Hiring in 2020? Beware the FAKE APPLICANT Scam!

Hiring this year is like wading in the Everglades…the water is dark, you’ve got to walk carefully and be aware of everything around you!

As 2020 gets underway, companies everywhere, in virtually every segment of the economy, are starting to ramp-up recruiting and hiring plans for the year…whether it is hiring for growth and expansion…or replacing people who have left your organization…you’ll be hiring this year!

Digital scams confront us everyday in our lives…coming thru our email inboxes, coming on the phone, coming from hijacked social media accounts…we’re all learning to be more wary, unfortunately, too many times after the fact…

As you start planning and implementing your recruiting and hiring plans for 2020, increasing your awareness of the rapid rise in Fake Applicants and the scams that are being perpetuated on employers is more important than ever! The tight labor market and a forecast for continued historically low unemployment rates this coming year are contributing to the increase in ‘resume-stretching’ by applicants and unscrupulous advisors to those seeking jobs.

“Resume-stretching” happens in a lot of ways…there can be outright lies…where an applicant list jobs and work experience that never occurred…there are those exaggerations that become egregious, when titles, responsibilities and lengths of employment are intentionally mis-represented to a potential employer.  Education is another area that often gets puffed up significantly…to the point of claiming degrees that were never earned, even colleges and universities that were never attended.

Bad Hires are VERY Costly…

With the cost of a bad-hire estimated at 3 to 5 times base salary, the risks and costs are higher than ever for CEO’s, C-Suite Leaders and Human Resource Professionals.  And, while the ‘hard dollar cost’ of a bad hire are high…the ‘soft-costs’…the negative impact on the organization and people can be even more dramatic…and impactful!

Large organizations…typically those with over 500 people…will hopefully have the resources in place…the guardrails up…to prevent a mis-hire of a fake applicant.  It is smaller organizations…having 20 – 50 – 100 employees that are in the greatest danger of hiring a fake applicant.

Smaller organizations typically don’t have the Human Resources infrastructure in place to do extensive pre-employment screening.  Often, there is a lot of pressure to fill an open position with ‘anybody’ because there is work to be done…So, the basics like reference checks, using profiling assessments effectively, background and credit checks get skipped, overlooked or just ignored…

Failing to do your due diligence for EVERY new hire is going to put you and your company at greater risk in 2020!  INC Magazine reports in the Winter 2019-2020 issue that:

Job seekers have been fudging their accomplishments forever. But, {employers} across the country say they’ve seen a surge of incidents that take job-applicant fakery to new – and shadier – levels. Totally false resumes featuring fictional employers, professional interviewees and covert coaching of candidates with no experience.”

 Here’s a direct link to the INC article, “The Rise of the Fake Applicant”. Please check it out for yourself.

Here’s What To Do To Protect Your Company…

 What do you need to do…NOW…to protect yourself and your company…from the CEO’s chair, from a C-Suite Leadership Role, as a leader making hiring decisions, as an HR Professional…

INC has five tips for weeding out those fraudulent applicants:

  1. Request references from EVERY applicant.
  2. Contact managers at previous employers.
  3. Do background checks (expensive but worth it).
  4. Ask granular questions about skills and former jobs.
  5. Give everyone a skills test.

From CEOIQ, we would add a couple of things to this list…

  • In addition to background, do credit checks, particularly for jobs that have anything to do with company finances. It’s also a good practice for sales positions were there is any level of control over pricing and margin.
  • While skills tests are good for many ‘individual contributor’ positions…you can identify if someone really knows Excel or Adobe Illustrator or how to program in C-Sharp with skills tests…make sure your skills tests lines up with what you are seeking.
  • AND, use a profiling assessment that explores both cognitive ‘bandwidth’ and behaviorial characteristics. It is particularly important to use these profiles for supervisory, management and leadership positions!

Using Profiling Assessments

At CEOIQ, we recommend and use the PXT Select Assessment from Wiley International.

We’re certified to administer and interpret the results of this powerful pre-employment screening tool. The PXT Select incorporates that cognitive bandwidth…both verbal and math skills and reasoning abilities along with 9 behavioral traits of candidates.  When compared to a ‘target profile’ or ‘performance model’ it helps HR professionals and hiring managers at all levels understand how well a candidate is likely to ‘fit’ in a particular position.

An additional value in the PXT Select is that it generates a comprehensive set of interview and follow-up questions for areas where a candidate both fits and does not fit the profile you are looking for.  These questions provide hiring managers at all levels what they need to ask probing questions requiring more than ‘yes or no’ answers from candidates.

After the hire…and for existing teams…the PXT is equally powerful as an resource for Organization Development work that includes team-building, coaching and people development.

Whatever toolset you are currently using…or decide to start using…what’s important is to USE IT!! Too often we see hiring managers pay little to no attention to the information developed by Human Resources from reference checks, background checks, skills tests and profiling assessments.  Ignoring those important inputs BEFORE you make a hiring decision is dramatically increasing the risk that you’ll hire the wrong person in 2020!

The watchword…Hire Smart…have a disciplined process for:

  • Creating a clear definition of the job, the role and responsibilities involved and the previous experience you consider desirable;
  • Sourcing, sorting, pre-qualifying, and assessing candidates;
  • Interviewing candidates using open-ended questions that get the candidate talking, specifically, about how previous experience will relate to the job you are filling.

What are you doing to make sure you add the right people…in the right seats…on your bus in 2020??

(About the photograph…Wading egret image by Rita Griffin, taken at Sweetwater Slough on the 20-Mile Loop Road in The Everglades Big Cypress Preserve, December 2019. Author Ben Griffin is the Chief Visionary and Cheerleader at CEOIQ, an ecosystem for CEO’s and their Leadership Teams who are on a continuous learning journey.  In 2020, Ben is celebrating 20 years of service as a Peer Advisory Group facilitator and Executive Coach at CEOIQ. )