3/21/2010 Desperate times do not call for desperate measures in job search


March 21, 2010


John A. Challenger

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.

The significantly weakened job market, which is expected to continue to struggle even as other segments of the economy begin to recover, creates an environment that is ripe for résumé boosting. As of January, there were 14.8 million unemployed Americans. Of those, 6.3 million — or 41.2 percent — have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. Another six million have opted out of the labor force but still want a job.

Statistics on résumé fraud are difficult to obtain because only a fraction of résumés are ever checked for discrepancies. The best evidence of résumé fraud’s pervasiveness may come from the companies that provide employment-screening services.

In its 2009 Hiring Index, business-services provider ADP reported that 46 percent of employment, education and/or credential reference checks conducted in 2008 revealed discrepancies between what the applicant provided and what the source reported. That was up from 41 percent in 2006.

These somewhat alarming statistics are just from companies that make the effort to check the veracity of claims made on résumés or in interviews. The overwhelming majority of employers do not go to such lengths. Many companies limit their efforts to criminal background checks and reference checks. They do not spend the extra time and money to verify the accuracy of every job title, accomplishment and educational achievement listed on one’s résumé.

This lack of oversight, however, should not be considered an open invitation to defraud the system. If discrepancies are discovered, many companies maintain a no-tolerance policy on such matters and will move quickly to investigate and possibly terminate. In high-profile positions, where the discovery of résumé fraud often becomes public, the breach can taint all future attempts to find employment.

Unfortunately, too many job seekers are willing to take the risk. Some have even taken résumé fraud to the next level by providing prospective employers with bogus job references.

After spotting dozens of requests for fake references on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, one entrepreneur founded CareerExcuse.com. As reported in the human resources trade publication “HR Magazine,” CareerExcuse.com offers fake work histories and references to job seekers.

These are indeed desperate times, and desperate measures are definitely required to find a job. However, these desperate measures should not include lying on résumés, falsifying work histories, or buying fake references and diplomas. Instead, job seekers should be considering seeking positions in different cities, states, or even countries. They should reach out to people they have not spoken to in 15 years and identify all potential employers, not just the ones posting online and newspaper help-wanted ads. These are the types of desperate measures job seekers should be employing.