As if recruiters didn’t have enough to worry about. Juggling clients and open reqs, dealing with talent shortages and demanding candidates … it’s a tough job at the best of times. And now you can’t always be sure you’re even evaluating and representing the candidate you think you are.

In some sectors, candidate fraud is becoming a very real problem. There are a few reasons why it’s on the rise, and a lot of it has to do with the increase in virtual hiring and remote work. With more interviews and hiring taking place virtually, a wealth of opportunities are opening up for people to game the system. And with more new hires working somewhere other than an office, perhaps never meeting their colleagues face-to-face, there is a very real possibility that the employee isn’t the one who actually interviewed for the job.

Needless to say, the effect this could have on your professional reputation as a recruiter is pretty significant. Not to mention the impact on your client’s team and projects.

There are some interesting ways companies are using to uncover and prevent candidate fraud, and we’ll get to those momentarily. First, though, let’s look at two of the most common types of candidate fraud, and how they happen.

The Double-Dipper

If you hire a full-time employee to work from home – either all of the time or part of the time – you tend to assume that they’re spending their time just as they would if they were in the office. In other words, devoting roughly a full work week’s worth of hours to the job they were hired to do. In some cases, however, this isn’t the case.

Some employees, both fully remote and even hybrid, are using that opportunity to take on more than one job at a time. Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about a ‘side hustle’ for a few hours in the evening or making a bit of money delivering food. These employees are presenting themselves as full-time employees of both companies, neither of which is aware that they’re only getting half of what they think they are. Some employment agreements specifically prohibit ‘moonlighting’, and others don’t, but in any case, enforcement is pretty tough when you can’t conclusively prove that the employee is double-dipping.

Some might say that if an employee is able to meet the expectations of both jobs, there’s no issue. The reality is that a full-time employee should bring energy, focus, and commitment to a full-time job. Trying to do that for two full-time jobs just isn’t sustainable. Something’s got to give, and in the end, it’s the employer who pays the price.

The Impersonator

If a candidate goes through multiple interviews, maybe even some skill testing, aces it all and gets the offer, they’re the ones who show up on the first day of work, right? Maybe. Or, maybe not.

In some fields – technology, in particular – companies are hiring new employees who weren’t the ones they interviewed. One person goes through the evaluation process, and a completely different person shows up on day one. It’s especially an issue for large, decentralized companies, where most of the people involved in the hiring process aren’t the ones who end up working alongside the employee. And of course, this has been made easier for the scammers by the increased prevalence of virtual interviews.

Skill tests are relatively easy to fake; all a fraudster needs is someone with better skills to take the test for them (although some technologies are making it more difficult – more on that below). Some people are going to ridiculous lengths, however, to do the same thing in interviews. In a modern-day professional twist on the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, there have even been reports of people enlisting the help of someone to speak the answers to interview questions off camera, while they lip sync on video.

But surely, you might be thinking, it’s easy to research someone’s work history, triangulating data points to confirm that you’ve got the right candidate, right? Not so fast.

LinkedIn Fakes

In the first six months of 2021 alone, LinkedIn removed 15 million fake accounts from their site. Most of those – about 97% – were caught by their automatic filters, and another 3% by manual review. Almost certainly, most of those fake accounts were just using someone else’s work history and photo. But not all. In fact, some of the profile photos you see on LinkedIn might not even be human.

A recent Stanford Internet Observatory investigation found over 1,000 profiles using photos that appear to be generated using AI technology. Some of these profiles have been used for sales purposes – a friendly, attractive face acting as the first point of contact with prospects. They could just as easily be posing as the next great candidate you think you’ve found. Think you’d know the difference? Not according to a National Academy of Sciences study, which showed that people only have a 50% chance – a flip of the coin – of guessing correctly whether a face is real or computer-generated. Even worse, most people found the AI faces more trustworthy.

The Fixes

In the midst of all this deception, then, what is a recruiter or an employer to do? Happily, there are already solutions to most kinds of candidate fraud. They’re getting better all the time, and there are more on the way.

For better or worse, some companies are implementing more and different kinds of software to help them manage remote employees. All of these fall under the relatively innocuous sounding label of ‘performance management’, but some do have a bit of a ‘Big Brother’ vibe. The intent of this software is to ensure that employees are devoting a reasonable number of hours, and a reasonable amount of effort, to their job. Project trackers are the least intrusive, allowing individual employees and teams to keep tabs on their progress against open projects. Time trackers tally up the number of minutes that employees spend on various work tasks, either manually or automatically. Activity trackers go further, using various methods to break down exactly what an employee is doing during the day (taking occasional screenshots, for example, or keeping track of the programs and browser windows that an employee has open at any given time). As more employees are hired to work remotely, and as double-dipping becomes a more widespread issue, expect more companies to implement these kinds of controls.

Technologies are also helping weed out the bad actors who try to fake their way through interviews and tests. Borrowing from the education sector, some companies are instituting online proctoring software for testing. This software looks at the test subjects eye movements to make sure they’re not looking up the answers on another device, adds up the time the subject spends away from the computer (to make sure that a ‘bio break’ isn’t actually a study break), and even listens for sounds in the background that might indicate that someone else is feeding the testee their answers.

For companies worried that the person they see on the screen might not be the person they’re supposed to be interviewing, biometric analysis provides an answer. This kind of software examines minute facial movements and voice patterns, analyzing all of this data to blow the cover of a would-be imposter.

In the end, however, there’s no substitute for human instinct and judgment, and herein lies the future job security of recruiters everywhere. Call it gut feel, intuition, or even Spidey-sense. You know when something just feels … off. Not right. Scammers tend to be one step ahead of the technology that can foil their schemes, so it will be up to you. Trust those instincts. If something feels wrong, use that as your cue to do a bit more research. Dig a bit deeper, and you might just find that your candidate isn’t who they seem.


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