Top 5 Candidate Lies

Expert Advice1. “I haven’t sent my CV anywhere else or got any interviews lined up”

I know this one gets some recruiters wound up. Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes for a minute…would you tell? I know how important the answer is to this question. I also know that there are a lot of recruiters out there who ask this without considering the candidates perspective. Just consider for a moment why a candidate may choose not to tell you. Now imagine what may encourage them to share this information. Consciously or not, the candidate asks them self one key question:

“W.i.i.F.M?” Which, to the rest of us, is “What’s in it For Me?”

The next time you want to get someone to answer a question, ask that question from the perspective of the other person. Too many recruiters tell the candidate what’s in it for them as a recruiter. E.g. “Where have you sent your CV to recently, so I don’t send your CV to the same companies?” Can you see how this is for the recruiter and not the candidate?

There is also another couple of reasons why some recruiters struggle to get the truth from their candidates with this question: they ask the question as a closed question which, as we all know, is easy to lie to “Have you applied for any jobs recently?” or they have not built any form of trust or reciprocal reason for the candidate to feel they need to answer honestly. The best consultants know that the reason they need to get the answer this question is to provide more choice to their candidate. Not just for any fringe benefits for the recruiter.

2. “My current salary is £X per annum”

Now I don’t want you to think that all candidates are liars. Far from it. What I do want you to realise though is that we don’t know which are or are not. When was the last time you asked a candidate to prove their earnings? Now I know that there are some who do not believe a job seeker should tell you their salary either. I would prefer to deal with a candidate who won’t tell me than one who lies as to their earning level. If I recruit sales people, then I have to know what they earn and get them to prove it because their salary is directly correlated to their success!

One of my favourite questions revolving around salary history is to ask “When was the last time you had a pay review?” as the answers to those questions open so many different avenues. I am sure the more you think about the possible answers to that question the more you can see the benefit to asking it.

3. Anything that begins “The reason I left that job” or “The reason I want to leave is..”

Once again this is an area that too many recruiters take at face value. My biggest concern here is that some recruiters get confused between reasons for leaving jobs and reasons for joining the next one. For example:

Recruiter: “Why did you leave company A?”

Candidate: “When the opportunity arose at company B it was a bigger organisation with more career prospects”

Can you see that is not the reason for leaving company A? It is the reason why they took the position at company B! The recruiter needs to dig a bit deeper to find the real reason for leaving. Avoid the assumption that the candidate left company A because there was limited career prospects due to the size of the business.

4. The dates of employment that appear on their CV

Gaps in employment can be unavoidable. How many candidates do you think choose to hide those gaps by closing up the dates? How many remain deliberately vague about their employment? I saw a CV this week that had the following dates:

Employer: Company A Limited

Position Held: Senior Assistant to the Chief Deputy Manager

Dates of employment: 2002 to 2005

Now I have made up the job title and the company name. What I have done is no more ridiculous than the dates the candidate says they worked there though. They could either have 2 years 2 months tenure OR 4 years or somewhere in between. See what I mean? Not really a lie, but is it an attempt to hide something or laziness or ignorance? Imagine sending that CV to a client with those dates. What would you say if the client asked you to clarify those dates and you didn’t know the answer?!?

5. “I can’t think of anyone to refer to you”

Unless your candidate has been working on the moon with their fingers in their ears and their eyes tightly shut, they must have interacted with other people. Look back over the last 10 working days. How many candidates have you spoken to? How many referrals have you generated? Some things that hold some recruiters back is:

  • Not asking in the first place
  • Asking at the wrong time (“Hello! Do you know anyone who is good?”)
  • Not giving the candidate time to think about it
  • Not creating reference for the candidate to create a list in their head
  • Only asking who they know who is looking for another job (A much shorter list than the list of people they know who have got jobs)
  • Asking candidates to create competition for themselves! (“I will definitely put you forward, do you know anyone else who may be suitable or interested?”)

So, in summary, some of these candidate lies could turn out to be recruiter error. Only that individual recruiter at that particular moment can be honest with themselves and say if it was their error or not. Like the post I wrote Top 5 Recruiter Lies I am sure I will get some interesting feedback! I leave you with this thought; If you can’t be honest with yourself, then why should anyone else??

Related Articles:

Top 5 Recruiter Lies

Recruitment Suicide – A Dummy’s Guide

The Forgotten Art of Recruitment


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3 Responses

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  1. Given my experience from the recruiter’s side of the desk, I would absolutely tell most of these lies, and some more on top. Unless, of course, I really didn’t have to because I trusted the recruiter implicitly, and genuinely had no gaps in my CV.

    1. I would never ever tell a recruiter who else I had registered with, or applied to. I know full well that this information will be used by them to canvass on new jobs and send other candidates to compete with me. I want them to believe they have me exclusively, so that they are motivated to work harder by the better prospect of a fee.

    2. I would absolutely flatter my salary, as I know the recruiter is quite likely to collude with an employer to get me on the cheap. It won’t affect their fee much, but it does me no favours.

    3. I was trained at HMS recruitment to ask candidates why the left a job at least 3 times, and probe for the real answer. The real answer may well help them to represent a candidate better, but a candidate should never admit that they were encouraged to leave due to illness, conflict with a manager, fiddling expenses or many other personal reasons. Not all, but at least some recruiters will see this as a key tool to show employers that they can negotiate you down on salary.

