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Breaking News! People lie during job interviews.

Some companies also lie during job interviews, but we’re not discussing lies, per say, today, we are discussing “gaming the interview.” You may be wondering what that even means. Well, gaming the interview happens when a candidate doesn’t flat out lie yet gives a response that can be misinterpreted to get the job. For example, if you ask candidates why they want the position, they might say, “I am passionate about this kind of work.” Well maybe they are, but you can’t prove passion, and the word “passion” has become an overused cliché.

What is Gaming the Interview?

“Gaming the interview” is not the same as the gamification of the hiring process. Some companies do “gamify” their hiring process by incorporating game metrics or characteristics to ramp up the “fun” factor for applicants. For example, the Department of Defense gamified their recruitment processes by adding video game simulations to evaluate the skill, competitiveness, and “battle-field” readiness of potential soldiers. And they aren’t the only ones using gamification to evaluate potential candidates, just check out this article on Undercover Recruiter, “Gaming the Interview Process. ” In these cases, the game is an assessment created and controlled by the company doing the recruiting.

“Gaming the interview” is a trick or strategy, as in “to game the system.” In other words, candidates can manipulate the interview process to their advantage in order to win. Some candidates put a lot of effort into gaming the system by studying personality test questions or researching “Top Résumé Questions” and memorizing the answers an employer might want. Some even go so far as to try and understand the psychology of the recruiter in order to anticipate the questions and offer responses that are likely to elicit a positive psychological reaction.

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Is Gaming the Same as Lying?

According to this article on Time.com, over 56% of all resumes have at least one lie or embellishment. I can tell you, as a résumé writer, I know that number is higher. Though plenty of people do not lie on their résumés, they often overplay or inflate certain titles, dates, or accomplishments. This is a form of gaming the résumé to get to the interview.

HR has tried to determine what’s real, what’s embellished, and what’s a flat out lie for decades. Many human resource professionals use their gut instincts and their life experiences to detect deception but their gut instincts are not always effective. Anyone in HR can tell you that there are some amazingly effective interviewees and communicators out there. They dazzle us with their ability to connect and make us feel comfortable and even excited about hiring them.

Sometimes a background check illuminates things we did not notice or would have never discovered. Other times, candidates pass the background check, yet, once they are in our organization, they are difficult, lazy, or not who they presented themselves to be. These folks didn’t necessarily lie to us—they simply gamed the process to get hired.

How Can HR Avoid Interview Gaming?

Here are a few suggestions we can use to avoid or eliminate interview gaming:

  1. Use a diverse selection process which includes pre-screening questions and assessments, as well as Skype and live interviews.
  2. Customize assessments with different tools and measurements.
  3. Create reliable assessments that predict desired outcomes and employee performance.
  4. Use simulations of the work environment to create realistic job previews.

Pre-employment skills assessments can help you hire and promote better candidates and reduce the possibility of interview gaming just as it has helped other industry-leading companies. For instance, Crossroads Staffing utilized eSkill assessments to help them verify qualifications presented on the candidates’ résumés. The University of Maryland created a pre-assessment test for technical positions and experienced tremendous success. eSkill was instrumental in helping Zappos assess and quickly evaluate the software skills and administrative capabilities of internal and external candidates.  The ORVIS company built a strategic partnership with eSkill, which met ORVIS’s demands to create specific and measurable skills assessments for IT Programmers and Developers.

I can tell you, there have been plenty of times I wish we had used assessments to help weed out interview gamers!

Now it’s your turn. Tell us about your experience with interview gamers in the comments below.

Top U.S. Healthcare System: Assessments Help Enrich Online Medical Training

The hospital system trains nurses and medical staff on how to interpret EKG results, and uses online assessments authored with the eSkill Author to test their understanding consistently across different modalities.

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  • Christopher says:

    We shouldn’t ignore that feeling that says “something isn’t right” when we first meet a candidate. The mind is a powerful thing. Trust that gut feeling and then support it with data.

  • Emidio says:

    The truth is that job interviews often fail not because the job candidate is deceptive but because the interviewer isn’t conducting a proper interview in the first place. We need to have a system in place, test the skills and conduct a job analysis before hiring.

  • Michael says:

    It always helps to observe a candidate’s body language. It’s well-documented that people who are lying tend to involuntarily do certain things with their bodies. You don’t have to be an FBI profiler, but knowing a few key tip-offs won’t hurt.

  • Gemma Toth says:

    I much prefer skills assessment over any other assessments like personality, predictive analytics, etc. Some companies are incorporating work interviews to test candidate’s skills, work styles, and work habits.

  • Kristina says:

    This made me go check my resume for any embellishments!

    As a career recruiter I think its smart to qualify the skills that candidates put on their resume. The cost per hire and the cost associated with turnover is reason enough to make sure you’re doing everything you can to select qualified candidates for your team.

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