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It’s 1998, and a young naive kid in the sports marketing industry is asked to clean up his recently departed boss’ office. While he wasn’t thrilled about this “cush” assignment, he liked his now-former boss and wanted to make sure to send him anything he might have left behind in his rushed exit. Not to mention that there was some cool sports memorabilia …

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I have been neglecting my blogging duties as of late and for that, you should be grateful! However, every so often I come across something that I feel passionate about. Today is one of those days as I have just come across an article that every job seeker should read. It’s about choices.

In this story, Steve was presented with an option. Lie on his resume and pretty much be guaranteed a job, or tell the truth and actually prove himself and his skills. Steve was more than qualified for a job but a recruiter told him that unless he made up a degree, the employer would likely pass. What did Steve do? Steve owned it! I love this guy, I love his story!

Choices to make the right decision or the wrong one. I am certainly not a righteous person, but I am a person of principle. I believe that in life you are presented with decisions; sometimes you make the right one and sometimes you don’t. However, its important to live with the consequences. People in life make mistakes.  Own it.  That’s your responsibility. This situation could have taken a completely different path; one that could have created dozens if not hundreds of lies to cover up a lie that wasn’t necessary in the first place.

Why lying on your résumé won’t pay off

Getting asked by a reporter about where I went to school made me remember the day I had to choose whether to lie on my résumé.

The job of a lifetime

When I got my first job in Silicon Valley, it was through serendipity — my part — and desperation — on the part of my first employer. I really didn’t have much of a résumé — four years in the Air Force building a scram system for a nuclear reactor and a startup in Ann Arbor, Mich., but not much else.

It was at my second startup in Silicon Valley that my life and career took an interesting turn. A recruiter found me while I was working in product marketing and wanted to introduce me to a hot startup making something called a workstation. “This is a technology-driven company, and your background sounds great. Why don’t you send me a résumé and I’ll pass it on.” A few days later, I got a call back from the recruiter. “Steve, you left off your education. Where did you go to school?”

“I never finished college,” I said.

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. “Steve, the VP of sales and marketing previously ran their engineering department. He was a professor of computer science at Harvard, and his last job was running the Advanced Systems Division at Xerox PARC. Most of the sales force were previously design engineers. I can’t present a candidate without a college degree. Why don’t you make something up?”

I still remember that exact instant of the conversation. In that moment, I realized I had a choice. But I had no idea how profound, important and lasting it would be. It would have been really easy to lie, and the recruiter was telling me to do so. “No one checks education anyway,” He said. This was long before the days of the Internet.

Making the choice about my résumé

I told him I’d think about it. And I did for a long time. After a few days, I sent him my updated résumé, and he passed it on to Convergent Technologies. Soon after, I was asked to interview with the company. I can barely recall the other people I met (my potential boss, the VP of marketing, interviews with various engineers, etc.), but I’ll never forget the interview with Ben Wegbreit, the VP of sales and marketing.

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We are in the business of finding people that lie on their resumes! Why? Well, companies are hit everyday with people who are not qualified for their positions and therefore make things up in order to get them. Organizations pay us because they know that we find over 50% of resumes contain falsehoods and in some cases flat out lies. These sometimes include fake diplomas, degree mills, false employers, extended dates to cover up positions they have been terminated from and so on. The interesting thing is that this is usually done AFTER the applicant has gone through a series of interviews and has already had the chance to sell themselves. Often times,  the lie is unnecessary.  The background check is being run because they want you based on you, not based on the “fake you.”

I love the lessons learned:

  • You will be faced with ethical dilemmas your entire career
  • Taking the wrong path is most often the easiest choice
  • These choices will seem like trivial and inconsequential shortcuts — at the time
  • Some of them will have lasting consequences
  • It’s not the lie that will catch up with you, it’s the cover-up
  • Choose wisely

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Chalk this story up to something a background screening provider most likely will not do now or in the future: ethnicity testing.

Massachusetts Republican party leaders are calling for Harvard University to investigate faculty member and U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren for lying about her ethnicity.  Warren claimed that she was Native American which GOP leader Bob Maginn says is unsubstantiated.  And because he believes that she got her job with the university because of her ethnicity claims, he believes this is academic fraud.

Check out the full story reported by the Boston Herald.

State GOP big rips Liz claim, urges Harvard investigation

The head of the Massachusetts Republican Party yesterday demanded Harvard University investigate faculty member and U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s claim to be a Native American minority professor.

