The Counsellor: Falsification of data or facts in resume is cheating
Providing false information, making wrong claims, etc. is not only unethical but will tantamount to cheating. So you better watch out!
CASE: Resume fluffing is a growing problem in the IT industry. Recently, a Bangalore-based agency that conducts background checks of potential employees has compiled a list of 1,500 fake companies that have been established for the sole purpose of providing employment certificates for a fee. Candidates reportedly pay up to Rs 15,000 per year of certification. In this context, do reference checks have any meaning at all? Should corporations continue with this practice? Is it ethical for applicants to fluff their resumes? What is right?
I believe this is really not a case of resume fluffing. It is a fraudulent activity, a case of cheating and an act of dishonesty. In my opinion, criminal proceedings should be initiated against the candidates and the fraudsters.
Resume fluffing is not a crime and it is nothing new. Everyone likes to look good and for that reason applicants fluff resumes to suit the role for which they apply. This is also a very common practice in public relations – where PR personnel will spin a topic to present it in the most positive light.
I do not believe the problem is in fluffing. The problem comes up when we cross the boundary and state an outright lie. A very thin line separates a fact made to look good and what is untruth or non-factual. It is always very difficult to strike the right balance.
I read somewhere “if you reviewed 100 resumes, a whopping 75 per cent of them would reveal a fib, fallacy or some outright lie”. Let us look at this issue from the perspective of the corporations that are hiring. The recruiters have to be well trained in the art of screening, interviewing, testing and selection thereafter. This will ensure that the right persons are hired in the company.
A well-written and attractive resume will only ensure an invitation to the candidate for selection process; however the selection should always be based on rigorous screening, interviews and tests appropriate for the role. In many instances, the recruiters who are in a hurry to fill a vacancy short change the process.
Most recruiters are not adequately trained in the interviewing technique, which is crucial during selection. The interviewers have to test candidates for critical skills and competencies that are necessary for the role and not on the basis of the resume alone or other extrinsic characteristics. It is always a good idea to have a panel of interviewers question the candidate separately for different critical parameters and come to a conclusion on the basis of collective wisdom.
The background verification is an age old process that we HR professionals have followed with very unsatisfactory results. During background verifications, companies can at the most verify the facts as they exist on the records and advise the recruiters if the resume is factually right from the perspective of the qualifications, age, criminal records, companies the candidates have worked for etc. The suitability of the candidates against a role has to be verified through a rigorous selection process.
Checking the referees is not very useful since the names of the referees that the candidate provides will always speak right things about the candidates and in Indian context even the past employers are not likely to speak ill about the ex-employees if they are contacted. Hence, the background verification and reference checking have limitations, and therefore these can’t be a part of selection process, but may be a part of the shortlisting process.
Now, let us look at this issue from the point of view of the candidates who indulge in fluffing their CVs. During difficult times, the eagerness to pitch for a job is very natural. While fluffing is a natural phenomenon, candidates have to take care that this should not result in falsification of facts/data. A tailor-made CV that highlights the strengths and the experiences that are relevant for the job applied is always a good idea; this enables the selectors to focus on relevant things that the candidates may have to offer.
I have come across several CVs that use the terms like passionate, focused, well groomed, out-of-the-box thinker, visionary, person with great leadership capabilities etc. Adding this fluff doesn’t make you stand out; it makes you look untrustworthy, naive and even foolish to the person reading the resume.
The applicants have to understand that expert interviewers will quickly see through such CVs, which have false claims of achievements, expertise and experiences. Even if a person is able to get a job on the basis of a fake CV, he/she will not be able to survive in the new job for long as expectations will not be met.
To sum-up, I don’t think that brushing-up the CV or tailoring it to the role applied for is unethical. However, providing false information, making wrong claims, etc. is not only unethical but will tantamount to fraud / cheating.