Job candidates, identity theft, and 10 years in jail - a true story

Most employers have spotted lies on resumes during the application process. So how can small businesses with limited resources detect fraud?



To the new graduates and anyone else facing today’s hot job market, please take my advice: don’t lie. Even if it seems like everyone is doing it, lying on a job application just doesn’t pay off.

The latest story comes from Louisiana, where 41-year-old Cindy White co-opted the credentials of a successful HR person (along with the person’s driver’s license and social security number) and used them to apply for an HR manager job with Diversified Foods.

White landed the job and was even pretty good at it. Six months later, she received a promotion that raised her annual salary to $105,000. And now she’s looking at 10 years in jail.

White isn’t the only tale of a job candidate liar. Bigger fish, including former CEO Scott Thompson, stepped down when it was discovered he lied about his computer science degree (he didn’t have one). Notre Dame once hired a head football coach with a graduate degree and undergrad playing experience, only to have the coach resign five days later when both were found to be untrue. And celebrity chef Robert Irving was given the axe from his own TV show after exaggerating his experience by claiming to have designed Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding cake when all he had done was select the fruit.

How can businesses spot a liar?

Lying on a resume or a job application is a known problem today -- 85% of employers indicate they’ve found lies during the application process. And while the stories are admittedly fun to read, there’s something to fear, too: if big companies and institutions with big resources can be fooled by a great lie on a job application, how can small businesses prevent something similar from happening?

Here’s what I recommend for all of our clients:

1. Applicant tracking system.

Although applicant tracking systems don’t necessarily weed out candidates who aren’t the real deal, they’ll simplify the process of helping you find those who appear to qualify for the role. Then, when you’re reviewing the top screened candidates, ask yourself if their experience is even possible. There’s a great story about a candidate who worked for the CIA as an anti-terrorist spy, although the employment years he provided indicated he would have been in elementary school at the time.

2. HR experts and guidance.

Any company, regardless of size, can get so busy that it overlooks simple precautions, like training. Work with an HR expert to ensure your hiring team knows the right (and legal!) questions to ask and understands other methods of assessing skills that are essential to finding candidates who are a good fit vs. ones who aren’t the people they claim to be.

3. Employment background checks.

If employment background checks seem like a no-brainer, they aren’t. Formal background checks are oftentimes skipped because of cost and/or time. Trust me, this is not a step to skip. A background check on White would have shown her criminal record and perhaps highlighted inconsistencies about the person whose identity she had swiped.

4. References, education and more.

You ask job candidates to provide you with considerable information when they apply for a job, but less than one-half of employers check education credentials for new hires. How many even check references? Do yourself a favor -- review the information that’s submitted by candidates and take the time to do your due diligence. All of it.

5. Personality assessment tests.

A personality profile test can inform you on whether an applicant’s behavioral traits might be suitable for the job by comparing their scores with a job’s requirements. So, for example, if an applicant were applying for a sales role and turns out to be a slow-moving, overly accommodating, risk-averse personality, you may instead consider them for a customer service role.

If all of this pre-hire screening seems daunting, call a good HR outsourcing firm and see how much of this they can handle for you. At, we provide clients with the tools, training, and expertise they need for any employment-related issue to make their lives easier and keep their businesses legally compliant. For more information, please request a free demo.

If large companies with endless resources can be fooled, how can small businesses prevent hiring a liar?

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