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View our blog

The Fake Resume - Smoke & Mirrors

On a prior case handled by Sunset Blvd. Investigations, Inc. (SBI), I was contacted by New York attorney Theodore H. Frank, a United States Vice President Vetter who needed some investigative assistance.

We refer to these as "Scorch the earth backgrounds" because at this level of due diligence, we leave no stone unturned. We don't cut corners or use only online database searches, and we hit the ground running. We actually leave our office and knock on doors. We verify facts in person, not just over the telephone. You may ask yourself, "Why in this day and age of the Internet is this necessary?" Let me explain.

Let's say you scour through resume after resume when you finally find a gem within the mountain of candidates. It hits every point of your job description even the seven skills you listed. It almost sounds too good to be true...is it? At SBI, we've found over the decades that very few companies thoroughly check resumes and job references.

If you hire somebody who's altered their resume, not only could you potentially get someone who has lesser qualifications, but you might get someone who's more likely to steal from your organization or commit other types of fraud or even espionage.

As an example, judging by its website, ​Altman Research wouldn't be a bad company to have on a résumé. With offices in ​a beautiful skyscraper overlooking Chicago's Millennium Park, the financial research firm says its ​executives have degrees from an impressive array of Ivy League universities. In reality, though, it's probably not a great place to look for a job, for one simple reason: Altman Research doesn't actually exist.

Its website was created by Career Excuse, a service which, for a fee, provides job-seeking customers with verifiable references from nonexistent companies. While the companies have phone numbers, websites and mailboxes manned by Career Excuse, they don't conduct any actual business besides verifying the great work done by employees they've never really hired.

For a fee, Career Excuse essentially turns the hiring process into an alternate reality game, with prospective employers as the unwitting players.

William Schmidt, the creator of Career Excuse, and his staff will verify false work histories and describe their customers' strengths in the workplace. They route calls through cloud-based phone tree systems that let Career Excuse customers even listen in on voicemails from their potential employers.

Schmidt's company is one of several vendors offering fake reference services, ranging from small operations posting ads on ​local Craigslist pages to other national players like Minnesota-based ​Paladin Deception Services.

At SBI we've run across this fraud scam numerous times and have been able to save our clients an abundance of headaches from hiring the applicant.

SBI's investigators verify job histories and additional credentials while helping companies weed out applicants with dubious references or their academic equivalent, such as made-up degrees bought from online diploma mills.

We take steps beyond simply calling individual listed references, making sure to Google companies and directly call HR numbers listed on their websites, and verifying that listed companies are real and registered with state authorities.

After all, with enough scrutiny, even the most elaborately created fake companies can still be caught. All it takes is one person to drive to that address, go to that office and discover the truth. Applicants assume that not every company is going to spend the time and money to send a person out to verify their resume or application.

Based upon an analysis of cases and our own experience in conducting numerous background screening due diligence exercises over the years, we've concluded that resume fraud is an epidemic.

The top ten résumé lies are as follows:

  • Stretching Dates of Employment
  • Inflating Past Accomplishments & Skills
  • Enhancing Titles & Responsibilities
  • Exaggerating Education and Fabricating Degrees
  • Unexplained Gaps & Periods of "Self Employment"
  • Omitting Past Employment
  • Faking Credentials
  • Falsifying Reasons for Leaving Prior Employment
  • Providing Fraudulent References
  • Misrepresenting Military Records

You should be wary of candidates who claim a previously outrageous salary from a "now defunct company," but are willing to work for less because they "like your company."

When checking references, first research the company information online and call them directly. Don't use the information the candidate supplied unless you have to and then take it with a grain of salt.

In the past, we've found that letters of recommendations from previous employers were actually letterhead stationery clients had stolen from their prior companies. We also found that company references were in fact their friends who lied for them on our initial phone conversation, telling us what a great employee they were.

Consider these few tips for avoiding any missteps in screening applicants:

  • When it comes to verifying employment history, ask the applicant about the months in which they began and ended working for the given employer. '2004-2005' may seem like two years of employment, when in truth they could be just two months.
  • Question the applicant about their previous employments in detail. Directly contact previous employers for verification. Don't trust any "800" numbers as they can be fake references. Always independently verify phone numbers.
  • While verifying education and training, verify the certifications as well as attendance directly with the institution. In addition, check to make sure the institution is accredited and not just a degree mill. Also verify licenses with the state agencies who've issued them.
  • Conduct civil record and criminal background searches where appropriate. This is a must for positions of trust and safety-sensitive jobs.

From May 13 to June 6, 2014, a nationwide online survey was conducted by Harris Poll, on behalf of CareerBuilder, which included a representative sample of 2,188 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes.

Fifty-eight percent of hiring managers said they've caught a lie on a resume; one-third (33 percent) of these employers have seen an increase in resume embellishments post-recession.

There are certain fabrications job seekers may try to slip past employers more frequently than others. According to employers, the most common lies they catch on resumes relate to:

  • Embellished skill set – 57%
  • Embellished responsibilities – 55%
  • Dates of employment – 42%
  • Job title – 34%
  • Academic degree – 33%
  • Companies worked for – 26%
  • Accolades/awards – 18%

Take your time and get to know who you're hiring. If you don't do your homework, you can end up paying a substantial price.

At SBI we specialize in pre-employment and comprehensive backgrounds. Before you make an important decision on someone, please make your first call to Sunset Blvd. Investigations today at(213) 745-4080.

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Sunset Blvd. Investigations, Inc. - Los Angeles Private Investigators
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714 W Olympic Blvd, Suite 933 Los Angeles, CA 90015. View Map
Phone (LA Office): (888) 639-4761 | Local Phone: (213) 745-4080.
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