Posted August 28, 2019

Exclusive: Avoid hiring liars

How to spot falsified candidate resumes and lying during interviews. 

This is the fourth in a series of articles by Dr. Michael Mercer, Ph.D.

Fortunately, certain pre-employment personality tests help you avoid hiring liars.  By liars, I mean applicants who try to appear “better or different” than they truly are. Sure, every applicant seeks to make a good impression. But applicants who go out of their way to deceive you can cause expensive problems for your company – if you hire them. 

If you hire a liar or dishonest person, that person may

(A) not admit problems they have doing their work
(B) not follow your directives or instructions. 

Such expensive problems can include

  • reduced productivity
  • increased costs
  • decreased profits
  • a lousy work environment

Beware:  Liars on your payroll can harm your company’s finances – plus damage your success as a manager.

A guideline for pre-employment tests to spot lying by job applicants

In my third book, HIRE THE BEST – & AVOID THE REST, I wrote: 

“Whatever behavior you see from an applicant during your screening process is likely the very best behavior you ever will see from that person!”

For example, If an applicant acts mannerly during your screening process, that person will act that mannerly or worse – if you hire that person. Or, if an applicant acts unmannerly during your screening process, you may expect that person to act unmannerly or even worse – if you hire that person. 

Similarly, in my research to create two pre-employment tests – Behavior Forecaster Test and Dependability Forecaster Test – I discovered that applicants who try to lie on my test – that is, answer dishonestly or inaccurately about themselves – also are likely to

A.  Not follow instructions or directives their boss gives them
B.  Not tell their boss difficulties they encounter on-the-job

 – both of which often result in costly problems.

A lousy method that most pre-employment tests use unsuccessfully to catch liars

Fact = I frequently receive phone calls from managers who tell me they used a pre-employment test (but not tests I created), hired someone, and later observed the person acted vastly differently than their test predicted. So, I ask them how that test tried – unsuccessfully – to catch liars who try to outwit or lie that test.” I get two typical answers: 

First, that so-called test did not have any section designed to catch liars. So, the manager was unaware that a pre-employment personality test must catch liars.

Or, second, those so-called tests asked basically the same question a number of ways – and then saw if applicant consistently answered the same way each time. This is called the “consistency method.” The problem is that the consistency method is a dumb, illogical and unscientific way to try to catch a liar. 

The reason is that a liar easily can lie consistently. 

For example, imagine consistently answering “Yes” to these questions:  (a) Is your name Bill Gates?, (b) Are you founder of a big, world-famous software company?, and (c) Are you one of the world’s wealthiest people?  Those three questions are the same question asked three different ways. Such ‘tests’ would infer that the consistently answering “Yes” would ‘prove’ the applicant was truthful.  But consistently answering “Yes” would not correlate with honesty.  It would correlate with dishonesty and lying.

Lesson: If anyone says a pre-employment personality test uncovers lying job applicants by seeing if applicants “consistently” answer similar questions the same way, you ought to (A) laugh at that dumb, illogical, unscientific claim, (B) not use that pre-employment test. 

Now, a fantastic pre-employment test you can use to catch lying job applicants

I incorporated a useful, logical, scientific method to make lie/dishonesty scales in two pre-employment tests I created. Both are personality tests used for hiring assessments. Specifically, in both pre-employment tests, I made an “Accuracy” or Honesty scale. Those scales reveal if an applicant is trying to “outwit” or “fool” the test, i.e., answer dishonestly/inaccurately about himself. 

How do these pre-employment personality tests find out if an applicant is trying to answer dishonestly or “inaccurately” about himself? I use multiple questions – interspersed throughout the tests – that ask “truism” questions. A truism is a small weakness or difficulty 100 percent of humans have. These Accuracy/Honesty questions see if the applicant will admit multiple truisms or small weaknesses. Applicants also are warned that these tests will find out or “catch” them if they try to answer dishonestly. 

Here is an example of a truism question: Did you ever tell a lie? Of course, everyone has told lies. (The only exception are angels – but I doubt angels apply for jobs at your company!) An honest applicant will answer, “Yes.”  But a possibly dishonest applicant trying to “outwit” the test – i.e., give answers that inaccurately or dishonestly portray him as “better or different” than he really is – will answer, “No” to such a truism question! 

Expensive problems that a good pre-employment personality test can help you avoid 

When you give an applicant a pre-hire personality test, make sure the test will catch applicants who try to lie or outwit the test by giving answers to make himself seem better or different than he truly is. 

If you hire an applicant who lies on a pre-employment personality test, you may need to deal with expensive problems. That lying person may

  1. not follow directives or instructions you tell them to use to do their work
  2. not tell you when they have problems doing their work
  3. create a lousy work environment for other employees because of “1” and “2”

When managers call to tell me they hired an applicant that my pre-employment personality tests warned them was a dishonest or a liar, they report those three problems. I resist saying, “You should have listened to my test’s results and my advice.” Instead, I try to comfort the manager by saying, “Well, you learn from experience.” Then, the manager sighs – and replies, “Well, Dr. Mercer, that was a very expensive mistake! I should have listened to your test and to your advice!” 

Remember, if you want to hire hard-working, productive, low-turnover employees, make sure pre-employment personality tests you use “catch” lying or dishonest applicants.  Fortunately, a scientific, logical method is used in certain pre-employment tests to “catch” those liars. CS

Michael Mercer, Ph.D., created 3 “Forecaster Tests” – pre-employment tests. Companies use his tests to predict which job applicants may succeed (or fail) on-the-job, if hired. Dr. Mercer wrote the book, Hire the Best & Avoid the Rest. You can see information about his 3 “Forecaster” pre-employment tests at

© Copyright 2019 Mercer Systems LLC Reprinted with permission.