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Finding the truth in resumes


Over the past month or so, a number of you have expressed concern over the content of the resumes you have been receiving. It seems to be getting harder and harder to determine whether what you are reading is the “whole truth” or candidate fabrication.

It’s no secret that some people stretch the truth when writing their resume and other people out and out lie on theirs. That’s a sad fact and a damning indictment of what job seekers think they have to do to get a great job. Knowing this, how does a hiring manager separate fact from fiction on the resume and find out who their candidate really is?

Here are the three most common things people lie about when writing a resume (and what to do about them):

  • Education. When interviewing the candidate for the first time (phone or in-person), simply state that the first step in the hiring process is to verify education. Ask for confirmation of the year of graduation for all degrees held. (It’s amazing how many candidates will list an MBA or similar graduate degree when they are really “in the process” of getting one.) Asking for these dates and indicating you will be calling a Registrar’s Office will usually weed out the truth about that degree.
  • Length of Time of Employment. Ask the candidate for specific dates of when they started and ended their employment. For example, an entry that states 2004–2005 could mean they started on December 15, 2004 and were terminated on January 5, 2005. This would mean three weeks of employment! Conversely, that same date range could mean a start of January 1, 2004 and end of December 31, 2005 — that’s two years of employment. Very different picture indeed. Make sure you get those exact dates.
  • Why They Left Their Past Employers. It can be tricky, but not impossible, to get at the truth of why someone left their past employers. However, ever since our current recession began in 2008, there should be no disgrace or shame involved in being laid off because of the economy. But, sometimes, even good candidates feel they have to hide the truth — rightly or wrongly.

That being said, if you feel the candidate is not telling you the truth when you ask the question, here’s the ultimate question that should bring out the truth: “Do you have a reference from this company?” Framed this way, it begs a “yes or no” answer that should elicit the true story of why they left. There may be legitimate reasons for a candidate leaving a company and having no references (you’ll have to be the judge), so sit back and listen carefully to the answer. And don’t be afraid to keep digging if you don’t like what you are hearing. That’s the hallmark of a true sleuth! Only be satisfied when you get to the bottom of it.

Philip Kemper is Founder/President of Kemper Associates, a 36-year-old Chicago-based national executive search firm, specializing in Permanent and Contract staffing for Trade Shows and Exhibits, Staging and Equipment Rental, Business Meetings and Events Production, Video, Training and Incentives and more. His more complete bio is on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/philip-kemper/2/795/308/. You may view Kemper Associates’ website at: www.Kemperassociates.net, and contact Phil with questions or comments, and employment needs at: Kemperassoc@hotmail.com, or his private phone line: (312) 944-6551.

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