JobWatch: Be truthful in your résumé, expert says
Originally published on stltoday.com on December 3, 2010
By: Steve Giegerich
As a favor to an acquaintance, I agreed a couple of years ago to review the contents of her résumé
All seemed in order until I reached the line in the career history that drew attention to her professional experience as a “motivational speaker.”
The next entry boasted of an extended period of employment as an “event planner.”
This came as a surprise because, for as long as I’ve known her, the friend has been employed in the real estate field.
When she asked for feedback on the résumé, I inquired about the unexpected notations.
The motivational speaking, it turned out, was a presentation delivered to colleagues at a realty office.
And the event planning was the 40th birthday bash she had thrown for herself.
It was, as I recall, quite an elaborate and large party. Although, thinking back on some of the weddings I’ve attended, not that large or elaborate.
A retired FBI agent once assigned to tracking down white-collar crime, Ken Springer now operates a New York-based company that helps human resources departments sniff out the embellished or flat-out bogus claims that job-seekers throw on their résumés.
As desperate times beget desperate measures, Springer reports business is booming due to a rate of résumé fabrication that now runs between 20 to 25 percent.
“A lot of people lie on a résumé because they don’t think people are going to check,” Springer said.
It’s an assumption that has proved fatal to many a job prospect.
A résumé has already passed the initial phases of the process by the time the applicant history lands on the desk of an investigator with Springer’s firm, Corporate Resolutions Inc.
The paperwork itself will have progressed through the software screen that ascertains a candidate may be qualified for a specific position. And the candidate has weathered a preliminary interview with a human resources professional.
The task of determining whether the résumé stretches or lacks so much as a middling connection to the truth begins the moment the file is turned over to Corporate Resolution Inc.
It has been Springer’s experience that the truth, when shaded, starts to unravel before a job-seeker’s career ever began.
“You’d be surprised how many people say they have a degree that they haven’t earned,” he said.
Or “overstate their tenure” by claiming to have been employed by a company for five years when, in reality, they departed after four years.
To Springer, it’s the gap in employment history that really gets the red flag glaring.
“It’s not what they tell you,” Springer said. “It’s what they don’t tell you.”
The hole means a candidate has something to hide — and it’s usually an involuntary separation.
“Unfortunately, everyone in the world has been fired at one time or another,” said the onetime gumshoe.
“But you’re better off explaining the situation (during the get-acquainted interview) that led it to happen.”
Because it doesn’t bode well for one’s job prospects should matters far more nefarious than an employee-employer personality conflict emerge when firms like Corporate Resolutions chat up former colleagues and dig through public court documents.
With corporations keenly aware of the desperation factor, due diligence is the order of the day as job-deprived applicants flood human resources departments with résumés.
“They know they can’t afford to have blinders on anymore and fall in love with a candidate too soon. They want to make sure a (Bernard) Madoff doesn’t happen again,” said Springer, referring to the investment banker imprisoned for the largest swindle in U.S. history.
From the employer’s standpoint, it’s always better that a “material misrepresentation or discrepancy” — Springer politely refers to it as “fluffing” — come to light before a candidate becomes an employee.
“Past history is indicative of future performance,” he said.
Which could explain why my friend, her credentials as an motivational speaker and event planner notwithstanding, is still looking for a job.