Shine a Light on Candidate Resume Review

Sharlyn Lauby, HR Bartender extraordinaire, has a YouTube video where she briefly but brilliantly discusses how and why job seekers need to tell the truth on their resumes. If you’re an HR manager or hiring manager, or an IT recruiter like me, you can probably relate to the challenges with resume review. You can see what she has to say about it here. Sharlyn reminds us of some important points about resume review, and I have a few pointers for HR and recruiting professionals about why and how to identify resume discrepancies.

The Resume is a Reflection of Who the Candidate Is

Sharlyn explains that everything on the resume is a record of what the candidate is saying about himself, a list of things he claims he can do and accomplishments he has achieved. Anyone who was part of that resume review will have the expectation that he can do or has done the things he includes, and may ask him about them or expect him to perform in the ways he describes in his resume. If he gets a job with a resume that has things that aren’t true, someone may ask him to do the things he says he can do, and he’ll be found out.

I agree that a candidate can be subject to resume review at any time, even if they’ve been working in a position or for an employer for years. And there have been some pretty big news stories about people with high-profile positions who ran into trouble with resume review. Marilee Jones worked at MIT for 28 years as a dean when the university found out she didn’t have the bachelor’s and master’s degrees on her resume. Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson lied on his resume about having a degree in computer science. And now Marissa Mayer has his position.

If It’s on the Resume, They’ll Expect It

Sharlyn talks about how anything on a candidate’s resume is there to be recalled or looked up and referred to for functional areas. She cautions her viewers to remember that someone might recall something on the resume when there’s a business need or if they are thinking of who could help them with a challenging situation. “Hey I saw that on their resume, they ought to be able to do that.” Leaving the employee wide open to have to explain, try to fake some skills or expertise claimed on the resume, or be found out and subsequently kicked out. If it’s on the resume, the candidate or employee must be able to back it up.

This is actually something that I come across in IT recruitment regularly. IT candidates love to include every technical term and technical expertise they can think of in their resumes to highlight their technical experience. If they were in a project group with Ruby on Rails engineers, even if they only kept the project meeting minutes and revised project timelines from meeting discussions, it’s a line item on their resume. If they attended an IT conference and went to a Microsoft certification workshop, (whether they were certified or not, whether they work with Microsoft products or not), it’s on their resume. But it doesn’t apply to the UNIX programming position they are interested in, and they will lose credibility with the hiring manager when he asks about it in an interview.

That’s why it’s important to ask probing questions about skills and experience as part of every resume review. I am very careful about qualifying everything IT candidates put on their resumes before sending them to interviews with my clients. I go through an IT candidate’s resume line by line and ask questions like how they worked in each technical area they include, how long they worked on it, what is their level of expertise in it, and where were they trained on it. A C++ programmer may have 50 or more technical terms in the technical summary, but the candidate’s actual real expertise is only in writing C++ code. I usually counsel candidates to remove all extraneous technical terms from their resumes and focus on their core skills and experience.

Schedule a Call

It’s also important to read over your resume a few times, and even look at some examples of other resumes to get a feel for the sort of info you should be listing. It just may jog your memory on some additional qualifications or attributes that are worth mentioning to your potential future employer.

Sharlyn highlights a common problem with resume review in her video: stretching the truth, padding, exaggerating, adding filler; whatever you want to call it, it’s not good for either candidates or the hiring managers and employers. I like to see resumes from candidates that are tailored to the position they are interested in and focused on the specific skills and experience that apply to the position.

Surprise! Surprise!

Candidates who have the required qualifications and experience and who interview well may move on to the next phase in the recruiting process, the job offer. At this point, employers are not done with resume review. At the very least, the educational and employment references should be called to ensure the information on the resume is accurate and verifiable. A criminal background check verifies whether or not the candidate has any undisclosed criminal history. No one wants to hire someone who misrepresents themselves in writing, and to avoid surprises, meticulous resume review has to be a top priority to ensure that what candidates say on the resume is true.

Leave a Comment