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Liar, Liar on the Job: Spotting a Too-Good-to-Be-True Resume

Most resumes (53 percent) include some sort of falsification, while nearly 75 percent contain information that is classified as misleading. The biggest offenses are inflated salary claims, inaccurate job descriptions, falsified references, and even fraudulent degrees. So what’s a hiring manager to do?  Hire with a “zero tolerance” attitude and you may never fill a position. We sought advice from Emmanuel Toutain, CEO at Terefic, Inc., an Austin-based job-references website for job seekers, employers and veterans.

Toutain’s first tip is to identify the deal breakers. In other words, ask yourself: What lies hold the biggest consequences for the job?

“Self-promotion is fair game. Building a castle from dust is not,” explains Toutain. “Someone who shows unethical behavior is not a good fit for the job, no matter his or her capabilities. Beyond that, it becomes a problem when the inflated truth affects your decision.”

Toutain recommends identifying the key criteria you’d like to use to select the successful job candidate. Then, share these criteria with your team. “It’s important that you and your colleagues know where to dig for details and communicate with each other to detect flaws.”

He highlights three tools that can be used during the interview process to “smoke out” the truth in the areas you’ve identified:  job simulations, reference checks, and background checks.

Job Simulations

Testing via job simulation is a great way to identify falsified skills that are claimed on a resume. The exercise could be as simple as solving a theoretical customer service or project management problem or performing a typical computer proficiency test.

“Simulations help validate that the job candidate possesses the necessary skills to perform well in actual job situations,” Toutain explains. An added benefit? “Simulations are good predictors of future performance.”

Reference Checks

“Some candidates are good storytellers,” cautions Toutain. “If you’re not checking references, you are taking a huge gamble.” He recommends getting feedback from former bosses and co-workers as the best way to corroborate the candidate’s story.

“The common belief is the candidate’s references will only say positive things. That isn’t always true,” he adds. “Many people will give you clues on the candidate’s weaknesses if you give them the opportunity to do so.”

Use the information you see on resumes and have collected during the job interviews to choose people you’d like to interview as references. You aren’t necessarily bound to the contacts candidates’ offer up. But do choose those with whom a candidate seems to be on good terms, in order to avoid excuses. He offers a framework to accomplish this.

“Ask candidates to tell you about a specific project or something they have done and feel proud of,” he says. “Then ask them with whom they needed to interact to get the work done. Finally, ask them how they got along with those people. Make sure you take good notes on the information candidates give you.”

When it comes time to speak with references, certain questions work better than others. He offers a two-part question to test a candidate’s weaknesses, as an example.

  1. Can you rate our candidate on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being reserved for the strongest person you have worked with?
  2. What would our candidate have had to work on to get a higher rating?

Toutain also recommends using the information the candidate gave during his or her interviews to ask questions about specific situations. For instance, “Rebecca said that she was most proud of managing the marketing campaign you did for product XYZ. Can you tell me a little about that and why it was successful?”

Background Checks

In the end, background checks can identify some of the most shocking resume lies including misleading job titles, altered employment dates and fraudulent college degrees. So, whether you feel it necessary or not, conduct a background check on every new hire. “You may not really care if someone has a college degree,” Toutain says, “but you will want to know if the person is lying about it.”

Tell us: Have you ever caught a job candidate in a lie? What did you do? Are there any forgivable resume falsifications or do you believe that one white lie is one too many when it comes to hiring employees? We’d love to hear from you!


Image credit: alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo