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 Why is it important to vet candidates?

Choosing the wrong employee is one of the most serious mistakes you can make as an employer. It costs you money. It reduces your productivity. It can cause strife among your workers. And it can get you into legal trouble. Resume falsification is a serious problem for employers. Estimates vary as to how often it occurs, but it is more common than most employers expect.

For employers, trust is important. Employees often have access to cash or products. Employees that lie in order to get a job may cross other lines as well. Stealing from your business, or from your customers, can be catastrophic. Since trust is so critical, vetting applicants is important so you can trust them as employees.

What are some common resume falsehoods?

Most people talk up their experience on their resume. Some applicants, however, give in to the temptation to lie on their resumes because they want to bolster their credentials to stand out. The most common untruths involve attempts to claim experience or credentials that the applicant does not have, such as:

  • Lying about education, including schools attended, fields of study and degrees earned, grade-point averages, year of graduation.
  • Fake employers and jobs, including volunteer work.
  • Embellished or falsified job responsibilities. technical skills, or language ability.
  • Falsifying employment dates.
  • Fake salary histories and records of promotion.
  • Lying about reasons for leaving prior employment.
  • Fake references.

The flip side of making affirmative misstatements in a resume is hiding the truth. This usually means candidates leaving out important yet unflattering information about themselves or trying to cover for long periods of apparent inactivity. 

Because omissions can be harder to detect than false statements, experienced human resources professionals often use a variation of common red flags that suggest nervousness or evasiveness. You can learn to watch out for common resume red flags like:

  • Unexplained gaps in employment, and incomplete or unclear dates of employment.
  • Absent or incomplete contact or reference information.
  • Periods of claimed self-employment that have no explanation or proof.
  • Unclear or incomplete past salary information.
  • Inconsistencies or discrepancies in job descriptions or academic qualifications.

The existence of inconsistencies, discrepancies, or gaps in a resume might not mean that the candidate has something to hide. But they do mean that at a minimum you, as a potential employer, need to have processes and resources to get to the truth to remove any possible doubts.

How can I spot resume falsehoods?

Perhaps the most common technique to scrutinize resumes with a more skeptical eye is to ask questions about everything. These you can direct to the applicant, former employers, teachers and professors from their educational institutions, and personal and professional references. Some specific verification measures you can build into your resume vetting process include:

  • Use your own application. Customizing your own Employment Application can help you home in on what matters most to you, and can help expose inconsistencies on an applicant’s resume.
  • Call to check information. Past employers, references, and schools can often verify a candidate's information. There is no substitute for verification when it is available. A comprehensive approach to vetting candidate resumes is to ask for contact information for former supervisors and for professional and possibly personal references.
  • Use skill assessments. Another way to make sure that candidates can do what they claim on their resumes is to use assessment tests. If you use them, good practice is to apply them consistently to all candidates to avoid possible later accusations of unfairness.
  • Check social media. What candidates discuss and show interest in when they are off work can be informative for how they might perform on the job. If employee character is an important consideration in your hiring decision, looking at a candidate’s public social media presence might reveal values, attitudes, and beliefs that a resume may not disclose.
  • Hire a third party screening service. Untruths in resumes do not always take the form of open misstatements. Many candidates who have adverse information on their public records are understandably reluctant to disclose it on their resumes, nor will they volunteer it during interviews. Many companies offer background check services for employers who need to be sure a candidate is not hiding something. These range from intensive vetting of candidates for jobs that require a government security clearance to inexpensive self-service online portals for criminal and financial public records searches. Using a third-party resource early in the candidate evaluation process can reduce your vulnerability to unpleasant surprises later. Many employers opt to use these services only after they have selected a candidate to hire, but before an official offer is extended.

How can I effectively evaluate an interviewee?

Candidate interviews are not interrogations. But they share the same objective, which is to elicit enough information from the person being interviewed to know whether to proceed further to a job offer.

Interviews are valuable as an indicator of how well the candidate will get along with coworkers. They also offer another opportunity to check the person’s candor, such as by cross-checking interview answers against information in the resume. Here are some additional red flags to watch out for in interviews, whether online or in person:

  • Nervous behaviors. These can include body language like fidgeting, inability to make eye contact, a rapid breathing rate, and excessive perspiration. Basically, indicators that suggest the person is more than just nervous like a person would normally be in a job interview. 
  • Evasive or untruthful responses to questions. A resume is a prepared presentation. An interview requires an applicant to reply to questions in real time. People who are making up their experience or education will often seek to conceal their lack of either by giving you vague or nonresponsive answers when pressed for details or by attempting to change the subject.
  • Answers that do not line up with information in the resume. This is related to the point above that job candidates who fabricate their backgrounds will have a hard time keeping their stories consistent, especially when asked for more information than they supply on their resumes.
  • Inability to offer clear answers about employment gaps. Taking time away from being in the workforce is not by itself evidence that an interviewee has done anything wrong, or is lazy, or has something to hide. Especially during the recent Covid-related national public health emergency, many people had to leave their jobs for prolonged periods to comply with lockdown restrictions. For many, those jobs were not there anymore when the lockdowns ended, leaving a months-long hole in their employment history. Nonetheless, an applicant’s unwillingness to discuss significant employment gaps, or inability to explain what that person was doing during those gaps, could be a reason to follow up with a background or reference check to learn more.

What are some elements of a strong candidate vetting program?

The risk of a job applicant using embellished or false information in a resume or during an interview is significant enough to merit a systematic approach to reduce it. This approach begins once you have selected the candidate resumes you want to consider, the following checks can help make a strong vetting program:

Review resumes carefully

  • Make sure the applicant’s claimed experience, skills, and education match the job requirements.
  • Verify employers and schools attended, and dates for each. 
  • Check the employment history for any significant gaps.
  • Look for possible issues that may need to be addressed, such as an applicant who lives in another city or state and may need to relocate.

Use background checks

  • Obtain the applicant’s consent to do a background check.
  • Verify the applicant’s identifying information, including address, telephone number, and email.
  • Verify the applicant’s authorization to work in the United States.
  • Check the applicant’s public records, criminal records, credit history, and driving record may all be relevant.
  • Check the applicant's social media accounts. What do they tell you about the person’s demeanor, values, attitudes, and beliefs?
  • Contact the applicant’s listed references.

Carefully interview candidates

  • Consider multiple interviews to allow different people in your company to assess the candidates. 
  • Ask candidates to explain inconsistencies that appear in their resume, and to provide more details.
  • Evaluate each applicant’s non-verbal and non-written cues during interviews, like body language and mannerisms, that could provide more insight into that person's demeanor and how well he or she gets along with others in your organization.

Vetting job candidates through their resumes and interviewing is an important part of the overall hiring process. Using a hiring checklist can help make sure you cover the basics.

If you have more questions about hiring practices, or vetting candidates, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


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