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Over a quarter of UK job candidates admitted to lying on their CV’s, according to a study in 2015 (CV-library). The figure goes down to 17% for those to admit to doing it during the interview process, but I wouldn’t hold too much comfort in that. Because if those are all who actually admit to doing so, then let’s assume the figure is a wee bit higher…..

Given that your role when you are interviewing a candidate is to assess how someone would perform if you hire them and that you mostly rely on the answers they provide to do this, what are the kind of things you should look for to spot if the person in front of you is in fact telling porkies when it comes to explaining their own competence?

We all want to be more Inspector Clousseau than Inspector Gadget, possessing laser like precision about when someone is telling the truth and when they are wide of the mark. But the truth is that no-one can.

Making someone comfortable to begin with helps

Experts talk about ‘establishing a baseline’ when it comes to spotting a liar .i.e if you know how someone normally behaves, then you will find it easier to spot when something is making them uncomfortable (or when they are telling an untruth). Poker players call this their ‘tick’.

Most people try and make someone comfortable automatically by asking pleasantries about the journey, weather etc, however I would suggest that you need a little more than the average 35 minute interview time to get to know someone well enough to spot what their baseline is.

Check out their eyes

I once read that when answering questions, people look and up and right if they are recalling events they have been part of and up and left if they are looking at events they have created. Brilliant, I thought. And armed with this information, off I skipped to my next interview with my new superpower.

Whilst this theory might hold true, unfortunately in practice, I found myself more confused about remembering “was it my left or their left?” (it’s theirs btw) than what they were saying, that I ended missing an entire chunks of answers from the candidate and having to spend twice as long as I normally would with someone.

From that point on, I thought it better to focus on the task in hand and even if I could then work out my Left from theirs, decided instead to leave aside the non-verbals and focus on what they were actually saying.

Ask one question and then probe the answers

Drilling into into them further helps establish the facts: it’s easy to come up with one sweeping statement or short answer to a question, but as they say, the devil is in the detail…So ask for examples of what they are claiming and then ask further open questions ( what, why, when, how, who etc).

The same can be done about information regarding salaries. I know it’s a particularly British trait to want to leave aside the money, however it can play a key part in establishing the truth when it comes to the success of a sales person in particular. First ask about their salary and commission. Then later ask about their targets. Then follow up with how much of their target they made. And also how much is on their P60 last year (explain that you would ask for this as part of any reference checking). Some are evasive here, but this is far better than any other form of verification on this topic. Which brings me neatly to …

References. If you’re tempted to rely on references to corroborate any applicants potential, a word to the wise: don’t. While references can indeed confirm if a person worked where they say they did (which in itself is useful), evidence suggests that references are amoung the worst predictors of performance in any assessment process, ranking just above handwriting analysis in terms of reliability….

And don’t also forget that some untruths might be more akin to exaggeration, rather than outright lies which would damage their career or cause you harm. After all, you are asking the candidate to put themselves in their best light, so who in their right mind is not going to put themselves centre of stage in that situation.

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Photo Credit: Liar by id-iom