How to spot a fake resume and avoid making a faulty hire

MJ Helms, Director of Operations, The Ashton Group

Weakness in the job market may well be followed by an increase in the number of cases of resume fraud. Unemployed people are feeling the pressure, and while they likely won’t be fined or jailed for lying on their resumes, that’s no reason to avoid telling the truth. MJ Helms, director of operations for The Ashton Group, says that in most cases, human resource departments should be doing background checks and comparing people’s social media accounts to their resumes.
“Apart from being morally and ethically wrong, lying on a resume can lead to problems for the company that hires this person, and everyone loses,” Helms says.
Smart Business spoke with Helms about how to make sure you don’t recruit someone with fake credentials.

How can employers be sure resumes are accurate?

The information that job candidates most often falsify on their resumes are employment history, skills, education records and salary details. To check the validity of their claims, conduct an initial phone screening with candidates that you as a hiring manager or human resources representative are interested in pursuing. This will save the time you would otherwise spend bringing in people who have not been properly qualified for face-to-face interviews.

What should employers look for if they suspect a resume is falsified?

Recruiters receive many unqualified candidates who apply for positions through Internet job postings. When submitting an application through these avenues, candidates generally omit or falsify information they believe will turn off potential employers, such as positions they held for a very short period of time and being fired. Recruiters and hiring managers should watch for:
■ Unexplained gaps in employment
■ A reluctance to explain the reason for leaving a job
■ Unusual periods of self-employment
Always corroborate the above information by calling references, including clients they had during self-employment periods. Be aware that candidates falsifying this information might provide fraudulent references. Always check the websites of previous employers and use the phone numbers found online for employment verification.

How can you screen candidates’ job experience?

A person submitting a false resume knows that companies and recruiter agencies search for candidates through online job boards using keywords. They also know that to end up in the top two to three pages, they need to match as many keywords as possible, so they add skills to their resumes that are commonly searched for by companies, whether they possess the skill or not. Ask candidates to send updated resume with details for their listed skills, specifying whether they’ve applied the skill on the job or just had a training course. If they have undergone training, find out where that was undertaken and for how long.
If they have hands-on experience, find out when it was obtained and when it was that they last applied it in a work environment. Asking these questions forces them to cut down their list to only those skills with which they are most comfortable. Now they know you’re serious about qualifying them. If you are recruiting for a technical position and they’ve listed skills or experience you’re unclear about, have someone within your company who has these skills conduct the initial technical phone screening.

How can you verify a candidate’s education?

Some candidates might exaggerate their educational history. To screen them, contact the college or university on the resume to verify a degree was granted. Applicants might list a completed degree when they did not finish all courses and graduation requirements. If a college name is unfamiliar, check the website of the school, verify its accreditation and evaluate the nature of the school.
Diploma mills — institutions of higher education operating without the guidance or supervision of a state agency and/or professional association that grant fraudulent diplomas — abound online. There are more than 400 diploma mills in operation, with another 300 websites offering counterfeit diplomas.

What types of candidates are most likely to exaggerate on their resumes?

Faking and embellishment are both commonly found on resumes, especially on those of salespeople. Candidates in this field tend to add their fixed salaries, their sales-based incentives including potential incentives that would have been theoretically paid to them if they had met some highly improbable sales goals and wrap these up into their ‘current salary. Some companies ask to see the last pay stub or W2 form om sales candidates to verify their claims. However, it may be illegal to ask, so check with your state labor department. Make sure you ask someone if his or her annual salary includes a bonus. If it does, look for the amount or percentage of salary and find out whether it is based on individual or company goals.

How can employers be sure candidates worked where they say they had?

Watch for companies with buzzwords such as Tech, Info and Infocom in their names, as these can be fictitious. If you have never heard of the company, check the Registrar of Companies online to see if it is actually registered. At the interview, ask specific questions about which office they worked in, the address, how many people work in that company and the name and phone number of the immediate manager. If a company employs more than 100 people and they give the name of the CEO for everything, look into it further.
Remember that mistakes and misunderstandings do happen. If you find a discrepancy, give the candidate an opportunity to explain. Use common sense and trust your intuition and experience. If something doesn’t seem right, follow up on it.

MJ Helms is director of operations for The Ashton Group. Reach her at [email protected]

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