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5 Things Job Candidates Aren’t Telling You (or are Sometimes Lying About)

5 Things Job Candidates Aren’t Telling You (or are Sometimes Lying About)

By Braulio Giron, Jr. on September 19, 2019

Ever feel like applicants you interview aren’t telling the truth? Chances are, they aren’t. But this isn’t always bad, as some of them have their reasons for withholding real information

Ideally, all candidates applying for jobs would disclose the information requested of them. And for the most part, they do, although it shouldn’t be surprising when what they disclose isn’t always the most truthful or the most accurate. In fact, according to a study conducted in 2017 by HireRight Inc., a background screening company based in Irvine, California, over 85 percent of employers caught applicants fibbing on their résumés or applications. 

Being jobseekers before, most of us have probably claimed at least one “half-truth” in an effort to better align with what companies are looking for to, hopefully, land that job. Now, as the party on the other side, you’re likely wary of how applicants withhold or alter information.

With how creative some of these get, we’ve listed a handful of some of the most common instances where applicants aren’t the most truthful, and the things you can do to uncover the truth and not miss out on great candidates, as well as better avoid questionable ones.


The real reason they’re applying for the job

A common question you surely ask your applicants is “why did you apply for this job?” And, often, the answer you get is along the lines of “I’m really interested (or always wanted) to work for the company.”

In some instances, namely when the company is big with a well known brand, this answer is authentic. After all, who doesn’t want to work for your organization, especially if it happens to be the likes of Google, Apple, or the San Miguel Corporation. But otherwise? That response is no more than a cookie-cutter answer (or lie) which some applicants assume you want to hear.

Hearing this doesn’t mean you have to discount them completely however, as further inquiry (and when you make them) can help you determine who truly has an interest in joining the organization.

  • Catch them off-guard

While it’s easier to contact candidates for a face-to-face interview via email, text, or direct message, maybe you can opt to go the more traditional route of doing so by phone. This gives you the opportunity to conduct something of a pre-interview, and ask them questions that they won’t have the opportunity to develop a script of answers to.

Casually lead up to asking why they applied for the role with questions such as “Do you remember applying for the job?” and “What is your current/most recent role?” Doing these, you’ll have them talking about what they found lacking about their previous company and/or what REALLY caught their attention about yours.

  • Check their homework

Once you’ve scheduled an actual interview, you can proceed to better determine how much their interest in your company or industry is. Ask questions like “What do you know about the company?”, “Who are our competitors?”, and “What do you know about the role?” to measure how much thought they put into the job and company, and if they genuinely want to be working there.


Their employment dates (specifically the gaps)

Unexplained gaps in employment make for a rather unattractive resume. Unfortunately, this is what job seekers are told on a fairly regular basis, leaving those with gaps that aren’t easy to explain two choices. One is to tell the truth but in a creative way to relieve some of the stigma that comes with work history gaps, or two: simply not disclose it. As you can imagine, the latter is the course most taken.

With that said, don’t be dismissive of applicants with gaps in their employment history. After all, there could be a variety of personal and/or professional reasons why they had not been working, that of which they may not want to become the highlight of their resume. 

  • You’ll never know, if you don’t ask

If a job candidate’s qualifications look really appealing yet there are also concerns about their work history, it’s best to at least ask them about it before moving on from their application. Reach out by phone to find out more, and ask specific and investigative questions, to reveal as much detail as possible.

  • References aren’t just for name dropping

References are not just a good way to know about an applicant’s work ethic and abilities, but also the more concrete aspects of their past employment, say their start and end dates, and even contractual hours.


Their references

Speaking of references, it’s important to be wary about how some applicants don’t immediately include theirs on their resume. Granted, most are just limiting access to their references’ contact information to respect their right to privacy, but others may not be listing any former colleagues on their applications for a whole other reason.

If a candidate can’t provide a key reference from their most recent employer, even after you ask, then there is the chance that they didn’t particularly get along with co-workers or managers. Even when it’s not their fault– some bosses are just outright terrible– they still don’t want to come across like an unmanageable or unsociable worker, therefore applying sans (unreliable) references.