MassGOP Chairman Bob Maginn slammed Warren’s claim as baseless and mocked her statements in response to the controversy over the past week.

Maginn said Warren’s actions “appear to constitute academic fraud” and suggested Harvard consider disciplinary action.

“The problem is that Ms. Warren is not a Native American,” wrote Maginn, a Harvard alum. “She is Caucasian. Despite her insistence that she is an American Indian based upon ‘family lore’ and her observation that some in her family had ‘high cheekbones like all the Indians do,’ she has failed to produce a single shred of evidence to substantiate her claim.”

Maginn said Warren’s actions “potentially violate” Harvard’s academic standards and the university is obligated to probe the Democrat’s actions.

“By Harvard’s own Code and precedent, Ms. Warren’s actions require an investigation,” wrote Maginn.

Warren campaign officials referred to statements released last week by Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried, who sat on the panel that hired Warren in 1995, and former Harvard Law Dean Robert Clark.

Both defend Warren’s credentials as the primary reason she was hired. Clark denied her heritage was a factor.

Warren listed herself as a minority professor in the Association of American Law Schools desk book from 1986-95 while teaching at the universities of Texas and Pennsylvania.

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We’ve just posted a guest article on EmployeeScreen University about the efficacy of resumes in today’s marketplace authored by Kevin W. Grossman, Chief Marketplace Evangelist at Fisher Vista, LLC and HRmarketer.com Check it out.

Okay, it’s not dead yet, but I want it to die.

I understand that there’s still a huge part of the career management industry keeping it alive, making it better and making it work for you, the job seeker. To all my friends in this industry, please forgive me, as I also understand it’s probably not going anywhere for years to come.

But I still want the painfully ubiquitous resume to die a horrible death.

Why? Because it’s a self-serving piece of inconsistently formatted and fudged professional drivel that really doesn’t help me hire true quality of fit. Just ask any background screening firm that does employment and education verifications. For example, EmployeeScreenIQ’s research yields a 52% discrepancy rate between what an applicant claims about their education and work experience and what they find when they verify such information.

Fifty-two percent. Sure, the resume helps me sift and sort to the short list, but a short list that’s almost half fabrication on the average. And if you as the job seeker take that risk and blatantly lie or embellish on your resume, and my background screening firm uncovers it, you are out of luck at a time of high unemployment where you really need a little luck.

Yes, embellishing the truth is fabrication. It doesn’t make it any better than an outright lie, especially if you’re telling me you’ve been programming native iPhone apps for the past six months and you really only took an online course six months ago and made one farting app, one that isn’t very good anyway because it sounds like a Yorkshire Terrier barking.

So what then do we put instead of this black magic resume full of lies and deceit?

Your professional online profile, of course. Like the one you better have completely up to date on LinkedIn, where thousands of recruiting professionals are scouring and sourcing every day. (And I’m not even talking about the majority of recruiting pros who search for online information about you across the internet and other social networks.) And by the way, much of the same advice you may get about building your resume applies to the online profile as well.

However, I get the fact that anybody can fudge an online profile just as well as they can a resume. But, there’s a peer pressure element of keeping one another honest in an online community where your professional history is available to everyone you’re connected with, many of whom you‘ve worked with or for at one time, if not currently, as well as the portion that’s available for public consumption if you so choose.

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Here’s an interesting take on how a company can use terminated employee’s resume lies as a defense against claims of discrimination and, or retaliation. Check out this post by labor and employment attorney Jeffrey T. Rosenberg. The only catch seems to be that if you knew about the resume fraud after conducting an employment background check and still hired this person, the defense probably goes out the window. Then again, if you knew about it, why would you hire them?

As an employment attorney practicing in New York City, I feel obligated to clarify the negative consequences that can occur as a result of lying on a resume. Most cases concerning falsified resumes arise from situations in which an employee has been terminated for reasons other than lying on his or her resume (ex. poor work performance). After being terminated, the employee commences a lawsuit for unlawful discrimination and/or retaliation, and during discovery, the employer discovers for the first time that the employee’s resume that was submitted with the original job application had been falsified and is fraudulent.
Because the evidence of the resume fraud was first discovered after the termination had already occurred, this new information is called “after-acquired evidence,” and can be used by the employer as a defense to the claims of discrimination and/or retaliation.

