This article was first published on Inc.com and was written by Peggy Shell, CEO of Creative Alignments.
You may have experienced someone trying to fake their way through an interview. Perhaps they embellished skills and education, provided family members as references, or even faked a drug test. But have you heard about truly fake candidates? The phenomenon is real and growing worse — so bad that the FBI is investigating fake people and the fraudsters behind them.
As a recruiting company, we are seeing fake candidates in the mix more and more, and our recruiters are becoming highly skilled at noticing red flags.
“An applicant submitted a résumé with an address I could not find,” said Triza Codillo, a tech recruiter at Creative Alignments. “During our phone screen, I asked if Santa Fe Springs was in southern or northern California. The candidate replied ‘northern,’ which I knew was false. (It is near Los Angeles). I ended the call quickly.”
In Triza’s case, technology helped her confirm the scam. But technology is also behind a lot of candidate trickery. Deep fakes — audiovisual technological trickery powered by A.I. — are a new way to game a company’s hiring practices.
Computer code repositories house hundreds of free deep fake facial overlays that one could employ. While abundantly available, such deep fakes are easy to spot if you know what to look for. Check out MIT’s tool that helps people measure their ability to identify deep fakes.
“Telltale signs might be lip movement versus the audio you are hearing, or hearing a cough or sneeze without seeing any physical change from the person,” says Ben Tinsley, a software engineer turned tech recruiter. “If you suspect the candidate is employing a facial overlay, casually ask about something in the background. Any drastic movement on-screen could confirm your suspicion, and make an awkward end to the conversation!”
But deep fakes are not the most common candidate deception.
HERE ARE THREE MORE LIKELY SCENARIOS.
- The candidate lacks the required skills. Candidates can fake technical or experiential skills with a friend who feeds them answers during the interview via text, earpiece, or being in the room.
- The bait and switch. If multiple people are in on the gig, one person interviews and gets hired, but a totally different person shows up on the first day of employment. In a remote environment, employers may not realize the scam for days or even weeks.
- Nefarious intentions. Some fake candidates apply for a job to gain access to sensitive, private company data. The thought of someone running off with valuable, proprietary data is scary. That person gaining control of internal IT or software systems could be catastrophic.
Recruiters and hiring teams must stay on their toes, pay close attention to subtle discrepancies, listen to intuition, and be intentional about due diligence.
HERE ARE EIGHT TIPS FOR SPOTTING FAKE CANDIDATES:
- Cross-confirm details on candidate résumés with LinkedIn, social media, or other professional sites.
- Meet in person, if possible. Even mentioning such a step can scare off fraudsters. Candidates who insistent on a very short interview process and are averse to meeting in person may be fake.
- Confirm geographic details. Casually ask about the nearest big city to the location listed on their résumé.
- Beware the “too perfect résumé.” Résumés that sound suspiciously like a direct response to your job description are a red flag, especially if it looks like a collection of keywords.
- Look for tag-team interviews. This typically happens on phone interviews but can be sneakily done via video with Bluetooth earphones or mobile devices offscreen. One telltale sign: an unusual pause or drop in background noise after you ask a question, as the candidate mutes their phone or video. That’s when a different person relays an answer to the fake candidate, who tries to repeat it confidently.
- Listen for spotty or painful communication that makes it difficult to understand the candidate. They could be muffling external sounds in a facility where other fake candidates are scamming other potential employers. A well-written résumé matched with a candidate who doesn’t speak intelligibly isn’t necessarily a sign the candidate is fake, but pay close attention.
- Triple-check what candidates tell you. Conduct background checks, check references carefully, examine the person’s digital footprint, and talk to others who may know them to confirm they are who they say they are.
- Trust your gut. If something feels off, investigate further.
In today’s hiring landscape, you cannot afford the time wasted to interview, let alone potentially hire and onboard, a fake candidate. Educate your hiring teams about scams and how to vet candidates for authenticity.
Read more on the other side of this phenomenon: Fake jobs that can lure in unsuspecting candidates to divulge sensitive data or become pawns in a larger scheme — something that can cause reputational losses for both employers and job seekers.