Like any lie, the resume fib usually starts out small and then escalates: The incomplete undergrad degree is stretched into master's to cover months of unemployment; a stint between jobs is erased by a fishy "consulting" gig. The temptations are many. Higher pay is often linked to advanced study or previous titles. Often, too, the applicant simply feels inadequate, so achievements are burnished beyond recognition.
While any number of superstar salespeople and genius managers have humble roots, presenting a fluffed up resume full of half-truths -- or one big "they'll never check" whopper, like an unearned PhD -- is a bad start to what could be a very problematic relationship.
Better to avoid the whole mess. Once you get to the final few candidates, check every line personally. You could learn a lot.
Start from the start, check up on basic informationThis is probably the easiest part of vetting any person's resume: the background check. Much information is public, and there are plenty of data vendor who will run the DMV, address and credit information for a small fee. Many also call previous employers to verify work dates and basic performance ratings.
Curious about that fancy degree? Ask the applicant to provide recordsThe biggest red flag in a resume, other than hidden convictions, is an improbable college degree. If the applicant says they graduated from Harvard Business School, they should have no problem giving you access to an signed, stamped transcript.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, students can get a printed transcript of their courses and grades at no cost, but employers cannot. If that's your chief concern, just ask the applicant to produce it.
If you are hiring a specific skill, like data entry, test themNinety-five words per minute? Extensive experience with computer languages? If you find previous employers are reticent to speak ill (or at all), your applicant should have no problem taking a few tests in advance.
Always verify military service, even if you feel unpatriotic doing itChecking up might seem unnecessarily obtrusive, but do it anyway. The number of medals claimed over time always exceeds several times over the total decorations on record. Likewise, the guy who peeled potatoes at Fort Bragg eventually claims he helped liberate Baghdad, expecting that no one will ever ask for proof. Consider it a service to the real soldiers.
National Archives in St. Louis. Older records might take a few weeks longer.
- Like ordinary lies, the resume lie has a "tell," in poker speak. Too much detail, either on paper or in the interview. If you push on the vice presidency, is the candidate suddenly extremely specific? Check it out.
- Most managers are very unlikely, for liability reasons, to put much of anything in writing. Call them directly, assure them it's confidential, then listen up. If they waffle on your questions or make excuses, chances are something is wrong.
- Don't over rely on what information vendors send back to you for $29.95 over the Web. Credit histories, for instances, are full of errors, and employees rarely realize it.