Think of a job candidate’s resume as a car advertisement. The candidate is trying to sell you something, so you need to adopt a “buyer beware” attitude before falling for the sales pitch.
Experts say the slowing economy will only increase the amount of fudging and outright lying on résumés. Applicants who feel desperate tend to add that extra “zing” to their résumés. And now, the Internet is full of “diploma mills” that hand out degrees for little or no work.
Here are 10 ways to poke holes in an applicant’s claims:
1. Check for inconsistencies. Résumé-writing software can make anyone look good. Look for slip-ups in dates (such as overlapping start and stop dates) and contradictions between job titles and duties.
2. Require all interviewees to fill out applications. Then look for inconsistencies between the résumé and the handwritten application.
3. Test skills. If an applicant claims proficiency in a computer program or a certain machine, check those skills. (Test all interviewees to avoid charges of bias.)
4. Check references, then ask for more. Demand that applicants provide phone numbers for all past employers, and make sure you call. And ask for names of former supervisors, key vendors, etc. Call the college admissions office to verify degrees.
5. Probe deeply into “self-owned business” claims. When applicants work for themselves, it’s too easy for them to cook up experience. Ask for details about their claims and names and numbers of past clients who can back them up.
6. Don’t confuse referrals with references. Perform the same thorough check on candidates referred by co-workers or friends that you would on candidates from other sources.
7. Question academic credentials. Phrase some questions to determine whether the candidate really attended the schools listed. “Is Tyler James still teaching Accounting 101 at that school?” If you made up the name and the person says, “He sure is,” you know you have a liar on your hands.
8. Ask about time gaps. Ask specifically about intervals when the applicant was apparently doing nothing.
9. Probe claims of supervisory duties. If a résumé says the person managed or supervised others, ask her, “How many people did you manage?” Don’t be satisfied with the number. Ask, “When you say ‘supervise,’ what did your duties involve? Did you assign work, evaluate the employees and conduct performance reviews?” A true manager would have done that, and more.
10. Question claims of saving the company money or resources. Often, the claims are true, but they may be exaggerations. Comments like “made staffing change to cut clerical time” may mean he trimmed a half-hour off his secretary’s lunch hour. Follow up on such résumé claims with questions such as, “How, exactly, were those savings realized?” Also, follow up on any claim that follows the words “reorganized” or “restructured.” Why? “Reorganizing” the department may mean the person merely reorganized the files or the furniture.
Pulled from HR Soapbox (published June 16, 2011)