Top 5 Lies Job Applicants Tell

You want to be sure you hire the best candidate for the job when you have an opening. But how can you tell if the applicants are being honest with you? Here are the top five most common lies job seekers may tell in an interview or on their resume.

Every employee in a small business has a big impact on performance, company culture and the bottom line. That’s why hiring the wrong candidate is a costly, sometimes critical, mistake. In a survey from Right Management, it’s reported that the cost of a bad hire can range from one to five times the salary of the individual. According to background screening leader HireRight, job seekers very often exaggerate, falsify credentials and outright lie on their job applications, especially in today’s constrained job market. Thus, the chances of hiring the wrong person escalate. The prevalence of candidates lying on job applications and resumes, if not outright fraud, at the very least provides reason for small businesses to conduct comprehensive background checks.

“Exacerbating the problem for small business is that job candidates are more likely to lie to small businesses because they assume that the companies are less likely to perform background checks on their candidates as compared to larger enterprises,” said Glen Schrank, chief executive officer, HireRight. “And although more and more small businesses are performing professional, enterprise-quality background screening today, job seekers still try to get away with it.”

Here are five of the most popular lies told by job candidates that employers should watch out for:

1. Exaggerating dates of past employment

As many as 34 percent of all resumes include discrepancies related to previous employment.  Candidates often stretch the truth to cover gaps in their work history they may not want to explain — like the job seeker who extended his employment dates to cover a six month jail sentence! Sometimes discrepancies are honest mistakes, but employers should always verify employment dates.

RELATED: How to Check References on Potential Employees

2. Falsifying the degree or credential earned

There is roughly a 20 percent discrepancy rate in education qualifications provided by candidates. Often a resume will tout a degree when a candidate only took some classes, or exaggerate a major so the candidate appears more qualified for the job. Other candidates forge diplomas, claim degrees earned by family members or purchase degrees from diploma mills. The latter can be very difficult to identify, but knowledgeable background checking firms compile detailed databases of known diploma mills so frauds can be identified.

RELATED: 6 Common Resume Lies (and How to Spot Them)

3. Inflating salary or title

It’s hardly surprising that a candidate might exaggerate these important facts to get a better job or a higher salary. That’s why companies typically contact previous employers to verify positions held by the candidate. Salary verification can be more difficult since many companies will not reveal this information. In such cases, asking the candidate for previous W-2 forms as proof is a wise step.

RELATED: Asking “What Was Your Last Salary?” May Be Illegal

4. Concealing a criminal record

The most serious reason companies must perform background checks is to maintain a safe workplace. Roughly 11 percent of all background checks return a criminal record. Disturbingly, criminals are most attracted to companies where they know they will not be checked, therefore smaller businesses may be a target. Criminal applicants often try to avoid detection through nondisclosure or by changing details such as the spelling of their names or dates of birth.

5. Hiding a drug habit

Since 42 percent of Americans admit to using an illegal drug in their lifetime, screening candidates for drug use is a wise idea for small businesses. Drug users go to great lengths to beat these tests — such as adulterating urine samples — but today’s drug tests are increasingly sophisticated and can identify true positives and negatives despite the attempts of those trying to cover up drug use.

In today’s tough job market, people desperate for a new job may be even more tempted than usual to varnish the truth. With so much at stake in the people of a small business, it pays for employers to look out for these five lies.

John Reese has been an expert in the background and drug screening industry for over seven years. For more information, please visit HireRight at, or call (800) 400-2761.

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