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Resumes – Fact or Fiction?

Uncovering the Truth with Verifications

It’s no surprise that people lie on their resumes and CVs. It’s been going on for as long as people have prepared that ever-important sheet of paper detailing their professional and educational pasts in an attempt to secure a new job. It may be a minor embellishment, it may be a small white lie, or it may be a much larger untruth concerning a higher education degree or job that exists only in the applicant’s imagination. And while it is nothing new, it appears to be becoming even more frequent today with less face-to-face interaction in the interview process.

According to a recent StandOutCV survey of 1,785 Americans 18 or older, 55% of them admitted to lying on their resume at least once. According to the same survey, the top five common lies on a resume or CV include –

  1. Previous work experience: 55.4%
  2. Skills: 43.1%
  3. College degree (or equivalent): 41%
  4. Personal details, such as age, location, or name: 39.5%
  5. High school details: 39.2%

Further, the Google searches related to “how to fake a resume” are up 48%, while those searches specifically looking for information on how to fake a job reference are up 52%. As for education, the National Credit Verification Service reports that 25% of the MBA degrees it examines on resumes are false. In these instances, people claim they have a graduate degree that they did not actually receive or claim degrees from bogus institutions.

The reasons for the lies are varied—from high unemployment and fierce competition to hiding a less than stellar past—but regardless of the reason, the risks are the same. It’s not just about the lies being more frequent or the subject of those lies. Rather, for employers, it’s about the consequences associated with them. The repercussions for an employer hiring someone who had fabricated skills and credentials and then made costly mistakes concerning clients or stole from the company are severe, with damages exceeding monetary loss. Damages could also include stress on the leaders and organization, negative publicity, loss of clients, and the cost of potential legal liability.

High-Profile Lies Equal High-Profile Stakes

While we’ll never truly hear about a majority of those who lie on their resumes, some make it to the headlines either because of the notoriety of the employer or because of the extent of the issue and high risk of harm. Take, for example, the recent joint federal law enforcement operation that brought down a massive scheme to sell false and fraudulent nursing degree credentials. The scheme involved more than $100 million worth of fake nursing diplomas and transcripts that were sold to thousands of people to bypass the qualifying requirements necessary to sit for the national nursing board exam.

The conspiracy, which had been going on for years, involved the distribution of 7,600 fake nursing diplomas and certificates issued by Florida-based nursing programs. The large-scale enforcement spanned from Florida into the states of New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Delaware, and resulted in more than two dozen wire fraud conspiracy charges against 25 individuals.

Law enforcement officials emphasized the dangers involved in that this fraud potentially jeopardized countless patients’ health and safety. “What is disturbing about the scheme is the possibility of harm coming to patients under the dubious care of one of these allegedly fraudulent nurses,” acting Special Agent in Charge Chad Yarbrough, FBI Miami, said.

In another caser, back in 2006, it was widely publicized that the then CEO of RadioShack had lied to the company about his education when he claimed he had not one, but two college degrees. In reality, he had none. In fact, a newspaper investigation showed that he only attended for two semesters and never graduated at all. He held the title of CEO for twelve years and in all respects did a good job. However, he was forced to resign because his character and integrity came into question—crucial qualities for every CEO.

There was also the former coach, who resigned as head football coach of the University of Notre Dame after only five days on the job. After a reporter covering his appointment in the new position found inaccuracies and falsehoods on his resume, including that he played football at UNH and earned three letters in football, an investigation began. He admitted to the athletic lies and the university agreed to overlook them. Then, more questions surfaced about his academic background. Soon thereafter, he was asked to resign from the highly sought after position.

What Does All This Mean for Employers?

Employers are at a higher risk (now over 50%) of hiring someone who has lied on their resume or employment application. While the extent of that lie may not be clear, employers still want as many facts as possible to make their hiring decisions. What they don’t need is fiction when it comes to knowing who they are about to bring onto their valuable teams. Essentially, the more lies they do not uncover, the more at risk they are of potential theft; damage to employee, vendor, and customer relationships; workplace violence; and litigation for negligent hiring—a reality for many employers.

