Resume fraud is a global problem that affects employers, the gig economy, and volunteer agencies whether they are screening in the U.S., screening people with history outside of the home country, or screening outside of the U.S.
A recent incident of resume fraud in the U.K. has brought resume verification into the spotlight and many employers are wondering if they have done enough to protect themselves from liability in similar situations. A U.K. newspaper reported last month that thousands of children’s futures have been put in jeopardy by a salesman who lied his way into a job running state schools.
When Johnson Kane co-founded the Education Fellowship Trust in 2012, he presented an impressive CV that claimed the government had put him on the board of the British Airports Authority before it was privatized, that he had run a venture capital bank and that he was high up in John Lewis, when in fact he was a shop floor salesman. Files from an Information Rights Tribunal showed that the Department for Education (DFE) failed to check Kane’s credentials or handle whistleblower disclosures properly. Internal emails showed that government officials couldn’t verify the qualifications he had in 2014, but they sat on their hands until it was all too late. Kane earned a six-figure salary for six years as chief executive of the trust, which collapsed after leaving five schools with disastrous exam results and millions of pounds in the red.
This recent incident is unfortunately not uncommon, and it isn’t new. The CEO of Bausch & Lomb from 2001-2008 faked an MBA from a business school he didn’t graduate from. The dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology admitted in 2007 that she had claimed degrees she hadn’t earned and in fact had never graduated from college. The CEO of Yahoo was forced to step down in 2012 after it was revealed that his academic credentials did not add up. In 2020, a senior investigator of the Georgia state Department of Revenue resigned while under investigation for falsely stating in a job application he had a degree from a nonexistent college. This last example is unique because of its implications for criminal justice. “False statement… affects [an individual’s] credibility as a law enforcement officer,” Georgia Inspector General Deborah Wallace explains in an article from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The cost to the organizations in the aforementioned examples is lost trust, negative press, and a black mark on their employer brand is immeasurable, but it could have been avoided altogether with a thorough background check that included resume verification. The potential liability from fraudulent resumes doesn’t just happen at the executive level; resume fraud occurs at all job levels and in all industries.
While it is not unusual for applicants to present themselves favorably, problems for employers can arise when it crosses the line into resume fraud with false certifications, degrees, past employment and experience. As a result, employers may hire an individual who isn’t actually qualified to do the job and could end up costing the company a lot in terms of lost productivity, mistakes, lost customers, administrative time, loss of investors and capital, and negative press.
HR professionals and background check firms have seen an alarming increase in resume fraud in the past decade, partly because the fraud is made easier by websites that create a false employment history for applicants or provide applicants with worthless degrees from diploma mills. This type of fraud goes beyond embellishing small details or exaggerating experience on a resume or application.
A 2017 study by staffing firm OfficeTeam discovered that almost half of workers (46%) said they know someone who included false information on a resume, a 25-point increase from a 2011 survey. Additionally, the study found that over half of senior managers (53%) suspect candidates often stretch the truth on resumes.
Additionally, only 34% of employers check the educational qualifications listed on resumes, according to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)—even though the association found that 25% of people inflated their educational achievements on resumes. Among the minority of employers who do check college credentials, most only check a student’s attendance or graduation dates. Almost none check whether the university itself is properly accredited.
As with the case of the educational fellowship trust in the U.K. and the other examples we cited above, resume fraud not only wastes expensive recruiting resources and denies job opportunities to qualified applicants, it can also expose a company to potential employee fraud and brand damage down the road.
Employers need to verify employment history, conduct reference checks and education checks not only to ensure that the right candidates are hired for the position but also to protect customers and employers from additional risk and liabilities. So why are so many companies skipping this step?
HR departments have often been tasked with doing their own employment, education, and reference checks. With an increased workload, HR professionals may not have the time or the resources to track down contact information and repeatedly try to complete the verifications.
The catch for most employers who find themselves dealing with liability issues from resume fraud is that it isn’t difficult to check, it’s just difficult to tell the difference between the fake and legitimate information. Technology today makes it easy for someone to literally invent past job experience, credentials, and even college degrees. If resume verification is being done by an in-house HR team, it is often difficult to obtain certain data or tell the difference between websites that serve as a “fact check” when they are, in fact, not legitimate sites. Time may be a factor, as a single check on a website should be followed up by a telephone or email confirmation.
Employment screening firms will have more current knowledge of what to look out for, how to spot fake websites and degree or certificate mills, as well as access to databases of information that can verify everything from dates of employment to salary information to job titles. For CRAs, this information is part of screening and it’s their job to understand the new ways people might be using to falsify information. Another benefit of outsourcing is all the verification information is compiled in one report and conducted in a more consistent manner than when handled in-house.
Partnering with a company like Cisive can mitigate these risks, as screening companies specialize in employment and education verification, along with compliance in background checks. Our team of experts not only verify education records, employment history, professional licensing and certification, military service, Department of Transportation and state driving history, but they also perform reference checks, saving your HR team’s time and reducing the risk of liability for your organization.
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