Spotting Exaggerations on a Resume

How do you know if a candidate is lying on a resume? Should you be suspicious about a perfect resume? How do you know the credentials listed are real? Here’s how to spot those little white lies and even the big fibs that are commonly found in that big pile of resumes you have on your desk. 

Common Red Flags That Signify The Candidate is Too Good to Be True 

There are obvious reasons why a bad hire is bad for business. It costs employers a lot of wasted time and money to vet a candidate only to find they don’t live up to their promise. Part of the job of the recruiter is to ferret out the right people, make sure their credentials are real, and the person a good fit.  

In IT every junior programmer says they are “expert” in their chosen language. In hiring, every candidate has a story about why his or her last job didn’t work out. It’s up to the recruiter to somehow figure out the reality behind the resume. How do you do it? 

  • One red flag for recruiters is when the candidate is too vague. The resume may have passive or ambiguous language such as “involved in” or “familiar with.” This may indicate someone who doesn’t have the hands-on experience you’re looking for. 
  • Too much white noise. Look for resumes that use too many keywords or buzzwords or language that is overly flowery. They may be trying to distract you from a lack of credibility. 
  • Always check timelines for dates that don’t add up or too vague. Does the cover letter say they were in the job three years but the resume show two? Do job titles not match up between LinkedIn and the resume?  
  • Gaps in the resume should be explained. It’s okay to have a gap for independent consulting. But how about frequent intermittent unemployment that isn’t explained in the cover letter? Make sure you address these issues during the verbal interview process. 

Speaking of the interview process, here are a few tips to help you get to the truth. 

Interview Tips To Uncover Resume Fibs 

If you’ve had some red flags from the resume but think it still might be worth talking to the candidate, your interview questions should be designed to ferret out reality from fiction. You can double-check any claims at each stage of the interview process and be alert for answers that contradict themselves. Ask specific question about candidate weaknesses and strengths as well as their job responsibilities, why they left, and more. For example, you can ask: 

  • What kinds of software did you use in your last position? 
  • What types of documentation did you create? 
  • Describe a time you had a conflict crop up on a team you were on. How did you handle it? 
  • Tell me three ways you improved efficiencies in your last job? 
  • What did you like best about the role? What did you like least? 

Vague answers are sometimes a flag that the candidate is embellishing their skillset. Take good notes so that you can spot inconsistencies between the phone and in-person interviews. 

The Blackstone team is expert at finding you the right talent. Find out how our approach is better—contact us today. 


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