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I love that recruiters are, overwhelmingly, optimists.

Optimists are generally great to work for and work with.

I admit I am biased because optimism is my top character strength.

However, this character strength may easily become a significant liability when a level of skepticism is necessary during the hiring process to ensure candidates are not being offered a job on false premises.

Skepticism appears to be even more important than ever if results from a recent survey of jobseekers are any indication.

Recruitment industry vendor ResumeLab surveyed over 1,900 U.S.-based workers in August this year to examine job applicant behaviors. The survey was seeking insights into lying during recruitment, the scale of the phenomenon, and the reasons why applicants decide to lie despite the risk

When asked, “Have you ever lied on a resume?” respondents claimed:

  • Yes, I lie frequently – 37%
  • Yes, I have lied once or twice – 33%
  • No, but I have considered lying – 15%
  • No, and I have never considered lying – 15%

Education proved to be the only demographic predictor of the likelihood of lying, but not in the way that you might guess.

Job applicants with Masters or doctoral degrees self-reported the highest incidences of frequently lying on resumes (58% frequently lie) compared to all other respondents (29% without a college degree and 30% with a bachelor or associate degree frequently lie).

There were no other disparities within different demographic groups for frequent resume lies after the responses were segregated by gender, age, political affiliation, religion, and work industry.

Respondents were then asked, “What did you lie about on your resume?”

The responses are summarised as follows:

  1. Embellishing responsibilities in general – 52%
  2. My job title (to make it sound more impressive) – 52%
  3. Fabricating how many people I managed – 45%
  4. The length of time I was employed at a job – 37%
  5. The name of the company that employed me – 31%
  6. Made up the entire position – 24%
  7. Inflating metrics or accomplishments I achieved (e.g., sales numbers) – 17%
  8. My skills section – 15%
  9. Awards or accolades – 13%
  10. Volunteer work – 11%
  11. My education credentials – 11%
  12. Covered up a career gap – 9%
  13. Technology capabilities (knowing tools like Trello, Asana, etc.) – 5%

The revelation that nearly a quarter of candidates have included an entirely fictitious employer on their resume and nearly a third have changed the name of their employer (to, I assume, an employer more, or less, recognisable, depending upon the employer’s reputation) would appear to say a great deal about the confidence possessed by a large minority of candidates that their claims will not be checked by a prospective employer.

When asked, “Have you ever lied in a job interview?” respondents claimed:

  • Yes, I lie frequently 44%
  • Yes, I have lied once or twice 36%
  • No, I have not lied 20%

Once again, it turns out that the highest level of education was a statistically significant variable in predicting interview lies with 63% of those holding a Master’s or doctoral degree admitting to frequently lying, compared to 38% of those with a bachelor’s or associate degree and 31% of those without a college degree admitting to frequently lying in a job interview.

The fact that nearly half of all candidates admit to frequently lying in an interview is, yet again, a rather sobering reality check on how confident many, many jobseekers are that their claims will not be subject to verification.

When I returned to blogs I had written about this topic in 2010 and 2013 it was clear, despite the differences in data sources, that more jobseekers are lying about more aspects of their background and they are doing it more often.

The reason jobseekers are lying is, to my mind, very obvious.

Jobseekers lie because the likelihood of being found out is minimal.

Last month recruitment industry vendors, Criteria’s 6th annual Hiring Benchmark Report reported 73% of hiring professionals believe they are currently facing a talent shortage and the September 2023 Recruitment Experiences and Outlook Survey reported that 59% of recruiting employers had difficulty filling at least one role in the previous month.

When talent is short and employers have a vacancy they are desperate to fill they undertake little, if any, background checking on their preferred candidate. It’s almost like they don’t want to find out something that may cause them to discount their preferred candidate and start the recruitment process from scratch. A small poll of my larger clients who have had ten or more employees leave in the past couple of years revealed that a reference was rarely sought on a former (or soon-to-be former)  employee.

As serial job liar, Jeffrey Flanagan has discovered time and time again – each time a jobseeker gets away with lying it’s that little bit easier to do it again….and again.

Related blogs

The Myer conman is back and 8 years later he’s a pretend teacher

Liar, liar, pants on fire: How to spot an interview lie

Do you know which of your candidates is lying, big time?

CV fraud on the march: What are you doing about it?

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