Illustration: Chris Gash Illustration: Chris Gash

Here’s a recruiting trick: never skip the “summary” section of a job candidate’s resumé. Sure, it’s probably filled with overused adjectives like “strategic,” “driven” and “creative.” But this section can be a great indicator of what every employer needs to know: whether a potential hire is lying to you.

This all shakes out during the interview. Once you’re in a room with the candidate, pick two or three of the adjectives she used in her summary and ask her to give examples of how she demonstrates these characteristics significantly more than the average person. If she lights up with stories, you’ll learn a lot about her defining qualities, you’ll know she’s self-aware and you can be confident that she truly believes that she embodies those traits. If, instead, she responds with the “deer in headlights” look, be on high alert. Does she lack self-awareness? Is she trying to be something she’s not? Did she just copy words from your job ad?

Read: How Not to Hire Losers

Whatever the reason for a lacklustre response, a flimsy personal description is a strong sign that the candidate may have exaggerated, even downright fabricated, other things about her skills and aptitudes. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 53% of resumés contain falsifications, 33% include inaccurate job descriptions and 21% list a fraudulent degree. These lies can lead you to make a bad hire.

The good news is that with some clever interviewing techniques, you can figure out whether your candidate is telling you the truth. The “backup your buzzwords” tactics is one way to do it. Here are seven more.

1. Watch for demeanour shifts. At the start of the interview, when you’re making small talk, pay attention to how the candidate speaks, her gestures and her eye contact. This will show you how she communicates when she’s not under duress (even if she is a bit nervous). If at some point her tone or delivery changes noticeably, be extra-vigilant.

2. Stay in the past. In general, the best way to thwart resumé exaggerators is to continually ask behavioural questions. In this form of inquiry, you ask only about the past, probing for details about specific situations, what the candidate did and what the results were. The tactic works because the best predictor of the future is the past, and it’s a lot harder for people to make up (and have to verify) detailed stories than it is for them to answer hypotheticals.

Read: How to Fire a Dud

3. Flip the script. Most liars have memorized at least one or two made-up tales of their “achievements.” A good tripwire is to ask him to tell the tale backward—that is, to first describe what the result was (e.g., “I landed Acme Co. as a client”), then the events leading up to it (e.g.,“The deal followed this second meeting…”). A memorized narrative tends to run in chronological order; he’ll struggle to tell it differently.

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