Walmart Stores Inc.'s top spokesperson resigned after the company discovered that he lied on his resume nearly 20 years ago, Bloomberg reports. David Tovar claimed he earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware in 1996, when he never completed the required coursework to obtain a diploma, according to the report. Walmart made the discovery after evaluating Tovar for a promotion, which prompted due diligence screening. An official from the university confirmed that Tovar never received the diploma.
This story discusses one form of resume or application fraud, which refers to any act that involves providing fictitious, exaggerated, or otherwise misleading information on a job application or resume with the intent to persuade a potential employer to hire an applicant for a job for which they may be unqualified or less qualified than other applicants. Fraud of this type also includes deceptive actions designed to hide the misdeed in an ongoing employment situation. Depending on the nature of the offense, type of job, and the jurisdiction where it occurs, such an act may or may not be a violation of criminal law. However, knowingly providing inaccurate information to an employer or potential employer, if discovered, is almost always grounds for immediate dismissal or denial of that job.
Using the United Kingdom as one example, several reports, including BDO Hayward's Fraudtrack 4 and the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance Service (CIFAS) — the U.K.'s fraud prevention service — have shown a rising level of major discrepancies and embellishments on resumes over recent years. Based on sample studies included in CIFAS 2014 Fraudscape report, 17 percent of potential candidates embellished their resumes, and there was a correlation between a graduate's choice of university and his or her likelihood of lying on a resume. At 39 percent of U.K. organizations, employees were hired and later found to have lied or misrepresented themselves in an application.
From a fraud detection and deterrence perspective, a systematic assessment of the effectiveness of governance and code of conduct/policy arrangements, management controls, and compliance programming around employee hiring should be conducted, with a specific focus based on known problem areas. A selection of key areas to examine includes:
- The necessity of management/employer job requirements, including education. Increasingly, the labor market, particularly within the under-30-year-old demographic, is dominated by those who have obtained a master's or doctorate level of education. But this does not mean that the labor market availability of these individuals should automatically be used to determine essential job requirements. On the other hand, some job requirements will inevitably need to be upgraded in light of technological and other advances.
- An awareness of the impact of demographics in job fraud. According to the Fraudscape study, younger, junior people are more likely to have a discrepancy on their resume. For example, an applicant under 20 years old is 26 percent more likely to have a discrepancy than someone between 51 and 60 years old. Apparently, graduates have marginally fewer discrepancies: 13 percent of their resumes contain a discrepancy compared to 17 percent of nongraduates. These trends can help to target background check controls. However, the importance of having specific comprehensive background checks on the qualifications of those entering the ranks of senior management should also be emphasized.
- Robust compliance programs. Organizations should ensure that human resources staff are aware of, and address through careful verification, the main types of job application fraud, including:
- Fake credentials.
- Fictitious former employers. These may include fake reference letters that vouch for the applicant; absence of contact information may seem plausible if the applicant claims he or she is no longer in business, living far away, or otherwise out of touch.
- Fake "live" employer. In this type of scheme, the applicant arranges with a relative or friend to pose as a former boss. The applicant then provides a phone number or other contact information — when the prospective employer contacts this person, he or she receives a glowing report about the applicant. If communication occurs via email, applicants themselves may even pose as a former employer.
- Exaggerated claims, where the applicant lists a genuine former employer but leaves out information with the intent to mislead. The employer may have a prestigious reputation, but the applicant's position may have been menial.
Furthermore, organizations should consider leveraging new trends and techniques, including the knowledge of other institutions regarding job fraud. For example, the U.K.'s CIFAS maintains an internal fraud database of the identities and other case details of individuals and groups who have been found guilty of job fraud and other internal fraud activities. Some countries, such as the Netherlands, are moving toward continuous verification and archiving of student records from primary through tertiary education, and are providing access to employers.