Untruthfulness on a resume or job application

Lying on law firm resumeHiring new employees is a critical function of any law firm. To have a successful legal practice, they need the best legal and administrative talent possible to serve their clients.

The reality, however, is that reviewing resumes and job applications is not an easy task. When a law firm receives numerous applicants for a single position, reviewing resumes and job applications to see if an applicant’s education and experience is a good fit is time-consuming and cumbersome.

However, to make matters worse, many job applicants are not even truthful on their resume and job application. So, while a law firm might spend considerable time reviewing resumes and job applications, they cannot take for granted that what they are reading is accurate.

One recent article indicates that a whopping 85 percent of job applicants lie on their resume. There are even situations where individuals are serving jail time for lying on their resume or job application.

Untruthfulness on a job application can manifest itself in all kinds of different ways, including:

  1.  An applicant could purport that they have a college degree that they do not even have.
  2. An applicant might profess to have experience in particular areas that they do not have.
  3. An applicant might claim to have held a position title that they did not hold.
  4. An applicant might fudge the dates of their employment to make it seem like they were at a job longer than they were.
  5. An applicant might exaggerate or embellish their job duties, accomplishments or awards.
  6. An applicant might exaggerate or falsely report activity in outside organizations or extracurricular activities.

It is disappointing as a law firm manager or owner that one cannot merely rely on representations in a resume or job application. It would be much preferred if everybody was honest and above-board about their representations about their education, experience and credentials. But the data out there shows that this is not to be.

As a result, in the hiring process, a law firm is wise to have their recruiters or hiring managers do thorough research about applicants. In addition to performing background checks and doing some research online in publicly available sources, this may mean asking interview questions that go deeper than surface-level questions.

In other words, if a lawyer purports that they have lots of trial experience, the interviewer should ask in-depth questions about the number and kinds of trial they have conducted. They might ask about their trial tips and strategies. They might ask what judges they have tried cases in front of in the past.

If a lawyer represents that they have management experience, the interview should follow-up. A good follow-up might mean asking about their management tips and techniques. It might involve asking about specific circumstances and what they did in the situation.  The possibilities are endless, but the point is that interviewers need to follow-up in these interviews. They also need to probe and verify. If the answers do not show the experience or education that the candidate represents, the hiring manager ought to be skeptical.

A law firm should also call and check with all the references that are listed. The law firm should not check references in a cursory manner where they use the same script for everybody. Instead, the questions should be substantive and relate to what the candidate said in the interview to verify that the candidate is who they say they are.

Some literature also suggests that employers should contact references from prior employers that are not listed and do other research. These are known as back door reference checks. In other words, if a candidate notes a previous employer on their resume, but there is no reference given from that employer, this article suggests that one should call that prior employer anyway.

As sad as it is, the reality is that law firms cannot take for granted what a candidate represents on their resume or job application. To illustrate this point, there was a recent story about a law school graduate was practicing law in the public defender’s office in Madison County, Illinois, despite the fact that she had flunked the bar twice. According to the article, once she was discovered, she was charged with forgery, theft and impersonating an attorney.

In the end, if the law firm discovers the candidate is not being honest — no matter how trivial the matter in which they are not being truthful  — the hire should not be made. Having honest and trustworthy employees is necessary for any law firm to succeed. Otherwise, these same candidates can engage in dishonest and untruthful actions if you end up hiring them. This, of course, assumes the candidate even has the skills, credentials and license to do the job.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.

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