In hiring, is a resume enough?

Q. I run a small business. I was told by my attorney that I should not rely solely on a candidate’s resume. I have read that resumes are full of embellishments. How do I know what a candidate’s work history really is? Should I be using an employment application form?

A. Resumes are wonderful tools for understanding a candidate’s background. A resume, though, is like an advertisement. It may not be complete, and it may include embellishments, errors, or omissions.

A resume is most often written by the candidate, who can choose what to include or exclude. Candidates can omit a job from which they were fired or state that they earned a bachelor’s degree when they have not.


A well-designed employment application forces candidates to be complete in the details of their work history. As an example, most employment applications ask why a candidate left a certain position. Most resumes do not include this information. An employment application may also ask about a candidate’s compensation history, which again, is information often not revealed in the candidate’s resume.

Employment applications often have “fine print’’ at the end or beginning of the form. The language will state that, upon signing the completed employment application, the candidate agrees that the information provided is true, complete, and accurate. In short, it pressures an applicant to be more truthful.

In addition, there is often language that states that if a candidate is not truthful and complete (regardless of when the misstatement is discovered), the candidate can be terminated if the candidate becomes employed by the company. For example, in 2013, John Doe claims to have a master’s degree at the time he applies to ABC Corp., but does not hold such a degree. In 2014, it is discovered he never completed the requirements for his master’s degree. He can be terminated as soon as the misstatement is discovered.

Candidates be warned. Be truthful about your work history and academic credentials.

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