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Tips for Tracing Lies

June 1, 1995
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Tips for tracing lies...

  1. Carefully note the order of the material given on the resume. What's given up front is generally what the applicant wishes to emphasize. But what's hidden below may well be more revealing.
  2. Concentrate on the most important points in the applicant's resume. Diverting attention to too many insignificant details draws focus away from key areas.
  3. Does the applicant's history follow a logical sequence? For example, has there been a consistent upward progression during the career? Or has there been a downward trend? People don't tend to leave better jobs for poorer ones.
  4. Look for conflicting details or overlapping dates.
  5. Look for gaps in dates. It's common for applicants who wish to cover something up to try to omit it.
  6. Look for omissions of any kind.
  7. Pay attention to what the applicant doesn't say as much as to what he or she does say. You'll probably find the most valuable information in those areas your applicant doesn't want to discuss.
  8. Get particulars about various subjects. For example, if the applicant says he or she studied business at Harvard, find out what courses he or she took. Casually ask some questions about the campus or physical environment-just to determine if he or she really was there. People who are dishonest will probably stumble on questions like those.
  9. Be sure to discuss all key points.
  10. Question the applicant about details as you review the resume. It will be much harder for him or her to remember false information.
  11. Probe the applicant's reasons for leaving past jobs, or for jumping from school to school.
  12. How quick and sharp are the applicant's answers? Do they sound rehearsed? An honest person has no need to hesitate or rehearse.
  13. Does the applicant look you in the eye? Notice body language.
  14. Ask the applicant if he or she minds if you verify information. Then assure him or her that you will need to verify every detail. Impostors likely will drop out at that point.
  15. Ask colleagues to sit in on your interview. Your associates may catch vital signs or details that you might miss. They might also think of revealing questions to ask.
  16. When confirming information by phone, begin by asking for the company operator. That will help you be sure that the place you're calling is a genuine company. Then move on to the personnel department, and then to the particular manager indicated.
  17. Send something in the mail. That will enable you to determine if the address given is genuine.
  18. Ask references you're given for other references. The applicant is bound to provide only favorable references. But those sources may be aware of others.
  19. If the applicant sought the help of a resume service or other career placement service, ask him or her why. The reasons may be legitimate. But they may also be revealing.
  20. If the resume isn't very clear, or if it has been produced by a professional service, consider asking the applicant to redo it in his or her own way.

Personnel Journal, June 1995, Vol. 74, No. 6, p. 55.

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