Say you’re the hiring manager or recruiter for an impressive job candidate. But during the recruiting process, you find out that something they said—on their resume or in an interview—stretched the truth. Maybe they boosted their title. Maybe they claimed to write a report—when they merely contributed a single section to it.
Do you hire this person? Or do you pass? Is your team doing the same thing?
Why We Care: Workplace Culture
Avoiding fraud and maintaining a culture of honesty in the workplace goes a long way. It strengthens loyalty, opens dialogue, and bolsters reputation.
Establishing this culture is more than a corporate policy or mission statement. It is built from the moral compasses of those who make up the company ranks. Some would conclude that a candidate who lies—on a resume, in an interview—is more likely to compromise their on-the-job integrity—and correspondingly, the company’s. This is a matter of paramount concern for hiring managers in particular—because you will be impacted the most by fraudulent hires. Have you clarified with your team where they should be drawing the ‘white lie line’?
But What’s A Lie?
A doctor falsifying their medical records is committing actionable fraud. But a candidate who inflates their previous job responsibilities might just be looking to make a strong (if somewhat misguided) first impression. They might claim that it’s just good marketing.
Major CEOs have been fired for this sort of resume inflation before — former Yahoo executive Scott Thompson claimed to have a computer science degree he never earned. Marilee Jones, a dean of admissions at MIT, was let go after it surfaced that she hadn’t earned any of the three degrees listed on her resume.
Consequences for lying should match the severity of the infraction. But where do you draw your line in the sand? What happens if a candidate has genuine hard-to-find skills—and used creative license to boost her overall credentials? What happens if the lie was one of omission? What if the candidate was referred by a highly placed executive—how bad does the lie have to be to get the person ejected from the whole recruiting process (and risk wrath from higher up)?
Test Your Tolerance for Untruths
Here’s a test: in the following five scenarios, your company is presented with a candidate who has stretched the truth. It’s up to you to determine if this lie alone is reason enough to withhold an employment offer. Which of these would you look past and which would be reason for denying or rescinding an offer?
- A candidate’s resume claims a degree from a well-known university.
School records show the candidate fell a few credits short of graduating.
- During an interview, a candidate highlights their responsibilities as Director of Operations.
A call to the employer reveals that the candidate’s description of their responsibilities was correct, but their job title was Operations Manager.
- A candidate’s resume asserts tenure at a previous company for 2.5 years.
It later comes to light that they worked there for two years—and they are trying to cover a six-month employment gap.
- A candidate explains that poor upper management caused them to quit a job.
In reality, the candidate was fired. Information gathered from the candidate's references makes it seem like more of a personality mismatch than poor performance.
- All candidates are asked to include employee references with their application.
One candidate’s reference seems fishy. An alert from your digital reference checking software catches that this candidate is pretending to be their own reference online.
So, how did you do? Which lies were the easiest to ignore—and which ones absolute deal breakers?
What if your team takes this test? Do they answer as you would expect? Are they on the same page when it comes to ethical standards?
If not, how do you align ethically? Invite your team to take our Ethical Hiring Alignment Survey and find out how your employees would act in a variety of situations. Use the helpful report to inform you on areas where employees differ.
But How Often Do Applicants Really Lie? In fact, Checkster Research conducted a survey of 400 applicants and 400 hiring managers, HR professionals and recruiters to find out just how often candidates misrepresent themselves, and how often hiring managers overlook the untruths. The study revealed that a whopping 78% of job applicants lie and 66% of hiring managers say they would likely ignore the infraction. Given these high numbers, it’s clear applicant misrepresentation is a real risk, and that it’s important to set out a plan that will help hiring managers to discern the difference between a tiny white lie by an otherwise honest candidate and a red flag warning that the person being interviewed is an outright fraudulent individual. Otherwise, your company is in jeopardy of making some very bad hires.
By implementing clear, objective guidelines for hiring decisions, hiring managers will have the tools to make more informed, consistent, and reliable decisions—without worry.
The best way to eliminate ambiguity and have more clarity and assurance in your hiring decisions is to implement automated reference checks.
With Checkster, HR leaders and hiring managers alike can gather significant data to piece together a more cohesive picture of a candidate. Do they have a history of being trustworthy and reliable in past positions. How do previous teammates and colleagues rate the individual’s honesty and integrity? This additional information will help your team avoid any hiring regrets.