A resume recently crossed my desk. A quick read of it was impressive. A couple of universities were mentioned and an MBA. However, very quickly after reading it, alarm bells went off all over the place.
I looked at the very first job listed on the resume, and it was an entry with great responsibility managing a large project. The particular alarm bell that went off was: Where is the progression of duties? Nobody but nobody starts at the top. But this person apparently did, and with a publicly traded company at that. What was stated on the resume was that the first job was managing a multi-million dollar project. The present job said that they were involved in a company with revenues in the billions.
In that job, the applicant stated that he was involved in every aspect of the launch of a product similar to ours. It was all believable stuff.
In one of the next jobs, there was an three-year multi-million dollar project at which our intrepid candidate stayed for 4 months. Another alarm bell went off. If I am hired to implement a multi-million dollar project, who ever hired me would want me to finish it.
Going through the resume, our candidate said that he advised various billion dollar clients on technology. When a job candidate says that, they should be questioned closely.
At the interview, I asked the candidate to name a few core technologies and reference sites of the technologies that he advised on. He couldn't. He said that he had to look it up, and he would flip me an email with the info. That was a huge alarm bell.
I asked him to name the graduation dates of two of the universities mentioned. He admitted that he didn't graduate from either. More alarm bells.
So what do you look for in resume fudging? These are the lessons that I learned:
1) Look for logical career progression. In my resume you can see exactly how I arrived at being a technical architect and a chief technology officer.
2) Check to see if responsibilities match the job description. In this case, in the very first job that the candidate listed, he claimed to be virtually running the project, associating himself with every aspect.
3) I always discount any dollar value of projects worked on. In this case, there was a dollar value attached to every job iterated. In my concise yet complete six page resume detailing my entire job history, I mention the dollar value of a project exactly once -- because it was a $300 million project and it was a highlight (of sorts) of my career.
4) The way to get around impressive words, is to ask the candidate to name specifics. In this case, I asked the candidate to name specific technologies in the field of expertise, and he couldn't name one. When I asked him for specific solutions that had been implemented, only an operating system was named. When I asked him about technologies related to our line of business, he named a generic technology that was only indirectly appropriate for an offshoot of the core business.
5) Check to see if the duration of the job matches the description of the job. If I am implementing a multi-million dollar system that changes a paradigm in the company, the job will take a year or more. Yet many of these candidates jobs were just months in duration. If the candidate says that they were just in an advisory capacity to explain the time shortage, then you can bet that it wasn't a key role. If I hire someone to give me advice on what to implement, I want him around at implementation in case of emergency. I am not going to risk millions of dollars by trying to save a few thousand in consulting fees.
6) A good question to ask, is about the failures of the candidate in a job or a project. If there are none, you know that there is some truth-stretching going on. I have had miserable failures in some of the jobs that I have held, and I readily admit to them. Life is just like that.
7) I always ask for a hard skills matrix. Not only does it provide another window of ability, but it is hard to fudge, for fear of being asked a specific question during the interview. If I said that I used Oracle databases, and the guy interviewing me is a former Oracle dba, I know that I am cooked, so I don't write that it. (As it happens, I was an Oracle dba, so no sweat for me.)
There were enough alarm bells for me to phone the HR department of his first job, where he had all of the wonderful responsibilities. After checking two databases, including their income tax deduction database, it turns out that they hadn't heard of him. Exactly.