How to spot if a candidate is lying

How to spot if a candidate is lying

How do you make sure your candidates are not lying on their CVs?

That question has become relevant after a CFO at the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs recently lost her job after it was revealed that she had been lying about her qualifications.

She had claimed that her Ukrainian college diploma was equivalent to a bachelor degree. In reality, it was only equivalent to a high school diploma with two years of undergraduate studies.

It took half a decade for her employers to find out the truth, which a more thorough check would have easily found, according to Brunella Flackett.

She is a Client Partner of Global Strategic Talent and Insight at Armstrong Craven. Flackett tells Recruitment Grapevine: “In this case, off-list research would have included a check of education credentials including all the way back to high-school if required.”

She urges more recruiters to take background checks seriously to avoid people lying about their qualifications.

Flackett says: “In the new world of work where employees readily move employers – cross-sector, nationally, internationally – and where there are multiple stakeholders in recruitment decisions, it’s increasingly important to verify the backgrounds of new recruits.”

Check out her top tips to weed out the people who are not 100% honest about their qualifications.

Be independent

If you want something done right, then you have to do it yourself. According to Flackett, that is particularly true for background checks.

She says: “Gather references from a company that didn’t source the candidates. This brings an independent perspective to the process and strengthens the due diligence when recruiting for a senior hire.”

Go off-list

Flackett urges hiring managers to go beyond references on the candidate’s CV and the one’s given by an agency. She explains: “Consider the type of role the candidate would be taking on and who his/her stakeholders would be and build the referee list around this. It could be as simple as reports, seniors and peers, or more complex depending on the key relationships the role requires.”

Get a rounded view

Francis Bacon said that knowledge is power. With that in mind, it makes sense that the more people you talk to, the better you will know the candidate and the more power you will have.

Flackett says: ”If a candidate’s management colleagues think he’s great but all his direct reports find him difficult, we keep talking to find out the roots of those opinions.

“Take references from a good sized sample and keep talking to people until the view has some consistency. At Armstrong Craven we speak to an average of eight referees. In some cases, where there are disparate opinions for example, we will often speak to more than 10 people to ensure a rounded view.”

Work internationally

Flackett explains that it is important to consider the fact that we now work in a globalised world.

She says: “Many candidates have overseas experience or are diasporic talent returning to their home country. Ensure referencing can incorporate international assignments whether it’s for CV-related checks or legal such as Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS which was previously known as CRB in the UK), criminal convictions, or even speeding tickets.”

Address specific concerns

The New York CFO mentioned earlier had a diploma from a foreign school. That is the kind of thing that recruiters might want to look closer at.

Flackett explains: “If there is a specific doubt or misgiving about a short-listed candidate includes some investigation in reference and background checking.

“If this research is carried out by an independent source you get an unbiased view on whether your concerns are valid. Feedback from the investigation should include examples yet be independent. For example, some private equity houses require in-depth checks relating to bankruptcy.

Personal brand

“The digital age has transformed the meaning of brand,” Flackett says. “No longer applied only to consumer products, most senior executives have, or should have, a meaningful and authentic online presence. If a candidate is high-profile this might mean press checks, or otherwise social media presence and online publications such as blogs and discussion groups.”

Make it part of the process

Background checks should become an essential part of every recruitment process, according to Flackett.

“Rather than being a tick-box exercise at the end of the recruitment process, reference and background checking is best when built into the process,” she says.


“Use referencing and background-checking to benchmark candidates,” Flackett says. “One client we work with asked us to look at their final shortlist of two candidates for a role. The reference and background checking allowed the client to make comparisons and played an important role in the final decision.”



Be the first to comment.

You are currently previewing this article.

This is the last preview available to you for the next 30 days.

To access more news, features, columns and opinions every day, create a free myGrapevine account.