A ‘white lie’ on a CV or a candidate elaborating their experience in an application is not just a black mark against their honesty, it could also spell future trouble for your organisation.

In 2018, an investigation by the BBC Radio 4 File on Four programme found that NHS consultants and nurses had been buying up bogus degree certificates from non-existent universities via diploma mills in Pakistan 1. In this case, the falsification of qualifications could seriously impact lives, but there are many other potential consequences of failing to do a thorough background screening of a potential candidate, including exposing your business to security breaches or serious crime.

During 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic increased pressures on HR teams to ensure they screen candidates adequately and avoid these risks. Jamie Allan, background checking consultant at Experian UK and Ireland, explains: “Sectors that did not have a significant requirement for background checking until recently now have significant volumes of work to get through. The increase in workload is particularly pronounced in sectors where there has been a rapid increase in vacancies, creating a labour shortage in that area of the market.” Allan describes a two-fold impact: some teams will struggle to keep up where it’s hard to find talent or there are a lot of vacancies, while in others there may be ample work so candidates “reach for roles beyond their ability, experience or qualifications and become tempted to fake aspects of their CV to reach the interview stage”. The fact more people have been working from home than usual also creates a security risk of people having access to sensitive data while off-site.

During 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic increased pressures on HR teams to ensure they screen candidates adequately and avoid these risks. Jamie Allan, background checking consultant at Experian UK and Ireland, explains: “Sectors that did not have a significant requirement for background checking until recently now have significant volumes of work to get through. The increase in workload is particularly pronounced in sectors where there has been a rapid increase in vacancies, creating a labour shortage in that area of the market.” Allan describes a two-fold impact: some teams will struggle to keep up where it’s hard to find talent or there are a lot of vacancies, while in others there may be ample work so candidates “reach for roles beyond their ability, experience or qualifications and become tempted to fake aspects of their CV to reach the interview stage”. The fact more people have been working from home than usual also creates a security risk of people having access to sensitive data while off-site.

There are multiple points during the recruitment process at which a candidate can provide information or documentation that is not an authentic reflection of their experience, qualifications or right to work in the UK. This can take many forms – from the relatively harmless act of a candidate elaborating their levels of experience on their CV to fake qualifications and documents. A study by recruitment site CV Library, for example, found that more than 90% of applicants had lied on their CV, with two-thirds admitting to an attempt to make themselves look more experienced 2. If this fraud is uncovered later on in the employee lifecycle, it could mean your organisation is at risk of reputational damage, or worse – legal action. Former CEO of Yahoo! Scott Thompson was forced to step down after an investor challenged his claim that he had a computer science degree. While he had not been hired on the strength of his claimed degree, his public position as CEO meant he had a greater responsibility to be transparent about his employment record.