There have always been unethical and/or desperate job hunters out there who have used a friend or relative as a reference in order to up the chances of landing a position. Providing a fake job reference that will lie and speak glowingly about you is nothing new.
But a niche business has cropped up that takes that a step further. Web sites that offer fake job reference services are available for any job seeker whose credentials and references don't stand on their own. That's bad news for hiring managers, according to Jeff Wizceb, a vice president with HR Plus, a division of AlliedBarton Security Services that provides background screening services.
"You basically sign up and create your own company that you want to have worked at or create a position at a legitimate company," said Wizceb. "You plug in references, position, salary, all that information, and if an employer were to call the number you provided, these sites will pose as a reference and it would be basically this fake company that would 'verify' the information."
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And these sites are doing big business. One such service, Careerexcuse.com, is no longer taking new clients because of an overabundance of workload. And with this kind of deception available to any one, that means companies checking backgrounds and references can be no more sure the candidate applying for the position previously spent time as a vice president of operations, or as an inmate in cell block nine.
"I think human resources departments may realize these are out there, but they don't realize how prevalent it is," said Wizceb. "With these sites turning away business, I think it shows people are using these services a lot more than what we might think."
Other sites, such as AlibiHQ, go beyond just job background services and also offer fake landlord references and doctor's notes. Wizceb chalks the sites' popularity up to the desperation that has surfaced as a result of the economy.
"I've been in this business for 13 years, I've only seen these sites for about two years. I think it's a byproduct of the economy. As people become more desperate looking for work, and with fewer jobs to apply to, these sites pop up to help them provide reference information that helps them be a better candidate."
How can businesses detect these fake references? Wizceb offers the following tips for folks in charge of hiring:
Ask specific questions: If someone is lying, they tend to put basic information on a resume. Simply company name, supervisor, said Wizceb.
"If you can think beyond the application, and ask questions that go beyond what is on the resume, you may be able to catch the person off guard to get a feel for if this person is being honest," he said.
Wizceb recommends asking for details such as the name of the building an applicant worked in or for other co-workers names.
Check it out yourself: Ignore the information on the resume and check out the company yourself, said Wizceb. Instead of taking what the candidate says at face value, Google the company and see what information is out there.
"If I look up ABC Company, and nothing comes up in Google, that should obviously be a red flag," said Wizceb.
Many job seekers might use an actual company but fabricate their employment or position. Wizceb suggests contacting the company directly to verify if the reference listed on the resume is an actual employee, or former employee, as the candidate claims. A company directory can be a good resource for this kind of checking, he said.
For an example of how an applicant can mislead background checks, see this section in the true story 'Anatomy of a Fraud'.