What to Do When You Suspect a Candidate is Lying

QUESTION: My question is about working with a candidate that is about to be in the process of getting an offer. All along the candidate said, that they have no other offers.  The client wants to make an offer, at that same moment the candidate says, that an interview from four months ago they thought was dead, might become an offer. This offer might be a better opportunity for a variety of reasons. Then the candidate comes back a day later and says, no, I checked these guys out and I do not want to work there. In the interim, the client withdrew the offer and the thing is we had a candidate they wanted to make an offer to and I am not sure if they made the offer or not. Now the candidate has discounted that offer. Was the candidate lying?  Can we trust this candidate?   – Jane, Chicago, IL

ANSWER: If you are in an area where you can meet with the client and/or candidate face to face, I would recommend that. I would first talk to your client saying, “We have to assume he is genuine and that this is real.  Now, Jane, you have a good sense of people and in these situations do we sense the individual is kind of a slime ball or are they really being up front?  So let us give this guy the benefit of the doubt because you are asking me.  I would sit down with him face to face.  You probably have the offer.  If you do it face to face, I like props.  I do not care if he is religious or not.  I would bring a Bible.  I used to make people when they joined my company, actually I did not have a Bible in my office, they swore on Webster’s dictionary, but they swore on a book.  It was visual.  They actually felt the cover of a book.  I said I want you to imagine this is a Bible of your faith, because I did not ask what their faith was, but I said I want you to imagine this is a testament to your faith and you are swearing on it.  You are going to do exactly, specifically, and precisely what I told you.  That is what people did when they joined my firm, but back to this offer.  I would bring it and I would go – I am just making these numbers up – We got you $150,000.  We got you this.  We are getting you this.  We are getting you this.  The start date is this.  Will you take that?  

I do not care if something descends from your great grandfather’s third cousin from another country that is a great opportunity.  From this point forward if you say yes, I do not care where the opportunities come from, I do not care the source of the opportunity, and I am including opportunity with your current company where they might counter you, I want your 100% oath that if this comes through you are going to take it.  Now I have not pulled out the Bible yet.  Hopefully he says yes.  Look him in the eye.  Do I have your word of honor on that?  

That is the term I used, by the way, “word of honor.”  To 1% of the population that does not mean anything, but word of honor on that, yes.  Because now I am minimizing.  Then I would say, swear on this, swear that if I get $150,000.  If he says, why are you making me go through all this?  Because I am giving you the benefit of the doubt.  It is just I have been doing this a long time.  When people get helicopter offers out of nowhere at the point of an offer I just want to make sure you and I are clear on our communication because if you accept this offer we are going to release the backups.  It is going to have a profoundly negative impact on my company and it could set them back in their process of whatever this person is going to do 2 to 3 months.  If you are at all uncomfortable with any of this, if you are not sincere with your absolute commitment to joining this company, tell me “no” now and we are cool.  No judgment.  

That is how I would handle it, Jane.

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