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Unmasking Deception: Strategies for HR Managers to Unearth False Information on Employment Applications

    Hiring the right candidates is pivotal for an organization’s success. However, applicants occasionally embellish their qualifications or hide crucial information. Human Resources (HR) managers bear the responsibility of ensuring that employment applications are truthful and accurate. In this article, we will explore strategies for HR managers to discover lies on employment applications.

    I. The Legal Framework

    Understanding the Legal Landscape

    1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – This landmark legislation prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. HR managers must tread carefully to avoid violating this act.
    2. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – FCRA governs the use of background checks in the hiring process. HR managers must be aware of their responsibilities under this act.
    3. State Laws – State laws may provide additional protections for applicants. Familiarize yourself with local regulations.

    II. Craft an Effective Application

    Designing an Application that Deters Deception

    1. Clear and Specific Questions – Frame questions on the application to elicit specific and verifiable information. Ask about job history, educational qualifications, and references.
    2. Use Open-Ended Questions – Include open-ended questions that require applicants to provide detailed responses. This can make it more difficult for them to fabricate information.
    3. Require Authorization for Background Checks – Include a section where applicants authorize the company to conduct background checks as per FCRA requirements.

    III. Cross-Reference with Résumés

    Spotting Discrepancies between Résumés and Applications

    1. Analyze Dates and Job Titles – Compare the employment history on the application with the candidate’s résumé. Discrepancies in dates or job titles may be red flags.
    2. Check Educational Credentials – Verify the educational qualifications listed on the application against the résumé and any official transcripts or certificates.
    3. Reference Validation – Contact the references provided to corroborate the information provided by the candidate. Ask specific questions about their experiences with the applicant.

    IV. Background Checks

    Conducting Comprehensive Background Checks

    1. Criminal Background Checks – Utilize authorized background screening services to obtain criminal history information. Be aware of FCRA and state laws that govern this process.
    2. Credit Reports – If credit history is relevant to the job, request consent from the applicant to obtain their credit report as permitted by FCRA.
    3. Social Media Checks – Scrutinize the candidate’s social media profiles to look for inconsistencies or inappropriate content that may contradict their application.

    V. Conduct Effective Interview

    Unmasking Lies Through Interviews

    1. Behavioral Interviewing – Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to ask candidates about specific experiences. This helps in verifying their claims and assessing their problem-solving skills.
    2. Probing Questions – Ask follow-up questions to gain a deeper understanding of the candidate’s responses. This can reveal inconsistencies or evasiveness.
    3. Conflict Resolution Scenarios – Pose hypothetical situations to assess their conflict resolution skills and gauge their honesty in handling challenging scenarios.

    VI. Reference Checks

    Validating Information through References

    1. Contact Previous Employers – Reach out to former employers to verify the candidate’s job history and performance. Ask about reasons for leaving and any issues that arose.
    2. Educational Institutions – Confirm the candidate’s educational credentials with the schools or universities they claim to have attended.
    3. Character References – Speak to character references to gain insights into the candidate’s personal attributes, reliability, and integrity.

    VII. Polygraph Tests and Lie Detectors

    Exploring the Use of Polygraph Tests

    1. Legal Considerations – Understand the legal restrictions surrounding polygraph tests. The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) largely prohibits their use.
    2. Exception for Certain Job Roles – EPPA does allow for polygraph tests in certain cases, such as security-related positions. Comply with EPPA when considering this option.
    3. Alternative Solutions – In lieu of polygraph tests, use the other strategies mentioned in this article to uncover lies on employment applications.

    VIII. Monitor and Evaluate Your Process

    Continuous Improvement for HR Managers

    1. Review and Update Policies – Periodically assess your hiring policies and procedures to ensure they comply with the latest legal requirements.
    2. Feedback from Current Employees – Encourage employees to provide feedback on their colleagues’ qualifications and performance, which may reveal discrepancies.
    3. Stay Informed – Keep up-to-date with evolving employment laws and best practices in the industry to fine-tune your application review process.


    Ensuring the accuracy of information on employment applications is vital for making informed hiring decisions and maintaining a trustworthy workforce. HR managers play a pivotal role in discovering lies and inconsistencies in these documents. By following the legal framework, designing effective applications, conducting background checks, and employing strategic interview techniques, HR managers can minimize the risk of hiring individuals who misrepresent their qualifications. Remember, a comprehensive approach to applicant verification can help organizations build a more reliable and credible team.

    Disclaimer: This article provides general guidance and information. HR managers should consult with legal experts to ensure compliance with federal, state, and local laws when implementing these strategies.