Employment Screening 101: Education and Employment Verifications-Part 8

Jason Morris

According to a careerbuilder survey in 2006 57% of hiring managers say they have caught a lie on a resume.   Topping the list were lies about past employers (18%), Academic degrees (16%), Technical skills (15%) and Accomplishments (8%).   employeescreenIQ figures show that around 56% of all resumes screened show some sort of discrepancy, even after eliminating ‘common mistakes’ from the overall statistic.

 Just ask the former Notre Dame Football Coach George O’leary or the former Dean of Admissions at M.I.T. Marilee Jones; if you lie on your resume you will be caught!  It always amazes me that even after signing a disclosure allowing an employer to conduct a background check an employee will still submit false information.  Because of these statistics more and more employers are verifying education and employment on all job applications and resumes.

A resume is nothing more than a sales pitch, it’s the candidate’s opportunity to tell you exactly what you want to hear (or what they want you to hear).  Last May I was quoted throughout an article in SmartMoney Magazine brilliantly titled, “White Lies on Resumes Raise Red Flags for Employers”.  This article outlined some great examples of corporate embarrassment:

 Of course, high-profile resume padding is nothing new. In 2002 Bausch & Lomb’s chief executive, Ronald Zarella, was found to have lied about having a master’s degree in business administration from NYU. Kenneth Lonchar, finance chief of Veritas Software, resigned in 2002 after the company learned he misstated his educational credentials, including falsely claiming to hold an MBA from Stanford. Sandra Baldwin, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, left office in 2002 after admitting she lied about having a Ph.D. in English (she never actually completed her dissertation). And the list goes on.

The emergence of defamation claims were common place in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Courts began upholding defamation lawsuits based on negative employer references that could not be established as fact.  This led to employers divulging only basic information such as dates of employment, title and salary.

Neutral reference policies are no longer a concern for employers as many courts have begun to uphold the theory of “negligent referral” .  Rob Thomson, Communication Manager of employeescreenIQ wrote an excellent article for our newsletter a while back called “Employment Verifications: Less May No Longer Be More!”  In it he states:

 Negligent referral is defined as “the failure of an employer to disclose complete and factual information about a former or current employee to another employer.” For example, suppose a former employee causes damage or harm at the new workplace that might have been predicted based on prior behavior that was known, but not disclosed, in a neutral employment verification by the former employer. This may also be considered negligence, even if the employer has a documented neutral reference verification policy.

In recent years many states have enacted “job reference immunity statutes” which presumably provide protection for employers that choose to provide more in-depth information about former employees. The consensus of these statutes in the legal community is that while they codify immunity for employers providing employment references, in practice they may not provide a significant upgrade in protection over existing employment laws. Job reference immunity statutes generally establish a presumption of good faith on the part of the former employer, meaning that it must be shown that the employer knowingly provided false information, or acted with malice, depending on the statute, to establish negligence.

Conducting education and employment reference checks is one of the most important services offered by employment screening firms.  Historically companies have been littered with employees that were under qualified and overpaid based on previous positions.  Spending a little money can save a company a lot of heartache and embarrassment.  I have consulted with hundreds of HR Departments, and I ultimately leave it with them like this; whether you do it or we do it for you, it absolutely needs to be done.

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Jason Morris

President & Chief Operating Officer at EmployeeScreenIQ
A veteran screening and risk management professional, Jason Morris founded EmployeeScreenIQ in 1999 and acts as the company’s chief operating officer and president. Morris is a frequent speaker delivering captivating, interactive discussions on background checks, global screening, recruitment and staffing. He educates audiences in best practice initiatives as they relate to organizational employment screening programs. Morris has been quoted in numerous business and industry publications including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, USA Today, New York Times, among others. He is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona and Nevada.
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