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Between The Lines

Tips for spotting resume red flags

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Entrepreneur magazine, February 1999

The resume looks great, but can you believe everything you read? In today's tight labor market, it's tempting to take your applicants' resumes at face value--especially if you're desperate to fill a position--but that's a huge mistake, which could cost you dearly down the road.

Although nothing can replace thorough background checks on prospective employees, there are ways to spot inaccurate resume information. Wayne D. Ford, author of How to Spot a Phony Resume (Management Advantage), offers these examples of clues you might find in resume entries that should alert you to a potential problem:

  • Positions that aren't supported by qualifications elsewhere on the resume. In most cases, senior managers have education and experience forming the foundations for their positions.
  • A list of references from or positions at companies that have gone out of business. Be suspicious of impressive information that can't be verified.
  • Job titles that don't make sense in the context of the organization. Question someone who was "director of personnel" for a five-employee company or "vice president of production" for a service organization that doesn't manufacture anything.

That one of these red flags is in a resume doesn't necessarily mean it's a lie, Ford says. But it does mean you should investigate thoroughly.

Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 12 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.