Sarah Whitaker’s application claimed that she had a degree from a reputable university, extensive experience in the field and no criminal record. What she failed to mention is that she previously spent time in jail for theft, has terrible credit, and never finished her degree from said university.


So, how much of what appears on an application is true? Many times, an employer is so desperately seeking a qualified applicant or is in such a time crunch that he fails to do a thorough background check of a résumé, curriculum vitae or biography before hiring. With an increasingly competitive job market, an applicant might feel the pressure to stand out in a crowd by boosting his qualifications or omitting facts that might hurt his chances of getting hired. According to SHRM The Society for Human Resource Professionals, a human resources management training organization an alarming 47 percent of job candidates have lied on their applications. This article discusses some of the most common falsifications in applications and preventive measures to implement before hiring the wrong candidate.



One of the more common forms of résumé fraud appears in the education portion. An applicant might fabricate a fake degree and dates of attendance or embellish the type of degree and GPA earned. Employers can confirm education dates and GPA by requesting a transcript be sent directly from the university. Furthermore, employers can research the institution online or call directly to verify dates.

A more recent and high profile example of this form of fraud involved Scott Thompson, who was hired as a chief executive for Yahoo! in January 2012. He received his degree in accounting, but also claimed to have obtained an additional degree in computer science. Being the former president of PayPal, no one questioned or verified his education. His fraud was made public once a Yahoo! shareholder exposed his lie. After some investigation, it was discovered the college he attended did not offer a degree in computer science at the time Thompson supposedly received his.


Employment History and References

Job titles and former duties or responsibilities are sometimes glorified or embellished to make the applicant more appealing. In addition, gaps in employment or a period of self-employment might be considered a red flag worth investigating. One of the most effective ways to verify employment history is by calling or emailing listed references or former places of employment. Through this follow-up, other issues might arise, such as the actual reason for leaving a previous job.


Past Accomplishments andCredentials

Applicants can also claim to possess licenses, certifications, memberships or other credentials that are tailored to the position they are trying to acquire. Employers can check websites and directly contact most of these licensing institutions. The employer can also see if the applicant has received any disciplinary action. For example, a potential employee who appears on a debarred persons list would not be an ideal candidate for a law position.


In 2001, George O’Leary resigned as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame once it was discovered he falsified his past accomplishments. For years, O’Leary stated in his biography that he had earned varsity letters as a football player from the University of New Hampshire. A local newspaper in New Hampshire was preparing to write an article about the newly-appointed Notre Dame coach. After a few calls to former coaches and players, it was discovered that there was no record of O’Leary playing at the university. He admitted to the falsehood, as well as not earning his master’s degree in education from New York University.


Military Records

The former president of IBM’s Lotus Development Corporation, Jeffrey Papows, is one of the most high profile examples of exaggerating military records in biographies. In 1999, a discrepancy was discovered byThe Wall Street Journal. Papows claimed he was a former aviator in the Marine Corps, but there was no record of his flying days. Instead, the search uncovered that he only served as an air traffic controller. In addition, his résumé stated he left as a captain, but in actuality, he served as a first lieutenant.

For some positions, military records are a requisite for potential hires. The degree of difficulty to obtain personnel records varies for each respective military body and country location. It would be advisable to check with the local government agency.


Criminal Background

Applications provide a section where applicants can list any misdemeanors or felonies committed in the past. A common deception is omitting past offenses or lessening the degree of seriousness. Some employers check criminal records by mandating candidates to undergo fingerprint testing. Additionally, there are several criminal backgrounds checking services available where reports on candidates can be obtained for free or a small fee.


Employers should also consider requesting a background check from more than one agency for accuracy. In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission charged HireRight Solutions, Inc., an employment background screening company, $2.6 million for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The consumer reports provided by the company falsely listed convictions for individuals or failed to include updated information, such as expunged records. Similarly, in January 2014, the Department of Justice filed a civil complaint against U.S. Investigations Services, LLC, for issuing inaccurate background checks to the U.S. government.


Additional Preventive Measures

Depending on the position and the level of the profession, there are other actions one might consider. These include:

Checking driving records through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or other such entities, depending on the country

Performing a credit check (as permitted by law)

Browsing the potential employee’s social networking activities (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for any illegal or unethical activity

Requesting the candidate undergo a drug test

Asking for a writing sample and processing it through a program that checks for plagiarism

There are several avenues available to potential employers to confirm facts and details in one’s application for employment or résumé. It is in the best interest of the hiring entity to double-check facts that appear on an application before offering a job to a candidate that could cost the organization time and money should the new hire prove to be a liability rather than an asset.

At PayDayPro, we offer background checks through our partner National Crime Search.  Check out the link below for more information.




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