Employer Blog

How to Spot Resume Fraud

Written by Josh Weiss-Roessler

Even though things seem to be slowly improving, our job market is—to put it mildly—not good. Many job seekers have been scrounging and scraping and clawing around for work for far longer than normal, and that kind of desperation sometimes makes people engage in behaviors they likely wouldn’t consider in better times.

For recruiters, this means paying even more attention to resumes so that you can catch fraudulent claims instead of recommending those people for jobs. Most of the time, the only way to catch falsifications is to actually do the necessary legwork of calling universities to verify degrees, contacting previous companies to confirm dates and titles, and even speaking with clients if the person was self-employed. It’s also important to keep in mind the fact that some people will go to great lengths to bolster their lies and obfuscations, so you can’t always trust the references or contact information they provide. When in doubt, look up official company and university contact information to make sure you’re talking to the right people.

Still, there are a few things that savvy recruiters may be able to spot just by looking at the resume itself. Even if these things aren’t definitive proof, they should at least be enough to raise your suspicions that the person in question is trying to hide something.

Employment is in years, not months. One of the most common things that people try to hide is a gap—or several!—in their work history. Companies hate to see gaps because it makes them wonder what’s wrong with the applicant that they’ve had so much trouble finding consistent employment, so candidates are creative (not creative in a good way) about hiding them. One such way is to only list the years that they were employed in specific positions instead of also including the months, which is standard practice. Doing this can successfully conceal a year or more of unemployment if the resume is looked over by a careless recruiter.

There’s a university, but no degree listed. Sometimes candidates who haven’t actually graduated will attempt to hide this fact in plain sight by simply not mentioning it on their resume. They’ll list their university and the years they attended, but leave out any mention of a degree and hope that no one picks up on it. This omission is not technically fraud, but it can cause a lot of trouble down the line if someone is hired and doesn’t really have the necessary qualifications.

They started as a CEO without previous experience. This is one of my favorites. It’s common practice for people to start at companies on the lower rungs and work their way up, but some candidates simply decide to leave out those starting positions when writing their resumes, instead claiming that they held whatever the top position was for their entire time at the company. Generally speaking, if a person goes from assistant positions at other companies to suddenly becoming a VP for 15 years, there’s a great chance that they’re leaving out a few steps of that journey and that they probably weren’t actually a VP for that entire time.

You’ve never heard of that organization. One way applicants like to try to stand out from other candidates is to show that they’ve embraced continuing education in their chosen field with certificates and licenses and accreditations. But what about when that supposed certificate comes from the Hufflepuff Academy of Dentestral Science? There are lots of weird organizations out there so it’s possible that the place is real, but that doesn’t mean they’re respected or recognized by appropriate ruling bodies. My rule is, if a name sounds fake or it doesn’t sound familiar, you’re better off checking it out.

Remember, the only way you can ever know for sure is to put in the hard work of researching and verifying everything on the resume. It might seem like a tedious waste of time, but considering the fact that 49 percent of hiring managers said that they caught people lying on their resume in a 2008 CareerBuilder survey, it’s well worth the effort!


Josh Weiss-Roessler
Josh Weiss-Roessler is a contributor to Career Igniter, a free resource for job hunters offering a job search, an online resume builder, and career advice. He’s also a professional resume writer.
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