When you need to hire someone, honesty starts with a resume. How do you know if your candidate is telling the truth about everything from experience to former salary, dates of employment, and the reason they were let go from their last job? We screen a high volume of candidates for our clients and we’ve learned a few things about weeding out people who are misrepresenting themselves. Here are a few tips to help you find out if your candidate is misleading you:
1. Ask the same question more than once
When you ask a question the first time, you’ll get a canned response. If you rephrase the question and ask it again at a different point in the interview, you’ll be surprised at what else is revealed. I recently asked a candidate why she was looking to leave her current job. Her first answer was that there wasn’t any room for career growth. Toward the end of the interview, I asked her what she hoped would be different about this role compared to her current job and she said she hoped for more career growth and a more clearly defined job description. Now we were getting somewhere! I asked her to clarify what she meant by that and she said that she’s often asked to do things that weren’t listed on her original job description. As a small business, this is one of our biggest pet peeves—people who expect that job descriptions won’t change. The irony is that someone who desires career growth, but is annoyed at being asked to take on additional responsibilities, is bit of a contradiction. The reality is job descriptions change all the time and employers need people who are flexible, low-maintenance, and willing to step outside of their comfort zone.
2. Watch your tone and response
The way you phrase a question plays a big part in whether people disclose useful information and the way you respond dictates whether they continue to reveal additional details. A suspicious or aggressive tone puts your candidate immediately on guard. Aim for a friendly, conversational tone because this conveys a safe environment—one in which your candidate will feel more comfortable being himself and will be more likely to level with you. Instead of sternly asking why someone has had three different jobs over the past five years and asking why they’ve jumped around so much, consider saying, “I see that you’ve had a few different positions over the past several years. What been motivating you to move?” Asking a question that’s less accusatory and more curious yields a better response. The latter approach places the emphasis on their motivation and not on their instability, even though their response will probably reveal information about both.
3. Trust but verify
Reference checking isn’t dead. It’s alive and well, and we continually find it to be a valuable part of the screening process. People commonly lie about education on resumes, so it’s important to verify everything from a degree to a job title. If you can’t speak to your candidate’s current manager for confidentially reasons, ask for references from previous jobs. Are his references polished and professional? The kind of people your candidate trusts to speak on his behalf will reveal a lot about his judgement and the kind of company he keeps.
4. Put them to the test
Need to verify a skill or mastery of a certain program? There’s a test for that. If your candidate claims to be advanced in Excel or says he has a history of success in sales, put those claims to the test. You can also test for certain personality traits that will help you gauge things like leadership potential and culture fit. If you’ve had difficulty filling a certain role and have hired numerous people who didn’t turn out to be a fit, consider testing your existing staff to help you determine what kind of personality traits thrive in your environment.
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