When a man we’ll call Sombat was offered and accepted a CFO position for one of my multi-national clients, he was obviously ecstatic and over the moon. Half a million baht per month in salary, company car with driver, big bonus and share options. You get the picture. Fast forward just a few weeks and Sombat was fired even before his first working day. To make matters worse, he had already given notice to his current employer, so in less than a month he lost two jobs.
So what did this fool do to deserve his punishment? When doing the reference checking on Sombat, one of his previous employers insisted he only worked there for two years and not the four years that he claimed in his resume.
Asked to explain himself, he told me that another recruitment company had suggested he “merge” two short-time employments, under one company name, to avoid being labelled a job-hopper. Sombat was consequently blacklisted in our candidate tracking system.
Ready for more cheating? Here’s a woman we’ll call Sansanee who gave us her list of references, after being offered a job by my client. Turned out that the “colleague” on her list was in fact Sansanee herself, though with different mobile number. Because of an alert recruitment consultant in my team, we called her bluff and agreed with the client to drop her.
Which reminds me of the Sales Manager who used his mother as a reference, telling us it was a former manager in XYZ Company Limited.
Even at CEO level we find irregularities, to put it mildly. You may remember this case from 2012, where the now former CEO of Yahoo ended his term at the company after just four months. It was found that he padded his resume with an attractive college degree he did not have.
Other stupid attempts to disguise career details:
- Extending an employment period to cover periods of unemployment.
- The Master’s degree which was never completed; but says so in the resume.
- Job details on resume and LinkedIn profile not identical. Excuse me?
- Writing that you supervised a team of 280 people with six direct reports when your team was only a total of six.
- Writing that you are fluent in Thai but ask to speak in English when called by the recruitment company or executive search firm. Got ya!
- Falsely claiming current compensation and benefits are much higher than actual.
- A title which is too good to be true. Like using the title CEO Asia Pacific when Country Manager Thailand was the truth.
What research suggests on how many cheat
I have, over the years, read I don’t know how many reports on how many applicants and candidates cheat on their resumes. I always wondered how the researchers know and what methodology was used to establish the facts. Anyway, the list of international surveys is long. Here just five examples:
Research from YouGov, a global market research and data company, has found that 18% of Asia Pacific residents admit to having lied on their CV, while 5% would “prefer not to say” if they’ve ever lied to try to get a job. The research surveyed more than 9,000 residents of Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
According to HireRight’s employment screening benchmark report from last year, 85% of employers caught applicants not being entirely truthful on their resumes. HireRight is a US based background screening provider.
Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics and a renowned American economics professor, cites research suggesting that more than 50% of people lie on their resumes.
A survey from CareerBuilder of more than 2,500 hiring managers found that 56% have caught job candidates lying on their resumes.
Almost half of workers polled by staffing firm OfficeTeam said they know someone who included false information on a resume. Fifty-three percent of senior managers suspect candidates often stretch the truth on resumes.
Hiring managers: ways to tell if someone is cheating on you
As an easy way to hide an employment, candidates may specify starting/ending in years without specifying months. For example, the candidate may write 2016-Present followed by 2012-2015. When in fact it should have read May 2016-Present with the previous job listing showing June 2012-February 2015. What did the candidate do in the period March 2015-April 2016?
During the interview, tell the candidate that your company has a rigorous reference and background check. Then ask what you should expect to hear when you call the various previous employers.
If the candidate is using “we” and not “I” when describing his or her work experience, stop and ask the candidate, “Who is we?” I often find that the candidate happened to be in the same meeting room when a superior was presenting to customers, or perhaps the company’s Board of Directors. But honestly, that does not count as experience.
Terms in the resume such as “involved with”, “knowledge of”, “familiar with” can indicate less experience than required. You need to probe for more information.
If you know what to look for, body language, including eye movement, can reveal nervousness because the candidate is trying to cover up lack of experience. But be careful before you jump to conclusions based solely on your observations. Be patient and continue probing.
To check if a tertiary degree was completed, just ask the question directly.
To verify compensation, ask if you may take a look at a recent pay slip. A truth-telling candidate will easily confirm his or her willingness.
Candidates: why you don’t need to lie
The unemployment rate in Thailand is around 1%, so ask yourself why you need to lie. You don’t have to. No need.
It may seem trivial, banal and nit-picking that we are looking for what you call unimportant errors in your resume. You ask, who cares that you didn’t complete the claimed Master’s degree? Who cares that your title was really GM Thailand and not CEO ASEAN?
Let me tell you in one word: dishonesty!
It’s not a wrong period or title that will cost you the job. It’s your dishonesty and the doubt that you can be trusted.
Let me acknowledge that the two-page resume is meant to be a summary of your CV, the curriculum vitae that is the much longer and more detailed biography. Obviously, you have to leave something out from the CV, as you must keep the resume short and simple.
But as you copy from your CV and paste the most relevant information into your resume, we are not telling you to edit time periods, education background, titles and what have you.
With increasingly easier access to the internet, social media, business community links, companies offering comprehensive background investigation services that can go as far as Ministry of Interior, the police, bankruptcy courts, and educational institutions, you are at risk. Be warned!
Series Editor: Christopher F. Bruton is Executive Director of Dataconsult Ltd, [email protected]. Dataconsult’s Thailand Regional Forum provides seminars and extensive documentation to update business on future trends in Thailand and in the Mekong Region.