Whether to land a plumb position or to find a job in a difficult labor market, it’s a fact that some candidates lie on their resumes. Estimates vary, but consensus is that approximately 25 percent of applicants embellish, exaggerate or outright lie on their resumes.
They likely do this because they can get away with it. In a recent survey, job search firm Career Builder found that seven of 10 employers spend fewer than five minutes reviewing a resume.
CareerBuilder’s research found that applicants lie most often about these five details:
- Skill sets (62 percent)
- Prior job responsibilities (54 percent)
- Previous company employment dates (39 percent)
- Prior job titles (31 percent)
- Academic degrees (28 percent)
For this reason, prudent company owners and their managers do not take a trusting attitude with any candidate. And, while it might be tempting to assume people who have held elevated positions are more honest than low-skill workers, executive level candidates need even greater scrutiny due to the higher levels of trust and access they often enjoy within the company.
A recent article from the Society of Human Resource Management found that CEO firings for ethics violations are on the rise. (This doesn’t necessarily mean more executives are committing unethical acts. It could also be that companies are being more careful. Either way, organizations need to conduct appropriate diligence on candidates at all levels.)
Following are a few tips for determining if a candidate is an honest, ethical person:
- Examine the resume carefully and look for inconsistencies or omissions, such as references that don’t match up with schools and employers.
- Speak with associates, friends and family rather than just supervisors. Ask about “soft skills” claimed, such as leadership and communications.
- Ask references about the start and end dates of employment rather than just “periods,” like the number of years. This is especially true of the candidate shows a 100 percent unbroken employment history on their resume.
- Ask the candidate in the interview, “Would you lie for me if I asked you to?” The answer should be “No,” or it could be an indication of an unethical candidate.
- If anything on a resume sounds too good to be true, ask about it. While not all liars become uncomfortable when they tell or support a falsehood, many will exhibit some signs of stress.
When candidates falsify information on a resume or in an interview—even if it is a minor “fib”—they are showing themselves to be unethical. This attitude may have implications for companies even if the falsehood doesn’t make the candidate less qualified.
It is vital for hiring companies to use qualified individuals (in-house or third party) to carefully check all references—not only employment titles, dates and duties but also education, professional associations, and any other information that is listed and relevant to the job.