How Can I Spot a Fictitious Resume?

Job-seekers know that a resume is their one opportunity to make a good first impression. In high-demand positions, there is no time for an employer to read every application that comes across his desk. The resume has to catch his eye at a glance to avoid being tossed in the garbage. This pressure to create a sparkling document, all while condensing your whole life's accomplishments onto one page, is enough to make some job-seekers embellish or even fabricate their resumes. A business relationship cannot be built on a fictitious resume, so employers have to know how to spot a fake.

Today, many companies hiring new talent use keyword finders to evaluate resumes. Applicants are well-aware of this process, and they can use it to their advantage. It can be easy to guess a few keywords related to the position and sprinkle them in amongst your qualifications. This tactic is not lying in and of itself, and it is really quite strategic. But using keywords just for the sake of being picked up by the keyword finder is dishonest if those descriptors do not accurately describe you.

Over-use or awkwardness of keywords is a good indicator that an applicant is padding his resume. As the person hiring, you can compare an applicant's work experience to his alleged skill set to find inconsistencies. Over-use of industry buzzwords might also be a red flag. Ultimately, you want a candidate who is candid about her skills and experience. If someone seems too good to be true, follow up with past employers and references to confirm her qualifications.

Common Falsities

Job applicants often embellish their objectives and skills, but verifying those things is difficult until you see the employee in action. Fortunately, resumes contain plenty of verifiable information. This can be time-consuming. The best strategy, if you have a large stack of applications, is to go ahead with the resume screening process, weeding out obvious fakes and those that just do not meet your specifications. Once you have narrowed the field, follow up on suspicious items like work projects, employment history and education credentials.

Many of these things can be verified by checking in with former employers: ask about how the applicant executed an impressive project and how she worked with a team. You might even ask the former employer's opinion on her skill set based on her job performance. Even if the past employer has nothing but a glowing review of the applicant, beware of a new fictitious resume tactic. There are firms that exist solely to portray past employers and give great references when the person hiring calls. If you have never heard of the company, verify it with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Another tactic for falsifying employment history is listing long periods of self-employment. Due to the economy in recent years, employers are seeing more and more applicants who have been self-employed as freelancers or independent contractors. It may be legitimate, but ask probing questions in the interview or phone screening. If the person cannot say much about her day-to-day duties, "self-employment" might be covering up unemployment.

There is a high cost of hiring someone based on a fictitious resume. You could lose valuable time and money training someone who is not qualified for the job. Carefully screen all resumes and follow up with references and former employers. The interview is the last bastion against hiring a fraud: use your intuition and look for body language that indicates lying. It is much easier to lie on paper than in a face-to-face meeting.

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