HR · 21 December 2015

The small business advent calendar – December 21 : A lie lurking behind the door

lying to potential employers
What’s behind door 21?

Everybody knows that lying to potential employers is a bad idea, more deserving of a lump of coal for Christmas than suited to a meaningful, long-term working relationship. But today’s door swings open to reveal that many Britons have admitted to doing just that.

Over half of the UK adults surveyed recently by training software firm Enterprise Study confessed to lying during the job application process. Some 21 per cent of those who hadn’t told the truth said it was because they “panicked and thought it was the best way to get the job”.

The most common subject for fibbing about was training and qualifications – with over one-third of untruthful applicants telling a related lie. Giving a misleading answer about why they left their last job was also popular with those surveyed.

But almost one quarter of those who had admitted to lying had been found out – either because they’d forgotten to keep the pretence up or because they couldn’t provide proof of their qualifications.

Yet the news wasn’t all bad for micro firm owners concerned about hiring their first members of staff.

The vast majority of respondents said that they found it easier to lie on paper than they did face-to-face – meaning that the right interview questions should be able to weed out many mendacious applicants.

Competency-based enquiries that probe candidates to find out if they really know what they’re talking about can help with this process – while tests in maths, writing and Excel can show up skills gaps that a CV might have glossed over.

And some employers encourage a more direct approach. In an interview with American Express, motivational speaker Barry Maher suggested asking candidates: “Is there anything I might uncover that’s different from what’s on your resume that you might want to explain now?”

It’s also helpful to know that a far smaller proportion of people lie on their LinkedIn page, according to additional research carried out by Adecco in 2013. The recruiter estimated that only one in ten people lied about their qualifications on the site – making it a useful resource for owner-managers who want to double-check their candidates’ credentials.

Come back tomorrow for the next installment of small business miscellany

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Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.