Recruiting top legal professionals is essential for your firm.

But occasionally you may come across candidates who tend to tell white lies on their application.

Stretching the truth on a CV or cover letter isn’t unheard of, but it does present some problems for recruiters who are looking for the right person for their legal role.

In 2017, Robert Half released results from a survey based around lying on a CV. Out of over 1,000 workers, 46% said they knew someone who had lied on a CV. 76% also suggested that job experience was the information most commonly misrepresented.

The thought of pursuing a candidate for days, maybe even a couple of weeks, only to find out they don’t actually fit the bill is clearly daunting. All of that time and money spent, gone, with nothing in return. 

Below, we have identified 6 ways to help you spot lies on a CV. By using probing questions, fine-tuning your sifting skills and going simply beyond looking at CVs, you’ll be able to eliminate the truth-stretchers, so you can pursue the quality candidates who will add value to your firm. Read on:



Use your common sense

Do yo have an exceptional CV in your hand? Perhaps it seems too good to be true? If you’re in doubt, using your common sense to judge it is a good starting point. Review it against the level of experience the candidate included, asking yourself what is reasonable for them to have achieved at this point.

If they appear to be a perfect candidate, this could be a sign that they are making exaggerations, so search for explanations they have provided or facts and figures to verify these experiences in line with their skill set and career level.



Arrange a phone screening

This is one of the more effective ways of screening candidates you’re unsure of. When reviewing a candidate’s CV, always make notes on any information you want to clarify – including anything that doesn’t come across as genuine. You can then choose to call the candidate and ask them tailored questions to get the answers you need.

It’s also much more difficult to lie over the phone than it is on an actual CV. So by asking them direct questions regarding their experience, for example, hesitations or incorrect information are a sure sign that they told a white lie.




Cross reference CVs with LinkedIn profiles

LinkedIn is a place for business professionals to network together. Thus, you’ll find that many people have a profile on here that resembles their CV. This is an advantage for recruiters, as you can use this platform to cross-check information a candidate has submitted in their application. Endorsements, referrals and testimonials can help to confirm their experience, and they could have more details included for each role they have had in their career too.

You can also use LinkedIn to speak with experts in the role you’re recruiting for, and check with them whether they think the CV you’re questioning is viable or not. Someone in the same line of work should have a pretty good idea of how accomplished one might be, or what tasks would be expected of them at that level. So if you’re unsure, seek help from those more experienced than you, particularly if you’re recruiting on behalf of another department.  



Set a skills test

Another option to whittle out those who aren’t qualified for the job would be set a suitable skills test – this is sure to separate the quality candidates from those who can’t actually do the job.  


Below we have included some of the main areas of a CV where you might find candidates telling a white lie:

  • Educational level: Claiming a level of education they don’t have. Look online and in some cases you might look to call the institution to check. 
  • Exaggerating salary: Candidates may look to boost the salary you are offering by saying they’re being paid more than what they are by their current employer. Consider the length of their experience against the salary, or look into what the average salary should be for that role. 
  • Dates: Always check that the dates line up and there are no gaps between employment or education. A candidate could leave a position off their CV due to the fact that they were made redundant or fired.
  • Fancy job titles: Some employers give their staff very fancy job titles. If the job title appears much fancier and doesn’t really match up to the role the candidates has detailed, they could be trying to make the position look like it held more responsibility than it did. You can always check this with current employers too. 
  • Fake references: If a candidate provides a mobile number, call the company number to ask to speak to that person. All too often people will ask a friend to represent them as a reference because they think the employer won’t contact the company in the first place. To avoid chatting to a friend of the candidate’s rather than the real person themselves, contact the company to gain a reference.  
  • Name dropping: It’s great to see a candidate with a big company name on their CV, or who has worked with a leading public figure, but most of the time it ends up that this person has simply worked for the company who represents this company or person. Probe this to get more detail to see if any falsehoods crop up. 
  • CV and cover letter don’t match: An error-free CV paired with a messy cover letter is a clear sign of a disconnect, suggesting the candidate might have had a helping hand with their CV or got it from somewhere else. Again, ask more questions to see if the candidate can recall the details included in it.