Top Candidate Lies

Every Monday morning I have a meeting with my recruiting team – it’s a great way to kick off the week – we share what we are working on, we talk about problems we are having on specific searches so the team can share ideas and tips, maybe even a possible candidate they know of, etc.  We also share stories!  Monday mornings are great for sharing recruiter stories – horrible interviews interviews, funny excuses candidates have, negotiating nightmares – you name it, we talk about it!

I was reminded this week how bad of liars candidates can be – we get a lot of candidate lying stories in Monday morning meetings!  So, as a shout out to my Recruiters – and all recruiters – I wanted to put together a list of the Top Candidate Lies.  When I started thinking about all the lies, I found I could break it down by category – so here goes – hit me in the comments if you have a favorite that you get – or think of one I missed:

The Education Lies

“I have all the credits, I just didn’t graduate.”

“I did all the classes, I just need to pay the fees to graduate.” (so you spent 4+ years going to school, got done, but that last couple of hundred dollars stopped you from graduating…)

“I graduated from ‘State U’, but it was a long time ago, I’m not sure why they can’t verify my degree.”

“I had a 3.0 GPA in my ‘core’ classes, but a 1.9 GPA overall…”

“Well, it was an Engineering/Business degree.”

The Background Check Lies

“No, I’m not on drugs.” Then fails drug screen. “Oh, you meant Marijuana as a drug…” 

“She told me she was 18.”

“They told me in court that never would be on my file, so I didn’t think I needed to tell you.”

–  “No, I don’t have a felony.” (Oh, that felony! But that was in Indiana…)

The Experience Lies

“When you said Java, I thought you meant experience making coffee.”

– “I was a part of the ‘leadership’ team that was responsible for that implementation.” (So, basically you knew of a project that happened while you were working there…)

The No-Show Interview Lies

– “My car broke down.” (Either through some fantastic wrinkle in space, or gigantic amount of lying, candidates have more car trouble per capita than anyone else ever in the world who has driven a car)

“I couldn’t find the location.” (So, your answer to this dilemma was to turn around and go home and not call and let us know you got lost?)

“My son/daughter got sick, so I can’t make it.” (Again – crazy coincidences that happen with candidates and sick kids…)

The Termination Lies

“It was a mutual decision that I left.” (“So, you’ll ‘mutually’ decided that you would no longer have a job?”, is the question I always ask after this statement! Candidates – this statement sounds as stupid as it reads.)

“I (or any family member) was in a bad accident and in the hospital, so they fired me for not showing up to work.” (No they didn’t – there are some bad companies out there, but no company does this.)

“I play on a softball team and after games we go out and have a couple drinks. The next morning my boss smelled alcohol and fired me for drinking on the job.” (This was a true lie I got from an employee – it started out as me just giving him a written warning – until I went lunch, not joking – 10 minutes later at the Chili’s down the street from the office, and there he was belly up to the bar drinking a beer…upon cleaning out his desk we found a half a fifth of vodka.)

Here’s my take on candidate lies – candidates continue to lie, because Talent/HR Pros don’t call them out on it.  We (HR) also perpetuate this problem by hiring the folks who give you the crappy lie, but don’t hire the folks who come clean and tell you the truth.


Check out my follow up to this post: Top Recruiter Lies!




20 thoughts on “Top Candidate Lies

  1. A recruiter from an agency once implied that I should lie about my experience. I was fresh out of university with zero experience. When I told him this he said “You won’t get a job if you tell people you have no experience” In other words: lie.

    One time I didn’t show up for an interview because the directions they gave me were completely wrong.

    Another time I didn’t show up because they expected me to be there at 3:30. I told them it won’t be possible, as I have to work until 4, and then I would need at least an hour to get to their office. So they said what about 4:00? Again, I explained that it wouldn’t be possible. In the end they said “ok, 4:00. See you then.” They didn’t see me.

  2. Interesting read. You should also do an article listing the outrageous lies that employers tell unsuspecting applicants, such as: we have a healthy culture, our managers are competent, your role is valuable, you will be treated fairly, you will be judged only on your performance, this company values honesty, we are a meritocracy, people are our most valuable assets, etc. etc.

  3. “We (HR) also perpetuate this problem by hiring the folks who give you the crappy lie, but don’t hire the folks who come clean and tell you the truth.” I don’t get it..What does that mean???

  4. re: “I (or any family member) was in a bad accident and in the hospital, so they fired me for not showing up to work.” (No they didn’t – there are some bad companies out there, but no company does this.)

    You’re wrong. Companies do that and worse.

  5. I would like to say that I love this post. I saw it on linkedin and had to comment. I am not one to lie about my past employment history. I am not a recruiter. I would like to know that since you want the truth and I give it to you. Why would you still not hire me? I would like to to find out what is it in my background that is raising red flags. I feel that I am a very valuable canidate. I am hard working, go above and beyond for my employer. The reason that I wrote this is because, sometimes I feel like lying. I was in a domestic violence situation for 8 yrs. Where my abuser (ex-husband) we went through a lot of domestic situations. Through ALL of these situation, I am the victim. And because I protected myself, I am looked at like the assailant. Currently I am continuing my education in the computer technology field. So I am well aware that they will find out all that they need to know. So I am not trying to hide my past. I just don’t want it to effect my life. I had a excellent employment history before, during. Now it seems like it is effecting my life.

  6. Great article Tim! As you can imagine, we have heard some doozies as well!

    One of our favorites involves exaggerating dates of employment. Some candidates may do this to cover a gap in employment that they don’t want to explain.

    For example, one candidate extended his end date at his previous company by six months in order to hide the fact that he spent those six months serving a jail sentence!

    Check out four other lies we often uncover:

  7. My favorites, and by far the most prevelant lies I get, are regarding termination. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a candidate who was terminated come out and say that, at least not without me pushing the issue. Yeah, the mutual decision thing is common, and so is just saying “well XXXX was changing so I just decided to leave.” Uhhhh, what? I’m not sure what candidates are thinking with these excuses. When I have them walk me through the timeline of what happened and who said/did what it always turns out that they were fired/let go. If you are going to come up with a lie at least follow it through to the end with some sort of crazy justification!

  8. This could possibly be my new favorite post. True from top to bottom! I never heard of so many flat tires until I worked in staffing! What a weird coincidence 😉

  9. Tim – I really get the Background Check examples. I’ll add to that list saying that your drivers license was suspended for not paying a fine. Yep… fees for that 2nd or 3rd OWI do get expensive! Any chance it was actually the OWI that got your license revoked or suspended?

    We are a pretty forgiving bunch around here as long as you are honest with us up front. We tell our candidates that integrity is a huge core value for us and our background check company does a good job so we WILL find it if there is something there. It reflects poorly on candidates if I have to find out about their lack of drivers license, felony conviction, etc from a pdf file rather from them directly.

    We are more likely to remove a candidate from consideration for making false statements on their application than for actually having something show in their background check.

    Thanks for a fun read this morning!

  10. Tee Hee Hee, can we do favorite resumes next? My favorite is under work history, “I’ve been consulting” Telling the barista at Starbucks how to make your mocha is not consulting 🙂

  11. I have actually heard the following excuse no less than 3 times as a reason why people are less than 30 minutes late: “My dog swallowed ibuprofen”.

    Really? (BTW, did I mention my dad is a veterinarian and I know that if this really happened, it’s not the type of thing to make you a few minutes late).

    You are either extremely dumb for leaving ibuprofen pills lying around, or your dog is a genius in order to get into a container with a childproof cap on it. Maybe I should hire him…

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