The Problem of Candidate Exaggeration

Career Blog

Hiring managers aren’t expecting candidates to outright lie on an application or during an interview. It happens of course and unscrupulous applicants are weeded out by a series of HR-endorsed process checks. Exaggeration of accomplishments however is far more common. And while they are difficult to spot on a resume, gaps in knowledge, skills, and competencies appear quickly during an interview. So how can the interviewer get at the truth of things?

  1. Mind the Pronouns: If a person exclusively uses “I” language when describing projects or responsibilities that are clearly above the typical expectation of the role, he or she may be embellishing their part in the effort. For example, if a training admin says he implemented a new global LMS, it should raise a red flag.
  2. Ask Clarifying Questions: When in doubt, dig for more information by asking about the strategy, process, and what other resources were leveraged. Maybe the candidate DID do it, but via a vendor he managed. The extra digging gives the person an opportunity to shine, add clarity to the claim, and provides a subtle hint that sometimes “we” language is needed e.g. We implemented a new LMS and my role was a, b, c.
  3. Keep an Open Mind: Interviewers must be ready and willing to see unexpected excellence otherwise they can miss out on a great hire. Maybe the LMS project was indeed a way he exceeded expectations for the role: his standout achievement. Maybe the project manager left the org and he filled in and killed it…maybe…

When viewing the other side of the conversation, it’s important to understand how the interviewee can strike a balance between touting accomplishments and conveying a propensity toward teamwork. Often times this depends on your natural inclination.

  1. If You’re Humble: If you tend to shrink from the spotlight, take a few minutes at the end of each week to write down your accomplishments. They can be little personal wins or specific job related successes that will help you in your career. Later when an opportunity arises and your natural tendency encourages you to take a backseat, you’ll have hard evidence at the ready that will boost your confidence and propel you forward.
  2. If You’re… Not So Humble: On the other hand, if you aren’t shy about promoting yourself take time each week to reflect on those that helped you along the way. Doing so will better enable you to see the efforts of others and provide a reminder to shine a spotlight on them as appropriate.

When you promote others and value yourself your sphere of influence increases and you become a magnate for positivity. Both can be helpful in securing a new role and keeping your words and deeds aligned.

Need a career coach? Contact me via

Check out my latest book The HR Guide to Getting and Crushing Your Dream Job and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi or LinkedIn


Share This Article


Leave a Comment


Pin It on Pinterest