When interviewing a candidate to hire-- whether for a role in the office, work from home, outsourced, part or full time-- you have one main job to do. Above all else, you need to find out what they're lying to you about.
I may have recruited over 1,000 staff members. I've certainly interviewed hundreds, and currently, I have close to 200 in-house and outsourced workers on my payroll or contracting. It took me a very long time to learn the importance of lying candidates, maybe 10 years or more.
Common hiring advice tells you a candidate's reference is important. However, references can be negotiated with a previous employer. The advice tells you experience is the most important, or that attitude is even more important. It can tell dozens of things about interviewing candidates, but unless you face this reality I'm about to share, you will get gamed or bamboozled by an interviewee.
Many interviewees are better interviewees than employees. They've studied how to game an interview, and they are masters at it. So much so, that it could be their full-time job. Even my business partner holds virtually no weight or importance in a job interview after realizing how interviews can be misleading. He feels they're mostly a lottery, and you only know if anyone will be a good worker or a good culture fit when they've been with you for 6 months.
He's probably right. I'm not so pessimistic about interviews, but the one job you have in an interview is to find out what they are lying about. Because even the most "honest" people you'll meet lie in an interview. 78 percent of job seekers lie during the hiring process, according to a survey by Checkster, a reference checking company. According to University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert Feldman, we lie 3 times in 10 minutes, even to a stranger.
People want a job. People need a job. They want to pay their bills and feed their family. They often will say almost anything to give themselves the best chance of landing the job.
This used to upset me, but now I know it's normal. You'd lie to feed your kids; we all would. Let's get off our high horse and face the reality. Now, this might not be in a business MBA syllabus, but it's real.
Assume they always lie, and dig to find out what they are lying about.
Is their CV puffed up? Are they playing down how they left their last role? Are they making out they grew the entire department or company when they were simply a cog in the gearbox? Are they exaggerating their skills and hiding their weaknesses? Are they lying about their previous salary?
The answer to one or more of these is likely yes. And when you figure that out, you know what type of person you are going to get. So now the question becomes, how do you spot lying in an interview, and what does it tell you?
Well, experts would have you think you have to look for eye movements, stuttering, fidgeting, crossing arms or legs, what direction their feet point, and so on, but this is more for FBI body language books. The five easier to spot, more realistic signs, are:
- Changing the subject of the question fast and answering something else rather than your question
- Too many soundbites from Googling 'Interview tips'
- Holes in their CV after you've cross-examined them about it
- Spinning weaknesses into strengths (a pet peeve of mine)
- Blaming people; their colleagues and previous employers
If what they have lied about, or giving them the benefit of the doubt, over or underplayed, is a deal-breaker for you, don't make the hire. If their downsides or cover-ups are weaknesses you can cope with within the role, it's maybe not a huge issue.
What you really need to know about your candidate is not in what they do say, it's in what they don't say. It's not in what they reveal, it's in what they cover-up.
Now it's over to you detective entrepreneur, happy uncovering. And remember, if you don't risk anything, you risk everything.