More on Resume Fraud and Fake Job References

Nick Fishman

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.

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
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