Are your candidates telling you the truth? 6 Steps to Honest Hiring

By Team Hireology,
April 17, 2012

Until 1988, companies were allowed to use polygraph tests to evaluate a candidate’s level of honesty.  Can you imagine? Candidate comes in with their suit and tie, opens their briefcase, pulls out a resume… and you dim the lights.

While this approach has been outlawed due to its questionable accuracy (not to mention its welcoming appeal), hiring managers still struggle with how to make sure their candidates are being honest during the hiring process. In a process designed to elicit exaggeration and boasting, companies aught to be skeptical when ensuring their candidates aren’t just blowing smoke…

So what can you do next time you’ve got a candidate at your desk and you can’t see their nose growing in plain sight? Here, we offer a few practical suggestions to this age-old challenge:

 1. Verify what you can on the front end: Look for errors and omissions in the resume. If it includes huge time lapses between work experiences, best to make sure you ask the candidate what they were doing during those times. Resume gaps hold the answers to your questions.

Don’t ignore the facts: If the candidate submits a cover letter that is poorly written or includes the name or characteristics of a company that doesn’t really sound like yours, don’t second guess yourself: You’re right! That candidate doesn’t really care about your job.

2. Get more out of your self-assessments: In test scenarios, research shows that when you tell candidates that they’ll need to elaborate on their test responses at some point in the future, they’ll be 60% more honest. This can be as simple as including a line of instructions at the top of your test, which says: “Please be as accurate as possible, as you’ll be asked to elaborate on your responses in the future.” Our customers are often amazed by how much this small step can help.

3. Ask follow-up questions in interviews: When your candidate tells you about anything they’ve accomplished in the past, ask them to simply tell you more about that. If you want to be an expert detective, ask them: “What was your specific role in accomplishing that?” “How did you decide to do it that way?” “Who else was involved?” The more the candidate elaborates, the more honest they are forced to be.  Can they make it up? Of course! But providing extreme detail is not something liars like to do. 

4. Practice makes perfect: In interviews, ask the same interview questions to every candidate: you’ll begin to pick up on more subtle nuances in their responses. This type of mastery can only occur when we compare apples to apples.  A good interview scoring tool can also help guide hiring managers towards Lie Detector Master status.

5. Verify what you’ve heard in your interviews by conducting excellent reference checks – and don’t expect the reference to spill the beans! First, Have your candidate set up the reference calls for you, and request that references call you during specific hours that work for you. This builds trust between all parties involved, and skates around the “we don’t do references” objection that you’ll get if you try to chase these calls down yourself.

On the call, look for discrepancies in what the candidate said and what the reference says.  Pay attention to the nuances of the answers you receive. The answers to the test are buried in the subtleties of voice inflection and tonal qualities of the reference’s answers. Does it sound like the reference is holding back on something negative? Push that reference to give you the second, third, and even fourth layer of detail. That’s where the reality of your candidate’s performance history lives.

6. Leave the rest to the experts: Conduct background checks on every candidate. This is the only way you can find out for certain whether your candidate is hiding something from you. Background checks are an inexpensive way to ensure your candidate is who they say you are, and behaves in an ethical way.


It just so happens that Hireology provides its customers with all the tools necessary to accomplish these six steps – all on one page. Think we’re not telling the truth? Feel free to verify.

Polygraphs welcome.

Make sure you don’t ask any of these common illegal interview questions! 

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