‘Trust But Verify’: Good Advice As More Resumes Show Misrepresentations

We don’t mean to alarm you but it’s highly likely your company has hired someone who has falsified their resume.

Don’t believe us? Research suggests that more than 50% of people have lied on their CV at some stage and in some way. While some have merely bumped out a few dates here and there, slightly exaggerated their role in a group project or included some skills that they don’t necessarily possess, others have gone as far as claiming to have a non-existent master’s degree or bumped up their GPA. In the US, 75% of HR managers have caught a lie on a resume. That’s a pretty high figure. What’s more problematic than the actual falsification, however, is how it’s impacting your business.

Why so much lying?

Competition is rife in the workplace. Students are obsessed with educational qualifications and what kind of work experience they have. Not only that, some say that employers are being unrealistic in their expectations of employees, regardless of whether they’re entry level or top level job seekers. Apparently, honesty doesn’t pay the bills.

So what’s happening? Jobseekers are lying and cheating on their resumes in order to seem more appealing to employers. Even more problematic is that there are online services dedicated to helping candidates ‘fill in the gaps’ of their employment history. The online services, such as FakeResume and CareerExcuse help adapt the resume so that it flies under the radar of HR systems.

Many employees believe it’s not that bad to include little white lies on their resume. The thought process seems to be: well who is going to actually find out? Does it really matter what role they had on that group project? Either way, they worked on it. Also, it’s a bit of a pack mentality. Everyone else does it, so why can’t I? The thought process seems to be that potential candidates will be losing their competitive advantage if they don’t lie on their resume. It’s gotten so bad that some job applicants have even hired hackers to add their names to college databases to ‘prove’ that they graduated from the institution.

Importantly though, it’s not just the little guys. In 2012, then Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson, was called out for lying on his resume. He claimed to have a computer science degree. Spoiler alert. He didn’t. As far back as 1997, there are examples of people fibbing on their resumes. In a very large way. According to his resume, Patrick Couwenberg was the perfect candidate for a judicial appointment to the LA Superior Court. The problem was, nearly all of Couwenberg’s resume was falsified. And then there’s Sandra Baldwin who was forced to resign as head of the US Olympic Committee because she falsified her education, and Laura Callahan, whose ‘degree’ was actually from an online diploma mill. She resigned as a Senior Director in the US Department of Homeland Security in 2004.

The pressure mounts

The problem for HR personnel is that often recruiters have mere seconds to look at a CV before deciding whether to progress the candidate further. Time constraints and budget issues seem to be the big concerns. Yet pressure is still on HR teams to intercept dodgy candidates.

The problem for businesses is that staff who lie on their resumes can potentially become employees who cost the business – not just money, but time. It’s estimated that, around the world, resume fraud costs approximately $600 billion annually. That’s an expensive lie. Additionally, a wrong hire can lead to legal issues. And while it may be costly for the employee to deal with this legal matter, it’s also going to cost your company. Again, it’s about time and money. Because then, you have to start the hiring process all over again.

The cost of hiring new employees largely depends on the industry, the job and region. Some estimates put the cost of hiring even a low-level employee at 30-50% of salary. Of course, this takes into account advertising, in-house recruiter salaries, any third-party fees, travel expenses and sign-on bonuses. With this in mind, finding the right person and doing it quickly is crucial. Yet, HR teams are struggling to find the time to check college degrees, employment history and everything in between. What HR teams need to remember though is that the cost of doing these vital checks is often much cheaper than a bad hire. In fact, the cost of a bad hire averages $14,900. For HR teams, it’s a difficult conundrum. How do they find the time to verify all the claims thoroughly, while still doing the other aspects of their job, because ultimately, the stringent tests are still unaffordable for small to medium businesses.

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Solution on the horizon

There is help out there. There is technology available to do the heavy lifting for you — verifying credentials, references, academics and criminal records among other things. CVProof, for example, uses blockchain technology to digitally validate and authenticate CV credentials. This means, they cannot be modified in the future. Some companies will at minimum check resumes against LinkedIn and other social media. A good tip when interviewing an applicant is to ask about specific months within their previous employment history. While their resume could say 2015-2016, realistically, it could be November 2015 to March 2016 – a mere matter of months. It’s all about the details. And when it comes to degrees, always verify the certifications, the institution and the attendance records.

While there’s a lot of pressure on candidates to be everything employers want and more, HR teams need to be wary of CVs that seem to be inflated. As the saying goes, “trust, but verify.” Believe the best in people, but still do the due diligence, because the consequences of hiring someone who has faked their resume can be catastrophic.

Ray Chow-Toun

Ray managed large-scale IT projects for two decades in computer manufacturing, aviation and Swiss banks at European and American leading-edge companies.

Pioneering and entrepreneurial, Ray started in 1999 the first Internet Application Service Provider in Switzerland. Before the iPhone emergence, he patented in 2004 an one-click mobile app trigger, making keyboard handling easier. Ray is also the CVproof.com patent pending author. Designed the CVproof validation protocol which can be compared to the public domain BlockCerts.org (MIT) but including flexible solutions to the business transition concerns. Ray is a Swiss Crypto Valley member.