Resume fraud is a problem – hiring someone who has padded their resume, taken extremely creative license with their educational history or has outright devised their own career on paper. Recruiters, human resource departments and interviewers all face the problem of ascertaining whether a candidate is a hidden gem or “too good to be true”.
Resume fraud can involve one of the following items:
- Embellishment of their education or employment history – instead of a second-class honours, they may claim to be a first-class honours graduate. Alternatively, a candidate may claim he is fluent in French and German but is unable to do more than introducing himself in either language.
- Fraudulent items – volunteering at a charity that does not exist, or winning fictitious awards would be classified as a fraudulent item. Skills that the candidate claims to have but does not possess would also be deemed fraudulent.
- Omission of key information which could influence their hire such as being dismissed for misconduct, or a conflict of interest by working at a direct competitor. Other omissions which may be material include being previously imprisoned or declared a bankrupt, which are usually mandatory disclosure fields at the point of application.
The prevalence of such dishonest behaviour has spawned an industry catering to false employment, fake certificates and degrees, and character references. The risk of hiring such candidates are severe and far-reaching:
- When the new hire isn’t able to perform to the standards they are hired for, efficiency and productivity suffer. The rest of the team have to pick up the slack and invariably, this causes discontent and higher turnover.
- If the resume fraud is masking faults such as workplace violence and abuse, it may cause your workplace culture to take a nosedive. In the worst-case scenario, the employee repeats their negative behaviour and creates an unbearable toxic environment for the other employees .
- Hiring the wrong people, especially in middle management and up, may have implications which are more long-term. When someone who has falsified their resume hires someone else, they are likely to look for traits which resonate with theirs – perpetuating the cycle of dishonesty.
- Talent acquisition, retention and management is now a pressing issue for all companies, and the issue of not sifting out the chaff from the wheat increases the hiring cost across the board disproportionately – a company may spend astronomical sums of money to either investigate or manage out employees who are suspected of misconduct.
With the advent of globalisation of businesses, aligning hiring practices across the world is also causing headquarters and shared services centres headaches. Cultural differences and nuances also may affect the benchmarking between candidates from different regions. To magnify the problem, companies now offer a myriad of employment types and opportunities which may make it difficult and expensive to look out for resume fraud. The functions of a company looking out for fraud (such as the internal control function), and for new employees (which is usually under HR’s purview), are also typically segregated such that they do not communicate on a proper identification and review programme for resume fraud.
How can I reduce the risk of hiring a bad egg?
One method to mitigate the risk of hiring a candidate who has falsified their resume is to perform rigorous pre-employment screening. This can be done internally or by a third party, and involves independently verifying key details on a resume. This is usually done before the hire is finalised, and with the signed consent of the individual under review.
Pre-employment screening extends beyond a prior employment reference check and education check, and should be customised to your corporation’s values, culture and needs. A corporation usually embarks on a pre-employment screening as honesty is an important tenet of their ethos, and a dishonest employee would be a cultural misfit in addition to a fraud waiting to be discovered.
If a pre-employment screening mandate is made known to all candidates, it may also serve as a deterrent to candidates who are considering manipulating their resumes. Reluctance to sign a consent to allow screening is also a red flag which could highlight potential misdemeanours.
What should I be screening for?
Reviewing employment and education references has become now de rigueur. However, professional scepticism has to be utilised in deciding which references to interview. Should the “senior manager” listed as a character reference be called, or should you look for other channels to perform your verification?
Consider also whether it may be worthwhile to review awards and scholarships received by the individual, especially if it is given weightage in the interview and selection process. If volunteer work is also a key component, then this should also be factored into the screening.
With the increasing popularity of social media, screening of public social media accounts is also something which can help illuminate whether a candidate is being less than truthful about a gap year, for example. This is also useful in revealing ideological slants which may not align with a company’s values.
What to consider when performing a screening
There are no hard and fast rules about when, or how to do a screening on a candidate. However, some of the questions that may come to mind may include:
- Is my HR team up to the challenge of performing the screening? Weighing the trade-off between keeping all screenings internal and taxing existing HR resources may be a tricky question to answer. In addition, it may take upwards of ten working days to produce a comprehensive report on an individual’s screening. If all shortlisted candidates are screened, this could create a bottleneck of a few weeks to get through the entire shortlist and identify the best person for the job.
- Do I need to design different levels of screening for different levels of hires? A CEO-to-be may merit a more intense level of scrutiny, as opposed to an entry-level clerk. Similarly, any staff who may be privy to highly confidential data may also require a higher security clearance than a run-of-the-mill employee. You could do this exercise internally, or sit down with your chosen service providers who will be able to tier their services for you.
- How do I align my screening with my company’s values and culture? As an organisation, am I able to articulate the type of employee which would most harm my company – whether it be a lazy personality, someone prone to anger tantrums, a history of petty theft or frequently switching jobs after probation?
- How do I revamp my recruitment process such that only suitable and qualified candidates are hired? This conundrum extends beyond merely reviewing if a person who claims to have graduated from Harvard is a liar or a genius, and also questions the integrity of the interview process, the selection criteria and the evaluation of each candidate. Are interviewers asking the right questions? Are recruiters looking out for the best qualities? Would it be worth investing in the people aligned with where my company is headed?
It is no longer a question of whether a fit-and-proper screening is necessary, but rather to what extent and how it should be conducted. Turning a blind eye to the risk of a negligent hire could have a ripple effect on the rest of your corporation.