How to spot candidates who overstate achievements

Screening a candidate for a job is tough. Recruiters often meet candidates who overstate their work done in team jobs. Here is how to avoid this situation    

Yojana Sharma,

Picture this: A recruiter and prospective employee are sitting face to face. As the interview proceeds, the candidate talks about a recent project he has completed. He mentions about his contribution in the said project and how his critical inputs pulled off the project and won laurels for the team. Gradually, this candidate is hired and hits the floor, working on different assignments. It comes as a rude shock to his boss (and the later to the recruiter too) that he can only handle one bit of project in similar nature, leave alone leading the entire task on his shoulders alone.

Chaos waiting to happen

Does this sound familiar? It happens often to recruiters, especially when hiring for the mid or senior-level professionals. At that level, an employee is expected to lead projects and manage teams as well. Most candidates vying for such positions talk about their multi-tasking skills and often exaggerate their bit of work in a team task. The result: wrong hiring.

“This happens all the time,” says Sujaya Rao, a Chennai-based trainer and mentor in the HR and recruiting space. For 25 years, she has seen both candidates preparing rigorously for interviews and recruiters short-listing people based on different traits.

Praveen K Dewan, an IT recruitment specialist and managing partner at recruiting firm Antal International, says that sometimes, in order to get jobs, candidates tend to overstate their achievements. “It happens very frequently,” he says.

The woeful impact

Rao points out that such hiring causes work processes to slow down since the new person on the job (who had probably overstated his achievements in teamwork) will take more time to learn the skill first, understand the new culture and then perform.

“Ideally, an organisation hires people to smoothen the work processes. But with such hires, work tends to become slower. The only key to avoid this situation is for recruiter to identify the fact that a candidate is claiming more than what he has done in a particular project. If a recruiter is able to nail that, then the hiring may be on some other parameters and at least a wrong hiring can be averted,” she says.

Rao says that many a times, recruiters are too busy or are too hard-pressed for time at the time of taking interview.

“In a hurry, they may miss on details mentioned in the CV and that is when such goof-ups happen. A recruiter needs to flip through CVs carefully and evaluate and cross-check all points. If a candidate is mentioning about his achievement, then ask him the thorough details and cross-check his details with industry experts later. Also, when a candidate is talking about his achievement, a recruiter should notice the body language of the candidate. If a candidate is nervous or looks puzzled when sharing details, then a recruiter should raise a red flag. Another thing is to check for possible gaps in work experience and ask him about it. There are times when candidates want to hide their job breaks. This too is a cause of concern,” she says.

Here are few tips from Dewan for recruiters to spot those who exaggerate their achievements in teamwork:

Cross-checking facts: If a candidate is overemphasising a point in his CV, then recruiters must cross check these with the candidate.

Scan CVs carefully: Check dates of employment and education. Sometimes, there is an overlap in these dates which is a clear red flag and needs to be verified from the candidate.

Know your industry: As a recruiter, you need to know your industry well and should be able to cross question a candidate on his/her achievements. If for example you are hiring a sales manager for an IT company and the candidate has mentioned a revenue number in his CV, then you should be able to question the candidate to understand how he achieved that number. Whenyou speak to the candidate in a confident tone and demonstrate your industry knowledge, it will be difficult for the candidate to bluff and you will be able to screen better.

Have backups ready: Be prepared to take back the opportunity from the candidate if you feel he has overstated his achievements and tell that to the candidate upfront. Sometimes doing that helps you in getting the right details from the candidate.

This story appeared in on May 19, 2016 and carries a quote by Mr. Praveen Dewan. Managing Partner Antal Noida


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About Antal India Recruitment Blog

Founded in 1993, Antal International is a global Executive Recruitment firm with 120 offices in more than 30 countries We work with professional and managerial talent worldwide. works with many of the world’s most successful and ambitious employers. In January 2007 Antal International established the first office in India, which led to the opening of 38 offices in 14 cities. In 2013, Antal named Joseph Devasia as its Managing Director for Antal International Network, India – the man who brought Antal to India 9 years ago. Antal India today has 100+ consultants working across offices in India filling more than 3000 assignments at the mid – senior level. Antal India today has offices specialising in various industries like FMCG/CD, Ecommerce, IT, Pharma, Auto, Engineering, Manufacturing, Real Estate, Construction, Retail, Oil & Gas, Aerospace, Defence. Clients: Over the past 22 years, Antal has worked with over several thousand clients making 60,000 placements. Antal extensive network of offices and deep market expertise is what sets Antal apart from its competitors. To know more about us –

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