Truth Or Consequences

Recently, several different recruiters have contacted me, each of them dealing with the consequences of candidates and clients not telling the truth. Although no one told an outright lie, in each instance, certain elements of the truth were not communicated to the recruiter. These were sins of omission versus sins of commission.

On the candidate side, sins of omission included an undisclosed business bankruptcy, several DWIs, a felony conviction, and recent jail time for failure to pay court ordered child support. On the client side, sins of omission included a product liability lawsuit (which they lost), a wrongful termination lawsuit (which they lost), a sexual harassment settlement, and a record of late payments to vendors. Between the candidates and clients, the non-telling of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth had the consequences of at least six lost placements.

Although properly conducted, behaviorally based, in-depth reference checks on both the candidates and clients may very well have uncovered the nondisclosures, the standard references completed by the recruiters did not identify these significant omissions. However, after discussing the individual situations with each recruiter, it became obvious that if they had asked the candidates and clients the right questions at the beginning of the process, they may have been in a position to prevent the ultimate consequences.


With some who decide to lie, mask the truth, or withhold information, it may be all but impossible through the use of standard processes to discover the truth before you suffer the consequences. Keep in mind that few of these people will provide answers to unasked questions.

Therefore, keeping in mind the potential problems to be encountered when working on behalf of your client, be thorough with your questions. In addition to your standard formats, consider adding direct questions similar to the following:

“What else should I know about you, your company and this position that we have not as yet discussed?”


“As I proceed with this project, what will I hear industry people saying about your company?”


“True or false, fact or fiction, positive or negative, what will I hear about your company as I execute my processes on your behalf?”


“Considering it’s in everyone’s best interest not to have any negative twelfth hour surprises, is there anything else we should be discussing that may impact the outcome of this project?”


“If anything of an unexpected and potentially negative nature arises during the course of the project, I will not proceed further until or unless we discuss it and reach a resolution on how it should be handled. Does that seem reasonable to you?”

Considering the potential problems that could arise on the candidate/recruit side of the process, you may want to add the following questions to your evaluation process.

“As a standard practice, we conduct comprehensive background and reference checks on all individuals we select for presentation to our clients. Therefore, before we begin that process, is there anything else about you that we should be discussing?”

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“True or false, fact or fiction, positive or negative, what am I going to learn about you as we conduct our comprehensive reference and background checks?”


“Now is the time, prior to beginning our comprehensive background and reference checks for you to be completely candid and forthright. This is an opportunity to tell your side of the story. Is there anything in your background or experience that could be viewed as a negative by a potential employer?”


“Mutual trust is the foundation for all my relationships, most importantly, the relationships I have with my clients and candidates. I promise you full disclosure of all information pertinent to your involvement with this project. In return, I expect complete candor and honesty from you. With that in mind, is there anything that you need to share with me before we begin our comprehensive background and reference checks?”


“I work on a ‘no surprises’ basis. It is only in this manner that I can maintain the trust of my clients and those I represent to them. Therefore, to insure we have not missed anything, what else should we discuss that may have an impact on the outcome of this process?”

Some of these questions may seem rather direct. They are meant to be!

If someone is going to lie to you, there is very little that you can do about it. However, most people will be open to telling the “whole truth” if you are direct with your questions and if you frame those questions in a professional manner, particularly if you ask for the information more than once during your evaluation process.

Both our clients and candidates need to know we will be thorough with our processes. They have a right to have this expectation, and as professionals, we have an obligation to make that expectation a reality. Remember, “No surprises!” After all, you either deal with the truth or you will no doubt suffer the consequences.

As always, your questions and comments are most welcome.

Recipient of the Harold B. Nelson Award, Terry Petra is one of our industry's leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including PETRA ON CALL, and BUSINESS VALUATION, visit Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or click to email him.


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