The most common lies candidates tell in interviews (and how to uncover the truth)

SEEK research has discovered five things candidates lie about during interviews. We explore what prospective employees are willing to conceal, and how employers and recruiters can tease out the truth. 

Honesty from candidates is imperative during job interviews and the recruitment process.

“If both parties are not honest, it is likely that the candidate will end up being a bad fit and they will leave,” says Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer at Employment Hero. “That’s a waste of everyone’s time and money.”

Recent SEEK research has found that 59% of candidates don’t think it’s acceptable to lie about anything during an interview.

However, there are five things that some people are open to concealing the truth about:

“Why are you looking for a new job?”

18% of people believe it is acceptable to lie when answering this question.  

“What was the salary of your most recent role?”

Males in particular were open to lying about the salary of their most recent role, with 15% of people (18% of males) saying this was acceptable to lie about.

“What are your weaknesses?”

15% of people believe it is acceptable to lie about this, with 18% of males being open to lying about this question, compared to 11% of females.

Interests outside of work (e.g. hobbies, volunteering activity)

14% of people believe it is okay to lie about what they are interested in outside of the workplace.

Previous experience

Males were more likely than females (13% vs. 6%) to say it is okay to lie about their previous experience.

Candidates aged between 18-34 years were significantly more comfortable lying about their outside interests (19%) and most recent salary (23%) than those aged 35-64 years (10% and 10% respectively).

Why candidates lie

“Candidates will bend the truth for the simple reason that they want the job,” says Hattingh. “In their mind, the truth may hinder their chances.”

Hattingh says fear of being judged negatively is a reason behind why candidates lie about why they are leaving a job and bending the truth on salary is often because the person is being paid less than the current role, and they worry they may be perceived as too inexperienced.

“The truth about interests outside of work may be bent for someone who wants to appear as adventurous,” Hattingh says. “So rather than saying they curl up with a great book, candidates will respond with holidays, hiking, or dinner with friends - they are saying what they think you want to hear.”

What “non-truths” hirers should be listening or watching for in an interview

“If some candidates seem too good to be true, they just might be,” says Andrew Morris, Director of Robert Half Australia. Morris advises recruiters and small business owners to trust their instincts. “Also watch out for vague and inconsistent responses to interview questions where the candidate uses imprecise language,” he says.

Hattingh adds that she closely observes candidate’s body language during an interview. “I’m certainly no expert in body language, but any departures in how they have been behaving may be a sign they are bending the truth,” she says, “such as suddenly not looking you in the eye.”

Double-checking a candidate's claims

Ask for detail

“Asking for examples is a great way to probe into details to see how a candidate did what they claim,” says Hattingh. “Asking what the outcome was is also helpful. Someone will generally stumble if they are claiming experience they don’t have if they are asked to give details.”

Conduct thorough reference checks

“One of the best ways to double check a candidate’s claims during the recruitment process is reference checks, which can give an entirely new perspective on the candidate’s suitability for the role,” says Morris. Morris advises hiring managers to speak to referees personally and to verify a candidate’s educational background by calling the institutions where a candidate graduated.

Getting it right: What you need to know about reference checks

Look at their social media

“Another handy tip is to do a social media sweep,” says Morris. “Look up the candidate on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If their account is public, check their profiles. Do they match with who they say they are in the application? LinkedIn is also a great way to check if the candidate’s profile fits with the job description.”

The majority of candidates say they have no intention of lying during an interview; however, some people will try and stretch the truth. By knowing what kinds of things candidates are more likely to lie about, hirers can ensure they ask for more details, check references thoroughly, and do a social media sweep to confirm the reality matches with a candidate’s appearance.

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