Resumes: Spot the Good, the Bad & the Liar

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by Tracy K and BrightMove Recruiting Software and Onboarding Solutions

In the previous post, I discussed studies and statistics showing the existence of resume fraud in today’s recruiting.  To combat these occurrences, let’s look at ways to identify little white lies, exaggerations, and complete fabrications.

Obviously doing pre-employment screening such as background and reference checks are the sure fire ways in which to decrease the probability of getting duped by an potential hire.  Though they can be costly, a background check fee will far outweigh the cost of the candidate underperforming and/or turning over.  More employers than ever before seem to be conducting these types of screens, being aware of the level of scrutiny necessary to protect themselves.

In addition to these checks, or if these options are not available to you, there are ways to go above and beyond during the resume screening process as well as additional checks you can perform on your own.  As advised by the Wall Street Journal online post titled “How to Spot Resume Fraud”:

Managers should review résumés with a skeptical eye, verify credentials, and ask the candidate specific, detailed questions about claims.

Some fudges: A candidate may list a university he attended, but from which he never earned a degree. Or, a job-seeker may say he served as CEO of a company and worked there four years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was CEO for all four years, says Mr. Pomeroy.

When managers ask candidates about claims on their résumés, they should look for suspicious behavior. Red flags include: Broad, vague answers to specific questions. Other times, job-seekers refuse to say to whom they reported, or who reported to them, citing “confidentiality.” “There’s something shady going on,” says Jason Hersh, a managing partner at KleinHersh International, a Willow Grove, Pa., search firm.

Other ways to avoid being duped:

  • Confirm the circumstances of every change in employment – whether voluntary or involuntary – with a candidate’s previous employers, says Mr. Pomeroy. And when considering managers and executives who are exiting a battered or liquidated firm, especially in the financial services industry, employers should try to understand the role the candidate played in the firm’s fate.


  • Ask the candidate for exact dates – to the day or month – of prior employment, and ask him to explain any gaps. “There can be that embarrassing two-month [job] in between, or those 90 days in jail,” says Michael D. Allison, chairman and CEO of International Business Research, a corporate-investigations firm in Princeton, N.J.


  • Don’t call only the references provided by a candidate. Seek additional references, such as former colleagues, supervisors or direct reports, Mr. Allison says.


  • Don’t assume candidates provided by an executive search firm are well-vetted, says Peter LeVine, a reference-checking consultant in Delray Beach, Fla. “You can’t afford to make assumptions.”


  • Run a Web search. “Anybody who doesn’t Google that employee creatively is making a mistake,” Mr. Pomeroy says. If anything turned up by a search – a title or date of employment, for example – doesn’t match a candidate’s résumé, “keep digging.”

Supplementing your current pre-employment processes with these suggestions will help prevent unfortunate situations where unqualified candidates or at least those lacking the integrity to submit an honest resume end up becoming a part of your organization.  There is no shortage of research and studies that attest to the high cost of turnover to any company.  Measures taken to reduce these kinds of losses are well worth the time and effort.

Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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