As the economy soured and the job market dried up in 2008, resume fraud grew faster than Pinocchio’s nose. Statistics are not easy to come by because few resumes are closely scrutinized for discrepancies, but those that can be found are staggering. Payroll processor and background checking giant ADP found inconsistencies in 46% of resumes, CareerBuilder reports that 49% of the 3,100 hiring managers surveyed caught a job applicant fabricating some part of his/her resume. Even more telling is a recent study by the American Psychological Association which found 67% of U.S. job applicants’ resumes contained misrepresentations. Research on the prevalence of resume fraud puts the range at 20 – 70%. That is a lot of exaggerated writing. Creating what seems like an innocent fiction when applying for an entry-level position can bite both the job seeker and their employer years later, a fact to which Marilee Jones will attest.
Marilee Jones, former Admissions Dean at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), falsely claimed to have multiple college degrees, including a doctorate. The truth is, she did not even have an undergrad degree. She lied on her resume when she applied for an entry-level job at MIT 28 years previously, and never got around to correcting it. Marilee did not need a college degree for her first job at MIT, but spruced up her resume anyway, and now it overshadows the successes for which she garnered tremendous respect during her MIT career.
She was a leader in the effort to make the college admissions process less stressful for which she received MIT’s highest administrative award. A few months before her fall from grace, she was touring and promoting a book she co-wrote with a pediatrician, “Less Stress, More Success”. The book promotes ways of encouraging achievement rather than perfectionism, with an emphasis on integrity:
“Holding integrity is sometimes very hard to do because the temptation may be to cheat or cut corners. But just remember that ‘what goes around comes around,’ meaning that life has a funny way of giving back what you put out.” As Dr. Seuss said, “That is truer than true.”
Organization leaders play an important role in the prevention of resume fraud. Establishing the right culture and environment will allow your hiring and HR managers to shield your organization from the cost, harm, and a ruined reputation of hiring a morally challenged candidate. Here are 4 points leaders should consider in their efforts:
- Establish a “no tolerance” policy with job candidates as well as established employees. This type of policy sends a strong message that your company values character and integrity. Consistently enforcing the policy will keep you on level ground and off the slippery slope.
- Create rigorous candidate resume evaluation and verification processes. These may be a combination of internal and external resources but conducting these screenings is the first line of defense.
- Determine the appropriate level of background and financial checks required for each position in the organization. Personal background checks may be the minimum standard. Consider credit checks if the position requires financial responsibility, or sex offender status checks if the position requires interaction with children.
- Always consult an employment law attorney before adopting new policies and processes.
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Attributed to diplomat Joseph P. Kennedy, this sentiment should be a warning to employers and job seekers alike. To leaders who value their own and their organization’s reputations, it is a warning to perform due diligence on prospective employees at all levels.
Denise McClure brings over 20 years of experience in public accounting, business management and non-profit board involvement to her work as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). Her business, Averti Fraud Solutions helps businesses and non-profit organizations become more profitable, secure and efficient by creating accountable and transparent work environments.