As recruitment and HR professionals, we are trained to spot the embellishments in a story, to zero in on the candidates whose credentials don’t quite line up, and to ask those uncomfortable questions that often lead to answers none of us are looking forward to hearing. Spotting the white lie, figuring out where the titles, responsibilities or dates have been boosted, and reading between the lines to fully understand how the career path really must have flowed, are all key components to uncovering the true merit of candidates we encounter on the recruitment journey.

Of course, candidates want to present the best picture of themselves. Just like a celebrity won’t show up on the red carpet in less than their best, candidates are unlikely to share the unbridled version of their failed career move.  

The candidate’s focus is on presenting the best version of them self, and your objective should be to determine the accurate picture of each candidate you’re considering for a role within your company. After all, most recruitment is done in the hopes of a long-term fit, so a good hiring manager will be investing time up front to make sure that happens.

If you’ve hired Peoplescape to conduct any of your recruitment, then they’d be doing much of the heavy lifting for you. Our expert screening and selection methods, robust interviewing and assessment tools equip you to make the best fit selection for your organization. Culture fit, personal approach, behavioral skills – are all critical aspects of the ideal candidate. The right person changes everything, and no one knows that better than you. Thankfully, once we pass the baton – handing over your candidate shortlist – the decision of whom to choose amongst a handful of qualified people, is all that’s left to do! We’ve weeded out the candidates who might not have been telling the full story, embellished or bolstered the resume and the truth in just such a way that you weren’t quite expecting, and that you did not notice for many reasons, least of which because you really needed their story to be right – to fill the empty desk with the long to do list, that you so desperately need completed!

In the meantime, here are a few tips on how to spy-the-lie and cut down on deception in your own recruitment experience. Follow these simple steps to make sure you are honing in on the real stars:

  1. The exaggerated synopsis: Many candidates will have an “objective” or “statement of purpose” or a fluffy cover letter telling you all the reasons he or she is the best fit for the role. Cut through the jargon to identify the value candidate brings in terms of skill and the behaviors they take pride in, in their explanations.   Consider asking candidates to do a short video clip answering two questions rather than writing a cover letter. People are less able to “prep” and “fluff it up” with a video clip than a cover letter!
  2. Reason for leaving: While this is not always an easy question for candidates to answer, and recessionary layoffs have taken a hefty toll on many a resume in recent years. Nevertheless, seek out clues in the resume as to why they left their last position. Was a better career opportunity really presented, were they encouraged to move on or is there a gap between one job and another that isn’t explained. Why someone left a previous gig can tell you a lot about where they are mentally in terms of making a move, and where they see themselves going. Furthermore, in challenging times, it can show you their confidence, strength of influencing skills and even their approach to a challenge.
  3.  Avoid asking vague or non-specific questions: In response, you may get defensive answers “everyone else in the company was leaving too” or “I was there for a while” rather than giving you solid dates or concrete examples.
  4.  Read between the lines: Consider the economic environmental context present at various time periods on the resume. Look for trigger words that say he or she helped someone get the job done, rather than doing the work himself! Do you see a lot of “assisted, facilitated, supported” throughout their resume? This means you are getting someone who is great at helping, but possibly not so great at taking initiative and working proactively or independently. Does the candidate generalize or group large projects into one massively broad statement? Fewer details can often mean that the work was not done specifically by your candidate. Probe deeper for details, examples, numbers, results! (See our April blog
  5. Proxy lies: make sure you are conducting reference checks, ask for details, and let the reference do most of the talking. Don’t lead with “Sally said she worked for you from December 1, 2000, to December 5, 2016. Is this correct?” 9 times out of 10, the reference will just go with whatever the candidate listed. So, ask for specifics, and let them tell you a story about the candidate. Then match that up with what you’ve been told or presented with by the candidate. Does it line up? Or have you uncovered pieces that don’t quite fit?

Thoroughness and thoughtfulness are key pieces to the success of your next recruit. Remember these simple tips, and make sure to take every recruitment as seriously as the next. Whether you’re searching for an office assistant or a CEO, your process should be streamlined, and your internal lie detector will get stronger each time. Happy hunting!

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