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Catching Lying Job Seekers

Posted by Bob Corlett on August 27, 2012

Every few weeks some headline blares, "How to Catch Lying Job Seekers." In the article, some self-proclaimed expert reveals the shocking statistics about how often job seekers lie on their resume. And the solution is usually to hire that very same expert to ferret out the truth for you. Otherwise you are a rube, a patsy ... a stooge.

The whole "lying job seeker" meme makes my skin crawl.

We conduct over a 100 executive searches every year, interviewing thousands of people, and looking at over 50,000 candidate resumes and online profiles.  I cannot imagine anything more exhausting or counterproductive than reflexively distrusting all of them.

Call me naïve, but I just don’t think most people lie to deceive you--they just want to look good. It's not malicious ... it's just what some people do. And you need not wrap yourself in some body armor of distrust just to to protect yourself.

Job seekers generally divide themselves into three groups.

  • Some folks are pretty darn selective about their accomplishments, they shade their stories to look good, and they brag about stuff they were perhaps only tangentially involved with….but they don't just do this on their resumes--they also do it at dinner parties. Some people are just braggarts, and you can easily interview them to suss out the truth. Problem solved.
  • The second group is WYSIATI--what you see is all there is. They are plain spoken and tell it like it is. They make great employees. These people are sometimes called stalwart workers, but their resumes are pretty dull and easy to miss.
  • The third group are folks are raised to be humble about their achievements, to give credit to others, to downplay their role in successes. These are the people who score a 96 on a test and obsess over the 4 points they missed. I call them the "A students." And you probably didn't even select them for an interview because their resume was less impressive than the braggarts. That's why I think the Perfect (Resume) is the Enemy of the Good (Hiring Process). If you are not careful, you might end up selecting only braggart resumes to interview.  (Click the link and find out how one HR manager protects herself from that mistake.)

The risk of listening to the distrust fear mongers is that you will start to only see the bad in people and not the good. Going down this slippery slope, you begin to telegraph your distrust--and inject poison into what might have become a blossoming new relationship with a Stalwart, or an "A Student." You just might find yourself  instilling doubt where there was none.  And then you really would be a rube.

Topics: Hiring Process