Flushing Out Resume Lies: Getting to the Truth About Candidates
Flushing Out Resume Lies: Getting to the Truth About Candidates

Flushing Out Resume Lies: Getting to the Truth About CandidatesThere is a good chance that the pile of resumes on your desk contains more than just a few embellishments on candidate backgrounds. How do you weed out the truth from the fiction?

It should not be surprising to find that a weak job market has caused an increase in the number of individuals who commit "resume fraud" in order to earn the attention of recruiters. By embellishing their work skills, education and references, these candidates hope to get better job offers--to the dismay of the companies who foolishly hire them. We will look at some interesting statistics on this problem and then learn some tricks to avoid this costly error--to get to the truth about candidates.

If you have spent any time at all reviewing candidate resumes, then you know that there are some obvious signs of resume fraud. The current state of the job market does not give candidates the right to cheat on their resumes. This unethical behavior is something that occurs generally in a small portion of candidate resumes, either due to a lack of marketable skills or in an effort to hide something not job worthy. In fact, it is actually part of a larger category of problem behavior referred to as job fraud.

Human resources case studies indicate that resume and job fraud include:
  • The Society of Human Resources (SHRM) conducted a study in 2003 and found that nearly 53% of all job applications contained erroneous information.
  • ADP issued a 2007 white paper revealing that when recruiters check candidate references, 49% of their investigations produced a marked difference between the information candidates provided vs. what references provided.
  • An updated 2011 study by the CPA Journal showed that as many as 44% of a surveyed pool of 2.6 million applicants willingly stated they lied about prior work experience, while another 41% falsified their education, and 23% lied about their licenses and workplace credentials.
While these statistics should prompt you to take action, the sad truth is that many companies do not place an emphasis on really checking deeply into candidates' backgrounds to discover possible issues. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to resume fraud because they lack the full resources to adequately screen candidates, meaning there is usually one person left to call on multiple references and conduct background checks for an overwhelming number of applicants.

Resume fraud is oftentimes something that takes months to uncover, once a candidate starts to have issues on the job that brings their actual credentials into question. This puts HR departments into an even bigger predicament, trying to determine if the false information warrants a termination or not. Fortunately, there are ways to spot this on a resume before it becomes an issue. Here are some things to look for:

Overlapping or exact dates with jobs.
In an effort to cover up time unemployed, candidates may often "doctor" their resumes by typing in dates that correspond with the previous dates of employment. Sometimes they make mistakes and actually overlap their dates, or leave entire spans of time with no work or educational information at all. Likewise, if leaving one job for another takes place on the same exact calendar day, that is suspicious because most candidates start new jobs on Monday of the following week.

Educational dates that do not make sense.
Candidates are wise to the system when it comes to educational requirements. So, they may try to say they have an advanced degree when, in fact, they do not. This goes for current college students who state they have earned their degree; when it is years off from happening. Look out for young candidates under the age of 23 who say they have a master's degree, for example. Remember that it may take many years to earn these educational requirements and that you can ask for a copy of their educational credentials during the screening process if in doubt.

Lack of professional references.
Every smart recruiter should ask for more than the minimum references as part of the application process. Why? Because candidates very often find three friends to "act" like references instead of furnishing professional references. Ask for five and see what the candidate produces. And you do have the right to get the references' full names, titles, company name, address and call the main company line to verify that the reference is who he or she says they are. Don't be fooled by this old trick.

While these are just a handful of methods by which you can avoid falling victim to resume fraud as a hiring manager, over time you will learn how to spot a potential fraudster. To avoid this issue all together, consider using the services of a quality employment staffing agency to weed through candidate resumes, conduct thorough background checks and present your company with the best and truthful candidates.


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