How to Tell if a Candidate Is Lying on Their CV

You’d hope that most candidates are honest when they apply for a job. Sure, they might embellish a few details here and there—we’ve all done it. But what do you do if someone is straight out lying just to get the position? Hiring the wrong person is costly and draining, especially when you were convinced enough to offer them the job in the first place.

In a recent survey conducted by CV-Library, 92.5% of participants got away with lying on their CV. And of those, 71.6% got the job as a result. That means white lies are harder to spot than you might think. But it’s not impossible.

Why hiring the wrong person is costing you money

Funds aren’t always easy to come by in the charity sector. We’re accountable for every pound spent, and most of our incomings are funnelled back into programmes for our beneficiaries. So when we do have the budget to bring a new employee on board, we need to be sure we’re spending that money wisely

According to Oxford Economics and Unum, the average cost of losing an employee that earns over £25,000 per year is £30,614. That factors in things like recruitment and hiring fees, training costs and loss of productivity. So if you replace three employees in one year, that will cost you nearly £92,000.

In other words, you can’t afford to make many mistakes. But don’t worry, there are plenty of signs you can spot early on to save you the cost and embarrassment of hiring someone who isn’t qualified. Here are some of our top tips.

1. Check their LinkedIn profile

Does it match up with what they said on their CV? Most CVs should be tailored for the role you’re recruiting for, so if a few jobs are missing that shouldn’t be a red flag. But if things like dates and qualifications are different, then there might be something wrong there.

It would also be good practice to read through any endorsements or recommendations on their profile. Do these back up some of the claims they’ve made on their CV? And what about the type of content they post? All of these are great clues as to the kind of employee this person is and can help you make sense of any details that seem peculiar.

2. Have they included references?

If yes, then they probably have nothing to hide. Of course, many people prefer to hold off on reference information until it’s requested. But once they share the details, consider the type of references they’ve chosen. Are they managers or friends? Are they from their most recent company or are they from an older position?

References are a great way to compare a candidate’s claims to actual experiences. If you come across any discrepancies, don’t let it slide. It could mean catching someone out early on rather than after they’ve already started working for you.

3. Keep an eye out for vague descriptions

Ideally, a candidate should be highlighting their achievements, not just their responsibilities. The way a job history is presented can be extremely telling—do they use passive verbs instead of active ones? Is the CV riddled with ambiguous phrases like ‘familiar with’ or ‘involved in’?

In most cases, if someone doesn’t actually have experience, they will try to present it so that the description is not clearly defined.

Vague descriptions indicate a lack of direct responsibility and practical experience. It’s always a good idea to ask candidates to provide examples if you conduct a phone interview. If they didn’t have the responsibilities they claimed to have, it’s likely to be obvious when you ask them to elaborate.

Vague descriptions - candidate lying on cv

4. Are they a bit too boastful?

When someone is lying about a skill, they tend to oversell their capabilities by making it sound as tremendous as possible. This is a defence mechanism. The more impressive they think it sounds, the more accurate and convincing they believe it to be. Let’s call these boastful phrases ‘buzz words’.

Are you seeing a lot of words like ‘best’, ‘most amazing’, ‘top’ or ‘number one’? Boastful language conveys a desire to display credibility. But if there are no examples backing up those claims, its likely they’re just inflating the facts.

5. Keep an eye out for inconsistencies

Do the dates add up? Do their job titles vary in the different application materials? What about their skills? If a candidate claims to be proficient in a certain tool like Photoshop or Excel, then make sure to follow up with that in an interview, especially if that skill is necessary for them to do their job properly. Similarly, if they list ‘fundraising’ as a skill, make sure their job history backs that claim up. You can always verify these skills by giving a test or asking the candidate to provide a portfolio of relevant work—especially if the role is quite technical.

A lot of this really comes down to common sense. If some of their responsibilities don’t match their job titles, it’s worth investigating further. That’s not to say that they didn’t have to take on additional tasks outside their job description, but it’s not something you should simply brush past.

reviewing job ad - google for jobs

Of course, you shouldn’t assume everyone is lying

If you take anything away from this, it shouldn’t be that every candidate is a liar that would be a bad fit. That’s far from what we’re saying. Rather, you should just be tuned in to the different warning signs that may come up early in the recruitment process.

In most cases, a lying candidate will get caught out either in the interview stage or when you check their references. But don’t be afraid to dig a bit deeper if something doesn’t look right to you. After all, your charity is the one at risk when you hire the wrong person, and it’s down to you to find the best candidate for the job.

If you have any other questions about the recruitment process, feel free to get in touch with one of our Account Managers today.

Tags: cost-effective recruitment, hiring the right person, lying on cv, recruitment process

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About the author

Stephanie Dotto

Content & SEO Lead at CharityJob. Lover of fiction, films and food. In a previous life, she was a music and tourism journalist. When she’s not writing and editing blog content, she is working on her novel.