How To Spot A Lie On A Resume
53% of candidates regularly lie on their resumes, says recent study. Here's how to tell the real from the fake:
You sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes in a single year. Some are impressive, if not outright captivating, motivating you to get the candidate in for an in-person interview. Others, however, quickly find their way to the recycle bin – whether it’s lack of experience, numerous misspellings or a reputation that precedes the candidate – you know immediately it would not be a good fit for your company.
But, what about the resumes that are well written, highlight the skill set you’re looking for and are all around “too good to be true?”
You’ll remember in 2012 when then Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson “left the company” after a highly publicized resume scandal. Thompson’s published Yahoo bios, including the one in the company’s annual report, a legal document that CEOs must personally swear are truthful, according to CNN Money, claimed that he earned a bachelor’s degree in both accounting and computer science from Stonehill College. His degree is actually in accounting only. Thompson chose to “step down” after just four months as the company’s CEO.
So how can you tell the real resumes from the electronically enhanced? Start with your gut feeling.
Unfamiliar Schools or Businesses
Some employers will require transcripts or even a copy of a candidate’s diploma
with their application packet. However, if a resume highlights a degree from a school you’ve never heard of, take a couple minutes to check it out. If a quick Google search comes back empty, you may need to ask the candidate directly about the educational facility, or just move on to the next applicant. Same goes for a company. If a resume details years of successful employment with one particular business, but you can’t so much as find an address for the company, you may have a career history con artist.
Extended Employment Dates
Many companies require that candidates explain gaps in their employment history, so applicants will try to stretch their employment dates to span more time than was actually worked at a given company. It’s one thing to be off by a couple of days when it comes to a hire date, but tacking on 10 or 12 extra months to cover unemployment, embarrassing legal matters, or even time away to raise a family is all too common on a resume. The good news is, this is an easy check with just a phone call to previous employers.
There are so many ways to exaggerate the education area of a resume. From outright claiming an earned diploma that wasn’t actually received to the “Expected Graduation Date” that will never really come because the 12 college credits the candidate has earned are from five years ago. Requiring transcripts or other proof when you make an offer has grown communal, but checking out the candidate and their claims before you get that far in the hiring process can save a lot of time and frustration.
In hopes of making a giant leap in income, many candidates will exaggerate their pay from previous employers thinking you will at least start your offer in that same pay range. Is their salary relatable to their achievements? If the candidate makes claims about their astounding professional accomplishments, they should be able to back them up with precise, tangible examples.
The bottom line: do your homework on any candidate to whom you plan to make an offer.
- Use online and social media tools. You’ll be amazed at what you can find by simply typing a candidate’s name into Google. LinkedIn may be particularly helpful when it comes to validating professional achievements. And, while it may seem old-school, use Facebook to get a general idea of the candidate’s personality. What are they willing to post about themselves (or other topics) on social media?
- Talk to them. If you notice an area of concern on an applicant’s resume, screen them through a phone conversation, or bring them in to get a better feel with an in-person interview.
- Put them to the test. The open ended “Tell me about a time in your work history when…” can be very revealing with a potential candidate. Are they open and engaging with their story? Are they hesitant to share any particular instance and use general language instead? Pre-employment testing can also help to decide if the candidate actually has the skills and experience they claim. Background checks also help secure claimed personal information.
- Spot the “Professional Interviewee.” If the candidate seems overqualified for the position or otherwise too good to be true, explore further before making a pledge to the applicant.