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How to Spot “Red Flags” on a Resume

Resume “Red Flags” 

The purpose of a resume is to market a candidate by presenting their skills and achievements in the best possible light. But in difficult or static job markets there is more temptation than ever to bend the truth a little to get the job. This can leave the company with employees who cannot do the job they were hired for or worse still, one whose mistakes cost money and undermine hard won customer relationships.

Identifying red flags will help you ensure that you can identify candidates with a depth of experience and expertise. Here are a few pointers:

  1. Before sorting through your pile of resumes, have a checklist of essential skills, qualifications or attributes that are the “benchmark” for finding the right person. These include education, general and specific job experience, as well as skill and performance requirements.
  2. Look for unexplained time periods that might indicate unemployment or a job the applicant does not want you to know about. Date-stretching to cover gaps is not uncommon. Check references to detect this.
  3. Though employee mobility has increased, as a general rule more time in once place shows loyalty. You do not want to be hiring again in six months. However, even the best employees can sometimes have a short period in a specific role due to unforeseen, personal or uncontrollable circumstances.
  4. Watch out for resume filled with vague responsibilities and claims. Enhancing job titles is common practice. Check for inconsistencies between title, responsibilities and salary. Look for very specific details of achievements and outcomes.
  5. At the same time, do no­t be “dazzled” by an achievement-based style of resume. Go behind it to consider actual roles and responsibilities. Flag achievements and require the candidate to elaborate in the interview.
  6. Salary is a common area for embellishment. This can be hard to detect, especially when you can’t check with a present employer. Ask for evidence such as a contract, pay slip or bank statements. If you are suspicious, aim to uncover half truths in interviews by asking probing questions.
  7. Check references. Always! Flag specific items to check with referees. In today’s market place employees can be highly mobile, both domestically and internationally. The internet has made it even more tempting to lie on a resume. There is no substitute for thorough checks on every critical aspect of a resume.
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