6 Ways to Make Sure Candidates Are Telling You the Truth

Welcome to Recruiter QA, where we pose employment-related questions to the experts and share their answers! Have a question you'd like to ask? Leave it in the comments, and you might just see it in the next installment of Recruiter QA!

Today's Question: Candidates can write anything they want on their resumes and in their cover letters. They can tell you anything they want in the interview. How do you verify the stories they share about their past successes on the job?

1. Check Their References

Because we coach business leaders and managers on hiring – specifically, how to hire the best people – some of the most important things we require from our candidates are verifiable reference checks from direct supervisors at current/previous positions. Typically, we ask for three references. These must be people to whom the candidate has directly reported in their work.

One of the responses we receive on occasion is that "references are against company policy," and this is fine. However, we've found in interviewing more than 4000 people (collectively) per year that if a candidate is top quality, more often than not a supervisor will provide a positive reference even if it is against policy. They want to see their previous employee (who is supposedly awesome) do well and continue to succeed!

— Stephanie Troiano, The Hire Talent

2. Pay Attention to Their Language

The most common form of deceit is when a candidate exaggerates either their role on a project or a project's importance to the company. Focusing on specific wording and how the candidate explains their participation allows the interviewer to determine if the candidate is intimately familiar with the project or passing someone else's work off as their own.

For example, let's say a candidate told you about a project they planned, delegated to people, and then implemented. When you're digging into the details, you ask them "So how did you decide who to delegate tasks to?" and their response begins with "Well, I typically try to ...". That's not a good sign.

If they had actually done the work, their response should be "Well, what I did ..." The use of "try to" rather than "did" indicates that their answer is about what they would conceptually do, rather than about an actual experience they had.

Of course, waiting and listening for something like this to happen once would be an absurd way to interview. The trick is to pay attention to how an interviewee answers your questions to get a sense of their thought process. In this example, they aren't thinking back to the time they did something; they are thinking about what the right way to do it would be. If they are constantly talking about what they "would do" rather than what they "did," this could mean that they are not being straightforward with their claims.

— Edwin Ivanauskas, Citadel Insurance

3. Test Their Skills

As someone working in the HR industry, I know how difficult it can be to tell the difference between a genuinely good candidate and one who simply sells themselves better than they actually are. However, asking for references (and actually checking them) and testing the candidates for their skills can help employers determine how skilled each candidate really is.

I cannot emphasize this enough, though: You should absolutely make sure the tests you give your candidates are suitable for the level of expertise they claim and for the skills you actually need for your open position.

— Alexander Grosu, TestUP

4. Assess Their Body Language

I have never called anyone's references. I always figure out if someone is being truthful regarding their experiences during the interview. I verify their stories by asking them specific questions and listening to not only what they say, but also their body language. The question design is critical here. It has to be specific enough so that anyone who isn't being truthful about their experiences and past successes would have a hard time coming up with an answer.

— Edgar Barrera, Dog Bite Legal Group

5. Find Them on Social Media

The first step in verifying information provided on a resume is to call and request dates of employment from a candidate's previous or current employer. Most human resource professionals will not release any information beyond the dates of employment and whether or not an applicant is eligible for rehire. If you have valid concerns regarding statements provided during the interview process, you can try to reach out to a candidate's previous supervisor. A thorough background check utilizing social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn will also paint a very clear picture of how a candidate presents themselves.

— Brad Stultz, Totally Promotional

6. Ask Your Common Friends

In this connected world, there is a possibility that you can find someone who is a common friend/acquaintance between you and the candidate. A general chat about the candidate can tell you about their potential, attitude, and integrity. For one candidate, for example, I was able to connect with an acquaintance who told me things that were in complete contrast with what the candidate had mentioned.

— Sumit Bansal, Trump Excel