69

I have been conducting interviews the last couple weeks and in some cases I had to deal with resumé liars.

Most cases are just people who list in their resumés skills that they don't actually have. I don't mean having them in a begginner level, I really mean not being able to demonstrate even the most basic uses of said skills. In such cases, we just politely tell them that "we'll stay in touch", wish them good luck, and show them the way to the door.

But there was one outstanding case these days which went over the top. Not only this guys lied about his technical skills, he also lied about his work experience. His resumé said that two years ago he worked in a specific department in a given company. I personally know the staff from that department, and I could confirm that the candidate had not worked there.

I know some people are desperate for a job, but I think that with such morals and ethics as his, this guy would only cause damage wherever he went to.

So I happen to socialize with people who work on HR for some other companies too. I am also a member of some mailing lists where many professionals of my area do some networking. Which leads to my dillema. Should I spread the word about this potentially damaging liar around, so as to save my peers some time when he ends up being called for an interview?

I have put some thought into it. I don't want to sound like I have a grudge against an individual. I could anonymize - raise a warning flag, like saying "just interviewed a guy who claimed to work at X, but people from X says he's never worked there. Also he's got no skills. Watch out." Most people I know don't make extensive background checks, and in some places HR just has no way to conduct deep technical interviews, so I see how this guy could fool some company into hiring him - thus, with forewarning they might be better protected against this kind of resumé liar.

On the other hand, I may end up destroying this guy career in our field (IT), or at least make it very hard for him to get a job in some places. I do believe in second chances and atonement, and I would not like to keep this guy from IT if he starts being honest with himself and others (and starts telling the truth in resumé and interviews).

I am no HR person. I am just conducting these interviews due to the highly technical aspects of them. So I am even more in a dillema about all this.

What is the proper reaction to this - ring the alarm bells, or just let other places HR deal with the situation as they can, on their own?

  • 27
    It is beyond foolish to claim work experience that you have never had. This isn't just something that can be found on an extensive background check, this is something that would be found on the most basic of background checks. I just let people like this make their own bed. Vigilante justice is a waste of time and requires more efforts that small minded people like this even deserve. – maple_shaft Oct 22 '13 at 14:33
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    don't discount the possibility of a recruiter "sprucing up" the resume without the candidates approval – ratchet freak Oct 22 '13 at 15:15
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    IMHO, it is sometimes a chicken and egg situation. Companies put silly and impractical requirements, and even though the candidate may consider himself having the necessary skills required for the job, he fails to meet the "minimum experience criteria". I have come across several cases where people with 1-2 years of relevant experience turned out far superior programmers than "5+ years experienced" candidates. Although this is a bit extreme, sometimes it is a good idea to get rid of this criteria altogether and evaluate the candidate based on their skills and expertise alone. – Masked Man Oct 22 '13 at 17:29
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    I'm guessing you actually verified with your contacts that he in fact didn't work at that place? Saying this because his position could have been more of a consulting/contractual position (maybe even volunteer or internship?) thus falling under the radar of normal full time employment. Just saying, it's suspicious that someone would put a (local) company on their resume for false work experience. Did he have references from there? – MDMoore313 Oct 23 '13 at 14:40
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    Ridiculous job requirements do NOT justify lying on a resume. Two wrongs do not make a right. – stannius Jun 1 '15 at 15:44
57

What is the proper reaction to this - ring the alarm bells, or just let other places HR deal with the situation as they can, on their own?

Talk to your HR department and float the idea of a blacklist by them. I strongly suspect they will tell you why there is too high of a risk of lawsuits to make that approach practical.

But you can "ring alarm bells" without creating a blacklist of people.

  • Tell your HR department what you know about this specific individual
  • Explain to your HR department how they could catch this sort of action
  • Strongly suggest that they incorporate real background checks into their process, such that false claims of employment can be detected and dealt with properly
  • Suggest the kinds of open positions that would justify more technically in-depth interviews that are beyond the capabilities of your HR group, and how they might apply more depth to the process (by inviting you to help more often, for example)
  • Find a way to spread the word about these interviewing and hiring mistakes in forums like stackexchange, a seminar, a blog, etc

Most people I know don't make extensive background checks, and in some places HR just has no way to conduct deep technical interviews, so I see how this guy could fool some company into hiring him

I guess we don't travel in the same circles.

Most companies where I have worked, and most that I know enough about to know their hiring practices, do a pretty good job of background checks, and don't make hiring decisions for technical folks based solely on non-technical HR interviews.

Perhaps you should talk to these people you know, and point out the problems you see - without creating a specific blacklist of individuals? You know - teach them how to fish, rather than giving them a fish to eat.

