Applicants Do the Darndest Things: 5 Ways They Try to Game the System

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Over the years, we here at EmployeeScreenIQ have seen our fair share of deceptions from job applicants, and we’re guessing you have, too (our personal favorite is the candidate who faked her own death to avoid criminal prosecution).

However, did you spot the deception immediately or find out after the fact?

Below is your roadmap (the Top 5 ways, with the rest of the Top 10 list tomorrow) for spotting these mistruths before you make a hiring decision. One common theme you will notice throughout is the need for human oversight.

In this age of technology, employers are looking for ways to streamline and automate the hiring process. And while most of these technologies, such as HRIS and Applicant Tracking Systems, fit the bill, they have also created new ways for job applicants to ”misremember” the facts.

1. Job candidate provides false date of birth with the intention of throwing off a criminal record search.

It is vitally important for those who conduct background checks to remember that most criminal records are filed by name and date of birth. Sometimes other identifiers, such as the Social Security number, are included, but without the date of birth your criminal record search will be all for naught.

How do you guard against this? It seems simple, but you might consider asking the candidate for a legal form of identification such as a driver’s license or passport that you can then compare to the information they’ve provided you on the background check release. Some may be concerned that this exposes you to protected class information, but that can be addressed by a clear statement that the information is required for identification only.

When requesting the background check, if you are manually entering the data, make sure that you enter the information found on the identification. If you are using information that the  candidate supplied through the Web, make sure that the date of birth entered matches the identification presented.

2. Job candidate provides false Social Security number with intention of hiding places they have lived.

The best method for conducting criminal record searches is to do so in any counties where the applicant has resided. And while it would be nice if all applicants were truthful and gave their prospective employers a complete list of their past addresses, the best method for finding these addresses is to conduct a Social Security Number Trace, commonly referred to as an address history search.

This search identifies any addresses where your applicant has applied for credit. Once you have conducted this search, you now have a roadmap for where to conduct the criminal background check. However, if the candidate gives you a fake Social Security number, or one that belongs to someone else, you’ll be searching in counties where they haven’t lived and/or been convicted of a crime.

How do you cover your back? Make sure that you ask the candidate to provide a valid form of identification that confirms their Social Security number. When requesting the background check, if you are manually entering the data or using information the candidate provided electronically through the Web, make sure that you enter the information found on the identification presented.

3. Applicant provides false Social Security number to prove they have the legal right to work in U.S.

All employers have the responsibility of collecting a completed I-9 form from their employees within the first three days of work. The onus is then on the employer to ensure that the candidate has a legal right to work in this country. If the candidate provides you with a number that belongs to someone who legally resides in the United States, the employer will be none the wiser until they are either notified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement department or audited. Neither of these actions is particularly pleasant.

Many employers verify employment eligibility through the E-Verify system or other commercial electronic verification portals, which allow you to instantly confirm an employee’s legal status in this country. Once again, make sure that you ask the candidate to provide a copy of their Social Security card or other form of identification.

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When submitting the information through E-Verify, make sure that you enter the information found on the Social Security card. If you are using information that the candidate provided electronically through an applicant tracking portal, for instance, make sure that the Social Security number entered matches the identification.

4. Candidate intentionally omits a past employer from their job application.

Your favorite candidate has a great resume bursting with accomplishment at a myriad of past employers. So, you have them complete a job application where they are asked to list all past employers. But because they know one of those employers might not wax poetic about their performance, they omit them from the job application and/or stretch the dates of employment to cover the gaps (one of the biggest resume discrepancies found).

First, we encourage employers to compare the resume to the completed job application before it is submitted for a background check. Many are also now checking LinkedIn for comparison. If you notice that the application is missing an employer that was included on the resume, you might want to make some inquiries. As far as gaps are concerned, make sure you inquire about specific starting and ending dates of employment when you conduct an employment verification.

5. Applicant claims to work for an employer who doesn’t exist.

Your job applicant is looking to cover a gap in employment and instead of stretching the dates on his/her resume to cover the gaps, they come up with a more sinister plan. They turn to what is referred to as an “Employment Mill.” You can find a number of employment mills online these days, such as CareerExcuse, which charge people a fee to provide fake references to prospective employers. Customers can choose an employer’s name, job title, salary, etc. and as long as the credit card clears, they’re good to go. Remember the old Seinfeld episode with Vandelay Industries?

These are harder to spot, because there are millions of employers out there, but here’s what you can do to stack the odds in your favor. If you haven’t heard of the company, Google it. If they don’t have a website, you can always plug the phone number the applicant gave to you into a reverse phone directory and see if it matches the employer’s name. If you still can’t confirm the information, ask the applicant to provide you with a copy of their W-2s.

Of course, you can also save yourself the trouble and find a reputable background screening provider that should sniff out a false employer in no time.

This was originally published on EmployeeScreenIQ’s.


4 Comments on “Applicants Do the Darndest Things: 5 Ways They Try to Game the System

  1. I can’t imagine why someone would list a job on a resume, and not list it on the application. There’s loads of good reasons to not include a particular stint on a resume. Generally, I think applications ask for way too much information. The high school I graduated from? My high school GPA? All jobs? You really think my experience working in fast food or waiting tables when I was a teenager and in college is at all relevant decades later, post degree, post entering the workforce with business skills?

  2. When I have asked, employers don’t seem to need or want employment history going back more than 7-10 years or 3 employers.

  3. Some of the best employees I’ve hired had imperfect backgrounds, the tone of this article is centered around co’s intruding into people’s lives in ways unheard of just 15 years ago. How did anyone worth anything ever get hired before these recent times? They were hired and things worked out a majority of the time, the business of digging into people’s information is just another recent budding industry that’s promoted by for-profit businesses brokering people’s personal information. Just ask yourself, why should someone feel the need to hide where they’ve lived? Bc in no other time did just knowing that about someone, along with their name and DOB, open the flood gates for complete invasion of one’s personal information. The title says it, “the system” bc now there really is one and getting more intrusive every day.

  4. DOB is NOT a unique identifier. How do you background checkers deal with same names and DOBs (but different places and middle initials)? I share a first last and DOB with TWO yes TWO different convicted felons. Usually I have just had to send in my ID and they figure it out but name based background checks scare me now. It shoudl be all fingerprint

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