Dealing With Deception

March 2023
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If you are a hiring manager, there will come a time when you are confronted with a candidate lying to you during an interview. It’s more common than you might realize. Over 80% of people lie during their job interviews, according to Ron Friedman, social psychologist. 

Even when taking that elevated statistic into consideration, valid concerns and questions will undoubtedly arise. What else will this person be dishonest about? Can they be trusted with privileged information and access to sensitive materials?

Protecting the integrity of your company is imperative, so it is important to be prepared for a situation like this to handle it professionally and ethically. Let’s review some things that you should consider when dealing with deception. 

Some fibs are more common than others and easier to sniff out. 

An example may include a candidate lying about their job title in a prior role or elevating their level in an attempt to secure a higher salary offer. A candidate may also lie about their expertise in a desired skill or program, inflating their capabilities. 

Many candidates opt to change dates in their employment history to cover up gaps in work history. Another common lie is telling a hiring manager that they were previously laid off, when they were actually fired, or something along the same lines pertaining to disciplinary actions.

Is a lie ever acceptable? 

There is a lot of discussion about this online. There are rare circumstances where concealing truths could be considered acceptable, such as to protect someone’s safety or to maintain confidentiality. Likewise, I can imagine that being confronted with biases during interview processes might push someone to begin lying during these processes. 

I think it comes down to honesty being a fundamental aspect of all relationships, including professional ones. Lying during a job interview understandably damages a candidate’s credibility and reputation. A candidate may end up in a role that they are wholly unsuited for, too. 

Even though many people embellish the truth during interviews, I would prefer a candidate be transparent about any concerns or limitations, rather than resorting to deception of any kind. 

Make sure your suspicions are well founded. 

While behavioral cues are important to note, a display of nervousness isn’t necessarily proof of a lie. Before taking action, make sure that your disbelief is based on facts. If you have noticed inconsistencies in their answers, then try double-checking their résumé and provided work history. Do your research and verify their credentials to the best of your ability. If a lie was discovered during the reference check, then gather as much information as possible. 

If the issues stand, then address it directly with the applicant in a private meeting. Ask them to clarify or explain. This allows them the opportunity to come clean or provide a reasonable explanation. 

Determine next steps in the event of a lie. 

You have to document the situation to protect your company in case of any legal repercussions. Then, carefully review and consider company policy both to ensure consistency and to make the best decision on how to proceed. Check in with human resources, your talent acquisition lead or the senior hiring manager. 

In some cases, the severity of the lie can be evaluated and potentially overlooked. Perhaps exaggerating about fluency in Microsoft Office isn’t a deal-breaker because your organization will offer training. In other cases, a lie might be severe or concerning enough that it triggers the end of the hiring process, an offer being rescinded or grounds for termination for the individual. 

I maintain my position that it is better to approach a difficult topic pragmatically and truthfully, rather than a fabrication coming up down the line and tarnishing reputations, credibility, relationships and more. Discovering a lie during an interview can be a difficult, unfortunate situation to handle, but being prepared for it can equip you to at least handle it fairly and appropriately. 

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