Karen Bush Schneider in the The Greater Lansing Business Monthly
Mark Twain once said, “Honesty is the best policy—when there is money in it.” Apparently, honesty doesn’t pay too well these days, judging by the rise in occupational dishonesty in the labor market.
The little white lies and exaggerations that job applicants used to include on their résumés are being replaced by high-tech scams that go way beyond mere puffery. Job hunters are not merely enhancing education credentials, they are creating them, along with employment histories, specialized licenses and job references.
The rise in résumé fraud can be traced to the rise in unemployment, coupled with tough competition among those competing in the labor market for what few jobs are available. Job seekers who don’t have a degree or specialized skills are inventing them out of desperation. For the employer, this translates into a significant problem since applicants who lie on their résumés often become employees who misrepresent issues on the job. It is estimated that résumé fraud costs employers approximately $600 billion annually.
The statistics concerning résumé fraud are grim. One survey estimates that as many 80 percent of all job seekers submit applications and résumees that contain intentionally misleading information. The misrepresentation involves work experience, criminal history, inflated past salaries and education credentials. It is not confined to workers who seek labor versus managerial or administrative positions. Indeed, in a 2001 survey of more than 7,000 applicants for executive positions, it was found that 23 percent misrepresented personal information. Of those who misrepresented information, 71 percent lied about length of service, 64 percent lied about accomplishments, 60 percent exaggerated managerial experience, 52 percent identified mere attendance at college as a degree, 48 percent overstated job responsibilities, and 41 percent omitted negative employment experiences.
The most common areas of falsification involve employment history and education/training. With regard to employment history, job applicants are falsifying not only their length of employment with employers and the reason for their departure, but also job titles, responsibilities and even the employers themselves. A recent trick has involved filling employment gaps with fictitious employment with companies that have closed or never existed. Websites designed to aid occupational fraud provide job seekers, for a fee, with a 1-800 number an applicant may use on a résumé for employment verification. When a prospective employer calls the 800 number, it is provided with a glowing recommendation and confirmation of employment at the fictitious company.
Consider, for example, the services provided by http://www.fakeresume.com. The site claims that “over 70 percent of college graduates admit to lying on their résumés to get hired. Can you afford not to know the techniques, tricks and methods they use?” The site then dismisses ethical concerns by telling potential customers that “companies … expect you to work like a slave and then treat you like dirt.” The site assures potential customers that “your loyalty should be to yourself, your family and your friends that look out for you and take care of you.” The site also observes that human resources managers assume that “EVERYONE embellishes, exaggerates, puffs up, and basically lies to some extent on [his/her] résumé. So if you are being totally honest, you are being penalized because they are going to assume that you embellished your résumé to a certain extent!” The website then offers a “powerful underground guide” designed to show job applicants how to fill gaps in employment history, add experience to their résumé, fake references, lie about age, get college transcripts from any university with any GPA the applicant wants, and rig their resume´ so it gets picked by automated human resources systems which screen résumés. The website even boasts that the résumé guide is “tax deductible.”