These risks can be minimized if employers take the necessary steps to help ensure a safe work environment. Background screening, and specifically Verifications, such as employment, education, professional licenses, and references, provide an important component both in reducing risks and in the defense against negligent hiring claims.

What can Verifications Tell Us?

Verifications help employers ensure that what an applicant has listed on his or her resume or job application is true and that they have the qualifications required for the position. They not only help employers avoid hiring someone who has been less than truthful from the start, but they also help employers understand more about the person they are about to hire. Further, they help clarify any gaps or other discrepancies.

This, of course, does not mean that every discrepancy or gap is a lie or cause for concern. There are many legitimate reasons for gaps in employment or education that may have been overlooked in preparing a resume, such as an extended maternity leave from a job or a semester off for a medical or family reason, to name just a few. But that’s exactly what a Verification can help uncover.

          Employment Verifications

Employment Verifications are the most commonly requested type of verification. They not only confirm dates of employment, positions, job duties, the reason for termination (in some states), and eligibility for rehire, but they also reveal insights into the applicant’s truthfulness, loyalty, work habits, and integrity.

While verifications are generally obtained directly from the past employer, there are more companies who are outsourcing this to outside services. These third-party service providers typically source their data directly from companies’ payroll providers and provide these verifications to background screening companies, such as Hire Image. They may also house additional employers for the applicant that were not provided on the application or resume, which will give a broader picture of their past employment history.

            Education Verifications

An Education Verification is an effective resource for uncovering resume inflation and/or fraud pertaining to an applicant’s educational background. With an Education Verification, it is imperative to confirm that the school was accredited by an agency recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education, so as to avoid diploma mills.

Diploma mills are a multi-million-dollar industry affecting reports from high schools, colleges, and universities. Diploma mills claim accreditation by an accreditation mill and refer to themselves as being “fully accredited.”  Due to the increasing amount of diploma mills, Education Verifications are more important than ever.

            International Verifications

Any international employment and education should also be verified when screening applicants who have lived, attended school, or been employed outside of the United States. For Education Verifications, it’s important to verify a copy of a degree obtained from a school outside of the United States since diploma mills are also be found in many other countries. Some employers think if they have a copy of the degree from the applicant, it is all they need. However, many diplomas and degrees look authentic when they are anything but, even to one with experience in this area.

            Professional License Verifications

A Professional License Verification can provide additional information and qualifications by verifying the issuance of any professional licenses claimed by the applicant. The appropriate licensing agency is contacted to verify the validity of the license, the date issued, and, if applicable, the date of expiration. In some cases, disciplinary actions brought against the license holder can also be discovered. If an applicant will be employed in a position where licensing or certification is required, their credentials should always be verified.


Insights into an applicant’s work ethic, character, ability to interact with different leadership levels within an organization, and job responsibilities, as well as strengths and areas of improvement, can be obtained through Professional and Personal References. References can also ascertain that there are no contractual stipulations that would affect the applicant’s ability to perform at the prospective employer. Most references will provide these answers.

At Hire Image, our 100% US-based verifications team has extensive experience in obtaining verification data. After we obtain permission from the applicant to conduct the background check, we provide five attempts at hard contact for verifications. Hard contact includes:

  • Directly speaking to the confirmed source
  • Directly faxing to the confirmed source
  • Directly emailing to the confirmed source
  • Leaving a voice message for the confirmed source at their extension.

A source is confirmed when we have located the correct entity (i.e. school/college, business entity, certifying agency) and identified the correct person to respond to the request. Once we connect with that person, we understand the appropriate questions to elicit helpful information.

At Hire Image, we provide background check solutions with integrity, dependability, and unparalleled service to others, all with a desire to be the best. It’s what we do every day. Our system is easy to use, and our FCRA-certified, US-based team is always ready to help. Contact us today to learn more.


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