Editor's note: This article first appeared on our Singapore site but is useful here as well.
A little white lie on your resume may seem innocuous, especially in this challenging job market, but the potential fallout can be nothing short of catastrophic.
"Companies want to mitigate risks to prevent problems such as internal fraud, information leakage, kickbacks, bribery and corruption. Having a bad employee on board can be more serious than people think, especially in financial industries where information is more sensitive,” said Kelvin Ko, managing director, Verity Consulting, a Hong Kong-based commercial investigation firm.
His firm has witnessed growing demand for such investigative work over the past two to three years.
Tell me sweet little lies
According to Ko, financial professionals in Asia are typically fond of stretching the truth in these areas:
- Salary packages
- Job titles
- Duties and responsibilities
- Team size
- Dates of employment (to hide career gaps)
- Educational qualifications (either pure fabrication or exaggeration)
- Reasons for leaving
- Conflicting business interests
The truth is out there, and employers won’t hesitate to get at it. “If we want to find out more about the candidate, we’ll speak to his or her friends and colleagues. We also speak to former employers and check with the registry of companies,” said Ko. Surprisingly, even candidate-sanctioned referrals can be insightful, with some providing less-than-flattering information about the job seeker.
Education qualifications can be problematic, particularly in this region. Ko cites the example of a seemingly stellar professional who claimed to have an MBA from a prestigious Chinese institution. “When we checked with the university, we found that he wasn’t a past graduate and the program didn’t exist. Even the program director’s name was made up. The candidate certainly didn’t get the job.”
Apart from phantom qualifications, Ko also knows of candidates who fraudulently obtain qualifications by paying off others to take the exams on their behalf. “To get around this, we get clients to test the knowledge and skills of these candidates, to verify what they’ve learned.”
As a general rule, the more senior the role, the more detailed the investigations. Basic checks take just three to five days, while more stringent ones require no more than 10 working days.
At the extreme end, employers may even request for more field investigation on candidates to see if they will create any potential problems or risks which can hurt the organization. Ko, however, stresses that this is done rarely and only for very senior candidates like CEOs or COOs.
The risk of being caught fibbing just isn’t worth it. Ko’s advice? “Just be frank; integrity and honesty are just as important as qualifications. A resume is a marketing tool to promote, not to provide false information. When a candidate lies and is found out, word can get around and the individual’s reputation could be badly damaged.”