Application Schmapplication!

“I hereby certify that all entries and attachments (resume) are true and complete. I agree and understand that any falsification of information herein, regardless of time of discovery, may cause forfeiture on my part of any employment. I understand that all information on this application is subject to verification.”

This is a statement found on the application I require of all my candidates, and something similar is found on every online, electronic, and hardcopy application in the US today. In laymen’s terms this means “don’t lie on this application or your resume – we will discover it while checking your background and you will lose the job you worked so hard to land”.

Many IT job seekers blow past statements such as this, not taking them as seriously as they are. I myself, when looking for a job as a developer, discounted the application as something that was unnecessary for me to worry about because I had a resume. Nothing could be farther from the truth – the application is where potential employers get the information used to run your background checks. And it is imperative that this information be complete and truthful.

The process of background checks is nothing new. It is required of Recruiters by our clients – and the subsequent termination for discovered untruths will come from our clients. Intentional falsehoods on your application or resume is a serious matter, increasingly so in today’s tight job market.

In a survey of 428 companies, less than 18% were not processing some kind of background screening. In other words, 82% of American employers screen potential employees, investigating their backgrounds/hair/bodily fluids for illegal drug usage, criminal records, issues with credit, confirmation of stated education and certifications, and increasingly in the hope of shedding light on the integrity of the candidate.

In my own work, at the instruction of our clients we are required to reject candidates whose applications indicate questionable data – such as verified start/end dates being more than 30 days off from the dates listed on the application, certifications listed that cannot be verified, bankruptcy, and legal convictions, including conviction for worthless checks.

A study by a leading risk and regulatory management solution organization showed 55% of 161 HR professionals discovered outright lies on resumes or applications when conducting background screening or reference checks.

The exploding number of IT professionals seeking employment, paired with the reduction in hiring by US corporations, is expected to create an environment of fierce competition for the assignments that exist, which could lead to some candidates fluffing their resumes with not-so-prove-able factoids in hope of gaining a not-so-competitive edge. Employers are preparing for this potential by increasing the breadth and depth of background screenings, even including cross checking applications and resume data against LinkedIn and social networking pages. Really!

At the atomic level, employers say if the candidate would lie about what month his assignment ended, what else would he lie about. Today’s emphasis on Risk Management, coupled with a bumper crop of available candidates, makes the white-liar more of a liability than even stellar contributions could erase. It is almost too easy to find another candidate who could do that job just as well (or better) than the candidate with questionable data. In a tragically ironic twist, the harmless white lie you believed would put you over the top against your competitors could become the Scarlet Letter that excludes you from employment with certain corporations forever. Forever, really!

Being armed with knowledge of red flags in your background from the beginning can lead your Recruiter to steer you toward corporations that do not have rules against your particular transgression, and away from those that are not so forgiving. I’ve done this, was able to place a great technical guy with a teenage mistake staining his background check, and both of our incomes are better because of his honesty.

So, be truthful on your resume and application. Employers today understand that technical professionals may have been laid off (one or more times). Recruiters know that competition is fierce for assignments and that gaps in employment are common. Being honest on the application, on your resume, and with your Recruiter or Human Resources professional is the safest course of action.

And if you happen to run into an HR professional who is kind enough to verify for you the exact start and end dates of your previous employment after the background checks, keep a record of this to use in future applications.

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