I’ve run into more than a few companies across industries who’ve chosen to forego background checks for employees, stating the expense just isn’t worth it. Generally, companies who simply take resumes at their word are smaller startup operations. But you remember one story from a few years back, involving a major global corporation, Yahoo.
The company neglected to do a proper background check and then had major issues with their public image when it was found that their CEO had falsified a significant chunk of his resume. Most companies that forgo background checks don’t understand that this doesn’t have to be a high expense process and that it can be done quickly. Really, most of the work can be done in the triaging process, before management ever even meets with the candidate. For a small amount of time invested in the beginning, companies could make better overall hiring decisions in the end.
How Yahoo Blundered the Background Check
Back in 2012, Yahoo brought on a new CEO named Scott Thompson. At the time, the company was trying to update its image so it could become the competitive search engine it once was. As such, Mr. Thompson’s computer science degree put him at the top of the heap for candidates. He started the position in January 2012 and, in August of that same year, abruptly stepped down.
If you work in the finance sector, then you know that certain disclosures regarding CEOs of publicly traded companies are required by the SEC. Yahoo filed those disclosures, reporting that Thompson held a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College. When those filings were made public, so were Thompson’s exaggerations regarding his credentials.
He didn’t have a computer science degree. In fact, Stonehill College has never offered a computer science major. Yahoo, for reasons unknown, never uncovered this. The resume scandal made national news. The fraudulent SEC filings caused compliance issues for Yahoo, not to mention quite a bit of embarrassment, and a few resignations, for those who hired him. After all, a simple phone call or web search could have verified that Thompson didn’t have a computer science degree. All of this could have been easily fixed with a better triaging process.
Employers don’t expect candidates to pad their resumes, but it happens a lot. In one study, hiring managers reported catching not just padding, but outright lies on 56% of the resumes they looked at. If that’s what they’re catching, then there’s a necessary follow-up question: How many lies are they not catching? According to one study, quite a few, and they’re not small lies either. Here are the most common, based on a CareerBuilder survey:
- Falsified degrees and credentials – This is one of the top lies on the list. It was found that 20% of individuals had either lied about credentials they’d earned or college degrees when applying for jobs. This includes hard fraud, where individuals claimed qualifications they didn’t have at all. It also covers soft instances, where applicants lied about majors, GPAs or degree levels.
- Time with a company – It was found that 35% of resumes included incorrect employment dates that were intentionally falsified to hide gaps in employment or a job-hopping history.
- Criminal Records – There were several instances in the study where it was found that individuals were intentionally lying about criminal histories. In some cases, they were even changing the spelling of their name or date of birth to avoid detection.
- Inflated Job Titles and Salaries – Some individuals tend to get a bit too creative with job titles, to make prior work experience look better than it is. These are usually instances of soft fraud, in that someone will give the accurate employer, but give themselves a more responsible job title hoping that it won’t be verified.
These types of lies can usually be easily discovered with just a little bit of legwork. But often, by the time these false statements are uncovered, the hiring manager has already made a decision. That’s why these basic checks should be done not after you decide to hire someone, but before you even decide to interview them.
When Triaging Before Interviewing Works Better
Proper triage is ideal for weeding out resume padding. About 72% of those who’ve used a simple triaging process have been able to locate dishonesty in resumes. Now, this doesn’t mean rolling out a high-level background investigation. In some cases, it’s even possible to put the onus on the candidate to prove their resume. Here are a few ideas for better triaging to eliminate deceptive applicants:
- Use data to your advantage – One area where there is a major opportunity for better triaging is in resume filtering programs. I’ve found that a lot of companies don’t use these to their best advantage, duplicating data rather than seeking out better data. Ask for social media links, especially to sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, where people list their employers and schools attended. When it comes to schools, don’t just ask for the university name. Ask for the accreditation number. For industry credentials, ask for certificate numbers. Make these sections mandatory. This is solid information that can easily be used to verify or dispute what’s on a resume.
- Standardize forms for references – First, demand the right kind of references—prior work or education references. Friends and family aren’t going to say bad things about a candidate, but a professional acquaintance will. In addition, have references fill out a standardized form that covers the basics: title, dates of employment, salary, and reason for leaving. This standardizes the reference process and makes it less worrisome for former employers who might be concerned about retaliation.
- Verify resume information with RRA – Remote Risk Assessment allows you to verify resumes via an automated process. The candidate would call an RRA center and be asked to verify the accuracy of their resume. Their responses would then be assessed for risk. Candidates are listed from low to high risk, allowing you an at-a-glance review of those areas were high risk is present and deeper investigation is warranted.
Now, keep in mind these three steps are done before the interview as triage. The actual background check is going to be a bit more subjective and will go a much deeper. The above are just ways to verify the basics so you can cut those who weren’t honest on their resume from the pool at the start.
AC Global Risk offers RRA for those who want to better triage candidates and cut down on resume padding. By adding this as a triaging step, you can ensure that you’re getting candidates with the best skills and qualifications, rather than those who just say they have them. For more information, contact us.