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How to Spot Red Flags on Resumes
The purpose of a resume is to market a candidate by presenting their
skills and achievements in the best possible light. But in difficult or
static job markets there is more temptation than ever to bend the truth
a little to get the job. This can leave the company with employees who
can't do the job they were hired for or worse still, one whose mistakes
cost money and undermine hard won customer relationships.
Identifying "red flags" will help you ensure that you can identify
candidates with a depth of experience and expertise. Here are a few
Before sorting through your pile of resumes, have a checklist of
essential skills, qualifications or attributes that are the "benchmark"
for finding the right person. These include education, general and
specific job experience, as well as skill and performance requirements.
Look for unexplained time periods that might indicate
unemployment or a job the applicant doesn't want you to know about.
Date-stretching to cover gaps is not uncommon. Check references to
Though employee mobility has increased, as a general rule more
time in once place shows loyalty. You don't want to be hiring again in
six months. However, even the best employees can sometimes have a short
period in a specific role due to unforeseen, personal or uncontrollable
Watch out for resume filled with vague responsibilities and
claims. Enhancing job titles is common practice. Check for
inconsistencies between title, responsibilities and salary. Look for
very specific details of achievements and outcomes.
At the same time, don't be "dazzled" by an achievement-based
style of resume. Go behind it to consider actual roles and
responsibilities. Flag achievements and require the candidate to
elaborate in the interview.
Salary is a common area for embellishment. This can be hard to
detect, especially when you can't check with a present employer. Ask
for evidence such as a contract, pay slip or bank statements. If you
are suspicious, aim to uncover half truths in interviews by asking
Check references. Always! Flag specific items to check with referees.
In today's market place employees can be highly mobile — both
domestically and internationally. The internet has made it even more
tempting to lie on a resume. There is no substitute for thorough checks
on every critical aspect of a resume.