Modern technology has made it easier for recruiters to verify facts and ferret out nonsense. Even so, a surprising number of job seekers fudge the truth on their resumes. According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, more than half of hiring managers have discovered some degree of dishonesty. Competition for jobs is fierce, and most candidates are just trying to get noticed. Upgrading a job title, inflating experience or tweaking academic records is common.
One-third of the managers surveyed have uncovered bogus degrees. Around 25 percent have called a reference only to learn that their applicant never worked for that company. If all of this sounds rather bleak, keep your chin up:Conscientious candidates turn up in the surveys, too.
How can you sniff out fibs or outright lies? Short of subjecting every applicant to a lie-detector test, you’ll have to do your homework, ask the right questions and hone your listening skills.
Decide What You’re Willing to Overlook
Most applicants merely stretch the truth here and there. They do this to play up their strengths and downplay their weaknesses. Making a former position sound more important than it was is far less heinous than citing a university that doesn’t exist. Even deserving candidates embellish the truth on their resumes.
Be on your guard, however, if the information provided is vague, if past compensation seems incredible or if dates of employment don’t jibe.
Play Amateur Sleuth
According to the CareerBuilder survey, a shocking 48 percent of recruiters spend fewer than two minutes reading a resume.
Slow down. Read between the lines. Add up qualifications. Look for a realistic rise up the corporate ladder – unless he’s Mark Zuckerberg, it’s unlikely that your guy dropped out of Harvard and landed a CEO’s job in no time.
Don’t settle for the candidate’s LinkedIn profile. Add a thorough Google search, and round out your investigation on Facebook and Twitter. Cross-check the facts you come across. Read beyond the first Google hits; a faked bio will be easy to detect a few pages into the search.
If you’re reluctant to “stalk” applicants, don’t be. With Facebook boasting 1.7 billion users and Twitter 313 million, that’s just the way it’s done these days.
Insist on a Conversation
Someone who doesn’t answer your calls but instead responds by text message or email may be hiding something. Truthful applicants don’t need time to think before answering questions. Brief phone interviews are ideal for verifying basic facts and getting an overall feel for the candidate.
Observing body language is somewhat useful, but don’t go overboard. Plenty of liars have strong eye contact, dry palms and an engaging smile.
You’re better off learning what to ask and knowing what to listen for. Ask a former consultant for a verifiable list of clients. Ask someone who provides a vague job title what his duties were, to whom he reported and how many workers he supervised. Ask someone who recently resigned a job to explain how she came to her decision. Listen carefully whenever the applicant is speaking, and press for specifics:
“Tell me more about that.”
“How were these two technologies different?”
“How many people were affected when the company downsized?”
If you’re met with silence, wait it out. If you don’t trust an answer, ask the question in a different way later in the interview. Listen for hesitation and inconsistencies.
Simply put, honest, qualified candidates take great care to ensure that the information they provide is correct. They’re eager to expound on their qualifications and skills. They don’t attempt to hide their mistakes, and they’re happy to tell you how missteps were rectified. Their references expect to hear from you.
If this doesn’t describe your candidate, odds are that his resume is fiction. More often than not, your gut instinct is more reliable than any resume.
About Jim Raychrudhury:
Jim Raychrudhury is a freelance writer and passionate blogger who likes writing articles that cover business, career and lifestyle related topics. He has written numerous articles and contributed to several other blogs. When he is not writing, he enjoys spending time outdoors with his family.