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Why Resumes Fail to Show Who You Are Hiring

Plum Published October 15,2014

Everyone lies. The biggest lies are told before a sale, after sex and on a resume. When sex and money are at stake, everyone lies.

Not everyone needs to be Machiavellian when it comes to lying - often on resumes they seem small, but the truth is that there’s not usually just one lie on a resume. Outright lies, like where a former Yahoo CEO got his degree from are rare, but small fabrications that smooth over the rough edges of a career history are far more common.

The truth is that resumes and their modern equivalent, LinkedIn profiles, are more works of fiction than we care to think about when interviewing candidates. Human nature prefers to believe unless given cause to suspect otherwise, so unless you catch a candidate out they are going to get away with whatever editorial spin they put in their career history.

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Most Common Lies on a Resume

A Harris Poll in partnership with CareerBuilder found most hiring managers uncovered lies on 60 percent on resumes. The most common were:

  • Beefed up skills - 57%
  • Extra responsibility (than they really had) - 55%
  • Employment dates - 42%
  • Job title(s) - 34%
  • Academic qualifications - 33%
  • Previous employers - 26%

It isn't just former Yahoo CEO’s who write works of fiction on their resumes. Some of the lies uncovered in the survey included a man who had 25 years of experience at age 32, a fictitious Olympic Gold Medalist, a babysitter to the stars and a construction supervisor who’s only experience was building a dog house.

No doubt as a hiring manager or recruiter you’ve seen a few in your career too. And if not then how well someone performs is a good indicator as to whether they’ve really had the experience they claim.


What Safeguards Exist for Employers?

Lying on a resume is often grounds for termination. But that in itself brings a world of headaches. Including but not limited to hiring someone new, with all the costs that involves.

A lie on a resume doesn’t necessarily mean someone will make a bad employee - it’s just a bad way to start a working relationship and can give an employer cause to doubt their honesty and integrity.

Do Candidates Get Caught?

Some sectors, like financial services (73%), leisure (71%), IT (63%) and healthcare (63%) are good at spotting lies beforehand, which saves a lot of money and trouble later on. Most other sectors need less stringent background checks. Besides contacting previous employers, academic institutions, doing credit and criminal record checks, most hiring decisions come down to the resume and interview. Gut instinct still has a big vote in the recruitment process, even if the person before you is lying on paper and to your face.

So unless you have the resources of the CIA, FBI or Secret Service at your disposal (and a equally deep background check) most employees will get hired knowing they can partly thank an adept editing of their own career history.

The best safeguard is not to depend on resumes at all. If they can’t be trusted as a reliable indicator of a persons performance in the job then what purpose do they serve? The same goes for interviews. How well a candidate and recruiter get along isn’t really an indication that they’ll perform well if they get the job.

An in-depth pre-employment assessment, in the form of the Plum People Survey and Role Analysis is the best way to show how well someone will really perform, without them needing to fabricate their experiences and you worrying about trying to discern editorial from truth.


Topics: blog

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