Unemployment is high, and so is résumé fraud, according to executive recruiter Chris Brown. "We're seeing that more and more people aren't telling the full truth when they're completing a job application."

Exaggerating on résumés has always been a bit of an art form. After all, no one ever describes himself as a below-average performer who attempted to push his difficult or boring tasks off on to co-workers. We know that going into the situation. (And let's face it, hiring managers lie as well. How often have you gone for an interview where the hiring manager says, "Well, basically, this job is lousy, because I'm a terrible manager. I'll allow pushy co-workers to walk all over you, yell at you for things that aren't under your control, and base my year-end salary increases on how much I like you."?)

But which signs do you need to be wary of? And how do you recognize a fraudulent résumé?

Pay for a background check. This may seem frightfully obvious, but lots of businesses save the few dollars it takes to run a background check, figuring they can tell if people are telling the truth. A background check is different from a reference check. This is simply verifying education and employment. It seems straightforward, but there are some things to make sure of.

  • Verify the authenticity of diplomas. You can get a degree in just about anything by paying a few hundred dollars. Make sure you're verifying the existence of the college.
  • Check if companies listed on a résumé actually exist. People make up jobs and give you phone numbers of friends who pretend to be former managers. If you suspect that the job isn't real, ask for a W2 or a 1099 (if the person was a contractor) to verify employment.
  • Don't punish someone for working for a business that no longer exists. Anyone at a startup should know that it's possible to lose funding and cease to exist. Don't suspect a lie just based on the fact that a business no longer exists.

Look for excessive job title increase. Yes, some companies give inflated titles. If someone went from an entry-level job to a manager job to a director position within a couple of years, dig a little deeper. One of the big lies on résumés is title inflation. Sometimes this is done to deliberately deceive. Other times, it's done to reflect actual positions, and sometimes it's done because companies give stupid titles. (Keep this in mind at your own company; have titles that make sense.)

Ask yourself, Is that realistic? If someone's résumé hits 100 percent of the skills you asked for in your job posting, be a bit suspicious. It's not impossible, but it's improbable. Especially if the person has all the skills you are asking for and not many more. What are the odds of that? Someone who is a 100 percent fit is likely to have a bunch of other skills as well.

Test for technical skills. Don't ask if someone can use a specialized program and then accept his or her answer in the interview. Sit him or her in front of a computer and see what her or she can do.

Don't hire in a vacuum. Yes, you're the boss, and you get to make the final decision. But let your peers interview candidates as well. More eyeballs on the résumé will help spot things that seem suspicious.

Use LinkedIn. When you're getting ready to call references, look up the references on LinkedIn. Find out what they are doing now. It will help you gauge their true relationship with the candidate. Additionally, if you have any suspicions, look up one of the candidate's old companies (not the current one!) and call and see if you can find your own reference within the company--not just the name the candidate gave you.