By Lauren Sydoruk

Curtin University researchers have found that some job seekers are more likely than others to exaggerate their knowledge when applying for a competitive job – and those employees are less likely to follow instructions once they get the job.

The research, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, conducted three different studies to determine how potential job applicants might ‘fake’ information about themselves throughout their job application so they can appear more impressive to an employer.

Lead author Associate Professor Patrick Dunlop, from the Future of the Work Institute based at Curtin University, said it was important for employers to identify lying applicants in order to avoid poor hiring decisions.

“A major challenge for recruiters is that it is difficult to determine whether a job candidate is being truthful about their skills, experience, personality and knowledge. Our research aimed to test a new method of identifying the people who are not being truthful,” Associate Professor Dunlop said.

“In one of our three studies, we advertised a high-paying job on a gig-work platform and invited people to apply for it. In the advertisement, we explained that the job would require knowledge about politics. The applicants were asked to complete an ‘over-claiming test’, which included both real and bogus information about politics.

“After the application process, we offered the job to all of the applicants and asked them to perform a task for the job. We found that people who had ‘over-claimed’ or ‘lied’ about their knowledge of politics during the application were more likely to ignore instructions we had given them once in the job.”

Associate Professor Dunlop said the research findings would help employers and managers identify ‘problem applicants’ who were prone to this behaviour.

“It is important for employers to be able to differentiate between a job candidate who is confident and someone who is claiming to be more experienced and skilled for the role than they actually are,” Associate Professor Dunlop said.

“Employers who conducted tests or questionnaires during interviews that included a range of ‘fake’ and real questions may be able to make better hiring choices. This would help employers avoid hiring someone who is not the best candidate for the role.”

The research was co-authored by researchers from Curtin’s Future of Work Institute, University of Calgary, University of Twente and Vrje Universiteit Amsterdam, University of Melbourne, and University of Western Australia.

The paper titled, ‘Liar! Liar! (when stakes are higher): understanding how the overclaiming technique can be used to measure faking in personnel selection,’ can be found online here.