An increase in the number of cases of resume fraud is in no small part a result of the past several years of weakness in the job market. Unemployed people are feeling the pressure, and while they likely won’t be fined or jailed for lying on their resumes, that’s no reason to avoid telling the truth.
It is not uncommon for people to inflate their resumes.
In most cases, human resource departments or other key employees can perform background checks and compare people’s social media accounts to their resumes. Even then, it’s very tricky to spot a fake resume or at least a resume that has been falsified.
How can employers be sure resumes are accurate?
The information that job candidates most often falsify on their resumes are employment history, skills, education records and salary details. A good start is a formal telephone interview with candidates that you as a hiring manager or human resources representative are interested in pursuing.
Listen carefully for any discrepancies and feel free to ask the applicant to clarify any ambiguities. If things do not “add up” now is the time to make an initial assessment in the career decisions the applicant has made. A 5 minute telephone interview can be a huge time saver.
What should employers look for if they suspect a resume is falsified?
Recruiters and Hiring managers should dig deep in a resume and look for:
- Unexplained gaps in employment
- Irrational career moves with unusual titles
- A reluctance to explain the reason for leaving a job
- Unusual periods of self-employment
It is a good idea to corroborate the above information by calling references, including clients they had during self-employment periods. Be aware that candidates falsifying this information might provide fraudulent references. So check the websites of previous employers and use the phone numbers found online for employment verification.
How can you screen candidates’ job experience?
A person submitting a false resume knows that companies and recruiter agencies search for candidates through online job boards using keywords. They also know that to end up in the top two to three pages, they need to match as many keywords as possible, so it is not uncommon to add skills to their resumes that are commonly searched for by companies, whether they possess the skill or not. Ask candidates to send updated resumes with details for their listed skills, specifying whether they’ve applied the skill on the job or just had a training course. If they have undergone training, find out where that was undertaken and for how long.
If they have hands-on experience, find out when it was obtained and when it was that they last applied it in a work environment. Asking these questions forces an applicant to cut down their list to only those skills with which they are most comfortable.
How can you verify a candidate’s education?
Some candidates might exaggerate their educational history. To screen them, contact the college or university on the resume to verify a degree was granted. Applicants might list a completed degree when they did not finish all courses and graduation requirements. If a college name is unfamiliar, check the website of the school, verify its accreditation and evaluate the nature of the school.
Diploma mills — institutions of higher education operating without the guidance or supervision of a state agency and/or professional association that grant fraudulent diplomas — abound online. There are more than 400 diploma mills in operation, with another 300 websites offering counterfeit diplomas.
What types of candidates are most likely to exaggerate on their resumes?
In reality there is no specific type of candidate likely to exaggerate on their resume. Candidates in any job in which there was bonus potential may tend to add their fixed salaries, their sales-based incentives including potential incentives that would have been theoretically paid to them if they had met some highly improbable goals and wrap these up into their ‘current salary. Some companies ask to see the last pay stub or W2 form from candidates to verify their claims. However, it may be illegal to ask, so check with your state labor department. Make sure you ask someone if his or her annual salary includes a bonus. If it does, look for the amount or percentage of salary and find out whether it is based on individual or company goals.
How can employers be sure candidates worked where they say they had?
If you have never heard of the company, check the Registrar of Companies online to see if it is actually registered. At the interview, ask specific questions about which office they worked in, the address, how many people work in that company and the name and phone number of the immediate manager. If a company employs more than 100 people and they give the name of the CEO for everything, look into it further.
Remember that mistakes and misunderstandings do happen. If you find a discrepancy, give the candidate an opportunity to explain. Use common sense and trust your intuition and experience. There is no perfect system to spot a fake resume however it is really essential to use every tool possible to minimize the risk of hiring a mistake.
I am Bernie Reifkind, CEO and founder of Premier Search, Inc. I can be reached at 1(800) 801-1400 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome your phone call and comments.
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