Hiring: How To Test For Honesty?

Have you ever felt seriously betrayed by a dishonest (new) employee who, during the hiring process, was the “perfect” applicant – had all the talents and seemed to possess all the soft skills needed for the job?

Honesty is a very delicate topic, especially during these election times. Should candidates be evaluated and selected upon their degree of honesty? Well, we won’t go into politics here… but when it comes to hiring good, dedicated and loyal employees, I guess you will not disagree: honesty is THE most important selection criterion that you should focus on, when evaluating applicants for any type of job.

Here is the problem:

Honesty is more than ever the major issue in pre-selecting applicants. The fact that dishonest employees can cost your company thousands or even millions of dollars is probably not unknown to you. But we believe this issue is becoming a much more serious concern. Besides observing a decreasing level of morale in the society, evidence of dishonest applicants lying in their search for the perfect job is quite alarming, per the following statistics(1):

  • Per the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), 53% of job applications contain inaccurate information.
  • In a survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com, 49% of the 3,100 hiring managers surveyed had caught a job applicant fabricating some part of his/her resume.
  • 9% of job applicants falsely claimed they had a college degree, listed false employers, or identified jobs that didn’t exist.
  • 34% of application forms contain outright lies about experience, education, and ability to perform on the job.
  • A study of 2.6 million job applicants showed that 44% lied about prior work experience, 41% lied about their education, and 23% of applicants falsified their credentials or made false claims on their resumes.

This disturbing decline in ethics touches everyone from recent graduates to executives and can have serious implications for your organization. For that reason, pre-employment screening such as reference checks, background checks and criminal record checks should be an essential part of your hiring process Also, those lying on their resumes should be considered high fraud risk individuals. Your hiring policy and documents should definitely include a clause of exclusion in case significant lying on a resume is detected.


In the No-Fail Hiring System, we always conduct a seven-step procedure to evaluate applicants’ honesty, no matter what the position is. We actually teach such procedure and we standardly apply it in our recruitment support services:

  • Resume scanning. There are some specific indicators of dishonesty that you can detect in a resume. The most obvious ones are called “red flags.” We analyze up to 13 of them.
  • Job application form analysis. Again, there are at least 10 red flags to look for in this document.
  • Lack of coherence between the resume and the job application form. Some recruiters suggest that resumes should be ignored. In fact, many staffing agencies conduct computer-based scanning of resumes – which rarely detect red flags. You should use and investigate both documents – lack of coherence & contradictions are important red flags we always look for.
  • First interview focus. I suggest that you start by asking specific questions to applicants that are entirely dedicated to evaluate honesty. Here is only one example: you ask the candidate, “did you have a chance to visit our website?” And she says “yes.” You then ask specific questions related to your website content. Observe then the candidate’s reaction – any hesitation or any time lag before she answers anything (especially when it is non-sequitur) is a prime indicator of lying.
  • Reference checks. Ensure you have planned in your job application a consent form to be signed by each applicant to allow your company to conduct reference checks. Tell them you will do so when they give you permission of course. Ask them what statement or comments you should expect from previous employers. And more importantly. DO conduct reference checks. They are a primary insurance policy against dishonesty!
  • Pre-hire assessments. Our exclusive soft skills assessment precisely measures honesty. If you have never used it, try it – simply go to thehiringtest.com and log in for a first free test. Beware that no all personality tests are equal. The best way to evaluate the value of a test is to first have it filled by someone you know very well in the company. In any case, a good test should help you tremendously in detecting honesty or lack of.
  • Background checks. Our golden rule is: NEVER hire anyone without conducting a good background check. It is your ultimate insurance policy against liars and dishonest people. Make sure you use legal and complying background check companies though, and you could get in serious trouble by blindly using some internet-based companies which do not necessarily comply with applicable laws. We work with and we recommend Sentinel Background checks at sbchecks.com – they are professionals and they strictly comply with all applicable laws.

To your success,

Patrick Valtin,
Best-Selling Author of “No-Fail Hiring 2.0

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