According to Fortune, more and more people are lying on their resumes. Drawing from research conducted by CareerBuilder, Fortune reports that 58 percent of hiring managers have seen “exaggerations or outright fabrications” on resumes, and a third of hiring managers agree that candidates have been lying more often since the Great Recession (that thing ruined everything, didn’t it?)
Couple the prevalence of resume lies with the fact that recruiters tend to look at those resumes for a grand total of six seconds apiece, and the situation doesn’t look terribly sunny. How do we catch lies we’re not even taking the time to look for?
David Gilcher, lead resource manager at staffing firm Kavaliro, has been in the staffing industry for nine years now. He’s worked as both a corporate and agency recruiter, so he’s seen much of what there is to see, and he has a few opinions on lying candidates.
What Are People Lying About — And Why?
According to Gilcher, most of the lies he encounters are lies about dates of employment. “People may falsify the dates in order to fill up a gap in employment. That’s usually the most common reason why,” he says. People who have been out of work for six months may conveniently skip over this fact on their resumes, toying with the numbers to make it look like they’re still employed to this day.
Gilcher says that a lot of people feel the need to cover up gaps in employment or their current unemployed status because they know how employers tend to feel about unemployed candidates. “They know that employers shy away from people who have been out of work for an extended period of time,” Gilcher explains.
Gilcher has also seen a fair number of candidates lie about the reasons for leaving jobs. “You may not always see this on a resume, but in a discussion with a candidate, you may look at dates of employment and ask them, ‘Why did this position come to an end?’” Gilcher explains. “The most common reason I hear is, ‘It was a layoff,” or “The economy.’ Unfortunately, that isn’t always necessarily true.”
Education-related lies have grown more common in recent years, too, Gilcher says. “Some folks may lie about having degrees and certifications because they know that a company is really looking for the best and the brightest and asking for a degree for an entry-level position — or even for a minimum wage role,” he says. “[Candidates] may feel the need to do that in order to obtain a position because they know about that requirements there.”
What Do We Do About Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them?
Let’s back up before we embark on a witch-hunt. Discovering a lie on a resume may not necessarily be a deal breaker. “I think it depends on the severity of it, and if it’s just a matter of trying to clear things up, or maybe it was just a misunderstanding,” Gilcher says.
Maybe a recruiter sees a resume on a job board and doesn’t realize it is outdated. This could create a situation where, upon interview, a candidate’s answers don’t seem to line up with their resume information, which is a cause for concern. This is why recruiters shouldn’t jump to conclusions: figure out why the information isn’t consistent before accusing a candidate of lying.
“Those little misunderstandings can come up, but if you hear flat-out lies — for example, if you see a resume, you go through the confirmation process with the candidate, you then speak with a reference or do some due diligence and look into it a little deeper and find an inconsistency, that may shy you away from moving forward,” Gilcher says.
Whether they turn out to be deal-breaking falsehoods or misunderstandings, potential candidate lies should be a natural point of concern for recruiters. “If we’re forwarding these candidate to our clients, and they’re lying to us, what are they going to tell our clients?” Gilcher asks.
This is why Gilcher suggests that recruiters and hiring managers make the effort to really vet candidates and confirm the information on their resumes.
The first step, Gilcher says, is talking to candidates about the information on their resumes in person and in depth. This is especially helpful if the candidate does not have their resume in front of them. They may be more candid with their answers.
“Somebody who may have been out of work for six months, they may say they’re working presently [on their resume],” Gilcher says. “However, in a conversation with them, you can ask, ‘Okay, when was your last day of actual work?’ and then they tell you it was six months ago.”
Gilcher also suggests matching candidate’s resumes agains their LinkedIn profiles. “Go in and look that the information on the resume matches with the LinkedIn profile,” he says. “I’ve seen numerous times where that doesn’t match. That’s something where I’ll go to the candidate and ask for some additional clarification.”
Perhaps the strongest weapon in the recruiter’s fact-checking arsenal is a well-conducted reference check. Gilcher suggests that recruiters ask questions like “Hey, would you have references available to confirm your work?” or “Would we be able to run a verification on your educational background?”
“If somebody’s being truthful, they’re normally able to provide that information very openly,” Gilcher says. “If they’re reserved about it — that can definitely give you cause for concern.”
Gilcher stresses the utmost importance of ensuring that references are run to verify candidates’ work. “Candidates should be able to provide those references without question,” he says. “At least 2-3 references — and managers, not necessarily just colleagues and people they know personally, but managers that can verify that work.”
Thorough reference checks can confirm — or deny — the information a candidate offers on their resume. If references reveal untruths, recruiters can toss the offending candidates aside. If references prove the quality of a candidate, then recruiters — especially agency recruiters — will have an easier time convincing hiring authorities to bring that candidate aboard.
“It’s confirmed, so when I provide that [candidate] information to a client, I have something to back it up,” Gilcher says.