False credentials and fake job histories: How applicants misrepresent themselves

Despite Australia’s low unemployment rate and a dearth of qualified candidates in several industries – particularly in financial services and IT – there is a growing trend of jobseekers misrepresenting themselves.

A recent report found a staggering 85% of employers have caught candidates lying on their CVs – a marked rise from 66% in 2012 – it’s an issue that HR managers need to monitor.

Here are the most common tactics used by deceptive jobseekers to dupe potential employers.

1. Lying about accomplishments and roles

According to Nicole Gorton, Director at Robert Half Australia, the most common lies usually relate back to how a candidate describes their accomplishments. This could be something as small as exaggerating their role in a project, as Gorton has come across time and time again in her role.

“They may say something along the lines of ‘I’ – as opposed to ‘we, as a team’ – implemented, or were responsible for an achievement,” Gorton says. “They’ll claim it as theirs, but actually they weren’t solely responsible for changing or improving or running a certain task.

When it explodes into full-blown deception, however – such as lying about where they worked, who they worked with, and taking responsibility for successes they weren’t even part of – things can get out of hand.

Take for example the M.I.T. Dean of Admissions who claimed to have earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, despite having neither. Her deception lasted an incredible 28 years but could’ve been uncovered through proper due diligence and thorough background checking.

Closer to home, the Australian Taxation Office now has guidelines in place to not only sack any employees found to have lied on their resume but to prosecute them as well.

Solution: Due diligence means going the extra mile and conducting the appropriate reference checks with past employers. It’s not enough to call just one of the referees and be done with it – every individual has their own story about past employees, and company A may have a very different opinion of the candidate than company B.

Having a third party verify a candidate’s qualifications – directly at the source – is also imperative. In the case of the M.I.T Dean of Admissions, this could have stopped the deception in its tracks right at the start of her engagement.

2. Photoshopping false certifications

Another common deception is jobseekers stating they have a particular qualification or they have upskilled themselves in certain areas. Thanks to scanning software and the accessibility of image-altering tools, some sneaky candidates have even taken to altering their degrees – or creating entirely new ones – with Photoshop.

A nurse in the UK did exactly that, taking it to the limit by Photoshopping a fake Cambridge University qualification. After the misconduct was discovered, she was banned from working in the medical profession permanently.

Solution: Again, having a third party check a candidate’s professional qualifications is the key. Luckily, it’s much easier to verify a qualification than it is to create a fake one, and having a reputable agency, like CVCheck do this on your behalf, is the quickest and best way.

3. Failing to disclose incidents in their past

Gorton says hiring managers must start the interview process on the right foot by asking the right questions – namely, leading questions. Doing this will help weed out information relating to your candidate’s past professional performance.

“Ask them, ‘Where did you formerly work?’, ‘What was your experience like?’, ‘Give me an example of how you did that.’, ‘Who got sign-off?’ and ‘What was your role within that?’ As they start to explain, they will tell you exactly what their role was. If you’re an expert in your field, you will be able to uncover how involved or how responsible the candidate really was.”

While useful for determining the truthfulness of a candidate’s past professional performance, leading questions may not be enough to get to the heart of a candidate’s past.

Most people who’ve had run-ins with the law are unlikely to sing about it on their resume. The problem is, while declaring a criminal past isn’t mandatory, it may impact a candidate’s capacity to perform on the job. For example applying for a job in finance if you have a criminal record relating to money laundering. Without doing the proper criminal background checks, you not only put yourself at risk, but also your co-workers, customers and the business as a whole.

Just recently, Australians have been travelling overseas to teach English without undergoing any screening procedures. Not only does this mean countless ‘teachers’ are working with children unqualified, but there have even been reports of past criminal behaviours going undetected. Why? Because the hiring agencies failed to do their due diligence.

Solution: In many industries (teaching, nursing, banking and finance, for example) National Police Checks (NPC) are standard these days. Most government and corporate positions also require candidates to pass a NPC. Accredited third parties, like CVCheck, can run the checks quickly, thoroughly and securely meaning you can rest easy knowing your new hire won’t be putting you or your business in jeopardy.

Verifying CVs: Should you outsource or keep it in-house?

Gorton suggests outsourcing the technical, paperwork-heavy verification tasks to an independent third party, while conducting the more personal aspects of an interview – namely, uncovering a candidate’s broader character and whether they are the right ‘fit’ for the job – in-house.

“CV checking, checking qualifications and criminal history – all that stuff you should outsource,” she says. “When it comes to a candidate’s experience, their ability to potentially manage or lead a team and how they work under pressure, it helps if the hiring manager understands as much as possible about the potential employee. For this reason, it’s sometimes advantageous for hiring managers to conduct their own references, if they have the time.

“This will help them hire better-quality candidates, and retain those people because they have a greater understanding of who they are and what they will be like to work with.”

Another tool to help hiring managers understand a candidate’s ability to perform in the workplace are predictive psychometric assessments, which offers insights into a candidate’s future job performance. The tests can be tailored to be industry-specific, so you can really hone in on the qualities that matter most to the role.

Above all else, the proper checks must always be made to ensure the stability of the business and the wellbeing of its employees.

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