When a candidate seems too good to be true, a healthy dose of skepticism could save you trouble down the line. Here’s how to avoid the uncomfortable situation of not finding out someone was lying on a resume until after you’ve hired them.
People managers and recruiters can go through hundreds of resumes to find the perfect fit for a role. I’m sure there’s no worse feeling than having all that effort undone by not realising someone was lying on a resume.
Eventually you come across one or two resumes that fit the bill. The resume outlines the extensive and impressive education of the applicant (I didn’t know there was a Harvard College in the Bahamas?), their many years’ experience (even though they were born in 1998) and their interesting hobby of tree shaping.
But as we all know, appearances can be deceiving. Increasingly, there are reported cases illustrating the very real issue of resume fraud, which can cause reputational carnage for organisations and the individuals responsible for not catching the lie.
How can you ensure that you and your organisation do not become the target of a ‘creative candidate’ who is lying on a resume?
1. Collect any evidence and supporting information.
As far as possible, you should require applicants to:
- provide original hard copies of any qualifications or transcripts they are relying on; and
- consent to you directly contacting any relevant educational or training institution to verify attendance and academic records.
Engage in professional skepticism about an applicant’s pronouncements – particularly for those senior positions. This is not to say that you need to distrust all job applicants; it is simply that you need to take care to independently verify an applicant’s claims.
2. Review your recruitment process.
There is no harm and there should be little cost involved in requiring all job applicants to sign statements acknowledging that:
- they have carefully reviewed and confirm the contents of their resumes; and
- their resumes are accurate and a true reflection of their skills, experience and qualifications.
3. Become or appoint a dedicated ‘resume fact detector’.
This is someone who:
- verifies the applicant’s academic or training records directly with the relevant institution;
- takes steps to verify an applicant’s previous work experience, independent of their listed references – even a brief Google or Facebook search might ring appropriate alarm bells if no relevant results are returned;
- asks applicants to sign a declaration that their application is accurate and an acknowledgement that serious consequences might follow if any falsehoods are included in their resume;
- ensures that there are provisions in the standard employment agreement, where the employee guarantees that they have not made and will not make any false representations to the organisation in the course of applying for or during their employment; and
- carefully studies any agreement with recruiters to check that the recruiter is also taking appropriate steps to verify applicants’ claims. You should not assume that your organisation can rely on a recruiter to perform the necessary background checks.
This isn’t to say that you should become a complete cynic. Balance your desire to get the best person on board with a healthy dose of curiosity. The next hire could be your best yet – or hopefully with these steps you’ve at least avoided Hannibal Lecter …