With the job market slowly heating up, now might be a good time to look for greener pastures. That, of course, means updating your resume to put your skills and accomplishments in the best possible light. The question is, how much embellishment can you get away with?
Cleveland-based EmployeeScreenIQ recently completed its fifth annual survey of nearly 600 U. S. employers to find out what they look for in employment background checks. Among this year’s findings:
Honesty is the best policy. Judging by the survey results, it appears the worst thing jobseekers can do is lie on their resumes. Half of all employers reject 90% or more candidates when lies are discovered. Another 23% estimate they hire only 11% to 20% of applicants with resume distortions. A mere 10% of employers hire these candidates with any frequency.
Although lying about earning a degree topped respondents’ concerns (84%), EmployeeScreenIQ says only about 8% of candidates actually lie about this on their resumes. Other troublesome statements include misleading reasons for leaving a prior job, distortions to cover employment gaps, and inflating past job responsibilities.
Criminals deserve a second chance. Employers aren’t automatically disqualifying job candidates because of criminal convictions. Almost half of respondents (45%) said they reject job candidates with criminal records only 5% of the time or less. This backs up employers’ claims that they look beyond an applicant’s criminal past and that qualifications, references, and interviewing skills also greatly influence hiring decisions. They also consider factors like the crime’s relation to the job, the time passed since the conviction, and whether the candidate is a repeat offender. Respondents did express greater concern over convictions (particularly felony convictions) related to crimes of violence, theft, and dishonesty. However, minor drug offenses were the reason for denied employment only about a third of the time.
Your online history isn’t that interesting. Those drunken frat parties in your past aren’t necessarily a career-killer. Despite the seemingly ubiquitous use of social media, about two-thirds of respondents say they do not consult online media when researching candidates. Of those that do, nearly 80% turn to LinkedIn, 63% use Google and other search engines, and about half use Facebook.
While lies about qualifications are the most troubling online details, other red flags include discriminatory comments, unprofessional criticism of past employers, information related to drug and alcohol use, and inappropriate photos. Clearly, say the surveyors, employers are looking for clues about negative traits that could impact the workplace or tarnish their companies’ reputations.
Deadbeats can apply. Contrary to conventional wisdom that employers routinely check credit histories, only 14% of respondents actually do for all new hires; 29% run them only on employees with financial or managerial responsibilities. Even at that, the vast majority rarely deny employment because of these checks.