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Lying on Resumes

I’m still in Ireland. Back in Dublin after a few days of R&R in West Cork and County Kerry. Beautiful country and great people. We even had four days of terrific weather, which is a bit unusual here.

One of the topics of we discussed in today’s session of the DIT International Selling Programme, where I am a visiting professor, was hiring sales people.  It’s a favorite subject of mine.

Needless to say the issue of lying on resumes (CVs over here) was of great interest. I’ve seen estimates suggesting that as many as 50% of job applicants lie on their resumes. That’s across the board for all positions. With respect to sales candidates, I would expect incidents of lying would come in at an even higher percent. It’s a real problem.  And with the down economy it will get worse before it gets better.

There are ways to mitigate some of the risk of hiring someone who has deliberately lied on their resume, including structured interviews, aggressive reference checking (yes, it can be done, even with strong limitations on what people are allowed to say about former employees), income verification, background checks and psychometric testing.  To paraphrase an old quip, Am I paranoid?  Yes, but that doesn’t mean that more than 50% of sales candidates aren’t lying on their resumes.

A few of the sales directors in this program shared with me nightmare situations with sales people they hired or almost hired who were far from the sales star they represented on their resumes.  They weren’t pretty stories.

Think You’re Good at Spotting Liars?

Here is something really interesting, from the book A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink:

“…[Paul] Ekman and Nancy Etcoff, a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, have shown that most of us are astonishingly bad at detecting when someone is lying. When we try to determine from another’s facial expressions or tone of voice if that person is fibbing, we don’t do much better than if we had offered random guesses.  But aphasics—people with damage to their brain’s left hemisphere that compromises their ability to speak and understand language—are exceptionally good lie detectors.  By reading facial cues, Etcoff found, they can spot liars more than 70 percent of the time.  The reason: since they can’t receive one channel of communication, they’re better at interpreting the other, more expressive channel.”

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One Response

  1. Dave – great post – thanks. It is unfortunate that many sales people (not professionals) betray the truth, however we have successfully recruited thousands of sales professionals – most the liars are typically the underperformers and easily spotted early in our process – the top percentile became successful because they have operate with integrity and the highest level of professionalism. It takes a fair bit of effort to fake resumes, employment history, performance and references, so only a small percentage are both dishonest and sophisticated enough to pull off an elaborate hoax (beside, if you were that clever, why not focus on being a top sales person)\

    Eliot.

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