10 March 2014
CV fraud: Recruiting legally
There is no doubt that CV fraud is on the increase; in a recent survey, one in five candidates admitted to lying on their CV and more than 50 per cent of employers said they had spotted material inaccuracies in CVs. As an employer, what do you need to be aware of when recruiting? Employment law expert, Kathryn Fielder, explains.
High unemployment and intense competition for jobs, together with the rise in university tuition fees, have led to an increase in people doing whatever it takes to secure a job. Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson left the company when it was discovered that he had lied about having a degree in computer science. In 2010, Rhiannon Mackay became the first woman in the UK to be jailed for lying on her CV. She falsely claimed that she had two ‘A’ levels and forged a reference from her previous employer, together with a Royal Navy discharge certificate, in order to secure a job with the NHS. She was sentenced to six months in prison.
CV fraud defined
CV fraud can be defined as providing fictitious, exaggerated or misleading information on a CV or job application in order to persuade an employer to hire the applicant for a job for which they are unqualified or less qualified than other applicants. Depending on the circumstances, it may be a criminal offence.
Many CVs contain minor errors – such as wrong dates or exaggerated achievements – that may be overlooked by an employer, but CV fraud is more intentional and involves lying about qualifications or experience. The most blatant examples are fake degree certificates, a made-up job history or false referees. In the worst case scenario this could present a threat to public safety. In the past there have been examples of someone falsely claiming to be qualified as a doctor and prescribing drugs for patients or even carrying out surgery.
Where it happens
CV fraud most commonly occurs on CVs and job applications and in covering letters. However, it can also take place in job interviews. It can be found in any business sector and at every level.
Verification and screening
Being a victim of CV fraud will waste your time and your money. The best way to avoid it is by verifying details on interviewees’ CVs from the outset. Currently only one in five large employers do this. You can either use an external agency or vet the CV yourself, using the Higher Education Degree Data check or contacting the institution directly. This will verify the candidate’s degree, the university they attended and grade. You should ask to see the applicant’s original certificates and follow up their references thoroughly, preferably by telephone as well as by post or email.
You should also ask competency-based questions at the interview, which will help to demonstrate the interviewee’s skills and abilities. For example, for a customer-facing role, you might ask the candidate to describe an occasion when they had to deal with a difficult customer. What did they do? What was the outcome?
Lastly, you should make it clear in job offers and employment contract documents that you reserve the right to withdraw the offer or, if the person has already started work, to terminate their employment without notice, if any misrepresentations come to light.
What you should check
The main areas to focus on are:
- any prizes, scholarships or awards
- employment history
- reasons for leaving previous employment
- any gaps in employment
Some employers also carry out a credit check and, depending on the role, may require a criminal records check. You can ask a candidate if they have a criminal record. They only have to disclose convictions that are not spent. A conviction becomes spent after a certain period of time, depending on the length of the sentence. There is no guarantee that the candidate will answer honestly and no way of verifying the information. If, however, the candidate will be working with vulnerable people – such as children – or their occupation is on a specified list, you can access official records of criminal convictions through the Disclosure and Barring Service. This will also cover spent convictions.
All employers need to check that everyone they recruit has the right to live and work in the UK.
What to do if you suspect CV fraud
If you suspect an applicant has lied on their CV, you should first ask them for an explanation. If it is unsatisfactory, consider reporting them to the educational institution concerned or their previous employer and possibly also the relevant regulator, if appropriate. If the individual has received money on the basis of their lie, or they have used forged documents, this may also be a matter for the police.
If the candidate has not yet started work, it may be appropriate to withdraw the job offer. If they are already an employee, you will need to look at suspending them while you carry out an investigation and arrange a disciplinary hearing. If you reasonably believe that they have been guilty of CV fraud, you may be able to dismiss them without notice.
CV fraud is on the increase but you can help to protect yourself by taking the steps outlined above. If you have any queries about CV fraud or how to tackle it, please contact a member of the employment law team at B P Collins LLP for advice on 01753 278659 or email email@example.com.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.