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May 30 2024

CVs and Improving Verification Culture within the Recruitment Process

In today’s competitive job market, the integrity of the hiring process is paramount. It is said that recruiters spend only eight seconds looking at a CV. This seems inadequate given the time, care, and effort that candidates invest in creating their CVs. After all, the CV is a candidate’s “first impression” to any prospective employer. How much can really be gleaned in eight seconds?
The Challenge of Assessing CVs
As part of Verifile's Referencing and Verification product offering, and even more specifically when we run CV Comparisons, we spend significantly more time examining CVs. While numerous online resources help job seekers craft their CVs, the onus is on recruiters and HR professionals to assess and evaluate the truth behind these documents.
Innocent “White Lies”?
Many candidates are tempted to insert seemingly harmless “white lies” into their CVs. A survey by ResumeLab, a US-based CV creation service, found that 70% of workers confessed to lying on their CVs, with job titles and responsibilities being the most commonly altered elements. Additionally, common CV lies include stretching employment dates to cover gaps, inflating past salaries, inventing fake employers, and falsifying educational qualifications. These distortions of the truth often go unchecked, but when they do come to light, the damage can be substantial.
A tragic case from earlier this year involved Wayne Brown, the West Midlands Fire Service Chief Fire Officer. He was investigated for claiming to have a Master of Business Administration degree from London South Bank University—a qualification the university had no record of. Tragically, during the investigation, Wayne was found dead at his home. This incident underscores the critical importance of stringent screening processes that could prevent such tragedies by uncovering the truth early on.
The Growing Complexity of Verification: Fake References, Degree Mills, and Alibi Mills
The problem of falsified credentials goes beyond simple embellishments on CVs. The job market is facing a sophisticated challenge with the rise of fake references, degree mills, and alibi mills.
Fake References
Fake references are a major concern, not just for hiring but for the integrity of professional environments. A recent case involving a former manager from Letchworth Garden City highlighted how fake references were used to lessen their sentencing after committing a £60,000 Covid grant fraud. This example illustrates the extreme lengths individuals will go to deceive, impacting not just employers but also legal and financial systems.
Degree Mills
Degree mills, which issue counterfeit qualifications, represent another significant challenge. Candidates might falsify their degree qualifications or even purchase fake degrees from these mills, diluting the value of legitimate academic achievements and undermining the credibility of the hiring process. For over a decade, Verifile has been at the forefront of exposing the dangers posed by these fraudulent establishments. Employers must verify academic credentials rigorously to safeguard against this threat.
Alibi Mills
Alibi mills (also referred to as “Reference Houses”) create elaborate fake employment histories, complicating the verification process further. These mills manufacture entire professional backgrounds, making it increasingly difficult for employers to distinguish between genuine and fraudulent candidates. According to the article Fraudulent References and Alibi Mills, these operations cater to a variety of individuals, including fresh graduates, career changers, and those attempting to conceal negative employment histories. Some mills even act as HR departments to verify fake employment. Verifile's comprehensive approach involves leveraging technology and deep verification processes to expose such schemes, ensuring the reliability of employment backgrounds.
The Scale of CV Discrepancies
Verifile's own data looking at all the CVs it actually checked in 2022 shows that 60% of them had at least one discrepancy, and 27% had at least one major discrepancy. This highlights the prevalent issue of inaccuracies and falsehoods in job applications, emphasising the need for thorough and ongoing verification processes. It is daunting to think how many undetected cases of fraudulent representation and hollow credentials may be present in offices, schools, hospitals and even court rooms all over the world, simply because an initial CV check was overlooked. Understanding the broader tactics of deception in the job market is crucial. According to the article "The Art of Deception in the Job Market", candidates employ a variety of strategies to embellish their credentials. This resource provides an in-depth analysis of such deceptive practices and emphasises the importance of meticulous screening to counteract these tactics effectively. By referencing this, we can further underline the necessity for robust verification measures.
5 Strategies for Effective CV Verification
The complexities and challenges of CV verification highlight the necessity for structured and effective strategies to ensure the integrity of the hiring process. Implementing robust verification methods can significantly reduce the risk of hiring candidates with falsified credentials and enhance the overall quality of recruitment. Below are five essential strategies that organisations can adopt to improve their CV verification processes.

  1. Utilise a Professional Verification Service
Employing a verification service is a critical step in mitigating recruitment risk. Partnering with a background screening company adds the expertise of professionals who deal with vetting and compliance daily. This not only enhances the accuracy of the verification process but also frees up internal resources to focus on other value-adding activities. The return on investment (ROI) for utilising a quality verification service is seen very quickly. It costs less than employing an in-house team and is more efficient, thanks to access to tried and tested processes and data sources. This efficiency allows for catching significantly more discrepancies, as detailed in the article "Why Background Checks are a Wise Investment for Businesses and HR Teams". 
  1. Look Out for Loose Language
A careful examination of language and layout in a CV can reveal attempts to mislead. For example, the ‘Education’ section might list:
2015 to 2018 – University College London
Bachelor of Arts in History
A fair assumption might be that the candidate graduated with a BA in History. However, the absence of an award outcome (e.g., First Class Pass) or explicit mention of graduation could indicate that the candidate attended the course but did not complete it. Detecting such discrepancies early is crucial.
  1. Stress Test CV Claims
Just as a “chocolate teapot” is functionally useless despite appearing attractive, so too can CV claims fall apart under scrutiny. For instance, a candidate may claim to have been the President of a university society. While this sounds impressive, it’s essential to understand the context and significance of such roles. Being vigilant about the substance behind these claims is essential.
  1. Ongoing Screening
Screening should not be a one-time process. Implementing ongoing re-screening policies ensures that any red flags within the workforce are identified and addressed promptly, rather than festering unnoticed. This proactive approach helps maintain a trustworthy and reliable employee base.
Continuous Staff Monitoring solutions or post-employment screening as it is often referred to, involves re-running background checks to identify changes in employees' personal circumstances that may pose risks. Regular monitoring can reveal new information such as criminal records, financial issues, personal conduct on social media or other significant changes, thereby protecting the organisation from potential threats posed by existing employees.
By integrating continuous monitoring, employers can ensure that their workforce remains compliant and trustworthy, addressing issues as they arise and maintaining a safe and productive work environment.
  1. Building a Culture of Verification
Preventing the next headline-grabbing incident requires a shift in mindset and culture within organisations. The psychology behind choosing to fabricate claims at the highest tier of the professional arena is fascinating. The fact that such claims often go unchecked and slip through the net is even more so. Making candidate vetting a priority and investing in the development of HR and recruitment teams are crucial steps. Attention to detail, investigative rigor, and a naturally curious mindset are classic attributes that Verifile champions. These qualities need to be embedded within the recruiting DNA of all organisations.
Conclusion: The Path Forward
The integrity of the hiring process is more important than ever. By implementing comprehensive verification strategies, organisations can safeguard against deceit and ensure that their recruitment decisions are based on truthful and accurate information. This not only protects the organisation from potential harm but also upholds the standards of honesty and integrity in the professional world.
At Verifile, we believe that a commitment to thorough verification processes and a culture of transparency are essential for building a trustworthy workforce. Together, we can ensure that the job market remains a place where merit and honesty prevail.