How do you know if someone is lying during a job interview?

It may be hard to accept that a candidate would sit in front of you during a job interview and tell a lie, but the uncomfortable truth is that they often do.

A survey by Career Builder of 3,000 hiring managers revealed that 49 per cent of hiring managers had reported discovering a lie in a resume. Falsifying information on resumes and during interviews occurs at all levels of business, even in the boardroom, as shown by this AoL article which lists eight high profile resume liars, including two CEOs and a presidential candidate.

With lying being so prevalent, recruiters and hiring managers should be trained on how to spot and identify resumes and interview lies – and below we have provided some tips on identifying falsified candidate information.

To start with you need to give your recruiters an idea of where to look for lies, as research shows there are hotspots for falsification. For example, a Hire Right survey has revealed that the four most commonly lied about areas are: previous employment dates, exaggerating responsibilities, previous salary, and falsifying education/qualifications. Of course, lies can occur anywhere but these are four areas where you should be especially vigilant.

You’ll also need to train your recruiters to spot lies as they are occurring during interview. Although,  exercise caution here as most experts believe that even trained interrogators cannot reliably spot liars, so the goal is not to spot actual lies but to spot a lack of credible testimony. 

So, what are the signs of lying or lack of credibility?

According to Jeffrey Hancock, an associate professor of communication at Cornell University, people who are lying tend to use the words ‘I’ and ‘Me’ less often than truth tellers and talk more in the third person, or are vague, and this helps to give them psychological distance from the lie. They also use fewer exclusionary words, like: but, nor, and except,which mean they are more vague andl ess clear about what was done and who did what.

Another study by DePauo and Morris of the University of Virginia found several more signs that could suggest that a person is lying and these were:

  • Sudden change to talking in a higher pitch.
  • They make less hand movements.
  • They repeat words and phrases.

As we have said, these are not cast iron signs that a person is telling a lie, they are just indicators which could lead you to question the credibility of the response. Of course, if you do decide to progress a candidate with credibility concerns then you should focus in on these areas during the reference check part of the hiring process, which is of course the most reliable way you have of getting to the truth.

And when you do check references, make sure that you request at least three references, which seems to be the standard these days, ensuring that at least two are from former managers and/or people they were accountable to, such as an internal client. And use these references to verify among other things, any specific areas of concern that may have been uncovered during the interview. For example, if you weren’t happy with their alleged contribution to a project, ask their manager what their role and contribution in that project was.

This final referencing step is a vital a step in verifying whether or not the candidate that sat before your during the interview is exactly what they claim to be.

Roz Bahrami
Roz Bahrami
Roz Bahrami is a blogger for SkyPrep, an online training software for companies to train employees and measure results. Roz is a regular contributor to blogs related to corporate training, L&D, and HR technology. Visit my personal blog at

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