Four out of five résumés are misleading—and by the people you’d least suspect.
Job applicants have long been known to do whatever it takes to land a position, but the pressure on candidates today is pushing some to extremes, including the embellishment of résumés and telling outright lies. How bad is the problem?
According to Hire Right, a firm that specializes in employee background checks, 80 percent of résumés are misleading, 40 percent inflate salary claims, nearly 30 percent falsify references, and 20 percent are dishonest about degrees.1 With those odds, it’s in your best interest to vet every résumé that comes across your desk.
An effective way to avoid hiring those less qualified than they claim to be, or who have falsified their résumés in other ways, is to have job applicants sign a waiver that attests to the accuracy of the information they provide and authorizes you to seek relevant background clarification. In addition, this consent form should give potential references permission to discuss the person’s background with you. Reluctance to agree to this request, let alone a refusal to sign such a consent form, should raise a red flag.
Despite several state laws protecting past employers who reveal negative (yet truthful) information about past employees, many are still fearful of sharing information that could cost a former employee a new job or could lead to a defamation of character claim. Mitigate that concern when making your call to the previous employer by explaining that the job applicant has signed a consent form authorizing your inquiry and offer to send a photocopy. Even then, the person you call may be cautious and less than candid.
When speaking with the contact, consider asking such questions as:
- Is the person reliable and trustworthy?
- Did he or she come to work on time?
- Were there disciplinary issues?
- Did the person’s job title and responsibilities match well with what was written on his or her résumé?
- What was the person’s starting and ending salary?
In particular, confirm the reason the person gave for leaving. This is the subject about which job applicants frequently become most creative. And one of the best questions to ask is whether he or she would rehire the person. Unspoken cues like a hesitation before answering or an obvious nervous reaction can be revealing. Multiple reference checks can confirm or allay your suspicions.
Drawing out the truth
Inquire about soft skills, an important factor in whether or not a job applicant will be a good fit with the culture of your practice. Ask previous employers about the person’s people skills: “Did she or he work well with bosses, subordinates, and co-workers?” “Did the individual have good rapport with patients or customers?”
Whenever possible, ask open-ended questions and allow the reference to describe events, accomplishments, and difficulties. Ask for examples and explanations. Listening carefully and drilling down below the surface of initial comments will make a reference truly useful.
Although your office manager should be able to handle the reference-checking process 95 percent of the time, consider making the call yourself if the applicant’s previous employer was a doctor. A doctor is more likely to be open with you—a colleague—than with a manager.
If checking references seems daunting, consider outsourcing the task to one of the many accredited companies specializing in background screening.
Writing in response to a statement by Podiatry Management Online, Jonathan B. Purdy, DPM, said: “We have found on many occasions that checking references will reveal red flags or negative statements concerning a candidate. Valuable information regarding a candidate is often learned by listening to a former employer’s point of view. It costs on average $4,000 to turn over an employee—and much more on the case of a management position.”
“Turnover,” he adds, “is often an emotionally draining experience and training a new hire takes significant office resources and time. One can never get enough information prior to hiring an employee.”2
Important caveat: Because state laws vary, consult with an attorney to determine your rights and obligations before embarking on the background screening of job applicants.
With increasing résumé exaggeration and fabrication, background checks of job applicants has become a necessity. By investing the time and money required to perform this task, you can avoid problems in the future.
The author of this article, Bob Levoy, passed away early this year. He was a prolific writer who focused on the intersection of business and healthcare and wrote for Chiropractic Economics steadily since 2005. This is his final contribution. He will be dearly missed— eds.
1 McGill C. “Over 53% of candidates lie on their résumé.” Christopher McGill –The Virtualization Recruiter. http://www.christophermcgill.com/2010/05/24/the-top-nine-cv-lies-to-look-out-for-san-antonio/. Published May 24, 2010. Accessed March 2015.
2 Purdy J. “RE: Reference Checking Plus (Practice Management Tip of the Day).” Podiatry Management Online. http://www.podiatrym.com/search3.cfm?id=24677. Published February 20, 2009. Accessed March 2015.