Thursday, August 20, 2015

Say What??

Resume lies, blunders and crazy interview gimmicks


Looking for a job sucks. We all get that. The result may be an exciting new opportunity, but the process – not so much. Whether it’s writing the perfect resume and cover letter, or wowing them in the interview, the whole shebang is stressful and just plain difficult most of the time. HR pros know this and we mostly try to smooth the way and make it as easy as possible, but the lengths some applicants go to get the job are sometimes hilarious, but just as often annoying as hell.

In two recent surveys (here and here) CareerBuilder shows us just what some people will do, and it ain’t pretty.

Lying on a resume can get you into big trouble, or at least lose you the job. Apparently some folks haven’t figured this out, yet. Here are a few of the responses CareerBuilder received in its annual survey:


  • Applicant claimed to be a former CEO of the company to which they were applying.
  • Applicant claimed to be fluent in two languages - one of which was pig Latin.
  • Applicant claimed to be a Nobel Prize winner.
  • Applicant claimed to have worked in a jail when they were really in there serving time.
  • Applicant for a driver position claimed to have 10 years of experience but had only had a driver’s license for four years.
  • Applicant listed as a reference an employer from whom they had embezzled money and had an arrest warrant out for the applicant.

Looking to impress the hiring manager? It might be a good idea to skip these tactics:

  • Candidate lit a corner of their resume on fire to show their "burning desire" for the job.
  • Candidate had his daughter call the hiring manager in advance of the interview to thank the hiring manager "for giving her dad a job."
  • Candidate acted like a game show host.
  • Candidate brought a bag of props into the interview and pulled them out as they were relevant in the questions/answers.

*sigh* What’s a person to do? While there are some businesses that might see some of the interview shenanigans above as creative, or at least amusing enough to let them slide, most of us would be turned off and in some cases, a bit freaked out. Thankfully, I think this type of thing is fairly rare. However, resume "embellishments" or outright lies are unfortunately much more common (according to the survey, more than half of employers (56 percent) have caught a lie on a resume). How does HR or the hiring manager handle this? The answer to this question may be related to your level of tolerance for "embellishments" or exaggerations. Although, I would think most would simply reject a candidate caught in an out and out lie, you may be more understanding of a candidate’s desire to get your attention by exaggerating his qualifications a bit.

In general, pay closer attention to things like a resume that is customized for the position, and/or a cover letter that is customized to the company and open job. These things show that the applicant actually spent some time and effort to craft their material based on the job. If an applicant has done even a little research on your company, it’s a clear indication of attention to detail and the applicant’s level of interest in your company.

During the interview, you can tease out the details and truth behind any suspected embellishments by carefully listening to the applicant’s description of his prior experience, and questioning further to determine how much knowledge he actually has. This requires asking questions that require more than "yes" or "no" answers. Look for industry, function, level, recent experience, education and stability and then ask the questions that will get you the detail you need in these areas.

So, while you might tolerate the exaggerations, you can still ferret out the real deal. And just dump the liars.

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