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Article: 5 Ways To Ensure You're Not Lied To At Interviews Related Resources

5 Ways To Ensure You're Not Lied To At Interviews
by Sital Ruparelia

"Sital, I often find people exaggerate what they did in their previous roles and the kind of work they have been exposed to. But we don't usually realise this until we have hired them – and by then it's far too late." What can you do during the interview to find out if someone is telling the truth?"

There will always be people that either exaggerate their experience levels at interviews and others that will even try to completely mislead you.

Here are 5 ways in which you can minimize the risk of being lied to by potential employees.

1. Ask the candidate to describe exactly what their role was.

"What specifically was your role within that team or project. What were your 2-3 main accountabilities? And what were you doing on a day-to-day basis?"

If someone gives you a generic answer (e.g. I was project-managing) – keep probing until you have established exactly what the role was on a day-to-day basis. You want to know what their day looked like, who they were interacting with, what systems they were using.

2. Ask situational (or competency) based questions that seek out real examples.

"Can you give me a specific example of a time when you had to deal with a major set-back during this project. Please talk me through the situation, what you did and the result"

This type of competency question requires someone to explain what they have actually done, rather than just testing whether they know what they ought to do.

You can ask this question to cover many different situations, e.g. how they handled conflict, managed an awkward client, met a tight deadline or beat a difficult sales target. Remember to ask: "tell me what exactly was going on, what you did to change the situation and what the outcome was."

The reaction you get and the candidate's body language usually will tell you if they are being totally honest. If someone keeps saying "we did this…", then politely interrupt them and ask them: "What specifically did you do here? What was your actual involvement?"

You can ask as many of these questions as you like, until you are quite sure that someone is telling a consistent and honest story. Someone who is making it up or exaggerating their responsibility will have difficulty being specific and it will be very evident.

3. Follow up with probing questions.

Don't just listen to the answer and move on – keep probing and drilling down until you know exactly what happened and the extent of their responsibility in achieving it.

"You say you were doing all the liaison with the local businesses to get their support. Who were these businesses? How exactly did you do that? What kind of problems did you come across? Can you talk me through one specific discussion with a local business that sticks out in your mind.? Why does this particular example stand out?"

Don't be aggressive – if you are, then their body language is likely to change and you won't get such open answers. If you feel that you're not getting the answers you need to satisfy your concerns, you can always come back to the topic later on.

4. Ask plenty of open questions.

"What, Why, How, When , To what extent.."

Questions beginning with these words cannot be answered with a ‘yes' or ‘no', so the candidate has to give a full reply.

You only ask closed questions when you are looking for a simple ‘yes' or ‘no' answer - perhaps to confirm your understanding of someone's responsibilities, or even to get an over-talkative person to shut up!

5. Watch the body language

When interviewing, if someone gets uncomfortable about a particular situation, their body language often gives you clues to keep probing until you're sure you are getting a genuine answer. Crossing the arms, hunching over, avoiding eye contact, scratching a nose or ear, can all give a clue that someone is being evasive.

But be careful not to place too much emphasis on body language: the candidate might just be nervous or shy. Ensure any judgements you make are based around a combination of the above steps – and not just body language.

Sital Ruparelia may be contacted at

Sital Ruparelia is the founder and principal of Authentic Resourcing. Sital works with businesses that struggle to recruit and retain people. If you’re looking for further help on how to interview, then you may want to take a look at “Interviewing Made Easy” e-book. This downloadable guide will take you through the key steps to interviewing and recruiting the right people every time. To take a look, go to

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