In fact, in Quinby v. WestLB AG (2007), the Southern District of New York (federal court covering Manhattan) held that a plaintiff will not be entitled to certain remedies, such as reinstatement and front pay, if the employer can show that it would have terminated the employee anyway based on information that was not acquired until after she was terminated. However, the party asserting the “after-acquired evidence” defense must establish that the wrongdoing was of such severity that the employee would have been terminated on those grounds alone if the employer had known of it at the time of the termination.

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I typically don’t comment on content I read in online forums, but I saw this post on WallStreetOasis.com about a recent college grad who has accepted a position with Goldman Sachs, but must first submit to an employment background check before it’s official.  Unfortunately, he/she now realized that they inadvertently lied on their resume and is trying to decide whether to come clean prior to the background check. See below.

Hi I am a recent graduate who has gotten an offer from Goldman Sachs for full time position at Operations. I just received an official letter and it says that they will check my background, but what does background include here?
I’m not worried about my education, criminal or employment history, but on my resume, I put that I’m in the honor society which I found out I’m not officially in. I have been eligible to get in the honor society, and have filled out the application but apparently I totally forgot to pay the enrollment fee. I have attended a few events that the honor society held so I thought I was in. I can still apply to the honor society, but they will accept people only once a year so not sure if I can get in before GS does the background check.
Does anyone know if there is any way that GS can check whether I officially belong to the honor society? Or does GS even check it?
Please someone help me to figure this out.
I’m so worried about it and haven’t been able to sleep well…
Hi I am a recent graduate who has gotten an offer from Goldman Sachs for full time position at Operations. I just received an official letter and it says that they will check my background, but what does background include here?
I’m not worried about my education, criminal or employment history, but on my resume, I put that I’m in the honor society which I found out I’m not officially in. I have been eligible to get in the honor society, and have filled out the application but apparently I totally forgot to pay the enrollment fee. I have attended a few events that the honor society held so I thought I was in. I can still apply to the honor society, but they will accept people only once a year so not sure if I can get in before GS does the background check.
Does anyone know if there is any way that GS can check whether I officially belong to the honor society? Or does GS even check it?
Please someone help me to figure this out.

I’m so worried about it and haven’t been able to sleep well…

Here’s my advice.  Whether Goldman Sachs actually checks this information or not (and I’m quite certain they do) is immaterial.  This oversight on your resume is simply that until you realize it is false.  My recommendation would be to come clean and let them know the truth.  This is nothing more than a technicality and can be explained by addressing it ahead of time.  If they conduct the background check and find out otherwise, your oversight becomes a lie.  And even if that particular distinction would have no bearing on your employment prospects, the lie speaks volumes.

Just my two cents.

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Did you know that EmployeeScreenIQ finds a 52% discrepancy rate between what an applicant claims about their education and work experience and what we find when we verify such information?  Check out this sage advice from John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., on resume fraud:

“As millions of Americans struggle with long-term unemployment, the temptation to stretch the truth on one’s résumé to gain a competitive advantage is becoming harder to resist. Some desperate job seekers are going so far as to establish fake references. However, the payoff may not be worth the risk, according to one employment authority.

There is very little proof that any form of résumé boosting directly results in a job interview, much less a job offer. In contrast, there are scores of examples of individuals who have been eliminated from candidacy or fired after a fraudulent résumé was uncovered.”

John offers the following advice to job seekers:

* The Short Chronological Résumé

A short chronological résumé summarizes the last 10 years of your career in reverse, briefly listing your accomplishments from the most recent to the much older.

* The Long Chronological Résumé

Use the long chronological résumé when you meet with the hiring decision maker. Its goal is to distinguish you from other contenders whose backgrounds resemble yours; therefore, focus on accomplishments, not responsibilities. This is your chance to provide a comprehensive summary of your career accomplishments.

* The Functional Résumé

A functional résumé stresses abilities such as purchasing, marketing, selling, managing or analyzing. Résumés organized by function, rather than chronology, give you an opportunity to gloss over a gap in job history or frequent job hopping. If you have many skills, this kind of résumé can market you as a sort of utility infielder who can perform well in several functions.

* Use Relevant Key Words

Increasing numbers of search firms, executive recruiters, and personnel managers initially use computer software to scan résumés for history, education, location, and so forth. Once scanned, résumés can be sorted by these key words to produce a customized list of professionals in a certain field. By including the right key words in your short chronological résumé, you can increase the chances that it will pass the screening process.

