Our company recently received two job applications into our applicant tracking system within a minute of each other.

If we had looked at either of these applications in isolation, we would have been very impressed with it, and we would certainly have done at least an initial phone screening of the candidate.

However, when we reviewed both applications in comparison to each other, it became clear to us that something hinky was going on. Further research led us to conclude that both applications were fraudulent (including fake applicant names) and submitted by the same person or people.

A lot of effort was put into these fraudulent applications. The content on the submitted résumés was detailed, relevant to our work, and impressive. Substantial effort was put into making the applications convincing. We're pretty certain that the fact that two application were submitted was an error, that in fact whoever did this only intended to submit once and made a mistake. Red flags only became obvious when the two applications were compared.

Because of the amount of effort put into this, we must assume that the person or people who did it had some real motive, but we're at a loss to determine what it is.

Have you seen anything like this at your company? Do you have any idea what the motive for it might be?

I've posted more details about this on our information security blog, including copies of the two résumés that were submitted to us, but as per Stack Overflow policy, I've included above sufficient details about the question that my question here stands alone.

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    This is a very interesting situation, and the blog post about it was a very good read. However, I don't think you're asking something that is addressable on Workplace SE. – Ertai87 Dec 13 '18 at 20:52
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    "We first considered that this might be some sort of research" - seems like you already know the most likely motive. "one included a cover letter and the other didn’t" - seems like a fine topic of research (minus the arguably objectionable practice of submitting fake resumes). – Bernhard Barker Dec 13 '18 at 20:52
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    workplace.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic <- "Questions that lack a clear goal we can address..." I'm not sure what the goal of this question is. Seeking information about these fake applicants in and of itself is not a goal I can suggest to you (as a contributor to Workplace SE) assistance in solving. A suggestion I might make to make your question on-topic would be "where can I look to find people who may have had similar experiences?", but I don't think that's what you're looking for. – Ertai87 Dec 13 '18 at 21:16
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    FWIW I do think the question and associated blog post are both interesting reads, so I'm not going to downvote the question. I think it's a great question, but just not suitable for this format. – Ertai87 Dec 13 '18 at 21:19
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    Too late for that, we already tipped our hand. – Jonathan Kamens Dec 13 '18 at 21:57

I had a similar situation when I was managing a team about 20 years ago.

Half a dozen CVs each with different names, but many of the individual job details were cut/pasted and in a different order. Again, it's only obvious when you have several to compare. The names were also distinctive.

Long story short, the recruiter raged and shouted at me after I turned them all down saying they were obviously faked. I think it was a shakedown alleging illegal racism in hiring. I just ignored it and declined further calls, and never heard from them again. Having said that, I did have solid grounds to refute any such allegations.

  • This is what I suspected too when I read the question. Mental illness works in mysterious ways. – solarflare Dec 14 '18 at 5:46

It's probably for research purposes. I've read several papers where the method used was researchers sending slightly different applications to companies and checking the results. Normally they aren't stupid enough to send them within minutes from each other, so this was a clear mistake on their side.

I wouldn't expect a malicious purpose or a fraud.

The question is what should you do if you notice the applications are too similar for two completely different people. I think you should (preferably) ignore both or, alternatively, answer to both the same way. Preferring one could skew results.

To be honest, I did something similar myself by applying with two versions of my name and with two application formats and pictures (adding a photo to your application is expected in my country). I didn't apply for the same positions and mostly not at the same companies twice obviously but the purpose was similar - it was to find out what format and name led to better results. And I did get some interesting results, which made it possible for me to optimise my application strategy.

The problem with the earlier replies ("It's a scam!") is, apart from the "scam" having a very low probability of success, that they don't explain why very similar CVs were sent to OP twice. Surely, if someone wanted to scam OP they would try to be as inconspicuous as possible and send e.g. just one or several completely different applications.

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    "Preferring one could skew results" - That is not your problem; that's the problem of whoever was conducting the 'research'. – Brandin Dec 14 '18 at 11:52
  • Research? I find it hard to believe that anyone would waste resources without profit being at the end. – Old_Lamplighter Dec 14 '18 at 14:43
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    @RichardU, that's your problem, however, isn't? If you google it you will find plenty of studies published using this methodology. – BigMadAndy Dec 14 '18 at 14:44
  • @385703 Right, because if it's on the interwebs, it must be true. But, if that is, in fact the case, you could improve this answer with a few links to demonstrate that fact. I suggest you do so. – Old_Lamplighter Dec 14 '18 at 14:50
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    Research is the first thing that came to mind for me when I read this question as well. @RichardU, here is one high profile study that I am aware of in which fake resumes were used, and I'm sure there are others. scholar.harvard.edu/files/pager/files/pager_ajs.pdf – Sander Dec 14 '18 at 19:47

It could be an agency trying to feel out your system and seeing if certain keywords got the right amount of attention.

I've also hear of unethical recruiting agencies using similar tactics to "crowd out" other applicants. It's basically spamming your company in the hopes that at least one or two will get in.

From there, the scam goes something like this:

If they get a callback for an interview, they will send a very skilled, highly qualified person to do an for the interview. Once you hire them, after a few weeks when they have learned all about your company, they will suddenly have a family emergency out of state or out of the country, and that's where the bait and switch occurs.

They will say that they can no longer continue the job, but happen to know a highly qualified person.... Another fake resume later, and a noob from a code mill who has been briefed on your company comes in and gives an interview that is stellar, thanks to good coaching.

He takes the job and is being coached over the phone by the person that left, who is now working somewhere else, and not with their sick moter/father/child/grandparent/uncle, et cet.

A variant of this one is just to stall you, send in a few stalking-horse candidates, and then, once those fakes report back, they send in someone who's been coached on your company from the recon done by the fakes,

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    @Ertai87 Either they realized that they had screwed up, or the emails pointing out the similarities made them quit. Think of how a phone scammer acts once he realizes your on to him, he just hangs up. They know they've been busted, on to the next vitctim – Old_Lamplighter Dec 13 '18 at 21:05
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    We would have done that if it had occurred to us at the point when we sent the email how malicious the intent could have been. Honestly, the scenarios described above are difficult for me to imagine, and I wonder how real they are as opposed to urban legends. – Jonathan Kamens Dec 13 '18 at 21:13
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    @JonathanKamens Real enough to have happened at a major New York based newspaper named after a street in the financial district.... These are not urban legends, these are things I've seen first hand. – Old_Lamplighter Dec 13 '18 at 21:17
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    @RichardU What is the end goal of this scam? You explained up to the point where someone who is unqualified for the position gets the job, but then what? Someone unqualified gets the job, then they either do a shoddy job and get fired, or are coached forever and produce value for the company. What does the scammer get out of the scam? – Ertai87 Dec 13 '18 at 21:25
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    Well, the recruiter gets a commission. The person coaching the employee probably gets a cut of their salary in exchange. And if the goal is industrial espionage of some sort, then they get information. – Jonathan Kamens Dec 13 '18 at 21:26

This could be the first step in CEO fraud as well (or maybe HR fraud in this case?).

They try to get you to communicate with them to analyze your speech patterns and usual wording, as well as the composition of your company's mails. Then they send their own mail to one of your co-workers that looks exactly like what you would write and like it's sent from your account.

They either instruct your co-worker to click on a link to a virus or to pay some money to some bank account without telling anyone for some obscure reasons.

I witnessed this kind of attack once and it's very efficient.


I heard about a similar observed pattern where the general conclusion was that it was an attempt at placing profiles for corporate espionage.

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