Not everyone is honest when it comes to applying for jobs. Stretching the truth on a CV or cover letter isn’t unheard of, but it does present some problems for recruiters who are looking for the right person.

In 2017, Robert Half released results from a survey based around lying on a CV. Out of over 1,000 workers, 46% said they knew someone who had lied on a CV. 76% also suggested that job experience was the information most commonly misrepresented.

This isn’t new information to you, of course, but it can be a worry if you have hundreds of CVs to sift through, and a fairly extensive recruitment process to undertake. The thought of pursuing a candidate for days only to find out they don’t actually fit the bill is clearly daunting. 

Luckily, we have a few ways to help you spot these white lies. By using probing questions, fine-tuning your sifting skills and going simply beyond looking at CVs, you’ll be able to eliminate the truth-stretchers, so you can pursue the quality candidates who will add value to your company. Read on to find out more:



Practice common sense in your checks

Does the CV in your hand seem too good to be true? Then review it against the level of experience they have included, asking yourself what is reasonable for a candidate at this level to have achieved.

For example, if you’re filtering through candidate CVs for a car sales role and you notice a candidate who has come from an admin background, ask yourself how likely they are to have achieved the top car sales award at their dealership. If this was the case then wouldn’t the candidate be in a sales role? 

If they appear to be a perfect candidate, this could be a sign that they are making exaggerations, so search for explanations they have provided or facts and figures to verify these experiences in line with their skill set and career level.



Catch them on the phone

When reviewing a candidate’s CV, make detailed notes on any information you need to be clarified – including anything that doesn’t come across as genuine. We would then recommend giving the a phone call to further screen them. By noting down any grey areas, you can tailor your questions to gain the information you want. 

Studies have found that while it’s easy to lie on a CV, it’s much harder to do when you’re caught off guard on the phone or in person. So if you are questioning some of their statements, probe them on it and listen for any uncertainties when they reply. If you’re still dubious, add further questions that go into more detail to see if they can provide you with answers.



Cross reference CVs with LinkedIn

Today, most professionals have a LinkedIn profile outlining the majority of information their CV would. You can use this platform to cross-check if what they’ve mentioned on their CV seems true. Be aware though, plenty of people fail to update their CV regularly. Endorsements, referrals and testimonials will also help to confirm their experience.

You can also use LinkedIn to speak with experts in the role you’re recruiting for and check with them whether they think the CV is viable or not. Someone in the same line of work should have a pretty good idea of how accomplished one might be in a certain role, or what tasks would be available to them at that level. So if you’re unsure, seek help from those more experienced than you, particularly if you’re recruiting on behalf of another department.  



Set a skills test

Another option to whittle out those who aren’t qualified for the job would be set a suitable skills test. What better way to separate the quality candidates from those who can’t actually do the job?  


Below are some of the main areas where a candidate might look to stretch the truth:


  • Educational level: Claiming a level of education they don’t have. Look online and in some cases you might look to call the institution to check. 
  • Exaggerating salary: Candidates may look to boost the salary you are offering by saying they’re being paid more than what they are by their current employer. Consider the length of their experience against the salary, or look into what the average salary should be for that role. 
  • Dates: Always check that the dates line up and there are no gaps between employment or education. A candidate could leave a position off their CV due to the fact that they were made redundant or fired.
  • Fancy job titles: Some employers give their staff very fancy job titles. If the job title appears much fancier and doesn’t really match up to the role the candidates has detailed, they could be trying to make the position look like it held more responsibility than it did. You can always check this with current employers too. 
  • Fake references: If a candidate provides a mobile number, call the company number to ask to speak to that person. All too often people will ask a friend to represent them as a reference because they think the employer won’t contact the company in the first place. To avoid chatting to a friend of the candidate’s rather than the real person themselves, contact the company to gain a reference.  
  • Name dropping: It’s great to see a candidate with a big company name on their CV, or who has worked with a leading public figure, but most of the time it ends up that this person has simply worked for the company who represents this company or person. Probe this to get more detail to see if any falsehoods crop up. 
  • CV and cover letter don’t match: An error-free CV paired with a messy cover letter is a clear sign of a disconnect, suggesting the candidate might have had a helping hand with their CV or got it from somewhere else. Again, ask more questions to see if the candidate can recall the details included in it. 


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