Busted! How Interviewers Spot Lies in Your Résumé

A recent survey revealed that tech pros tend to embellish their skill sets, previous experience and responsibilities more frequently than workers in other fields.

While you can probably get away with boasting or exaggerating a bit, the problem with lying on a résumé is that the odds of getting caught are high. Whether the hiring manager or recruiter catches on during the initial review process, the face-to-face interview, or the reference check, spotting a lie or misrepresentation will doom your chances of landing the job.

With that in mind, here’s how recruiters and hiring managers spot these discrepancies.

Job Titles and Duties Don’t Align

Having less responsibility than someone at a similar level is often the first indicator that something is wrong with a candidate’s résumé, noted Amber Eastman, recruiting manager with the Eastman Group.

For example, “senior software engineer” is a title that usually applies to someone who has served as a product owner and/or project leader, not someone who has assisted a development team or reported to a fellow engineer, explained Dave Druzynski, Chief People Officer for Auto/Mate Dealership Systems, who trains recruiters and hiring managers to spot possible fibbers.

If your job titles and duties don’t align, put a secondary title in parentheses next to your actual job title. That may help clarify things for the person reviewing your résumé. 

Date Discrepancies

If you tweak the experience levels in your opening profile or skills summary to match the job requirements, make sure your claims are actually supported in the résumé sections that follow.

“Some candidates forget to backtrack and modify the entire document,” Druzynski explained. “For example, they may tweak the employment dates of their most recent job to show more experience in a specific role, but they forget to change the rest of their work history, so the date ranges overlap.”

Reviewers also spot date discrepancies by comparing your résumé to your social-media profiles or previous résumé versions stored online. A short stint at a company followed by gap in employment is a sign that you weren’t laid off, as you might have claimed, but were actually terminated.

Almost everyone gets fired at some point in their careers. It’s better to admit that things didn’t work out than get caught in a lie, Druzynski advised. 

Education Doesn’t Compute

According to employers, the most common lies they catch on résumés relate to academic degrees.

Some misrepresentations are easy to spot, Eastman said. For instance, a candidate might list a CS degree from a university before it was offered at the school. Other candidates try to hide the fact that they didn’t actually earn a degree by indicating that they attended a college or university for four or more years.

Unfortunately, trying to cover up the truth won’t work because employers usually call the school, run a background check, or use a service such as the National Student Clearinghouse to verify a candidate’s education.

Inconsistencies in Your Stories

Fibbers have a hard time describing their role or the specific steps they took to resolve a problem, especially if they’re claiming credit for projects or tasks assigned to other professionals or teams.

Interviewers often ask detailed questions or use whiteboard exercises to weed out candidates who may have misrepresented their experience or are trying to compete for a higher-level position than they deserve.

Moreover, deceivers tend to contradict themselves or have inconsistencies in their stories; don’t be surprised if the interviewer tries to trip you up by interrupting you, or asking you to start at the end of a story and work backwards.

“Our recruiters take notes during the phone screen and pass them along to the hiring manager to make sure that a candidate’s stories match up throughout the hiring process,” Druzynski added.

Informal Reference Checks

Recruiters and hiring managers aren’t limited to the references you provide. They will often tap their networks to see if anyone they know has worked with you. With 70 percent of employers checking out candidates online before they extend an offer, there’s a good chance that someone will be able to verify or refute the information in your résumé.

A single discrepancy could cause a hiring manager to walk away—or question everything you say. Keep that in mind when shaping your application materials.

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5 Responses to “Busted! How Interviewers Spot Lies in Your Résumé”

  1. Kasey J

    This article gives employers and management too much credit. Often times, employers don’t take all this time to fact check, they’re actually pretty lazy unless the lie is blatant and noticeable. Even then they’ll just discard the resume or not call the potential candidate back. I’d say, criminal history and education are the two least things that you can get away with. Honestly, if an employer told me me to start at the end of my story and work my way up, or if I felt they were trying to catch me up in somethingI’d lose interest. If an employer is distrustful automatically, imagine what you’d go through working for them.

  2. Gary L. Wade

    I don’t know where someone came up with the idea that a senior software engineer is a product owner. A senior software engineer is someone who is experienced. Some companies might have other terms based on the degree of experience, but about the only titles that refer to someone being a product owner is manager, developer tech lead, or architect.

  3. Nycanon

    Yet the market is flooded with fake resumes, proxy interviewers, they are getting jobs and visas to work. It comes down to salary, the less someone is willing to take, the more fibs are overlooked

  4. IMHO, the author needed to talk to more hiring managers before making these sweeping generalizations.

    The idea that one’s duties on the job are all that closely related to their job title is, in many cases, ludicrous. Most jobs that I’ve interviewed for always seem to have the clause “other duties as assigned” so your job title of “member of the technical staff”, “technical specialist”, etc. is irrelevant. I’ve worked at companies where someone with the title “technical specialist” could be a sysadmin, DBA, programmer, job scheduler, the list goes on, and you were often filling in for a co-worker whose primary responsibilities were not specifically what you were hired to perform. I’ve worked at companies where I was hired to be, primarily, a sysadmin but I also wrote applications and “owned” those applications.

  5. Candice

    I agree with the previous commenters. Furthermore, sometimes jobs DO overlap. Holding a tech position in an organization doesn’t necessarily preclude teaching one night at the local college, or offering your expertise as an SME. Sometimes these kinds of jobs can go on for years, and it may make sense to include them in your resume.