Watch out for the unbelievable CV

Have you heard about the IT worker who claimed to have done high-end infrastructure consultancy and design work in Europe -- and for the NZ government? The Wellington job was also so top secret, his recruiter couldn't even check his references.

Have you heard about the IT worker who claimed to have done high-end infrastructure consultancy and design work all over Europe -- and for the New Zealand government?

The Wellington job was also so top secret, his recruitment agent could not even verbally check his references.

However, Megan Fletcher, director of Auckland-based Protocol Personnel thought something just did not seem right about this “too good to be true candidate with all the right answers”, and decided to check him out.

“After many promises to give contact names of verbal referees in Europe, he didn’t come through and in fact he left the country. We found out it was a fantasy and that he’d never worked for any of these organisations. They had never heard of him,” Fletcher says.

As the current job market becomes ever tighter, Fletcher and other recruitment agencies are warning IT managers and others taking on staff to be vigilant with CVs.

They say while people have always fudged CVs, the increasingly competitive nature of the job market is making jobseekers more prone to lie.

Richard Manthel, general manager of recruiter Robert Walters, says the most common areas for exaggeration are qualifications, leisure interests and work experience. Candidates, he says, think this will make them stand out more, and they believe potential employers just don’t check the details.

But it seems they do.

Rick Chapman, IT contracts manager at Enterprise, says “we’ve all heard the urban legend of the guy with three cellphones pretending to be his own referees”.

Once, says Chapman, a guy on the phone claimed to have had three years' VB/Access experience.

“When he finally came to do the technical test, he did not know what an entity relationship diagram was, never mind the doing questions,” he says.

For Chapman, the way for IT managers and recruiters to root out such people is simple. “Always conduct a technical interview of some sort where the candidate can prove their skill level,” he says.

Fletcher says her UK-based con artist turned up three years ago but people are becoming more desperate.

“We tend to use gut instinct, verbal reference checking and technical testing to really get the facts. We just want to know if they’re capable of doing the job and if they’re reliable and honest. Using your instincts and doing thorough verbal reference checking will almost certainly cull out these candidates. Perhaps agencies should share information with each other about flaky candidates,” she says.

Craig Parsons, Auckland manager of Icon, doesn't believe lying is common and says it will be uncovered if IT managers and the agencies doing the hiring do their jobs properly.

“Icon does extensive screening of candidates prior to them being sent off to companies from a skills perspective, a personal interest perspective and a cultural fit perspective. If we were to suspect any misinformation, then we would drill down even further through the reference checking process,” says Parsons.

“If people know they are going to be asked to drill down on their skill sets or interests, then they would be a lot less likely to invent skills or interests to make them sound more attractive to customers. Recruitment agencies are talking to people all the time, so we are probably a bit more experienced in spotting any irregularities,” he says.

Manthel’s colleague Glenn Bratton, IT contracts manager for Robert Walters in Auckland, is another who doesn't think the problem is prevalent in the IT contracts industry.

“The network is much tighter and reputations are easily won or lost,” he says.

Christine Fitchew, Candle’s Auckland general manager, says while she has seen no CVs with lies, some might have “slight embellishment”.

However, Fitchew says the current downturn is leading to more applications for each job.

So vigilance remains the best way of avoiding later disappointment.

Greenwood is Computerworld's HR reporter. Send email to Darren Greenwood. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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