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How To Spot A Resume Lie In 3 Steps

Written by: Ben Hanson
Published on: Sep 25, 2017

Resume picture

Some are big fat lies. Others are much less obvious. Either way, HR professionals and hiring managers need to train themselves to spot resume lies for several important reasons. Hiring someone with fraudulent credentials can put the entire company at risk in potentially serious ways, both financially and legally. It may even put employee safety at risk. If word gets out about a couple bad hires, the company’s reputation can also take a hit, making it harder to attract highly qualified candidates in the future. For the HR person who missed the lie and recommended a questionable recruit, it could mean termination.

The most common resume lies are of the “little white” variety—inflating salary history, fudging employment dates, or glamorizing a job title. However, completely made up credentials like bogus college degrees, unearned credentials, or even falsified recommendations are common enough that they, too, pose a real threat to the integrity of your company’s hiring process.

According to a U.S. News & World Report article, here are the ten most common resume lies:

  1. Stretching dates of employment
  2. Inflating past accomplishments and skills
  3. Enhancing titles and responsibilities
  4. Exaggerating education and fabricating degrees
  5. Unexplained gaps and periods of “self employment”
  6. Omitting past employment
  7. Faking credentials
  8. Falsifying reasons for leaving prior employment
  9. Providing fraudulent references
  10. Misrepresenting a military record

Bust the Resume Liars

Knowing the most common resume lies to look for is the first step to training your eye, but to become a true resume sleuth, add these tips and tricks to your toolbox.

Use Social Media

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, you name it—use every social media platform to investigate your top recruits. Do they all list the same information, or is John a Ph.D from Stanford on LinkedIn but a “graduate of the streets” on Twitter? Reviewing a candidate’s social media profiles can help you put together a more comprehensive picture of just who it is you’re considering hiring.

Put Them to the Test

The bigger the lie, the easier it is to expose with a couple well-designed tests. If you’re hiring an analyst or financial officer, for example, give your top recruits a big stack of numbers and ask them to crunch the data for you. You will be able to tell immediately who knows what they’re doing and who’s simply pretending. If you’re hiring a marketing professional, create a dummy client and have your candidates develop an advertising campaign. How people respond to real-world tests will show you everything you need to know about their skills.

Schedule a Face-to-Face

resume lie featured

Even if you don’t want to call it an interview, arrange to meet the suspect applicant in person. Having a cup of coffee with someone gives you a chance to evaluate their body language when pressed with a few tough questions. You may not consider yourself an expert detective, but you’d be surprised how well your intuition will pick up on the nonverbal clues of forgery. On the flip side, if the recruit seems to be avoiding real contact, preferring to communicate only via text message or email, take that as a big clue that he or she may be hiding something.

Above all, trust your instincts. If a resume looks too good to be true, chances are it probably is. However, given today’s technology and the magic of a quick internet search, it’s easier than ever to expose the resume lies that could prove damaging to the company (and your own job security). Use all the tools available to protect yourself, your employees, and the entire company against potentially risky hires.