The Truth (?) About Resumes

The Truth (?) about Resumes

Otto von Bismarck said that “people never lied so much as after a hunt, during a war or during an election”. If Otto had lived in the 21st century he would likely have added “on submitting job applications” as a fourth category for circumstance where people lie.

I think we all know applicants are likely to put their “best foot forward” when drafting a resume but lying in job applications is more common and more blatant than you might think. In fact a six month study conducted in 2006 by found that 42.7% of 1,000 resumes submitted for positions ranging from entry level to executive positions had one or more significant errors (or maybe we should be truthful and call them misrepresentations).

That study and others like it should have made us cautious about relying on resumes, but of course we always had the option of checking out resumes and references before we relied on them. Now even that option is in doubt with the appearance of a new online resume/reference service that adds quite a new dimension of deceit to the job application process. actually offers job seekers the following services:

  • You choose your career history, your start and end date and your salary!
  • We provide a real company just for you, a real address for that company, a website for that company and a real 800 phone number!
  • We will have our operators standing by!
  • We will email you every time someone calls!

According to in San Antonio, Texas, the operator of, one Mr. William Schultz, contends that “since a resume is not a legal document, people can lie without legal ramifications”. I would question that conclusion from a legal point of view because a false statement of fact (and particularly one that is fraudulent) made by one party to induce another party to enter into a contract (in this case a contract of employment) can entitle the deceived party to rescind the contract and possibly claim damages. It appears Mr. Schmidt is aware of this legal risk because the site does make one thing very clear to its customers – if you get caught you are on your own.

Of course employers aren’t really interested in pursuing legal actions against their employees for contract termination or damages. Employers simply want to hire good people and get on with their business. So how do you address deceitful resumes and references? We suggest you consider implementing the following strategies:

  1. First and most obvious is that if you are going to rely on the information contained in a resume you had better be prepared to take the time to check that it is correct. If you don’t want to call references or check credentials for all applicants (which could be very time consuming), you should at the very least ask the finalists for the position some very specific questions about the aspects of their resume or references that you found compelling.
  2. Second, you should not just rely on resumes and references in making hiring decisions. Astute screening questions and the use of job fit assessments like the Prevue Assessments not only provide information that allows you to examine job fit but also provide you with measures to compare the applicants for the position. There is of course an issue as to whether the person responding to online questionnaires and assessments is in fact the applicant but this can be verified in the interview simply by asking the finalists for the position some of the same questions they were asked in the questionnaires or assessment they completed.
  3. Third and easiest is to make sure applicants are made legally responsible for the information contained in their resumes and the references they provide. You simply require all applicants to certify the information they submit in the course of applying for a position is true and correct.This is easy to incorporate into written applications and even easier to include in online applications made through online applicant processing systems.

Written by: Kenneth Danderfer