How to pick a shonky resume

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It’s 5.00pm on a Friday and you want to go home. You’ve gone through 150 resumes and none of them stand out. Then you read one that hits you between the eyes.

It has strong selling points, there are measurable achievements, the candidate is highly motivated and has even done some research on the company. There are even references with full contact details. At last!

Employer, beware.

Before you call them in for an interview, do some basic detective work. I’m a professional resume writer and I’ll guide you through some of the tricks and traps behind dodgy resumes to help minimise risk.

What to look for

Most resumes have a few white lies. It’s human nature. Employers don’t always tell the truth about a position either. It’s the out and out fraudsters that we want to eliminate.

Go to the educational qualifications section of the resume as the most common form of fraud is faking academic qualifications. A degree from Bond University isn’t unusual. A degree from the Bluetooth Institute of Technology is. There is no such institute.

Australian degrees or TAFE qualifications need to be checked with a phone call. Did they really get that PhD at 20 years of age? Could be, but it only takes five minutes to check and may save you considerable angst later on.

If they come from another region in the world, such as Africa or eastern Europe, they need to provide third party bona fides, usually from the Federal Government or a professional association. If they can’t produce that documentation, they’re a non-starter.

If they have a LinkedIn profile, check the chronology of the resume against that of the LinkedIn profile. If there are major discrepancies, that’s a red flag. There can be a few gaps here and there but where dates have been moved around or where there are major holes, slam the resume on to the spike.

Are the companies they worked for hard to verify? If they are Australian, go to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and see if it was ever listed. An Australian Business Number check is also useful. If the candidate is from overseas and are permanent residents or citizens, they are going to need to demonstrate that they had that experience by answering a range of technical questions that pertain to their career.

Has the applicant included their address? It’s only a small thing but shonks tend not to include address details. However, some people won’t give an address for privacy reasons, so don’t be too hard on that.

Another area requiring diligence is when an applicant states they improved profitability in an organisation by “75 percent” but they didn’t include the base dollar figure. That’s a red flag. When clients sit with us and start talking percentages, we ask for financial spreadsheets as proof. If they can’t provide proof, we don’t use the number.

It’s a sea of titles out there but if an applicant says they were a “managing director”, check the title. Pump them on what they managed. People too easily appropriate titles and therefore seniority—but they can bring them down too.

If they say they’re a senior executive and have a work email address such as then be wary. While pet email addresses are okay for family members, professionals applying for a job don’t use them.

If the resume reads like blocks of it have been copied and pasted from a position description, even where a good result has been tacked on the end, ask the applicant for more details. Position descriptions are easy to access on the web.

Do a quick Google search on their referees. Are they bona fide people who could give a reliable reference for the applicant or are they mates who are being paid to back up the application?

If you get to the interview stage, ask the applicant a few history questions, which require them to produce details about a job five or six years ago—for example, names, titles and achievements. See if they tally up with what the candidate has written on the resume.

There are plenty of businesses that conduct in-depth checks on confirmation of employment, including police checks and checking of education, personal identification, industry accreditations or memberships, directorships and shareholdings.

They are worth calling for a quote but nothing beats 15 minutes of detective work first.


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