Are job applicants making you play "truth or dare"?: Page 2

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In terms of outright dishonesty, Polansky is doubtful of Taylor/Rodgers' 33% finding. "We do a degree check on every candidate, and we have a problem with far less than 1%," he says. However, if you count shaving the truth and painting the best picture, "that's probably half of all resumes." The most common thing is neglecting to list short-term jobs because the applicant would rather not divulge job failures. "I'd consider that dishonest," he says.

So whether it's through out-and-out falsehoods or little white lies, IT job candidates can't be counted on for truthfulness. That means it's up to each individual corporation to determine its stance on dishonesty. What will be tolerated? How do you determine whether a person is simply trying to get his foot in the door or is seriously misrepresenting himself?

After all, if candidates are fearless enough to lie on their resumes, aren't they capable of continuing to lie once they're hired? From someone who couldn't tell a lie if she wanted to, I'd say it's an issue you'll want to keep your eyes on. //

Mary Brandel is a freelance writer in Norfolk, Mass., specializing in business applications of technology. She can be reached at brandel@cwix.com

Tipping your hand

Whether white lies or dark secrets, here are some tips to uncover the less-than-truths on job candidates' resumes:

Conduct a "peripheral screen." That is, talk to peers, former subordinates, and former bosses, even from three jobs ago, says Richard Taylor, president of Taylor/Rodgers & Associates, a recruiting firm in Stamford, Conn. Ask the supplied references for additional names, but be sure to ask permission from the candidate before making these calls. "If they don't give permission, a red flag goes up, and you might be able to get the candidate to talk about the issue, at least their own version of it," he says.

Be thorough in your background checking. According to Taylor, verification tools are far more effective than they were five to six years ago, thanks to the Web. "Today you can get a full background check, a credit check, and criminal check off the Web," he says.

Be up-front. Tell them that you intend to verify all data, or ask candidates to sign a form attesting to their honesty, suggests Gordon Stein, vice president of marketing for CNC Global Co., a recruiting firm in Toronto. "If you take a pointed approach, people will come clean. If someone says they completed a psychology program, you might ask, 'does this mean you graduated, and on what date? How would your name appear in the transcripts?' They might admit that they just attended the program for a year and a half," he says.

It's very difficult to determine the significance of a candidate's role in a particular accomplishment, especially when it's a team effort. One way is to get the person to walk you through the steps of the actual process. "If they say they were responsible for taking the company public, have them walk you through those steps," Stein says.

Involve a technical person in the actual interview. "Make sure there's a person in the room who can ask detailed questions in particular areas," says Sue Simonett, a director of IT at Minneapolis-based General Mills Inc.

If you get deluged with resumes, it's a good idea to prescreen candidates on the phone. This doesn't always work, of course. "One guy did great on the phone screen, and it was almost like someone was there helping him," Simonett says. But when he came in for an interview, "he couldn't do in front of us what he could do on the phone. That was bizarre, a very tough situation."

For high-level positions, consider pre-employment testing. "People will tell me they're a consensus builder and team-oriented, and testing might show them to be autocratic and domineering," says Jed Friend, an industrial psychologist and president of Jed Friend, Phd Inc., in Tampa, Fla.


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