* Avoid Flash Or Gimmick

Think about the position for which you are applying. Bright florescent paper, glitter, perfume or different colored fonts seem unprofessional. Thinking outside the box is always welcome, but using gaudy tricks to catch the hiring manager’s eye will most likely irritate instead of dazzle.

Full Article

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While not really news to us at this point, we’re seeing an emerging trend of job applicants with fake job references.  We highlighted this issue a few months ago, referring to organizations that will sell fake references as “Employment Mills“, the evil twin to Diploma Mills.  To review, an applicant can pay these fake references providers to confirm employment, salary, dates of employment, etc.

I found a great Q&A highlighting this problem in the Anchorage Daily News and not to be glib, but you know this problem is spreading when it is hitting all corners of the country.  A local management trainer was asked by a company who was taken to the cleaners by an employee what more they could have done to prevent the bad hire, particularly after they checked her stellar references.  See response below.

A. I’ve learned never to trust reference letters.

Some employers write honest recommendations. Others write falsely positive letters out of guilt or to stem potential problems from laid-off or terminated employees. Some conflict-averse employers take the easy road out when departing employees press for a glowing recommendation. Further, an astonishing number of applicants “borrow” company stationary and write their own letters.

If you want to hire a solid employee, you need to personally call each reference listed and then call references not provided you by the applicant. In this Internet-accessible age, you can search for a former supervisor by name even when the company has dissolved or the supervisor has left the company. While we urge our clients to conduct background checks to uncover criminal and civil legal problems and phony educational histories, background checks don’t replace personal reference calls.

After hearing your story, I did an Internet search for phony references and foundCareerExcuse.com, one of several newly birthed Internet sites offering fake work histories and references. These services provide job applicants hard-to-see-through fake references from live receptionists.

Those using CareerExcuse.com can develop a completely fake yet validated resume with prompts such as “choose your career history”; “pick your start and end date”; “get rid of” a 3-year resume gap” and “choose your salary.” According to the site, it provides “a real company with a real address and a real 800 number” with “operators standing by” to field prospective employer calls. The site’s home page claims “bankrupt companies make a great previous employer” and offers that their “management company” has “dozens of bankrupt companies …ready to provide any inquirer your desired reference information.”

How can employers defend against resume and reference fraud? — by making extensive reference checking calls and exploring all danger signals before and after hire.

For example, your applicant badmouthed her most recent employer and then asked you not to contact him. By complying, you missed the other side of the story. Was it only bad luck that your applicant worked for three companies that bankrupted? Did she potentially speed these companies on their downward spiral with costs from a business manager who used antiquated work methods and piled up a fat overtime expense? And if you make a mistake — admit it.

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Make no mistake, the use of diploma mills and other fake academic credentials is on the rise.  We recently highlighted this epidemic in our recent white paper, Smoke, Mirrors and Resumes: The Growing Threat of Diploma Mills (download your free copy here).  If the facts we presented weren’t enough, check out some of the real world examples shared by George Gollin, a board member of the U.S.-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation in a recent interview with CNN.

Among the examples cited in “Uncovering the Multi-Million Dollar Fake Degree Industry” are  the following:

  • “According to a story in Wired Magazine, his interest turned to outrage after he stumbled upon news of a forensic psychologist who had purchased her degree. ‘Here’s this person who’s untrained doing therapeutic interventions,’he told Wired.”  “I thought, ‘Jesus, this is really bad.””
  • “Gollin gave the example of one American who bought a Bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering, and who’s now working in the control room of a nuclear power plant.”
  • “He also cited a U.S. degree mill that sells fake PhDs to real medical doctors for $10,000, and added that unqualified doctors have been jailed in the U.S. after attempting to practice medicine with a medical degree bought online.”

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It goes without saying that employers have to be ever-vigilant in their employment screening practices to ensure they have all the facts when it comes to hiring employees.

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I recently sat down with HRMarketer’s Kevin Grossman to discuss the the growing threat of diploma mills and the risk they pose to employers.  With more job applicants claiming to have these phony degrees, it’s more important than ever for employers to include an Education Verification in their background screening program.  We highlighted this issue and its impact in our recent white paper, Smoke, Mirrors and Resumes: The Growing Threat of Diploma Mills.

Check out our interview with Kevin below.

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