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Outfox Those Résumé Liars

Ann Landers wasn’t kidding when she said, “The naked truth is always better than the best-dressed lie.” But the truth appears to be less important these days to applicants hoping to land the perfect job.

According to a recent survey by a leading staffing agency, one in five workers knows someone who lied on his or her résumé. And 43% of the managers polled say they believe job-seekers provide dishonest information on their résumés.

OfficeTeam, a firm that places highly skilled office and administrative-support professionals with companies on a temporary and temporary-to-full-time basis, developed a survey of 1,013 managers at companies with 20 or more employees. In addition, 431 workers 18 years and older who were employed in office environments were also polled.

Workers who knew someone who misrepresented or exaggerated on their résumés were asked what type of dishonest information was provided. While 58% say the information was linked to job duties, 34% say it was linked to education. On this question, those polled were allowed to give multiple responses. Twenty-four percent responded that employment dates were fudged, while 9% said job experience was exaggerated.

“Unfortunately, employers can’t always take everything on a résumé at face value,” says Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “That’s why it’s so important to get to know a prospective hire by probing for specifics during the interview, conducting thorough reference checks and testing skills where appropriate.”

To help employers verify information on résumés, OfficeTeam first suggests that hiring managers be aware of ambiguities. Vague descriptions such as “familiar with” or “involved in” may be signs that an applicant is trying to hide a lack of relevant work experience.

If clarification is needed, ask a question more than once, says Hosking. If an applicant must have experience with a particular program to fill the open position, ask him or her how they’ve used the program in other positions. If the applicant wavers on the answer, he says, don’t be afraid to rephrase the question.

Getting the facts is the third tip hiring managers can use to verify a résumé.

“Ask references to confirm basic information such as the candidate’s employment history, job titles, responsibilities and salary,” Hosking explains. “If they’re willing to talk further, delve into their thoughts on the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, interpersonal skills, and ability to work on a team.”

Branching out, the fourth tip, can help hiring managers delve further into a prospect’s qualifications. Check with mutual acquaintances, or referrals from the references, who may know more about the applicant’s background and character.

And finally, put the applicant to the test. Hosking suggests managers hire the applicant on a temporary basis, to get a true sense of the person’s abilities. If the trial basis proves successful, managers can extend a full-time offer.

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