TAFEP Hero 2023 Oct
human resources online

Five most common lies candidates tell during interviews


It’s said that honesty is the best policy. But this may not be the case – certainly when it comes to what prospective job candidates say during an interview.

Recent research by recruitment website Seek revealed that 59% of candidates believe it is not acceptable to lie during a job interview. However, there are certain topics that candidates consider that it might be in their best interests to conceal something.

Here are five common lies and what HR can do to tease out the truth:

No.1 Why are you looking for a new job?

Almost one in five applicants believes that it’s acceptable to lie about this.

No.2 What was the salary of your most recent role?

Men were especially partial to lying about this – with 15% of candidates (18% men) happy to tell porky pies.

No.3 What is your main weakness?

A total of 15% of candidates believe it’s OK to lie about this, with 18% of men being open to lying about this question, compared with just 11% of women.

No.4 Interests outside of work

A total of 14% of candidates believe it’s acceptable to lie about their hobbies and activities outside of the workplace.

No.5 Previous experience

Men again fared more poorly here and were more than twice as likely as women (13% versus 6%) to say it’s acceptable to lie about their previous experience.

Interestingly, applicants aged between 18-34 were significantly more comfortable lying about their outside interests (19%) and most recent salary (23%) when compared with applicants aged 35-64 (10% and 10% respectively).

Why do candidates lie? “Candidates will bend the truth for the simple reason that they want the job,” said Alex Hattingh, chief people officer at Employment Hero.

“In their mind, the truth may hinder their chances. The truth about interests outside of work may be bent for someone who wants to appear as adventurous. 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.”

Checking an applicant’s claims

Ask for detail “Asking for examples is a great way to probe into details to see if a candidate did what they claim. 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,” Hattingh said.

Look at their social media In the age of digitisation, a handy tip is to perform a quick social media sweep on the candidates’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. If their account is public, check their profiles. Do they match with who they say they are in the application?

On a professional level, LinkedIn is also a very good way to check if the applicants’ profiles fit with the job description.

Reference checks This tried and true method is still one of the best ways to double check an applicant’s claims during the recruitment process. It’s advisable for the recruiter to speak to the candidate’s referees personally, and also to check the candidate’s educational background by phoning the institution where the candidate graduated.

Parts of this article were first published on the Seek website.

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