Survey: People are telling (mostly) the wrong lies in their job applications

It turns out that most people lie in their resumes and during job interviews, and companies hire them anyway. Those are the findings of a new survey conducted by the ethical hiring practices firm, Checkster.

For this research, the team surveyed 400 job applicants and 400 hiring managers, HR professionals and recruiters about honesty in the hiring process. Checkster found that 78 per cent of applicants admit to lying to hiring managers, and 66 per cent of employers are willing to overlook some of these falsehoods.

The hiring manager’s age can be a factor in whether or not they will overlook a lie. The survey found that 69 per cent of hiring managers who were under the age of 35 would consider hiring an employee who made exaggerated claims. Hiring managers who were 45 year-old and older were statistically less forgiving.

Perhaps it is not so surprising that employers will overlook some fudging of the truth. Everyone knows that there is a bit of a game being played. Candidates will highlight – and often exaggerate – their qualifications and credentials while downplaying any of their shortcomings or professional failures.

Similarly, companies will extol the benefits of joining their team without mentioning the potential drawbacks such as the constant turnover, restructuring, rigid culture, or micro-management style.

What is startling about the results of the Checkster survey is exactly what candidates say that they are lying about in order to land jobs. They’re lying about the wrong things.

Candidates are telling the wrong lies

Sixty per cent of job seekers claim mastery of skills they have only basic knowledge of. This is the worst kind of lie to tell in the hiring process. What good does it to you to fool an employer into hiring you – if you don’t actually have the skills to do the job? That’s not spin. That is potentially putting you into an awkward situation where your true abilities are revealed and you are summarily dismissed.

That wastes the employer’s time and resources and can seriously damage your professional reputation. No one within the network of that employment situation will ever hire or recommend you again.

Other falsehoods included 50 per cent admitted to lying about dates of employment, their job title (41.24 per cent), and which school they attended (39.25 per cent.)

Those are all terrible deceptions to use when trying to get hired. This is because even the most basic background check will confirm your dates of employment with an employer, what your job title was and where you went to school.

You’re very likely to be caught. And even if most parties are willing to accept some spin and polish in the hiring process, these outright falsehoods call into question your character and integrity.

Almost half of candidates surveyed (43.75 per cent) say that they would use fake references. Employers hate this most of all. Fifty-four per cent of hiring managers said they would never hire someone who gave them false references.

The one lie you probably should be telling. The survey found that another of the most common lies candidates choose to tell is their reason for leaving a previous employer. This one makes sense. Your reasons for leaving a job are personal, and they won’t directly impact your ability to do the job that you are trying to be hired for.

Plus, if you chose to leave your previous job (as opposed to being laid off or fired) it was probably because of something about the workplace that you didn’t like. Most commonly it comes down to your relationship with your manager, but it could also have been the money, the commute, the coworkers, or the work itself. Whatever the reason was that made you want to seek alternate employment, don’t talk about it with future potential employers. You will only sound like a complainer, and that’s not what hiring managers are looking for.

Speak well of your previous employer, manager, and coworkers. Talk about what you learned and accomplished there, and how you are now looking to take on new challenges and grow in your career. Hopefully that part, at least, is true.

You can download the full report from Checkster.com here.

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