A recent article in the Boston Business Journal reported that according to hiring managers and human resource professionals, the falsification of resumes is a widespread problem.
Misrepresentation on a resume or employment application can take two forms:
- The making of a false or misleading statement, or
- Omission of significant details about an applicant’s background or employment history.
According to this article, stretching dates to cover up employment gaps is the most commonly-caught resume lie. An applicant may believe that he or she will not be viewed in a favorable light if the resume reflects periods of unemployment. Also, an open period of employment may suggest that the reason for leaving the prior employer may have been for reasons unflattering to the applicant.
Other resume misrepresentation may include the following:
- A false claim that the applicant has obtained a particular academic degree or certificate
- Received a degree from a particular college or university
- Has achieved certain technical skills
- Has received various certifications
- Exaggerating or misrepresenting certain accomplishments
To deter these types of misrepresentations, the employer’s application or hiring materials should include a statement that any false or misleading representations during the application process or the failure to disclose an important fact will immediately disqualify the applicant from any further consideration for employment.
The employer should usually conduct a background check on the applicant. A routine background check is relatively inexpensive. Identifying an applicant who is falsifying his or her resume will justify such an expense.
The more critical the position, the more the employer may wish to attempt to verify information provided on a resume. For example, verifying that a college was attended, or a degree received might be important if the position the employer is seeking to fill requires a certain level of intellectual accomplishment. This will also be true if the job must be filled by an individual with a particular level of skill in a technical area.
Another technique frequently overlooked by interviewers is the simple step of examining the public record. Today, especially with younger applicants, you may be able to locate interesting, and sometimes revealing, information about the applicant on such Internet pages as MySpace, Facebook, or YouTube. Such pages might confirm the person’s resume, or more importantly, show false statements or character or personality traits that the employer may find disturbing. Also, the interviewer might simply use the person’s name as a search term in Google. Many times, such a search will be useless, but there is that occasional time when valuable information is revealed.
Finally, even though examining and verifying representations on a resume may be important, there is no substitute for excellent interviewing skills. Simply walking a person through his or her resume is usually not very helpful. It is preferable to ask questions that the applicant will not anticipate. It may be useful to give the applicant specific problems and issues, and ask the person how he or she would deal with the problem. Such tactics will give you a glimpse of the applicant’s ability to express him/herself and respond to very concrete issues the applicant may have to face on the job. A skilled interviewer will structure the interview so that the applicant is doing most of the talking, while the interviewer is listening and observing.
Finally, you should resist the temptation, and more importantly convince management to resist the temptation to overlook misrepresentations during the application process “because we really need someone.” Misrepresentations on a resume or in the application process may reveal a character flaw which could prove harmful to the company in the future if such a person is employed today.
Recognize that in a tough job market, applicants may bend the truth, or lie – be prepared!
Russell J. Thomas, Jr.
Attorney at Law
THOMAS & ASSOCIATES
4121 Westerly Place, Suite 103
Newport Beach, California 92660
Tel: (949) 752-0101
Fax: (949) 257-4756
J.D., Harvard Law School, 1967
Specializes in Employment Law and Litigation
Offices in Southern California (Los Angeles and Orange County)