Getting to the Truth on Resumés
Can former employers reveal job seekers who embellish and distort?
Bob Levoy, O.D.
Today’s high rate of unemployment is pushing some to extremes who now embellish resumés with exaggerations, distortions and outright lies. Consider this:
► 20% state fraudulent degrees.
► 30% show altered employment dates.
► 40% inflate salary claims.
► 30% have inaccurate job descriptions.
► 27% give falsified references. These statistics are all courtesy of HireRight, a firm that specializes in employee background checks.
Consider the following steps to gain a truer understanding of your candidate’s qualifications.
► Have job applicants sign a waiver that attests to the accuracy of the information they provide and authorizes you to seek relevant background information. This consent form should also give potential references permission to discuss the candidate’s background with you. A reluctance to sign the consent form should raise a red flag.
► State employment laws vary, so consult with your attorney before embarking on the background screening of job applicants.
► When you call the previous employer, explain that the job applicant has signed a consent form authorizing your inquiry, and offer to send a photocopy. Many employers fear that sharing information could cost a former employee a new job and could lead to a defamation-of-character claim. A signed consent form may mitigate such a concern. Even then, be aware that the person you call may be cautious and less than candid.
► Prepare questions for the call. Consider 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 agree with his or her resumé? 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.
One of the best questions to ask: Would you re-hire this person? Unspoken cues, like a hesitation before answering, can be revealing. Multiple reference checks can confirm or allay suspicions.
► Inquire about soft skills, says Pierre Mornell, author of Hiring Smart!: How to Predict Winners & Losers in the Incredibly Expensive People-Reading Game (Ten Speed Press, 2003). “… Ask about candidates’ people skills,” he advises. “Do they work well with bosses, subordinates and peers?” I’d recommend asking, “Did the person have good rapport with patients?”
► Ask open-ended questions that allow the reference to describe events, accomplishments and difficulties. Don’t just ask questions that elicit a “yes” or “no” response. Ask for explanations. Listen carefully, and drill below the surface of initial comments.
► Make the call yourself if the applicant’s previous employer was a doctor. While your office manager should be able to handle 95% of the reference-checking, a doctor is more likely to be more open with you than with a manager.
► If checking references seems daunting, consider outsourcing the task to one of the many accredited companies specializing in background screening.
Background checks have become a necessity. By investing the time and money required to perform this task, optometrists can avoid future problems. OM
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