Despite the amount of noise found online around hiring the perfect person, every hiring manager has a story to tell about either a poor hire or an interview fraudster who has lied about their skills (to varying degrees). The reality is, it’s just not that straightforward and sometimes you have to accept that poor hiring decisions happen. There is no escaping the reality that hiring someone who fools you with a winning personality or the perfect set of skills, leaves you feeling hollow.

So how do you spot interview fraudsters?

Recognise made-up credentials

One strong red flag is the presentation of made-up credentials. Start by having a good look at a candidate’s CV for inconsistency or strangely paced career advancement. It will often highlight problems so a good trick is to conduct thorough background checks. This will confirm education histories or previous employment directly with the institutions or the businesses listed.

Inconsistencies during interviews

Pay close attention during the interview process to inconsistencies and the candidate’s replies. People who are unable to discuss previous job responsibilities clearly and with detail may not be as experienced as they claim. Use competency-based interview questions that require people to explain their past job situations and how they handled them to expose holes in their stories.

What the? Interview fraudsters will attempt to confuse you


If you are listening to somebody and your head is spinning because there are too many buzzwords, pause and cross-check. Do the candidate’s answers basically constitute a collection of well-placed buzzwords designed to make them sound smart? You need to ask more (better?) questions to find out if they know what they’re talking about. Keeping it simple should be the name of the game here, and you are well within your rights to ask your interviewee to better explain what they’re talking about by using simpler language.

“…if you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

Over talking

Surely you’ve been in an interview where the person you’re talking to just tries to baffle you with long-winded answers? Sometimes this is nerves but often it can be a deliberate ploy, and as above, you need to dig deeper. Nobody should be sitting through a 1.5 hour interview on a regular basis.

Verify the technical skills

When you have a role that has specific technical skill requirements, practical tests can be a good tool to use.  Running a task that mimics real job challenges will assess the candidate’s ability to perform at the level you need. It’s also a good idea to ask detailed questions about the methodologies they prefer and why they made those choices. This can prove practical knowledge and real experience.

Digital footprint analysis

In the social media, age a quick search of a person’s online presence can be revealing. This should be kept at a professional level. Review profiles on professional networking sites and recent activity on related forums or blogs. They will often be a good source/confirmation of the things they claim. Obvious red flags in this research would be profiles that appear to have been recently created or significantly updated just before the application process began. One caveat here may be that the person you are talking to has been employed by the same company for a long time which could explain why something has been comprehensively updated so use your judgment.

How are they behaving

Non-verbal cues during the interview can also be a sign of dishonesty. These include fidgeting, avoiding eye contact, or conflicting body language (compared to what is being said). It is very important to approach this analysis without bias and focus on patterns rather than isolated occurrences. For example, a very generic sign that somebody is lying to you is them covering their mouth or wiping their nose. However, this is not a definitive sign that a person is lying if there are no other cues to match

Name dropping

Whilst this is used at times to showcase the strength of network and connections, if not done appropriately it can feel insincere and inauthentic. Sure, they may be awesome names to drop and hear, but does it really make a difference towards their potential success in your role? Often you may find that these names are being dropped to impress and mask other short-comings.

Taking over the interview

If you notice a candidate trying to take control of an interview, this could be a sign that they’re trying to hide their imperfections by bluffing. Be careful, as this can happen a lot, especially if you’re less experienced as an interviewer. If you feel like the candidate is guiding the conversation towards questions that they want to answer, rather than questions you want to ask, then don’t hesitate to get the interview back on track. A great way to do this is to go back and get them to expand on another answer, for example by asking “You mentioned earlier that you had experience with managing people, can you tell me a little bit more about that?”

Follow-up questions, ask for specifics

If you notice a candidate using the word “we” a lot, you might want to take heed. Whilst it could imply they are a great team player, it could also mean that they didn’t really do anything in particular. Like that person in your group projects at school, who got that great mark you all deserved, but maybe only wrote up the bibliography. Salespeople, for example, must know the budgets they are working towards and how they are tracking towards them. Managers, must know the budget they control and the teams they manage, and cite difficult decisions they had to make. If you feel someone is being vague, don’t hesitate to ask the hard questions, dive in further, and gain clarification.


Is your interview structured in such a way to allow you to find what you need? Is the interview the best way to make a great hiring choice? Have you thought about different ways of assessing candidates? Audition style? Role simulation? Put the time into your preparation, know what you are looking for, and structure your meeting to find this out. Going in cold, with just a resume and a “I’ll know what I’m looking for when I see it” attitude, will not get the results you want.

Too scripted? How to spot interview fraudsters

Too scripted

If someone sounds really scripted, and overly prepared, throw them a curve ball, and ask them something different. Get to find the “real” person. Sometimes, you need to shake things up to get to reality. Although this might confuse people, you’ll gain a better understanding of their true self and their capability for your role.

Get a second opinion

This is not a failing, it is a necessity. If the role is really important to your company, get a cross-section of people involved in the meeting, all with an equal voice. We do not want to lengthen the process, but only having one point of view is a genuine risk when hiring.

Don’t be afraid to check references to confirm or deny your initial thoughts about an interview. Interviewing is an essential part of your recruitment and business process. Every hiring decision you make will have current and future ramifications for your business, and it’s a decision that’s too important to allow yourself to fall victim to fraudsters.

Reference checks

Speaking with former employers and colleagues is an important step. Often candidates who commit interview fraud might provide a reference that is difficult to contact or perhaps they offer only vague information about the candidate’s role or responsibilities in the workplace. You can insist on speaking with direct supervisors rather than just peers or the people who reported to them. This can provide stronger insight into the candidate’s previous job performance and behaviour.

Legal and ethical considerations

When considering some of our points from above, it is important that all of these checks are within the bounds of the law and certainly above board as far as your company ethics go. Ensure compliance with employment law to avoid privacy violations or discrimination. Keep recruitment practices transparent and ethical as it not only protects your company legally but also helps keep up your good reputation.


While hiring is definitely a business decision, there is also human emotion involved, and it is hard remove that factor from an evaluation. To take the persuasive charmer on the basis of what they have achieved, not on how they have made you feel, is challenging. Admitting that we may have been charmed, bullied, or duped by an interview fraudster for no tangible reason, is humbling. However, it’s better to do this before you hire, than to see your mistake reflected in a distinct lack of performance, costing the business more money and potentially harming your reputation. We have helped businesses to hire hundreds, if not thousands of people over the years, if you ever feel you are getting too close to the process or the candidates, talk to us.

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