  • Use your initiative

There aren’t official red flags for these types of instances, although if you notice that an applicant submits a resume with not only a lack of references, but also no indication that they can provide you some upon request, you’ll likely have to take the lead and ask why they are leaving (or left) their last employer.

Then, even when their answers are acceptable, it’s still ideal to insist on receiving their references. At best, they eventually still have a reputable few who can attest to their qualifications despite the misgivings between them and the company, and at worse, they provide you no references or conjure up fake ones who, once you check with the old employer, don’t actually exist in the company. Any of the latter should instantly be culled.


Their Salary

You are well within your rights to ask what a job candidate earned at their current/prior employers, but they are just as well within their rights to not tell you. Then, if they do mention a figure, you can be almost certain that they inflated the amount. Candidates can’t really be faulted for this, as non-disclosure or exaggeration of their salary can help put them in a better situation to negotiate for higher compensation.

  • Work with what you have

While job candidates may have no idea about the salary ranges of the jobs you post, you likely had these set even before accepting applications. With that, you’ll simply work with these in the event you are not able to find out what applicants earn(ed). 

Remember, most applicants wouldn't accept a job that pays less or the same of what they already make, so you can start from the bottom of your salary range and gradually go up, with the amount they agree to likely being what they consider a decent upgrade from their recent compensation. If you end up having to offer the maximum salary for the role, you’ll just make sure that the candidate is indeed the best possible choice. Which brings us to...


Their Skills and Weaknesses

Researchers say that at least half of job applicants embellish their skill set to get a job. Outrageous, isn’t it? Unfortunately exaggerating one’s profile to an employer’s benefit is not uncommon and, in part, is a result of most jobs’ having requirements or qualifications that are rather extensive and hard to meet completely.

Similarly, just as some job candidates exaggerate what they can do, they downplay what they can’t. Ask about their weaknesses, and you can expect stereotypical answers like “Well, I’m a bit of a perfectionist.” These are not only predictable, they’re also mostly lies.

  • Don’t Ask

While it may seem counterintuitive, yes, it’s better not to ask, particularly about weaknesses. For one, it usually puts off even the best job candidates, and isn’t particularly useful unless they’re answering openly and honestly. But then, who wants to make themselves vulnerable, especially to a recruiter who they’ve likely only met for the first time?

  • Test and Evaluate

When certain skills are absolutely vital to the general functioning of a job role, then it is worth including an assessment in the application process. Admittedly, this makes hiring a little more cumbersome, what with having to create, schedule, and conduct such assessments.

Fortunately, there are hiring platforms like Kalibrr. Along with allowing you to post jobs that are accessible to over 2.5 million registered users, and seen by millions more after being syndicated to sites like Google, LinkedIn, and Indeed, the website also enables you to include custom assessments with your jobs. This means being able to evaluate their skills as early as they make their applications.

The website also allows for custom questions to be included in job posts, conveniently allowing you to also better gauge who your applicants are, even before you meet them for a face-to-face interview.


Frankly, almost every job seeker will neglect telling you, or outright lie, about something. Whether they merely exaggerate their qualifications to your benefit or convince someone to pretend to be their former manager and talk to you on the phone, what’s important is how well you are able to differentiate which are harmless fibs and which are concerns which could significantly affect their ability to fulfill the role you are hiring for.


Need help with recruitment? Sign up for Kalibrr and start hiring better today! 

Kalibrr is a technology company that aims to transform how candidates find jobs and how companies hire talent. Placing the candidate experience at the center of everything it does, the company continues to attract the best talent from all over, with over 2.4 million professionals and counting. Kalibrr ultimately connects these talents to companies in search of their next generation of leaders.

The only end-to-end recruitment solutions provider in Southeast Asia, Kalibrr is headquartered in Makati, Philippines, with offices in San Francisco, California and Jakarta, Indonesia. Established in 2012, it has served over 18,000 clients and is backed by some of the world’s most powerful start-up incubators and venture capitalists. These include Y Combinator, Omidyar Network, Patamar Capital, Wavemaker Partners, and Kickstart Ventures.

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