SmartRecruiters Blog

The Interviewer’s Guide to Job Interview Lies

The interview serves a very specific purpose for each party involved. For the interviewer the process is meant to answer the questions: is the candidate capable of doing the job? Will the candidate fit in? And is this the BEST person for the job? The candidate has equal stake in the interview, it’s their chance to determine if they want and can do the job. But the interview isn’t completed with just these three little questions. There are pressures involved and one of the most common problems of the interview is the likelihood people will lie in order to achieve their goals.

These are the 10 most common topics to lie about in a job interview:


Compensation: Of course when you want to move to a new job you’re looking to get yourself to the next step and that means compensation wise too. To make sure you don’t get duped into paying someone way more than they deserve check the industry salary averages in your location, or the candidate’s previous area. When the number requested is 200K and your research is telling you 70K is the cap, you may have yourself a liar.


Accomplishments: There’s a lot of pressure in the interview process to set yourself above the rest, because of this some candidates will lie about their achievements from their previous work place. Making a suggestion for new software features may turn into being the team leader on the project. These exaggerations can be a huge problem after you hire the candidate and are expecting them to be able to lead a team of developers. To avoid this mistake, don’t ask for a laundry list of the candidate’s accomplishments, instead ask about their process of getting there. If the candidate can tell you details- great, if they can’t – red flag.


Reason for Leaving: If a candidate had a difficult exit with their previous employer, they may experience some anxiety when telling their next potential employer. That’s only normal. You can’t contact their old boss or coworkers? That’s one thing if they’re job searching while having a full time job, but another if they’ve left and explained to you it was amicable.


Education: Candidates may feel the need to lie about education based on the societal pressures to come from a good school with a strong academic background. Combat education fraud by getting a background check, this can easily tell you whether or not the candidate received the degree from the school they did or not.


Previous Job Experience and Rolls: Candidates may stretch the truth to prove that their job history is the perfect stepping-stone to the job they are trying to get now. The truth is no two jobs are going be perfectly aligned, especially if you’re moving to a new company. Instead of asking what the responsibilities were, ask what about their previous experience they will be able to contribute to the qualifications of the new job.


Investment in the Company: The labor market is tough, everyone is looking for a job so that means they’re probably not exclusively seeking work with your company. Candidates will most likely be applying to tons of different positions across different companies. In the interview a candidate will tell you, “this is the job they are meant for,” and how they think your company is changing the world. It’s probably not true. Don’t take it personally.


Covering up an Employment Gap: Employment gaps tend to leave people with a raised eyebrow, knowing this, candidates may try and to fabricate what was going on during the employment gap. Just because candidates weren’t in a professional setting doesn’t mean they weren’t developing skills for a professional environment. Focus on the potential positive things from an employment gap instead of approaching it as a negative, which will leave a candidate feeling like the have to lie.


False References: Poor performance or a bad experience with a past employer will lead to a poor reference. Friends and family are much more reliable if a candidate is worried their old employers will have less than positive things to say about them. When talking about references checks ask for specifics regarding the capacity of how the two worked together. If all the numbers start or end with the same few digits odds are you’re initiating the family phone tree.


Marital status: I was surprised by this one. Why would candidates feel like they have to lie about martial status? Most likely because of benefits and perks. Be such an awesome work place that you don’t pressure candidates into lying for benefits. If this doesn’t sound like your company, you’re probably in the stone age.


General Skills: This is similar to exaggeration of previous job experience. This lie will come from the candidate’s desire to have preferable qualifications for the job. A beginner’s understanding of Excel and Photoshop might come across as advanced understanding of the programs if they are necessary to get the job. This problem can be combated with questions that ask for details about how the program is used and passed projects. Another why to fight this fraud, skills assessments.


At the end of the day, they are lots of reasons why people lie. Particularly when they are under a lot of pressure to find another job. A poll by indicated that 92% of people interviewed have lied in a previous job interview.  As the employer there is absolutely no reason as to why you shouldn’t be able to catch this. You may not be able to read every single signal in the interview that indicates a lie. Like covering the mouth with they speak, shifting positions, etc. But by using assessments you’ll be able to figure out what in the interview was true and what wasn’t.


SmartRecruiters is the hiring platform with everything you need to source talent, manage candidates, and make the right hires. Modified Image Credit PursuitMag.

Lexie Forman-Ortiz

Lexie Forman-Ortiz is the Community Manager at SmartRecruiters.