Michael Mercer, Ph.D.

You can use pre-employment tests, interview tricks and more to uncover if a sales applicant is lying to you or embellishing the truth.

Question: Did you ever have a job applicant lie to you or, to be charitable, embellish the truth?

Answer: You probably answered, "Yes."

This is important. In my third book, "Hire the Best and Avoid the Rest," I often have been quoted for writing, "Whatever behavior you see from an applicant in the screening process is likely the best behavior you will see from that person." So, if an applicant lies on your tests, interviews and forms, that person also may be dishonest in work he or she does, if you hire the person.

For example, a Sales Rep who lies or hides the truth may harm your business in many ways:

  • Hiding trouble with a prospect or customer
  • Not telling you about their difficulty (1) making appointments or (2) closing sales
  • Failing to tell you about roadblocks or obstacles from prospects or customers

But, don't worry. Reason: I will reveal to you methods you can use to

a. discover if an applicant lied to you
b. make an applicant hesitant to lie to you


Pre-employment tests, especially behavior or personality tests, offer a scientific method to catch sales applicants who are dishonest, untruthful, or liars. That is one reason many companies use pre-employment tests when they evaluate sales job applicants.

The personality tests you use to test sales applicants must contain a lie, honesty, or "accuracy" scale. It includes questions that catch applicants who tries to fool you or lie.

This is wonderful for every manager who hires employees. After all, no company wants to hire a liar. Also, it is better to discover a job applicant is a liar before putting that person on your payroll.

How does a pre-employment behavior or personality test catch a dishonest job applicant?

Some sales applicants take a personality test while thinking, "I am going to give answers that make me seem more wonderful than I am." That is, some applicants give answers that make them seem "better or different" than they really are. This is a nice way to say the person lies.

Fortunately, good pre-employment tests catch liars or people who embellish the truth about how wonderful they really are.

To do this, a behavior or personality pre-employment test can use a number of methods. The most accurate method is to ask truism questions. A truism is a weakness or difficulty everyone has. Although everyone has that little weakness, the faker or liar will deny it.

For example, one widely used behavior forecasting test predicts many behaviors of applicants, including honesty on the test. For instance, one truism question in the honesty scale goes something like this: "Have you said anything behind someone's their back, and not to their face?"

Honest applicants answer, "Yes." However, applicants trying to seem better than they truly are answer, "No."

So, this question provides one part of catching a liar.

Sales applicants trying to fake-out a pre-employment test or evaluation need to lie on a multiple truism questions before their score indicates they were dishonest on the whole.

Imagine a sales applicant who is caught lying on the pre-employment test. When this happens, you will feel relieved the test uncovered the job applicant as someone who may avoid revealing difficulties on-the-job. That saves you from hiring a sales rep who hides the truth, which translates into an expensive and time-consuming waste for the rep's manager.


In the interview, you can use an interview "tricks" to

a. discover if an sales applicant lied to you
b. warn applicants not to lie to you

Key: Politely warn the applicant of dire consequences if they tell you a lie or exaggeration.

You can catch a job applicant who possibly lied to you by doing this "trick." Near the job interview's start, get the sales applicant to tell you a magnificent achievement. After the applicant tells you an astounding accomplishment "“ e.g., made huge sale, landed lucrative accounts, etc. "“ you look the sales candidate in the eye, and say, "Tell me the name of the person who can confirm you truly did that magnificent achievement."

A lying sales applicant will try to weasel out of telling you whom to contact. An honest candidate quickly will give you a manager's name.

Important: By making that inquiry near the start of the job interview, you implicitly warn the job applicant never to lie to you. Why? Now, the job candidate knows you may investigate everything he or she said to you.


Your application forms might, if possible, include a statement somewhat like the following, that you make sales applicant sign and date: "I know this company wants me to tell the truth on all the forms, applications, questionnaires, tests, and interviews it uses. I agree if this company hires me, and then discovers anything I said or wrote or answered was not the truth, the company has the right to fire me. If I get fired for my dishonesty, then I agree it was my fault, and the company had a 100% right to fire me." Signing a statement surely encourages truthfulness.


You must hire productive, dependable, and honest sales reps. Unfortunately, some applicants try to fool you and portray themselves as "better or different" than they really are. Fortunately, you can use three methods to catch or detect if a sales candidate lied to you:

  • Pre-Employment Tests "“ personality test or behavior test with Lie or Accuracy scale
  • Job Interview "tricks" "“ e.g., request achievement confirmations plus give warnings
  • Job Application form "“ make job candidate sign lying-leads-to-firing statement

Andy Grove, the ex-CEO of Intel, wrote a book entitled, "Only the Paranoid Survive." Acting a bit paranoid that applicants may lie to you is a realistic and healthy carefulness. It helps you hire productive, dependable, and honest sales reps.

COPYRIGHT 2008 MICHAEL MERCER, PH.D., www.MercerSystems.com


Dr. Michael Mercer is a highly respected expert on how to hire the best. He authored 5 books, including "Hire the Best "“ & Avoid the Rest." Dr. Mercer created the "Abilities & Behavior Forecasterβ„’ Tests" "“ pre-employment tests that companies use to help hire productive employees "“ including Sales Reps. He is a consultant and president of Mercer Systems, Inc. You can learn more at MSI's website = www.Pre-EmploymentTests.com or www.MercerSystems.com