  • 1
    I think the bulleted list in this answer is the most sensible way to go. – user10483 Oct 22 '13 at 17:12
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    Yakshemash ! It might be fair that companies can face legal action if they make disclosures about such candidates. But is the candidate also open to litigation for resume fraud ? I guess that would make it even. Perhaps, before the interview, candidates can be asked to read a copy of their resume and confirm (with signature) if its correct or not. If you have proof of faking resume and their signature, then you could take legal action against them. Would this be practical ? It could at least serve as an extra deterrence if not as a legal instrument. Chenqui. – Borat Sagdiyev Mar 31 '14 at 7:17
  • @Borat: probably not much of a case you can make, since most places lying on its own isn't illegal. I suspect you'd have to demonstrate what damage they did to you by lying, or that their false application constituted an attempt to commit criminal fraud (which it might do, since they're trying to get a paid job, but whether a criminal prosecutor can be bothered with it is another matter). What companies can do, though, is make it clear that if you find out anything on the CV isn't true they'll be fired, and thus it's not worth their time to apply with a false CV. – Steve Jessop Jun 1 '15 at 15:46
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Should I spread the word about this potentially damaging liar around,

No. You open your company to litigation.

Apart from the interviewee having a case for you attempting to destroy their ability to get work, you can also be breaking data protection laws depending on what country you are in.

It's not your job to look after other companies who are not able to do a real background check.

There are laws in relation to doing a job interview that change from country to country. For example (but not limited to):

"International Privacy Laws", Information Shield

"How can I ensure my job interviews meet legal requirements?", Monster.com (UK site)

You should check your country's local laws for what's acceptable behaviour.

  • 14
    You're right. And I'm thankful I seek feedback on stuff like this before I act. – user10483 Oct 22 '13 at 14:47
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    Here in the US, if a person was not eligible for rehire, that's all we are allowed to say, at least as far as I have been informed by HR. And since we have gone to a bigger company (Got bought out), we are not even allowed to address it, it ALL has to go through corporate HR. – JohnP Oct 22 '13 at 20:36
  • @JohnP - I have known people who were given bad references beyond no we would not hire them again including describing behavior that lead to their not being able to be rehired. I have several employers that give my sterling references. It may be dangerous but there is no law saying that is all that you can say. That is just the standard response. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 23 '13 at 20:50
  • Yakshemash ! It might be fair that companies can face legal action if they make disclosures about such candidates. But is the candidate also open to litigation for resume fraud ? I guess that would make it even. Perhaps, before the interview, candidates can be asked to read a copy of their resume and confirm (with signature) if its correct or not. If you have proof of faking resume and their signature, then you could take legal action against them. Would this be practical ? It could at least serve as an extra deterrence if not as a legal instrument. Chenqui. – Borat Sagdiyev Mar 31 '14 at 7:15
32

Another possibility (maybe in addition to other things) is to give the interviewee himself a warning. Something along the lines of, "We just want you to know we are aware that you lied about your experience during the interview. This can lead to serious problems for yourself and for future employers." That's probably not the best wording, but the idea is to let him know that he hasn't gotten away with it. Not to threaten him, but to help him realize the danger he's in. Maybe he will; or maybe he'll just lie more cleverly next time. But that's up to him. All you can do is warn him.

  • 28
    A better way to phrase that is "we found a discrepancy between the experience stated on your resume and the results from our verification process." The key difference is that a discrepancy is neutral and allows the candidate a chance to explain or slink away. OTOH, calling out something simple merely tells a fraudster how to improve their fraud. – GlenH7 Oct 23 '13 at 15:35
19

I don't think the crime fits the punishment here.

The 'crime' is lying to try and get a job - nobody should do it, but in the current climate of high unemployment you can see why someone desperate might try to.

The punishment (a blacklist) has the potential to permanently affect that person's hope of future employment.

Should a person who once lied:

  • Still be punished for it 10 years later? Exactly how long should they be avoided for?
  • Be stopped from getting roles they do have the skills to do?
  • Be unable to go and acquire the skills and experience they claimed to have and apply again?

In addition the morality and ethics of lying to get a job are extremely subjective - what if someone lies their way into a job but then turns out to be really good at it? Wouldn't that just be exposing the prejudices inherent in the recruitment criteria? What about jobs that require, shall we say, a flexible approach to the truth?

Basically, with a blacklist you're setting yourself up as judge and jury on the applicant's career. Instead each recruiter needs to make their own decision.

In the EU and the UK any kind of recruitment blacklist is explicitly illegal.

The one exception is that certain jobs (for instance in medicine or law) have legal requirements that it is a crime to lie about. Those you can go ahead and report to the police/professional bodies.

