By Les Rosen, Employment Screening Resources
2010 Trends in Screening Trend Nine: Increased need for employer due diligence
Another impact of the recession is the likelihood of applicant fraud. Fraudulent educational claims, or worthless diplomas from degree mills, are already familiar problem for employers, recruiters and HR professionals. However, resume fraud took on an added urgency in 2009 with the advent of services that would actually create fake employment references from fake companies. The service apparently even included a phone number that an employer could call in order to reach a service that in fact would verify the fake employment. Although statistic are not yet available, anecdotally it appears that some job applicants have been willing to resort to these extreme and dishonest measures to gain an advantage in the job market.
In the long run, worthless diplomas bought over the internet or scams to create manufactured past employment will probably be unsuccessful for the most part, provided that employers exercise some due diligence. For fake education, a competent background firm will typically verify first if a school is legitimate. If the school does not appear on accepted lists of accredited institution, then a screening firm can review lists of known diploma mills and scams. Screening firms will also verify if the accreditation agency is for real, since fake schools have resorted to creating fake accreditation agencies.
In addition, pulling of a fake job reference is getting much more difficult. A good background firm will not simply call the name and number provided by the applicant. Professional screeners will typically independently establish if the past employer even existed, and locate a phone number independently of whatever number an applicant puts on their resume. Employment Screening Resources, for example, goes through an extensive procedure to verify that each past employer is legitimate and does not accept the applicant provided phone number.
The bottom-line for employers in 2010 is taking extra caution to ensure you are hiring bona fide employees.
(Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a leading national online employment screening background firm, is releasing the ESR Third Annual Top Ten Trends in the Pre-Employment Background Screening Industry for 2010. This is the Ninth of the ten trends ESR will be tracking in 2010.)
From the mailbox: What are the risks for an applicant in providing a fake reference. I even hear there are web sites that will give you a fake reference that look real and they even create a web site for the fake company. In a tough job market, why not?
Response from ESR: The old saying that honesty is the best policy is more then just good advice for a job seeker, it can mean the difference between getting a great job or having your career get permanently smirched.
First, the chance of even pulling of a fake reference is getting much more difficult. Statistics show that most employers routinely contact past employers either themselves or through a background firm. A good background firm will typically independently establish if the past employer even existed, and locate a phone number independently of whatever number an applicant puts on their resume.Â A screening firm may not simply call the name and number provided by the applicant. Employment Screening Resources, for example, goes through an extensive procedure to verify that each past employer is legitimate and does not accept the applicant provided phone number.
Even if the fake reference somehow survives the vetting process, it is hard to keep and live a lie, especially when you never know when the truth may come out. For example, a supervisor or co-worker may meet someone in your industry that somehow spills the beans. Furthermore, if a person gets a position they cannot actually perform due to a fake reference, it is just a matter of time before they get a negative performance appraisal.
In addition, co-workers that suspect a fraud have also been known to do their own digging. Furthermore, most employers have employment applications that clearly state that if a person has lied during the application process, it is grounds for termination no matter when discovered. There is now statistical evidence suggesting that if a person is dishonest in the way they get the job, they the will likely be dishonest once in the job. Once a fabrication is discovered, the resulting termination and the inability to use the most recent employment on your resume can leave a big unexplained employment gap and impact future job searches.
Certainly, applicants have the right to put their best foot forwards, and to cast themselves in the best possible light. But when the resumes goes beyond mere puffing into lies, fiction and fabrication, the long lasting damage to your career, the emotional energy required to live a lie and the damage to your personal integrity is just not worth it.
From the ESR mailbox: I have heard that it is against the law to check any reference other than those provided by the applicant. For example, if an applicant had a job that was not listed on the resume or application, can a background firm or employer still contact that person?
