Survey: Most Job Applicants Lie

Yet a majority of hiring managers would hire an applicant regardless of untruths
candidates waiting for a job interview

If you’ve ever stretched the truth when applying for a job, you’re not alone: A new survey suggests that most people tell a falsehood either on their resumes, while interviewing or during the reference check process.

Employment screening company Checkster set out to determine how prevalent lies are in the hiring process and how employers respond to it. To do so, the company conducted two surveys: the first was given to 400 hiring managers, recruiters and HR employees, while the other was given to 400 individuals who had either applied for a job or received a job offer in the past six months.

A large majority of the job applicants — 78% — admitted to telling falsehoods during the hiring process. Among the misrepresentations they either have made or would make were:

  • Claiming to have a mastery in skills they barely used (60%)
  • Claiming to have worked at a job longer than they did to avoid mentioning another employer (50.25%)
  • Significantly inflating a role on a key company project (49.50%)
  • Claiming a GPA more than a half point higher than it was (49.25%)
  • Giving a false reason for leaving a previous job (45.75%)
  • Giving false references (43.75%)

Lying does not always have bad consequences

For those wondering if they can get away with lying, the survey does little to discourage it, as many managers said they would still hire an employee who mischaracterized the truth. In fact, 66% of hiring managers said they would accept a lapse in ethics, depending on what it was.

Of the different types of lies applicants told, employers were most bothered by the faking of references — just over 54% of hiring managers said they would not hire an applicant who provided false references. In comparison, only 26.8% said they would not hire an applicant who lied about something on their resume, while 34.7% said they would not hire an applicant who lied during an interview.

The age of the hiring manager also may play a role in how willing they may be to overlook a lie. The survey found that 69% of hiring managers under the age of 35 would hire an employee who made inflated claims at least some of the time, compared to only 60% of hiring managers aged 45 and older. On average, hiring managers and recruiters surveyed said they would be willing to hire an applicant in spite of inflated claims about two-thirds (66%) of the time.

While not every employer will be bothered by a job applicant’s lie, you never know how the hiring manager for the job you’re hoping for will respond. For that reason, it’s a better idea to remain as truthful as possible and bolster your chances of getting a job in other ways. For example, you could take steps to improve your job application. You might also want to refine your skills by exploring do-it-yourself learning opportunities that can make you more appealing to employers.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.