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Top Five Lies Told by Job Candidates

Top Five Lies Told by Job Candidates

Monster Hiring Resource Center

June 24, 2009

It pays to know about the five most common (and costly) lies that job applicants are likely to include on their resume.

In the business world, every employee has the potential to impact your company’s performance, culture and bottom line. That makes it crucial to avoid hiring the wrong candidate, which could result in a costly and even critical mistake. A recent survey from Right Management1 reported that the cost of a bad hire can range from one to five times the individual’s salary. Those costs are often a result of falsified information included on the candidate’s resume.

According to background screening leader HireRight, job seekers often exaggerate, falsify credentials and even lie outright on their job applications. Even if a candidate’s embellished resume does not constitute actual fraud, an employer’s reliance on inaccurate or inflated information may result in a poor hiring decision. For this reason, businesses should consider comprehensive background checks that are specifically designed to uncover dishonest or exaggerated information on resumes and in job applications.

While sometimes thought of as a common practice of large organizations, background checking is also important for small businesses. “Job candidates are more likely to lie to small businesses because they assume that the companies are less likely to perform background checks on their candidates as compared to larger enterprises,” said Glen Schrank, president and chief executive officer, HireRight. “And although more and more small businesses are performing professional, enterprise-quality background screening today, job seekers still try to get away with it.”

Identifying job candidates who lie on their resumes or job applications can be tricky and time consuming for many small businesses. Hiring an outside background screening company (known as a “consumer reporting agency” or CRA) to perform a background check can uncover applicants who submit false information when applying for a job.

Employers should beware of the following tactics that some candidates use to embellish or even falsify their resumes:

1. Exaggerating dates of past employment According to HireRight, roughly a third of all applications include discrepancies on past experience and education. Candidates often stretch the truth to cover gaps in their work history that they may not want to explain, such as the job seeker who extended his employment dates to cover up a six month jail sentence! Sometimes discrepancies are the result of an honest mistake, but employers should always verify employment dates.

2. Falsifying the degree or credential earned A candidate will sometimes claim that they earned a particular degree, when he or she actually only took some relevant classes, or their resume might exaggerate an academic major so they appear more qualified for the job. Other candidates forge diplomas, claim degrees earned by family members, or purchase degrees from diploma mills. The latter can be very difficult to identify, but knowledgeable background checking firms compile detailed databases of known diploma mills so frauds can be identified.

3. Inflating salary or title It’s hardly surprising that a candidate might exaggerate these important facts to get a better job or a higher salary. That’s why companies typically contact previous employers to verify positions held by the candidate. Salary verification can be more difficult since many companies will not reveal this information, although they may verify the salary range for a particular job or class of jobs.

4. Concealing a criminal record The most important reason that many companies perform background checks is to maintain a safe workplace or to mitigate risk. Compliance is also a key reason why some companies do background checks. Some industries, such as financial services and health care, require employers to obtain criminal background information on applicants, often by job type. Candidates who are trying to hide a criminal conviction on their record are likely to be attracted to small companies as they assume that the company will not conduct background checks. Such applicants often try to avoid detection by not disclosing criminal convictions or by changing minor details on their applications, such as the spelling of their name or date of birth.

5. Hiding a drug habit Whether an employer supports a drug-free workplace or is required by regulatory agencies to perform drug tests for certain positions, employers should be aware of the tactics that some candidates employ in order to hide a drug habit. Some drug users go to great lengths in attempt to beat these tests – such as adulterating urine samples – but today’s drug tests are increasingly sophisticated and can identify true positives and negatives despite the attempts of those trying to cover up drug use.

In times of economic duress, applicants may be even more tempted than usual to varnish the truth. With so much at stake, it pays for employers to look out for these five tactics.

1. Right Management 2006 Report, “Lower Employee Morale & Decreased Productivity Are Biggest Consequences Of Bad Hires & Promotions”

This article originally appeared on Monster for Employees Resource Center http://hiring.monster.com/hr/hr-best-practices.aspx