Human Resources News & Insights

When applicants use the Web to thwart background checks

Every HR pro has come across applicants who try to game the system — to hide something in their past, or cover holes in their resumes. And the Digital Age has given them some new tools to trick prospective employers.

Nick Fishman, CMO of the background-checking firm EmployeeScreenIQ, reminds employers that while the digital age has opened up numerous avenues for finding information on potential hires, it’s also created ways for people to scam the system.

Two of the most common ways job hopefuls use the Internet to submarine background checks:

Applicant claims to work for a company that doesn’t exist. Candidates often “stretch” the dates on their work histories to cover times they’ve been out of a job. But the Internet now offers folks looking for this kind of coverage another option: the “employment mill.”

For a fee, vendors like CareerExcuse.com will provide customers with bogus work histories that include such things as company name, job title, salary, and on and on.

What’s a careful HR manager to do? First off, Google the company name. Or you can type the phone number into a reverse directory on the Web. And if you’re still not comfortable, ask the candidate to show you his or her W-2s from the the firm.

Actually, Fishman says, asking prospective employees to present their W-2s is one of the most effective screening tactics of all. “It’s your secret decoder ring,” he says.

Candidate sets up multiple social media profiles to hide inappropriate behavior or offensive content. By now, everybody’s heard the stories where applicants have been embarrassed — and passed over for jobs — because of some unfortunate posts on their Facebook page.

So what’s the answer for today’s applicants? They set up different profiles, where they appear to be upstanding citizens in every way.

This one’s not too tough to handle, says Fishman. Just make sure you dig beyond the profile the applicant provides. If they’re dumb enough to post the offensive material to begin with, it’s a pretty good bet it’s still out on the Internet somewhere, just waiting for you to find it.

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