Applicants are more qualified than ever…or so they say.

Ever looked at a resume and thought, “This applicant is PERFECT for this position”?

Chances are he wasn’t. Chances are some of those stellar credentials were “adjusted” to fit the posting. A recent survey by CareerBuilder.com revealed almost half of the 3,100 hiring managers polled had caught a candidate lying on their resume. Makes you wonder how many more weren’t caught?

It’s not just academic credentials that are getting airbrushed — though that’s the big one.  (“Well, I WOULD have received that doctorate – if the college hadn’t lost my thesis paper.”) Candidates have been known to change a few dates to cover gaps in employment, exaggerate job titles, invent new companies or schools, and indulge in a little creative writing with job responsibilities and accomplishments.  It’s entirely possible that those awesome achievements were the result of a team effort rather than the solo act portrayed.

Some of the more memorable lies those managers found included:

  • a claim to be the CEO of a company by someone who was actually an hourly employee
  • a claim to be a member of Mensa
  • a claim to be a member of the Kennedy family
  • a claim to have military experience that dated back before the applicant was born
  • samples of “the candidate’s work” which were actually the work of the interviewer (oops!)

If you’ve been fooled by a fake resume (that you are aware of), you are in some noteworthy company. Falsified resumes have come back to bite more than a few executive behinds. In the past few years the wool has been pulled over the eyes of some big companies and colleges including Yahoo, Radio Shack, Bausch & Lomb, the US Olympic Committee, MIT, and University of Notre Dame.

So how can you keep that from happening on your watch? A little bit of research and some thoughtful listening:

  • Verify educational credentials by calling the schools directly. But don’t use phone numbers given by the candidate. Get on line and find the school’s website for contact information.
  • Verify work history by calling the companies listed. Again, find their contact information on line, if possible.
  • Call the references! Ask for details about work history and skill sets. If you run into dead ends with the references given, consider that a red flag.
  • Go to Google! Search for the candidate’s name to find any publications or awards they cite on their resume. This step may help you confirm a candidate’s claims, but won’t necessarily expose any lies.
  • Ask detailed questionsif the candidate makes it to the interview stage. Be sure to ask them why they left each previous job.  Ask specifics about the skill sets they claim.  And don’t just stick to the usual script (you know they are ready for that!). Throw in a few unexpected questions to help you gauge their response.
    • “What was on your W2 last year?” (Why ask this? It ensures that you get the real story on previous salary. And at some time you can require them to produce it.)
    • “What is the most useful criticism you ever received?”  (Not having an answer to this one is a red flag  . . .  everyone has issues!)
    • “How has your current position prepared you for this job?”
    • Don’t ignore your hunches. If you can’t find anything specific, but this candidate just doesn’t seem like a good fit, move on.

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. If after all your due diligence, you still think you have the right candidate, hire them!

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