10 Ways to Smoke Out Exaggerations in Resumes

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)

Is it legal for supervisors to keep their own personnel files on their subordinates?

Although supervisors provide HR with original documentation, many of them also keep a copy for themselves. This includes doctor’s notes, disciplinary warnings, etc.

First, medical and I-9 documentation is supposed to be kept in separate, confidential files, so that the information contained within them is not used to discriminate against employees.As for general employment information, allowing supervisors to keep files to monitor performance, attendance, behavior, and the like is fine. Make sure that copies are placed in employees’ “official” personnel files, as well.

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How is a Manager to be handled who is exempt from over-time and unpaid holiday (if possible)?

Exempt employees must be paid for days the company is closed, unless they do no work whatsoever during the full workweek. Exempt employees can only have their pay docked in very limited circumstances and this is NOT one of them. You can require that they use vacation for the day, but you cannot require an exempt employee to take a day unpaid that they would ordinarily be working but the company has closed.

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We’ve got several employees that are showing signs of sickness and would like to make sure that others in common areas are not affected. Can we ask that they take time off to recover or see a doctor to get a note saying that they’re not contagious?

First of all, yes, you can require an employee to take time off and go home to recover from sickness. However, be careful that you don’t unnecessarily discriminate against certain employees with perceived disabilities. On that note, be sure to double-check the language in your Employee Handbook to apply fair and consistent treatment among your employees.

Secondly, while you can also have the employee get a doctor’s note, any information should be work / workplace-related and in the form of any potential work restrictions (e.g. return to work no earlier than “mm-dd-yyyy”).

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What types of documentation should be recorded and filed when an employee terminates?

For voluntary terminations, employers should require a signed letter of resignation from the employee, to provide documentation should the employee file for unemployment benefits. In addition, an exit interview is a good idea to discuss the reason for resignation, distribute necessary paperwork, and discuss any questions.

For disciplinary terminations and discharges, careful steps should be taken to remedy the situation, and document all reasons and incidents leading up to and including discharge to reduce the liability of a wrongful discharge claims.

For layoff and reduction in force situations, supervisors should document the employee’s file accordingly, following State procedures concerning the matter of unemployment procedures. It is a good idea for employers to consult legal counsel or an employment expert to develop a layoff plan based on objective rather than subjective factors–helping to avoid discrimination charges, and in compliance with State and Federal regulations.

Pulled from our Employer Online Portal

How does an employer set the maximum salary for a specific position?

In terms of how to set the maximum salary amount for a specific position, we recommend conducting some research — whether directly or through an outside provider — to determine an average market value for the position. Once this is determined, the maximum salary is typically set 10% to 20% higher than the market average. Of course, this is simply a suggestion, and your company may opt to set a maximum salary for each job according to its own needs and preferences.

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If an employee is on 90 day probation and at the end of the 90 days is not going to be retained due to whatever reason, is this employee entitled to unemployment compensation?

The employee in question may be entitled to unemployment compensation. In general, the following reasons for unemployment can determine an employee’s eligibility:

  • If laid offAn employee’s unemployment must not be his/her fault. For example, if laid off due to a “lack of work,” then the employee did not cause the unemployment.
  • If he/he quit (voluntary termination) The employee must show that he/she had “just cause” for leaving the job to establish eligibility.
  • If he/she was discharged (involuntary termination)The employee may be considered not eligible, if the employer shows why the discharge was for “just cause.”

REMEMBER:  Change “Probationary Period” to “Introductory Period” or “Orientation Period.” The probationary term can imply a guaranteed period of continued employment (i.e. 90 days).

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Is there a standard minimum weight for lifting that I can establish for certain staff like in the warehouse staff?

We would like to set the minimum to 65 lbs. Is that too high of a minimum?

You can set a standard minimum lifting requirement at 65 lbs. (while acknowledging the frequency of such lifting) as long as it is directly relevant to the job. With that being said, we strongly recommend looking into “lifting” equipment or tools available that could help (1) reduce the number and degree of incidences for potential workplace injuries and (2) protect the company from any gender / sex discrimination claims. Additionally, the job description should specify that lifting a minimum 65 lbs. is a job requirement and how frequent the lifting will be performed.

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We have an employee that is going to have surgery, not work related. Do we have to hold this employee’s job?

The employee informed us he/she would be out for approximately 2 months, and the employee has been employed for 1 year.

Not necessarily, especially if you can clearly and objectively prove undue hardship on the company if you do hold the position for an extended period of time. Holding the employee’s job depends on various considerations — part of which depends on how many employees your company has (15 or more employees, 50 or more employees), the nature / reason for the leave (i.e. pregnancy, work-related), and other relevant factors, your business may be subject to certain levels of employer responsibilities. Still, you’d need to double-check, including reviewing what your Employee Handbook policies states and / or how you’ve handled similar employee situations in the past.

Pulled from our Employer Online Portal