The Growing Problem of Fake Job Candidates

February 7, 2024
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The issue of fake job candidates is increasingly prevalent and concerning. These candidates fall into two main categories: those who exaggerate their skills or experience and those who fabricate their identities entirely. This article explores the growing problem of fake candidates and gives practical tips to uncover them.

Prevalence of Fake Job Candidates

There are two segments of fake candidates:

  1. Candidates who misrepresent their skills or experience
  2. Candidates with a fraudulent identity

The first segment is more common; a survey conducted by Checkster found that 77.6% of respondents misrepresented themselves to a moderate or greater level throughout the hiring process. Another study found that, on average, 64.2% of Americans have lied about their personal details, skills, experience, or references on their resumes at least once. This could mean an estimated 35 million Americans may have lied on their resume to get a job in a year. There have been several incidents where companies have hired these fake candidates, only to discover later that they lack the skills and experience they claimed to have.

The rise in virtual interviews, remote onboarding, and remote work has contributed to the increase in the second segment of fake candidates. With its high demand for skilled professionals, the IT industry has become a prime target for fake job candidates. Specific tech-heavy jobs, including information technology, engineering, and database management, are more susceptible to fake candidates. The motivations behind these fraudulent activities often involve gaining access to sensitive information.

Deepfake technology, which uses artificial intelligence to create convincing synthetic media, has also been used by fraudulent candidates to hide their identities during video interviews.

The FBI has issued a warning about a scheme in which fraudulent candidates apply for remote-work positions and use deepfake technology to hide their identity during the video interview process.

Risks of Hiring a Fake Candidate

Because the first segment of fake candidates lacks the relevant skillset or experience required for the position, they will not last long once hired. There are still costs involved in hiring these fake candidates, however. The IT consulting firm, Judge, puts these costs at

Five to 27 times that new hire’s actual salary, which includes components like the cost to hire and train them, pay for travel, and the associated opportunity costs of lost business opportunities.

The risks of hiring fake candidates in the second segment are far more significant. HRMorning gives this list of risks if this type of fake candidate is hired:

  • They can steal proprietary information. Proprietary information is valuable, so scammers stand to make a lot of money by selling it. They use deepfakes because it allows them to go after positions where they can access it.
  • They can take down the company from the inside. Installing ransomware or taking down systems with traditional methods can take time and effort. A deepfake employee can install malicious software whenever they’d like.
  • They can continuously find and exploit security weaknesses. People can cost their employers up to $500,000 for each security breach by accident, so imagine what a scammer could do with malicious intentions. Even if the company is working to fix the issues when they arise, they have all the time they need to find new exploits.
  • They gain access to sensitive data. Sensitive financial or consumer data is a significant draw for scammers because it’s valuable. They can sell the information or use it for their own gain. It might be hard to access via traditional scams, but security or IT positions give them direct access.

Now that we’ve gone through the risks of hiring a fake candidate let’s go through ways to spot them.

Fake Candidate Clues

Basic Resume Clues

Typos, keyword stuffing, and formatting errors are basic resume clues to identify a fake candidate. Overly generic sections on a resume could indicate it was generated by AI, another red flag. Looking for these basic resume clues is a good first step in fake candidate detection.

However, more sophisticated fake candidates will have resumes that don’t raise any of these initial red flags. For these, we will have to look for more subtle clues.

Advanced Resume Clues

These more subtle clues include inconsistencies, gaps in employment history, unusual job transitions, qualifications, and experiences that don’t align with the role they’re applying for.

Make sure to cross-check their resume with their resume or experience listed on LinkedIn. The candidate might be fake if dates, companies, or locations don’t match.  

Years of experience listed with specific languages or technology can be another clue.  Many of the popular programming languages today were invented relatively recently. For example, Rust was developed in 2015. So, if a candidate puts ten years of experience with Rust on the resume, you can know something isn’t right.

Social Media

While some candidates might have a small or non-existent social media presence, this is rare. Typically, job seekers will at least have a LinkedIn profile. Creating a legitimate-looking LinkedIn profile is much more complex than creating a legitimate-looking resume, so using LinkedIn can help identify more advanced fake candidates.

Clues to look for on LinkedIn include:

  • No profile photo or a photo that looks like a stock photo
  • Few connections or many connections with fake-looking LinkedIn profiles
  • Little to no activity or only recent activity
  • No licenses or certifications, especially if these are listed on the resume
  • No endorsements or recommendations

LinkedIn has a verification tool that individuals can use to verify their identity on LinkedIn. It uses CLEAR to check that the LinkedIn user has a matching government ID. Verified LinkedIn profiles have a grey checkmark in a shield symbol next to their name in their LinkedIn profile. Looking for this verification can help quickly identify real candidates.

Looking for the candidate on other popular social media sites can help separate the legitimate candidates from the fake ones. For example, more than one profile with a picture depicting the same person is strong evidence that the candidate is authentic.  

Preventive Measures

Companies can take several preventive measures to identify and avoid fake job candidates. These include:

  • Checking the candidate’s identification and information: This involves verifying the details provided by the candidate during the application and interview process.
  • Using technical assessments and asking detailed interview questions: Technical assessments can root out the first segment of fake candidates that lack the required skills. Detailed interview questions can identify both segments of fake candidates.
  • Opting for visual screening methods: Conducting in-person or video interviews can help recruiters assess candidates’ authenticity.
  • Asking for legal documents: Requesting passports or driver’s licenses can help verify a candidate’s identity. If conducting a video interview, asking for the candidate to present identification during the interview can help the interviewer determine if the candidate on video is the same person on the document.
  • Looking for a list of genuine references: References can provide valuable insights into a candidate’s past performance and authenticity.

Mitigating Risk with Staffing Companies

Partnering with a staffing company can help mitigate the risk of fake candidates. Staffing companies have expertise in candidate screening and verification, which can help detect fake candidates early in the recruitment process. They often have access to extensive networks of candidates, which can increase the pool of genuine applicants. A long-term partnership with a staffing agency can provide ongoing support for candidate verification, reducing the burden on the company’s internal HR team.

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