Resume fraud: the gateway to more sinister workplace behaviour?

The first time resume fraud came onto my radar was when I was living and working in London in the early 2000s. The small quirky brokerage I was working for had just been acquired by a large wealth manager looking to expand its ever-growing global footprint into the UK.

We would begin each day with a mix of fear and excitement, not knowing what lie ahead. We started seeing strange new faces moving amongst the faces that had become so familiar. If I close my eyes, I can still see the layout of that office from various points of view and the people who sat on each pod. I can confidently say that nothing much changed at that firm. It was the final frontier of traditional brokerage in London, with rituals that were long held and deeply cherished.

Back to those strange new faces. Turns out they were from said wealth manager’s HR team sent to undertake their broader employee due diligence before the transition from small and quirky broker to big and glossy wealth manager, and we moved to our lovely new offices in Mayfair.

Everything appeared to be going well, until the moment it happened. One of the most unassuming of employees was marched from the building, fired for resume fraud. Apparently, they had lied about their degree, or more specifically, lied about actually having attended university, studied and completed a degree. There was no tertiary study and no degree. The fact that they had been carrying out their role for a couple of years without having escalated to more sinister behaviour held no bearing. The risk of reputational damage to our new employer was too great. This person had lied. They were out. I still feel the shock of it all after all these years.

The experts tell us that resume fraud is the gateway to more serious transgressions such as fraud, theft and other acts of dishonesty. According to a report by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), hiring staff who have engaged in resume fraud can lead to further corrupt conduct, damage an organisation’s reputation, and negatively affect other staff, when simple employment screening can prevent applicants with integrity related issues being hired in the first place.

The examples given in the report were quite spectacular. For instance, Myer discovered that it had hired a general manager for strategic and business development who had an extensive history of resume fraud, a criminal history, and a string of terminations at previous companies. Similarly, Queensland Health faced severe financial and reputational consequences when it hired a person for a senior financial position who had a criminal history of fraud. Not only did this person defraud Queensland Health of more than $16 million, they took excessive leave, failed to adequately complete their duties, submitted poor quality work and bullied staff.

Employment screening should not just be a one-off aspect of the initial recruitment process but should also be applied during an individual’s tenure

In 2018, ICAC recommended to the NSW public sector that they adopt stronger employment screening practices to help combat employment application fraud. The report went on to recommend that employment screening should not just be a one-off aspect of the initial recruitment process but should also be applied during an individual’s tenure, for example, if an individual is promoted. This is great advice and a practice that should be common across all business, public or private, as employees’ personal circumstances may change from year to year.

But back to the young employee who was marched out the office for resume fraud all those years ago. Do I think that this person would have gone on to defraud another employer of millions, or demonstrate other questionable or untrustworthy behaviour? For now, that question remains unanswered. I don’t know where they landed or how their career developed. They could have lied their way into another job and continued to work diligently and quietly for years hoping that the lie they told to cover the original lie would never be exposed.

If you were the employer, would you be willing to take the risk of not knowing who you’re hiring?

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