Résumé Fraud: Jealousy of Peers is a Factor

Interviewing and hiring new employees is a difficult enough process, but the reality of résumé fraud makes it even worse. With candidates embellishing, padding or downright fabricating key parts of their backgrounds, employers may struggle to know what is real and what is fake. 

We’ve often written in this space about pre-employment background screening, and its importance considering those prospective candidates who try to give themselves an advantage in a competitive job market. It’s critical to try and understand the motivation behind falsifying one’s credentials in order to get better at detecting this type of fraud. A recent article from Purdue University examines a study with an interesting finding: Résumé fraud is linked to job search envy. 

In other words, “unemployed job-seekers can be motivated to embellish their resumes when they are envious of peers,” according to the article. The study was originally published in the Academy of Management Journal, and it suggests a deeper psychological influence beyond simply trying to win a particular position. From the Purdue article:

“For the first part of the study, researchers surveyed 335 unemployed job-seekers. When job-seekers compared their search efforts to those of peers, they expressed greater likelihood to commit resume fraud – intentionally embellishing or fabricating information – to keep up.”

The same impulse, the study shows, can also have a positive influence: 

“We propose the envious reactions of job-seekers can be negative in the form of resume fraud, but can also be positive in the form of greater job search effort.”

That’s small consolation, perhaps, to the hiring manager who takes on an employee who is actually underqualified for their new position. As reported in ejinsight.com, a woman in Hong Kong was found guilty of using fake credentials to secure a CEO position and “reap monetary benefits.” 

“In March, Lee was found guilty of obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception, after being charged with faking her educational background and work experience to secure the CEO post at Shizhu International.

The district court heard that Lee applied for the top job in 2010, claiming that she had a master’s degree and that she had worked for 10 years as sales and marketing director at a firm named Easy Carry Ltd.

She also provided a letter of recommendation, which also turned to be fake, to get the CEO job.

Shizu International later found her performance unsatisfactory and launched an investigation into her background.”

She received a probationary sentence, which might be considered somewhat lenient considering the damage that could have been done by having an unqualified person in such an elevated position at the company. 

Companies simply can’t afford to be too careful these days. Every business should have a formal hiring process that includes thorough pre-employment background screening, including using a third party investigator service that goes beyond the mere checking of references (which is important, no doubt), but also includes verifying education credentials, checking criminal history, and conducting credit checks (as permitted by local laws).

In case there is any doubt, we’ll leave you with this: “Little White Lies Aren’t So Little Anymore.” The problem is only going to get worse:

“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.”

Proper due diligence in pre-employment background screening isn’t just the smart thing to do – it’s absolutely critical to protecting your business.