Have you ever seen a resume that looks too good to be true? Or how about a resume that is an exact match for the job description down to the smallest details. The person is hired, only to find out 6 months down the road they do not have the experience necessary to fulfill the job requirements.
With the bomb-shell indictment of over 50 individuals in the recent college admissions scandal, we decided to take a closer look at how job candidates may falsify or exaggerate their education, experience, achievements or skills while applying for employment. In the 2002 biographical movie, ‘Catch Me If You Can’, the main character relies on confidence scams to falsify, bluff and lie his way into top paying jobs such as a lawyer and doctor. While Hollywood put their spin on the movie, the base facts did take place, and numerous people were misled, defrauded, and lied to about the character’s experience. Like the movie, job candidates may enlist the help of others to assist in their resume, and interview misrepresentations. From fake degrees obtained from diploma mills to fraudulent credentials purchased on the Dark Web. In the college admissions scandal, it has been reported that millions of dollars exchanged hands between parents, the ringleader of the fraud, coaches, school administrators and college exam officials to falsify college applications, entrance exam scores and academic achievements to guarantee their child admission to a university.
As a business owner, what can you do if a candidate purposely falsifies their experience?
Prior to hiring a candidate, reference checks, background checks, thorough interview processes, and knowledge testing are crucial and equally important. You are not only protecting your business assets, you are also protecting your employees, customers, workplace and business reputation.
1. Reference Checks
Reference check allow you to verify the candidate’s previous employment, length of service, reason for leaving, duties, knowledge and skillset and inquire as to their character and workstyle to ensure they are a good fit. When contacting references, we recommend doing an internet search or visiting the company’s website for the phone number. Why? In a famous episode of Seinfeld, George Costanza tells the unemployment office he is in negotiations for a sales position with Vandelay Industries. She requests the telephone number, so she can follow-up with the company to confirm George’s story. The number he provided was Jerry’s number where he instructed him to answer his phone Vandelay Industries. Although this was a funny episode, this happens. Individuals will provide a friend’s number or will hire someone to pretend to be a former employer and give them a glowing review.
2. Background Checks
Background checks might identify criminal history, misrepresentations of work history, and false education (i.e. school attended, type of degree, professional certifications). Depending on the type of background check, they might include motor vehicle records and credit history. Note, there are several laws (Federal, state and common law) which apply to the practice of background checks to protect individuals against discrimination (race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, genetic information/family medical history and age) which must be adhered to.
Businesses should enlist the help of specialized third-party service providers to perform background checks. When hiring a third-party, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers to disclose to the candidate that consumer reports may be used for employment decisions. The employer must receive written consent from the applicant and comply with the FCRA’s notice requirements. When selecting a third-party service provider, research and due diligence should be performed to ensure the company is reputable. Do an internet search of the business name, review their Better Business Bureau records, and rely on your network for opinions and advice. Look to see if there are any negative comments? Any complaints filed? Any negative posts on social media? Is the company in good standing with the Secretary of State? Does the company have a website? What does your network say about the company and their services? Ask about the percentage of negative background checks vs positive.
3. Thorough Interview Process
The interview process should be part conversation, part knowledge review, and part experience/qualification review. The key is to make sure the person you are interviewing meets, not only the requirements of the position, but will fit in with your corporate culture. Development of a thorough process includes setting expectations for the position – what are you looking for in a candidate? Being prepared with a set of standard questions. A methodology that should be used is asking the candidate the same question, at different times during the interview process in a slightly different way. The answers can be compared to see how they were answered. Depending on the opportunity, you may want to see how the candidate responds to various challenges. Always leave plenty of time for the candidate to ask questions.
4. Knowledge Testing
Consider using a standardized test for candidate knowledge in the area they are interviewing. Personality testing will allow you to see if the candidate will fit in with your culture. Depending on the level of the position, you may want to employ a third party to perform a job related psychological examination. Additionally, testing with real life scenarios could also help to determine how the candidate performs under pressure, or deals with both subordinate’s as well as superiors.
5. Timing of screening
Reference Checks, background screening, knowledge testing, and of course the interview process should be performed prior to extending the job offer, or as a condition of starting the job.
Although performing background checks on candidates prior to hiring is a best practice, it might not identify an employee who has committed a previous fraud if the former employer never pressed charges. In our experience, many business owners do not want the theft to become public knowledge to their employees or customers, so they do not pursue legal action. In other cases, there is not enough physical evidence for the police to make an arrest. However, it is your opportunity to learn more about the candidate from other sources before hiring the individual.