We’re trying to be as careful as possible in prescreening the people we interview. We hear a lot about resume falsification—some amazing percentage of resumes supposedly have “mistakes” or outright lies on them. What are some of the common things people lie about on their resumes, and will a routine background check pick up the lies? —Alan, HR Manager in Santa Barbara
Most organizations are eventually forced to deal with resume fraud on some level. We sought out Jared Callahan’s expertise on this issue.
Any lie or misrepresentation found on a resume is a concern because you’re aiming to hire people with high levels of honesty and integrity. Based on my experience, the most common things people lie about are education, employment, and convictions. The industry organization that represents background checking firms, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, has found that education fraud is on the rise—more so than lies about past employment or criminal convictions.
Why might this be? I think it’s because as part of the employment screening process, most employers flat out ask the question about convictions and/or pending criminal issues on their applications, and many employers also use release and authorization forms that ask the question a second time. Seeing these two references to criminal issues on forms before employment, most applicants believe the employer will check for criminal records, so they are less likely to lie about that part of their background. Furthermore, applicants tend to believe that employers will call past employers to verify past employment. (Some employers don’t—at their peril. Calling past employers is an absolute must during the hiring process.)
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It is because of this, I think, that there is less lying in the convictions and past employment areas. However, the growing trend of falsifying education credentials suggests that untruthful applicants believe employers either don’t check out the facts or are indifferent to what is listed about education.
Whether an employer hires a background firm or conducts verifications in-house, it is easy to confirm both past employment and education credentials. I strongly recommend it. In addition, I recommend that you require all candidates to fill out applications. First of all, with a resume, they can always say things like, “Oh, yeah, sorry—I forgot that was still on my resume. I put that there thinking I was going to get the degree.” But they can’t wiggle out of a signed and dated application. And second, when you evaluate candidates by looking at their applications, you are comparing “apples to apples.” You’ve got the same information from each candidate in the same format. When comparing resumes, you’re just looking at what each candidate wants you to see.
Jared Callahan is a licensed private investigator in California, and is director, client services and production, for Employment Screening Resources in Novato.