind…If a candidate seems too good to be true, they probably are. 

Dates Don’t Add Up 

Any job submission includes various forms of documentation. Candidates will provide resumes, info on their applications, cover letters, and reference details, along with other data. If these sources of info don’t correspond with each other, it could suggest a potential lie. Look for discrepancies and make sure that the candidate’s work history remains consistent in each document. 

Resume Doesn’t Match Outside Sources 

Internal contradictions can send up a red flag. So can inconsistencies with outside information. You can often check resume details with external sources. You can look at the candidate’s social media feed, for example, or search for info on corporate websites of past employers. See if these public postings match the information they provided in their official resume. A mismatch could point to some doctoring of the timeline. 

Vague Descriptions 

A candidate’s description of their previous work experience should be specific. If the candidate neglects to include details or seems to be glossing over certain positions, it might indicate a problem. Take note of vague accounts of past positions. There might be some misdirection going on. 

Shaky References 

Lies are relatively easy to tell. Conspiracies are much harder. This dynamic makes checking references a crucial step in the recruitment process. They can act as the ultimate lie detectors.  

There’s a catch though. Candidates provide their own references. They get to pick who shows up on the list. As a result, you should look out for suspicious names on the list. Too many personal contacts, as opposed to professional ones, could signal an issue. 

Gaps in Work Experience  

Breaks in a candidate’s work history might not indicate a lie per se. Resume gaps are often easily explainable. Usually, these situations come about as a result of responsibilities outside of work, things like childcare or returning to school.  

Sometimes, though, applicants are trying to leave something out. They had a work experience that reflect negatively on them and want to obscure that embarrassing situation. (They might not want to admit to being fired from a previous job, for instance.) Keep these possible lies of omission in mind as you scan people’s resumes. 

Finding the perfect candidate requires a painstaking process. You don’t just need to find a good candidate. You need to weed out those too-good-to-be-true applicants that waste your time with false hope. It helps to let someone else do the heavy lifting of screening candidates. A strong staffing agency, like SmartTalent, can find you the perfect team member, with little effort on your part. 

Contact SmartTalent today to upgrade your staff. 


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