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Top 5 ways to smoke out lies on résumés

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If your job involves hiring, you know how frustrating it can be staring at all those résumés. Which claims are real, which are exaggerations and which are just flat-out lies? When hiring, you need to think about each résumé as a used car ad. The candidates try to sell you something, so you need to adopt a “buyer beware” attitude before falling for that sales pitch. The recession caused a big increase in the number of applicants who are adding a little “creative writing” to their résumés, and the Internet is full of ways for applicants to add to that creativity. Business Management Daily's Editorial Director Pat DiDomenico describes five things you can do to smoke out those résumé lies.

#1: Require everyone to fill out an application, even if you already have their résumé. This allows you to look for inconsistencies between the résumé and the handwritten application. Also, look on the résumé for some inconsistencies. Résumé-writing software can make anyone look good. Look for slip-ups in dates, such as overlapping start and stop dates. Ask about intervals on the résumé when the applicant seems to have been doing nothing.

#2: Test for skills. If an applicant claims proficiency in a computer program or certain machine, don’t just take their word for it: Check out those skills. Also, test all interviewees on that skill. This helps to avoid charges of discrimination.

#3: Check references and then ask for more. Ask each applicant for the phone numbers of all past employers, and make sure you make those calls. Get names of former supervisors and key vendors. Call the college admissions office to verify every academic degree. Finally, don’t go easy on applicants who were referred by co-workers or friends. You need to perform the same exact thorough check on every single candidate.

#4: Probe deeply into certain claims. I’ll give you a few examples. “Self-owned business” — that can really mean anything. And there’s really no supervisor to confirm what those duties or experiences were. So ask for details or request the names and numbers of past clients who can back them up. Also, ask about supervisory duties. If a résumé says that a person managed or supervised others, ask, “How many people did you manage?” And don’t be satisfied with just a number. Ask, “What did your duties involve?” “Did you assign work?” “Did you evaluate employees?” “Did you conduct performance reviews?” A manager would have done all of those and more. Also, ask about claims to save the company money or resources. These claims can often be true, but they may be exaggerations. Comments like “Made staffing change to cut clerical time” could mean he cut a half hour off his secretary’s lunch hour. Follow up on such résumé claims with questions such as, “How exactly did those savings get realized?”

#5: Don’t shrug off minor résumé exaggerations. They tell a lot about a candidate’s character and effort level. And they tell you if the person will cut corners once they come on your payroll.

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