  • If an applicant lies about what is a legal requirement for the position, that should be reported to the relevant authorities. Not some unofficial corporate black list. – a CVn Oct 23 '13 at 11:09
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    @MichaelKjörling yes, that's what I was getting at. You would report a fake doctor to the police, but for jobs where there aren't legally defined requirements it's not an actual crime to lie on a CV. – Keith Oct 23 '13 at 11:41
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    I'd love to read a frank, candid and objective CV. – Carl Smith Oct 23 '13 at 15:58
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    @CarlSmith I don't think it's possible to write one, but you approach reading a CV with a view that this person is trying to put themselves in the best light. A totally objective one would come across very self deprecating - you'd assume that the person either really didn't think they could do the job or were trying to be funny. – Keith Oct 24 '13 at 7:21
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    Also, in the UK at least, the unemployed are sanctioned by the state if they are not seen to be making "sufficient" effort to get a job - measured by number of applications. This incentivises already-desperate people to make clearly hopeless attempts at any company with vacancies, just to satisfy their overseers. – Julia Hayward Aug 20 '15 at 15:19
14

I think you're taking this way too personally.

I'm imagining a guy with a family to feed, no job and red letters coming in every other day demanding cash he hasn't got. Blagging an interview, even if he has little chance of landing the job, and an elevated chance of getting fired in the first couple of months, is better than sitting on his ass, whining about the economy.

You're trying to buy labour, and he's trying to sell some. Bottom line, trade is adversarial. A tree-surgeon knocked on my door today and told me that my tree is going to bring down the power line, but he could sort it for £100. It's not a power line; it's the old telephone cable. I don't resent him for trying it on. The tree does need doing.

Once someone is a part of your company, with a real stake in it, they owe you honesty, loyalty and commitment. Until then, it's always going to be dog eat dog, mate. You only care about your company, and they only care about their careers.

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    In addition to this, people make mistakes and they learn from them. Having some self-righteous bleep ruin their chances of ever being successful just contributes to keeping people forever confined to poor economic circumstances. We should remember that we all make mistakes. – jmort253 Oct 23 '13 at 3:01
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    What about the other guys with families to feed, who didn't get hired because they didn't lie as much? – Cristian Ciupitu Oct 23 '13 at 5:19
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    Welcome to the real world. What about the self-taught hacker who didn't get an interview because she didn't have a CS degree? That's life; it's so unfair. – Carl Smith Oct 23 '13 at 15:56
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    With your tree surgeon example, while you knew the difference and could call him on it (and perhaps if you didn't you could still afford the £100). Five doors down there might not be someone so well off and informed, do they deserve to be defrauded? His lie could well put someone in the position of paying for the heating or paying to stop the electricity being cut off... – Rob Church Oct 25 '13 at 11:52
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    I don't think it's ok to lie, or do dodgy business, but you can't get upset and start a vendetta against some random guy because he laid it on a bit thick when his back was against the wall. I doubt the company doing the interview has always been totally frank about what they're selling. Do you reckon the job description was especially candid? – Carl Smith Aug 20 '15 at 18:28
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There is no real point in trying to blacklist someone for this kind of stuff. You knew better, a lot of other employers know better, and those that aren't paying attention won't pay attention to a blacklist either. Everyone gets what they deserve.

Some employers will hire liars, and some will use put a liar's resume in their bid for a government contract. It is good, however, to do what you're doing here - abstract the behavior into statistics. If one knows that half the applicants are taking shortcuts in general, then one has to believe that half of the resumes in your current opening are questionable. Therefore, you have to format your interview process accordingly. When you see bloopers, make fun of them. Big lies are often entertaining, particularly when the liar is so creative they could make an honest living if they knew how to use it constructively.

3

My advice as an interviewer to interviewees, especially my students when I taught programming, was to remember that the interviewer knows the answers to all the questions they ask. If you try to snow them you will just end up embarassing yourself. So, I would say don't do anything about it. The resume liars will be caught out before they are hired.

1

You definitely shouldn't take any action against this person directly. Everyone else is right about that.

However, as an alternative idea, you can mention to someone at the other company there that you just interviewed person X who claimed to have worked for them. You can do this officially (in the context of performing the background check) or unofficially (tell someone you know there "Hey, I just interviewed someone who said...").

Let it be on that company to decide if it's worth it to them to put out a notice preemptively saying "We did not have this person working for us," if they desire.

  • "However, as an alternative idea,..." That's exactly what the OP suggested himself already? – Jan Doggen Aug 20 '15 at 14:10
  • @JanDoggen - No, the OP suggested telling other HR people in the industry. I'm specifically suggesting he mention it to people at the company the applicant said he worked for. If a company wants to put out word saying "This guy says he worked here, but didn't", that's fine. It's the third party (the OP) telling unrelated people that's inappropriate. – Bobson Aug 20 '15 at 15:03

protected by yoozer8 Oct 23 '13 at 12:19

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