You think you have found a great candidate for the job. Their resume looks great, and they are a top contender. But you have also seen this before. You identify who you think to be a top candidate and they turn out not to be as advertised. You hired them and they clearly lied about their experience. So, you obviously don’t want to get burned again.

good or bad worker?

Here are some ways to tell the difference between a top candidate and smoke and mirrors:


The proof is in the details

Details matter. This is particularly important when vetting candidates. A resume can say anything. But where you really get to know a candidate is in how they answer your interview questions. Top candidates have no trouble providing examples and going into detail. Watch out for candidates who offer vague answers that lack detail.

Skills testing

If you want to make sure a person has the right skills and knowledge to do the job, put them to the test. Including a skills element in the application process will give you a good sample of what they are capable of achieving.

Request proof of credentials

Get proof to verify a candidate’s claims on their resume. Ask for proof of:

  • Degrees
  • Professional licenses
  • Awards

Take the reference checking process seriously. Use the time to get answers to specific questions you have about a candidate.

Check social media

You can learn a lot about a candidate from social media, and we are not just talking about looking for suspect comments and photos on their Facebook or Instagram profile.

Check to see how active a candidate is on LinkedIn. See which groups they are part of, what they write about, and how they contribute to your industry. This will say a lot about whether they are a true contender or a pretender.


Pay particular attention to how a candidate acts when you interact with them. Are they elusive? Do they get defensive? Are there some things that just don’t seem to add up? If you suspect anything, probe further.

Are they a top candidate or just a great interviewee?

There are top candidates who are not great at interviews. There are also some candidates who are fantastic at job interviews but don’t quite meet the qualifications or knowledge you prefer them to have. Think about this when assessing candidates. You may want a second round of interviews with them to get a better assessment of whether the candidate is a top contender or if it’s just smoke and mirrors.

Get More Recruiting and Job Interview Advice

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IQ PARTNERS is an Executive Search & Recruitment firm supporting clients across the country. We help companies hire better, hire less & retain more. We have specialist teams of recruiters in Executive Search / Board & C-Suite, Technology, Media, Digital & Marketing, Accounting & Finance, Financial Services & Insurance, Cannabis, Startup, Data Science, Consumer, eCommerce & Retail, Operations & HR, Manufacturing, Supply Chain & Engineering, Legal & Professional Services, Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences, Non-Profit & Sustainability, and Sales. Click here to view current job openings and to register with us.

Riel LaPointe Financial Recruiter

Riel LaPointe

Riel is a VP of Client Services with IQ PARTNERS where he recruits across the full scope of multiple lines of business, with a particular focus in Financial Services & Insurance, Technology, Human Resources, and Real Estate Services.

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