    4. Many candidates are, frankly, idiots when it comes to writing a seamless CV, with no unaccounted for gaps. People always assume the worst, when a gap is unexplained. However, making a bad career move, whilst only human, shows a lack of judgement, and is embarrassing. Ideally a CV should display no sudden illogical moves, otherwise employers will smell a rat.

    5. OK, candidates must at the very least conjur up 2 plausible referees. However, it’s often just not possible, as they don’t want to advertise to the world (including these referees) that they on the job market. The best referees are usually employers, colleagues and clients, and these people should not be alerted to the candidate’s intention to move.

    With all this in mind, the smart recruiter knows what fibs to look out for, and will endeavour to gain the trust of every candidate. After all they will be representing them, and at that point in time are privvy to the most intimate secrets of jobseekers.

    I’d like to suggest a blog post about the Top 5 Lies Recruiters Tell Candidates (in their best interests, of course).

    I always counsel candidates to manage their relationship with recruiters very carefully, for these reasons. Seek out the very best recruiter in your industry, ask for references on them, and build up a trust relationship, so they are truly going in to bat for you. If you find such a recruiter, put his number on speed dial, and keep close to him/her throughout your career. It really will play dividends for ambitious professionals.

    Stephen O'Donnell 9 May 2010 at 10:13 pm Permalink
  2. Recruiters will hate me for being a turn-coat, but these days I advise job seekers to be very coy about telling a recruiter where else they have sent their CV. This question is so obviously weighted in the interests of the recruiter as to be bordering on deceitful. Does any sane candidate expect that the recruiter will clear their desk for the rest of the afternoon and dedicate himself to sending the candidate’s CV everywhere except the list of companies provided? OK, I know that candidate marketing is a great way to do business, but recruiters ask EVERY candidate this question, so the balance isn’t in the candidates favour.

    Gaps in work history. ARGH! Major bug-bear of mine. I’m so please to find a similarly tortured soul. In the first few months of my recruitment career I had an exchange with a customer which went like this:

    CLIENT: “What’s this gap of three weeks that occured ten years ago on the candidates CV?”

    ME: “Er…”

    CLIENT: “You mean to say that you are asking me to pay you £3000 for a candidate that you can’t even be bothered to interview properly?”

    ME: “Er…”

    CLIENT: “Go away.”

    Consequently I developed an unhealthy obsession with such matters with all future candidates as a defence mechanism. I am sure, Dad, that you never had such a lack of wisdom and are merely making an observation of the more average recruiter.

    Stephen, I think you have hit the nail on the head with the “sudden illogical moves” aspect of gappy CVs. Such a CV is unlikely to be from the “expert” that the hiring manager has in his mind’s eye.

    Jason 22 May 2010 at 11:33 pm Permalink
  3. Given my experience from the recruiter’s side of the desk, I would absolutely tell most of these lies, and some more on top. Unless, of course, I really didn’t have to because I trusted the recruiter implicitly, and genuinely had no gaps in my CV.

    1. I would never ever tell a recruiter who else I had registered with, or applied to. I know full well that this information will be used by them to canvass on new jobs and send other candidates to compete with me. I want them to believe they have me exclusively, so that they are motivated to work harder by the better prospect of a fee.

    2. I would absolutely flatter my salary, as I know the recruiter is quite likely to collude with an employer to get me on the cheap. It won’t affect their fee much, but it does me no favours.

    3. I was trained at HMS recruitment to ask candidates why the left a job at least 3 times, and probe for the real answer. The real answer may well help them to represent a candidate better, but a candidate should never admit that they were encouraged to leave due to illness, conflict with a manager, fiddling expenses or many other personal reasons. Not all, but at least some recruiters will see this as a key tool to show employers that they can negotiate you down on salary.

    4. Many candidates are, frankly, idiots when it comes to writing a seamless CV, with no unaccounted for gaps. People always assume the worst, when a gap is unexplained. However, making a bad career move, whilst only human, shows a lack of judgement, and is embarrassing. Ideally a CV should display no sudden illogical moves, otherwise employers will smell a rat.

    5. OK, candidates must at the very least conjur up 2 plausible referees. However, it’s often just not possible, as they don’t want to advertise to the world (including these referees) that they on the job market. The best referees are usually employers, colleagues and clients, and these people should not be alerted to the candidate’s intention to move.

    With all this in mind, the smart recruiter knows what fibs to look out for, and will endeavour to gain the trust of every candidate. After all they will be representing them, and at that point in time are privvy to the most intimate secrets of jobseekers.

    I’d like to suggest a blog post about the Top 5 Lies Recruiters Tell Candidates (in their best interests, of course).

    I always counsel candidates to manage their relationship with recruiters very carefully, for these reasons. Seek out the very best recruiter in your industry, ask for references on them, and build up a trust relationship, so they are truly going in to bat for you. If you find such a recruiter, put his number on speed dial, and keep close to him/her throughout your career. It really will play dividends for ambitious professionals.

    Emily 2 June 2010 at 4:21 pm Permalink

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