Answer: We are not aware of any legal prohibition against contacting “unlisted” individuals to perform reference checks as part of the employment process. The consent that is given to employers or screening firms to verify past employment or qualifications is not limited to just those individuals an applicant chooses to list or reveal
However, the unlisted” person should only be contacted if the person has knowledge relevant to employment and should only be asked job related questions. Questions for example, about legal off-duty conduct would not be proper. Furthermore, any questions should certainly be non-discriminatory and not an invasion of personal privacy. Typically, a background firm is asked to contact listed employers. There are circumstances however where the person in charge of hiring decides to go a deeper because they are hiring for an important position. The hiring manager hiring may contact the listed references, and then ask who else has they can call that has knowledge about the applicant. This is known as a developed reference. The purpose is to develop the names of other individuals who know the applicant and to get a candid assessment from someone who perhaps has not been “prepared” to give a reference. The topic of unlisted employment may also come up if there are unexplained gaps in employment, and the employer wants to dig deeper. Unlisted jobs may also appear on automated employment verification databases.
One important caveat-”a background firm will typically not contact a current employer without specific permission in order to avoid causing any problems on the current job if the new job doe not work out.
Employers with questions about background checks are free to send them to Jared Callahan at jcallahan@ESRcheck.com . For more information generally, see www.ESRcheck.com
ESR is closed for the holidays on November 26 and 27. Happy Thanksgiving.
Who says there is no humor in the hiring process?Â Employers, Human Resources professionals and RecruitersÂ Â may enjoyÂ the book, â€œLexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations (LIAR),â€ by Robert Thornton, available on Amazon.Â The book gives a whole new meaning to the term â€œdamned with faint praise.â€Â It answers the age old question of how to give a truthful recommendation without getting sued!
Here areÂ just a few examples from this very clever book:
â€œHer ability is deceivingâ€ (She lies, cheats and steals)
â€œNo salary would be too much for him.â€ (He is not worth anything)
â€œIt was a pleasure working with her the short time I did.â€Â (Thankfully it was not longer)
â€œI am pleased to say that this candidate is a former colleague of mineâ€ (I canâ€™t tell you how happy I am that she left our firm)
â€œHeâ€™s a man of many convictions.â€ (Heâ€™s got a record a mile long).Â
â€œShe gives every appearance of being a reliable, conscientious employeeâ€Â (But appearances can be deceiving)
Any employers, recruitersÂ or HR or Security Professionals that want to share their own favorite way ofÂ giving ambiguous references, please send them to Jared Callahan at ESR byÂ e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the never ending efforts by employers to identify candidates that are a good fit and qualified, a new internet tool has been developed to allow employers to utilize email to accelerate the process of obtaining references and assessments from past supervisors and others that know the applicant. The best example is www.Checkster.com
Questions have arisen as to how such a tool is related to the background screening process that employers utilize in order to exercise due diligence. In fact, the two processes, although related in some ways, are entirely separate workflows that occur at different times in the hiring process and for different reasons.
Internet based references can be utilized by an employer to whittle down the field of candidates and to help an employer decide whom to hire. Background checks occur after an employer has made a tentative decision, and needs to determine whether there is any reason NOT to hire an applicant.
When past employment checks are done as part of the background check process, the purpose is to verify that the employer actually exists and to independently verify the core details of employment, such as job title and dates. In other words, there is a large difference between obtaining references before a hiring decsion is made, which are a qualitative measure of an applicant’s fit and abilities, and factual verification of an applicant’s employment history, which is a critical due diligence task. Both processes can be useful in the quest to select the best candidates to hire and to avoid bad choices. However, electronic references cannot be considered due diligence, given that they are so easily faked and depends entirely upon the applciant giving good data in the first place.
A Tale of Two References-One Makes You Liable for Damages and the Other Does Not
In a 2008 federal appeals case, two past medical employers gave past employment information for the same anesthesiologist. After the anesthesiologist, Dr. Robert Berry, moved on to yet another hospital, he botched a routine 15 minute procedure, leaving a patient in a permanent vegetative state due to Berry’s own addiction to drugs.
The new hospital and its insurance company settled with the victim and in turn sued the previous two medical organizations for misrepresentations in the past employment information given to the new hospital. The allegation was based upon misrepresentations since the new hospital claimed it hired Berry because the defendants did not give accurate information by withholding information about misconduct and drug use. Continue reading