While recruiting for a top information technology company, Kris Lakshmikanth, CEO of the HR firm Head Hunters India, came across the curriculum vitae of a person who claimed that he had worked with Infosys and was in charge of its operations in the US. Before proceeding with the candidate, Lakshmikanth did a background check on the person and found that he had never worked for Infosys. Such incidents, says Lakshmikanth, are not unusual, and about 15 per cent of information on most CVs is fabricated.
In India, there has been a rise in the number of job application fraud cases, from 10.4 per cent in 2014 to 11.6 per cent in 2015, says a study by First Advantage, a background screening service provider. The most common types of fraud are inflating the last salary drawn and manipulating information on employment tenure in the previous organisation. As companies usually run background checks only after the final selection, they lose a considerable amount of time and effort when a candidate turns out to be with fraudulent credentials. “We see increasing frequency of misstated claims at various levels,” said Suresh Raina, managing partner of the recruiter Hunt Partners. “While at the junior and middle management level, the verification is more about degree and college tenure validation, at senior and leadership positions, it becomes more about validating the claims about performance and leadership.”
Experts say forged credentials are a serious concern for companies, especially sensitive customer-facing organisations in the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) and technology sectors. The BFSI sector adopted third-party screening in recruiting more than a decade ago. The standard verification includes criminal record, qualification and previous employment. “Social media, especially professional networking sites, has made this process easier,” said Sriram Vaidhyanathan, chief human resources officer of the portal Bankbazaar.com. “We have multiple rounds of interviews and at least one test, which helps us evaluate the candidates better and reduces the risk of fictional skill sets and experiences. We also ensure at least one face-to-face interview.”
Most companies have a no-tolerance policy towards these frauds. “Many candidates try to fit in their skills by giving false information and tweak their competencies to fit in the profile of a particular job opening. There are many psychometric tests to check a candidate's credentials as a lot of things can be gauged with regard to the consistency and expertise in the skills sets for a particular job,” said Arjya Chakravarty of School of Inspired Leadership, Gurgaon.
Companies these days look into digital footprints and social profiles to measure a candidate. With the help of data analytics, recruiters can get even the finer points as well. Most headhunters have their own processes and procedures for extensive checking. “We do not short list any candidate till we have completely triangulated the candidate after speaking to people who would have worked with him or her in various roles to get a 360-degree view on the candidate,” said Raina.
Large organisations that hire hundreds of people every month have set norms for a thorough background check that covers education and previous employment. “It is the organisation’s responsibility to hire candidates with high ethics, integrity and personal values,” said Dilpreet Singh, vice president (HR) at IBM India and South Asia. “At IBM, the candidate goes through a biometric test even before he gets a confirmation. If a person is found with criminal record, action is taken and we inform the police immediately. The minute we come across any fraudulent activity by an individual or a company, we verify it by using our own investigative methods and if found guilty, we report it to the police.”
Companies often use third-party agencies to do background screening of candidates. Lakshmikanth, however, is not a fan of this as such agencies could be bribed. “In a large IT firm which employs lakhs of people, many of them might have given false information,” he said. “Some get caught but many escape.”
On the rise along with CV fraud cases are fraud job offers. Many placement consultants these days pose as certified partners of some big job portal and charge candidates for vacancies that do not exist. “Crooks would create a poster or a flyer, or an online collateral where they would incorporate a fraudulent agency name along with the branding of a major, recognisable job portal. These would then be used to popularise a job drive, or a walk-in interview for a recognised brand. The company sponsoring the interview or the drive has no idea of such candidates turning up. Moreover, these candidates have very little idea of the kind of profiles that employers are looking for, and are furthermore advised to apply and appear for interviews even though they may not be the right fit,” said Siddharth Gupta, head of marketing and public relations at Aasaanjobs.com. “Often these marketing collaterals show inflated compensation amounts so as to make the offer more appealing to candidates.”
Vaidhyanathan, however, said jobs fraud always existed. “I do not believe that it is on the rise,” he said. “It is merely more visible now because of awareness at both ends. More and more employers are turning to professional experts for background checks. At the same time, employees are also doing their bit to check out the organisations. Coupled with this, there is a lot of information shared between peers over the social network, especially professional networking sites. Job sites are also doing their best to check fraud. They have now introduced mobile verification and email verification for every enrolling job seeker.”