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Check references, resumés carefully when hiring

Although many employers have had to let go or furlough employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, others are still hiring or soon will be. If your organization needs to fill positions, or may start filling them in the months ahead, you still need to hire carefully.

Given the changes in the U.S. economy this year, you may receive an abundance of resumés and quickly grow weary of interviewing candidates. Yet patience is critical. Many employers rush to hire those who talk a good game, only to later discover that the employees aren’t all they claimed to be.

Go beyond references

Among the primary ways to avoid making this mistake is to check candidates’ references carefully. This means doing more than only contacting the individuals a candidate provides. You may get more information from supervisors, peers or subordinates who aren’t on the list.

Before you talk with anyone who isn’t on a candidate’s list, however, make sure the person understands that you’ll be looking beyond those names. Ask whether there’s anyone you can’t consult and, if he or she answers in the affirmative, ask why.

Bear in mind, some employers have stated policies limiting how much information a current employee can divulge about a former employee. This is done, at least in part, to limit exposure to lawsuits. So, you may not receive much more information than confirmation and dates of employment.

Beware of fraud

Be sure to confirm all the other things claimed on an applicant’s resumé as well. Verify college degrees or other pertinent training or schooling — including dates, majors or areas of focus. Also, check into the accuracy of a candidate’s employment history, including:

  • Exact dates of employment,
  • Direct supervisors’ names,
  • Job titles held,
  • Details about each position’s responsibilities, and
  • Why the candidate left each job.

This may seem like so much exhaustive investigation, but resumé fraud (ranging from minor inaccuracies to outright lies) is common. Estimates on precisely how common vary; Steven D. Levitt, an economics professor and co-author of the bestselling book Freakonomics, has unearthed research indicating that more than 50% of job applicants lie in some way on their resumés.

Another good way to catch fraudulent or suspicious claims is to set up a review process under which at least two people critically look at a resumé. Each reviewer should flag any items that seem questionable and discuss them with someone with hiring authority. This practice generally isn’t too difficult for midsize and larger employers. Smaller organizations could engage an HR consultant to review resumés when hiring for a particularly important position.

Find a solution

These are just a few of the many ways that employers can find a solution through the hiring process — not another problem. Consult an attorney to ensure you’re complying with all applicable laws, and contact us for help assessing the costs and efficacy of your organization’s approach to adding employees.

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